How to win the WCOOP Main Event, by former champs

September 20, 2019inPoker

Drinking. Partying. Staying up late. These are all things many of us do on our Saturday nights.

But not this Saturday night.

You’ll want to keep an even keel, stay relaxed, and get an early night with plenty of shut eye.

For this Sunday (September 22) at 6pm CET (1pm ET) the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Main Event — in both its $55 Low and $5,200 High editions — gets off and running, with $1.25 million and $10 million guaranteed in prize pools, respectively.

But how does one actually win the WCOOP Main Event? For answers, there are only a handful of people you can turn to: the former champions.

We’ve spoke to almost all of them over the years, from Tyson “POTTERPOKER” Marks (who won the largest ever prize in the event, $2.2 million), to future legend Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz, and even the infamous Marat “maratik” Sharafutdinov of ‘I wont million’ fame.

We’ve collated their advice for you in one handy guide.

Heed their words, and maybe we’ll be talking to you next week when you take down the 2019 Main Event.


2010 winner – $2.2 million

“Winning the PokerStars WCOOP Main Event is something that I don’t think you can really prepare yourself for… at least for me it was an experience that I will never ever forget. To be honest I hadn’t really thought of exactly how big of a deal this was until after I had won…. like I didn’t realise I was playing in the biggest online tournament ever, “officially” anyway.

2010 champ Tyson Marks

“Obviously a $5k buy-in with 2,400 runners is going to be something to write about, but it hadn’t occurred to me for some reason that I had just made history, at least in some way. Being able to say: “I’m online poker world champion” is something that still doesn’t feel real to say.

“I was super short pretty much until 27 players were left, just kinda looking for spots trying to get it in good and maybe get a stack going. It was seriously the best structure of any online tournament I’ve ever played. It was definitely key in me being able to short-stack ninja and just stay alive for so long.

“When we got down to around 15 players my stack was starting to look very good and I was running like GOD, which is when I realised: “Wow, I’m really doing this,” which, to be honest, made me very anxious/nervous. I’m very fortunate to have good friends like my friends at home that were watching and my poker buddies constant IM’s keeping me focused. When I reached the final table it was weird because I felt so much more comfortable than when I was chip leader with like 13 left… there’s just something about final tables where I feel at home, like “it’s go time now” and all the butterflies were gone and the only thing on my mind was $2.2million!”

Read Marks’ full 2010 interview here.

Thomas “Kallllle” Pedersen

2011 winner – $1.26 million

“This victory is the greatest you can achieve online. Together with the money, the prestige and the bracelet, this is a special feeling.”

Read Pederson’s 2011 interview here.

Marat “maratik” Sharafutdinov (of ‘I wont million’ fame)

2012 winner – $1 million

“I noticed that with enough luck you can qualify for just a small amount of FPPs so I began to play them often. It was the same way I won a couple of seats in the $215 Sunday Million and in one of the nightly $150 tourneys.

“In that nightly tournament I was chip leader, but when I got close to the bubble, I couldn’t decide if I needed to play to get to the final table or just to cash. I played aggressively in one hand but at the point where I had to go all-in I checked and lost half of my stack. After that I promised myself that if I was in an important tourney again, I wouldn’t be afraid.

“[At the WCOOP Main Event final table], I started using my rock image to start opening with bluffs, taking advantage of other players’ perceptions.

“Take risks, but remember about bankroll management.”

Read Sharafutdinov’s full 2012 interview here.

Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz

2014 winner – $1.3 million

“My Day 1 went pretty well. I think I played pretty steady and took the right spots. I ended with a good stack, so after my third place in the Bigger $109 I was really confident going into Day 2. I slept until 5pm on Sunday to be completely focused for the whole grind and I think that favoured me in the end of Day 1. On Monday I slept until 8pm and then took a shower, ate something and started playing.

2014 champ Fedor Holz

“I believed in it from the beginning. I think a big part of success is having the right mind-set. When I struggled I motivated myself by watching motivational videos and I got right back into it. Believing in yourself and making the right decisions is the key to winning, in my opinion.

“It is the most prestigious tournament in Online Poker – so yes, it means pretty much everything to me poker-wise. I’ve always been a very competitive person when it’s about poker, so there is nothing comparable to winning this bracelet for me.

“I prepared well by sleeping well, so I was super focused the whole way and never felt tired. I think that was a big part of it all as well.”

Read Holz’s full 2014 interview here.


2015 winner – $1.3 million

“I pulled (my WCOOP entry) off for $1,700 in a S&G. So, I entered the 2015 WCOOP Main Event, and I worked my ass off for three nights. I won. It feels bizarre.

“I have experience with final tables but for $5,000-$20,000. This is something else, I must admit. Now, I believe it has been all worth it because I learned, learned, and learned. I am not the best player around, but instead of gambling, I steal, bluff and change tactics every hand.”

Read Coenaldinho7’s full 2015 interview here.

Jonas “llJaYJaYll” Lauck

2016 winner – $1.5 million

“Every poker players knows that you don´t get such a spot that often in your career so I was kind of scared that I could miss this opportunity again by only a couple of places away from the ‘big money’.

“Between the first and second day it was nothing special because we hadn’t reached the money yet and I wasn´t thinking that much about it. But after we finished the second day at 8 a.m. I was very tired but also full of adrenaline. I slept very badly that night because I had to think about the tournament all the time. So when I woke up I tried to distract myself with other stuff and before the final table started. I went out to dinner with friends to kill time.

2016 champ Jonas Lauck

“I told myself before the final table started I would be happy to finish at least fifth place but of course I was happy with every bust out and pay jump. I would say with four players left and the chip lead all the pressure was gone and I was very happy and had a good feeling about possibly winning the tournament. So of course I was celebrating the most after the heads up was over!”

Read Lauck’s full 2016 interview here.

Steven “SvZff” van Zadelhoff

2017 winner – $1.6 million

“How will I prepare for WCOOP? I’ll be arriving back home after 13 weeks of travel, so there will probably be some stuff to do at home. Checking my set-up is still good and whatever. Then it’ll be a month of full time grinding. I’m ready, I can’t wait. Somebody has to win the WCOOP Main for a second time, so why not me?”

Read our 2019 interview with van Zadelhoff here.

2017 champ Steven van Zadelhoff

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