Uri has been playing poker professionally since 2011. Grinding on Pokerstars as “holy h3ll,” he started his journey in the micro-stakes and worked his way up to the top levels of online MTTs, earning wins in the Sunday Million and Super Tuesday along the way.
These days Uri lives in Costa Rica, where he plays online, and travels to play live events around the world. After eight years of success, a $176,864 SCOOP win this week brought him full circle to where it all began for him in his first year as a pro.
We caught up with Uri this week to talk about the nuts and bolts of booking his SCOOP title, what it was like to have to go abroad to keep playing online poker, and how it feels like finally to capture a SCOOP win after chasing it for most of the last decade.
Tell us a bit about yourself — the basics of “holy h3ll,” if you will.
My name is Uri. I’ve played poker for a living since 2011. I started out playing micro-stakes and slowly grinded my way up. I’ll be 31 in June and I’m currently single. Most of my time and energy is devoted to poker whether it be playing or reviewing. I have a good group of friends (Israeli guys) who travel/talk poker together.
I was born in Israel but I also have German citizenship and I grew up in Stuttgart Germany from ages 7-18, attending an international school. I’ve never felt particularly from any one place. But after attending university in Scotland, I moved back to Israel in 2009 as most of my family had eventually made their way back there.
I played from there until 2016, when legislation issues made it impossible to play from Israel on Stars. This was pretty mind-blowing and our own Black Friday — my life at the time basically revolved around PokerStars. A few months later I moved to Costa Rica to reopen my account and lived/played from there.
Nowadays I play a lot more live and on Party as well, not living in Costa Rica full-time but sometimes traveling in order to play.
You made a SCOOP final in a $5.50 Low event back in 2011. What’s your overall approach to playing SCOOP today and how has it changed over the years?
I definitely remember the SCOOP Low final table pretty vividly — not specific hands or anything, but I had sold a package on the 2+2 forums for the first time, with total buy-ins of around $600-700, only from the Low tier SCOOP events. I was very serious in the past detailing how I felt the tournaments were good value and I’d been working on my game. It’s amusing now, and also I’m proud looking back at the excitement and seriousness I put into it.
I’ve been playing SCOOP every year since then, shifting the last few years from the Low events exclusively to nowadays only playing the Mediums and Highs. My approach has always been volume more than any tournament-specific ideas — variance is a huge element of MTT poker and ultimately volume is a necessity.
Let’s talk about how you won this tournament. How did you finish Day 1? You only fired one bullet — was there ever a point where you were in danger of needing to re-enter the event?
I don’t remember any specifics in the early stages of the tournament, I guess it went pretty smoothly I had a good stack for most of Day 1. There was one hand near the end of the day, where I made a, how shall I say, low frequency play — I three-bet A♣2♣ against an early position open, he four-bet me, and I raised all-in. He called with A-K and I ended up winning the hand for quite a huge pot.
Were there any specific parts of your game plan that you thought you were executing well throughout the tourney? At what point did you see a win in sight?
When Day 2 started I was about 6th of 99 players left, I think. The day started horribly. In the first hour I won I think one single hand and was down to 2 million chips from the 5 million I’d started with. But then it turned around and never looked back. From the final 2 tables I had a big stack all the way through and I was able to apply a lot of pressure. In big final tables there is a very big advantage to the bigger stacks, so I was just able to utilise that pretty well.
The heads-up match lasted a while and went back and forth a few times. There were a few coolers both ways and a key hand near the end where I had J-J and my opponent had A-A, but he chose to slow-play and ended up winning only a medium-sized pot. In the last hand I also got it in with A-T against [my opponent’s] A-J. I still would have had [chips] if I lost, but a ten came on the turn.
If anyone ever denies that you need a lot of luck to win a tournament they would be very wrong!
Given your history with this specific tournament series, was there any extra satisfaction in winning this title? How did it compare with winning the Sunday Million or Super Tuesday?
I’ve been playing SCOOP for so many years that there is definitely a great satisfaction/happiness that comes with finally winning one. But it’s hard to compare winning this to winning the Sunday Million.
[When I won the Million] it was sort of life-changing, in that I had significantly more money than before and was able to play on my own, as opposed to [being] staked). The SCOOP win won’t be as impactful as I’ve had other successes along the way, but it’s still incredible to win such an amount in a single tournament.
There is definitely also a large sense of pride. PokerStars isn’t to me what it used to be, but it’s still a title I’ve wanted for many years.
Your prize was one of the bigger ones in the series so far. Do you have any plans for the money? And does a win like this alter your plans for the rest of SCOOP?
The money won’t go to anything specific. I’ve never been a very lavish person and I already am able to sustain the life that I like.
The win definitely affected my plans, though. I was actually on the way back to Israel, planning to miss SCOOP for the first time. I’m not 100% sure, but pretty sure I haven’t missed one since 2011. My friends convinced me to stay a few more days in Cyprus to play, and then it went extremely well! I’ll probably end up staying for the full series now even though it means not a lot of rest before Vegas, what can you do?
Any final notes?
Poker is my life, whether I’m studying or playing. I’ve dedicated [myself to the game] the past years and I truly feel that I (and a couple of friends) can take on the best. Shout-out to the Israeli poker crew and my amazing supportive family!
Thanks to Uri for sharing his story with the PokerStars blog, and congratulations to him on adding another major title to his résumé in Event #8-H!