It was last Sunday night. After a long day of poker Paul “pistolp999” Kroezen had been thriving in the “Mini-Kickoff,” one of a few events he was playing.
Then suddenly he wasn’t.
“I was going pretty well, then at the very end of Day 1, I went out on a two-outer,” says Kroezen. “I was disappointed and angry, but I also had the Mini-Million and the PLO left.”
The 32-year-old player from the Netherlands explained how when he was younger, he might have let his emotions get the best of him and just tilted off his remaining stacks. But he’s grown over the 14 years he’s been playing poker. He’s learned ways to handle such misfortune.
“On a break I went for a little walk,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘Come on, Pistol. Come on, Paul,'” he adds with a laugh.
He rejoined the games, and in the PLO event — the $22 buy-in Event #16-L of the 2020 Spring Championship of Online Poker — he made it through to Day 2 with an above-average stack.
Fast-forward to the end of the next day and Kroezen’s perseverance had paid off in a big way. From an 8,261-entry field, he’d won $16-L, earning a huge $23,194.76 first prize for doing so.
“I was thrilled,” he says. “My biggest tournament win so far!”
Day 2 was no walk in the park for Kroezen. But after playing poker for so many years, he knows things never come easy in poker. Or in life, for that matter (more on that below).
“It’s not always roses and red wine,” as he puts it.
“I started Day 2 in 18th out of about 150,” he says. “The day was going very well, and with 18 left I was second in chips. But by the time we got down to 11 things were going not so well. I had lost some flips and I was 10th out of 11.”
Once again, Kroezen had to rally. Come on, Pistol!
“Then there was a crucial hand. I had 9-10-J-Q.” Preflop back-and-forthing meant Kroezen was going to have to put his chips at risk. “I knew he had aces, but I had to go all of the way there. I made my straight and I was second out of 10,” he recalls.
He made it down to the final four, at which point the group spent a lot of effort trying to nail down a chop. But the chip leader at the time wasn’t having it, and they played on.
“From there I knocked the other three out,” says Kroezen. “At the end I had a 7-to-1 chip lead heads-up, and three hands later it was over!”
While a dedicated poker player, Kroezen has other interests as well. One is a long-time job working in the oil and gas industry as a monitor, although since the pandemic began he like so many others has spending a lot of time at home while we all wait for the crisis to pass.
He also enjoys a social life, although there, too, he’s slowed down a bit from his earlier days.
“When I younger, I dealt with a lot of addictions,” he explains. “It was like one step back, and two forward — kind of like poker.”
Kroezen freely admits the partying went longer than it should have at times. In fact, it even sometimes affected his poker game where after building a bankroll he’d lose it if he weren’t too careful about playing when he shouldn’t have.
“That happened a lot with me,” he says. “It was a big struggle.”
Among the measures Kroezen sometimes took was to take advantage of PokerStars’ Self-Exclusion feature where players can ban themselves from the tables for a designated period of time, if needed. Having that option helped him occasionally in the past, but these days he’s managed to get along without needing that back-up.
“Things are going quite well since I stopped with my addictions,” he says, although notes how he’s still vigilant. He knows it’s important to have some discipline, in life and in poker.
“You hear a lot of stories in poker about how things are always going good,” he adds. He’s right — especially when in the midst of a number of winner’s interviews, it is easy to be fooled into thinking everyone is winning all of the time.
“But it isn’t always going to go good,” says Kroezen. “Poker is hard work. You need to be mentally strong and on top of your game, because the other guys — they’re going to get you!”
A former soccer player, Kroezen suffered an injury at 17 that forced him out of the game. But by then he learned both the importance of discipline and that he had a taste for competition.
“We always talked about training and practicing,” he says. “That was okay, but not as fun as playing. When the games came I always gave a thousand percent. That’s how I am with all games. I like to play games for fun… but I always want to win!”
Card-playing runs in the family for Kroezen, so it was natural he’d turn to poker.
“My parents have been together almost 50 years, and they play cards every day. Then on the weekends friends come and they play with them. It’s in our family — playing games.”
Kroezen intends to keep playing, with a mind toward maintaining the discipline he’s learned over recent years. Whereas in the past he played mainly cash games, now he’s more focused on tournaments which he says kind of force you to be a little less ready to put your stack at risk.
“In tournaments you can’t gamble too much, because if you do, you’re gone. If you make a mistake or are a bit loose, then that’s seven hours wasted.”
That’s kind of the mindset Kroezen has now, generally speaking. Patience. Perseverance.
“I have a lot of good people around me, including some regulars on PokerStars,” he says. “They help me. They say don’t blast your bankroll away this time!”
“For me this is like a victory for all the effort I’ve put it,” he says. And he’s prepared to keep making that effort going forward as well.
Well done, Pistol! And best of luck going forward.