Steve Zander won his Platinum Pass in a Mystery Chests promotion almost immediately after the announcement was made that the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) was returning to Barcelona in August 2020. He has pass No. 6, the first one after the initial five went to the winners in the Chase Your Dream event. Zander is 36 and originally from Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany, but he has lived for 10 years in Aguilas, Spain, where he works as a gardener and housekeeper for other expats in the area. We spoke to him about his life and the all important Platinum Pass:
Tell us your story. How come you live in Spain?
When I was 18 my parents moved to Spain, but I was still doing an apprenticeship as an industrial mechanic and at that age you prefer to hang out with your buddies every day. So I didn’t move at that point. But I was always there on vacation, and when everyone went their own way in their early 20s, my wife and I decided in 2009 to emigrate too. These days, I earn my money by taking care of the properties and houses of other foreigners, especially from Germany, who only spend the summer here.
Let’s talk about poker. How long have you played?
When we left Germany, my wife got a job here in an Italian pizzeria. Her boss played poker regularly with his friends and asked me if I wanted to join them. We did not know that many people at the time and since I’d already played a bit of poker during the Moneymaker boom, I joined the game. Then the bug somehow caught me and I got more interested in the game. At first, of course, I always lost, but then I found PokerStrategy [an online training site] and over the years I moved up online from $2 no limit games to $50 NL.
That means you play mainly cash games at PokerStars.es. What is the play like on the Spanish platform?
I’m definitely a cash game player and I have more than a million hands saved in my poker software. I’m not really able to say whether the level is lower or higher than in other PokerStars regions because I was not a good player when I used to play on them before. But you can definitely play the cash games profitably.
You got your Platinum Pass from a Stars Rewards Mystery Chest, almost immediately after the PSPC announcement in Barcelona. How did that happen?
Yes, the funny thing was, I watched the EPT Barcelona stream the night before and saw the announcement live. Then the next day the challenge to “Win a Hand with A-5” [the hand Ramon Collilas won the PSPC 2019] began. I won a hand, opened the first chest half an hour later and won the Platinum Pass straight away.
Did you realise you had won immediately?
Not at all. I was on the grind, opened the box kind of casually, and when the Platinum Pass was displayed, I thought it was a ticket to a satellite and clicked the chest away. The ad was not spectacular at all, just a ticket, like you’d get for a Sit & Go. But then I thought “What was that?”, looked into my online tickets and there was actually a Platinum Pass. At first I still did not believe it, called my wife and said “That can’t be true.“ I really did not believe it until I got the confirmation email from PokerStars half an hour later.
And how did your family and friends react? Are there a few poker players?
No, unfortunately not. My parents an my friends have no clue about poker and couldn’t even understand what I am talking about. My wife asks me from time to time after a session, if we are rich now. But that’s it. The only one who knew exactly what kind of chance this is was my poker coach. We’ve been working together this year.
And what happens now? How do you prepare for the big event? You just mentioned a poker coach.
Yes, we just talked on the phone for a couple minutes and he immediately said “This is the tournament of your life, we have to go together to Barcelona.“ He was really happy for me. The next coaching session is in the next few days we’ll talk about how to proceed now. You maybe even know him, his name is Marc Gork [former EPT Dortmund final table player].
How did this partnership come about?
In 2018 we were in Malta with some other poker players and streamers to play a live tournament series. We went out for a beer and there I met Marc for the first time. I told him that I am a lone wolf in poker, and right now at a point where I feel I can’t get any further alone. He then told me that he also gives poker coaching and we’ve been working together since then.
He is probably a good choice for tournament poker as well. As a cash game player are you playing tournaments regularly at all?
Yes, from time to time. I’ve won a micro tournament before and I play tournaments on Sundays as a change from cash games. I also like to play some smaller live tournaments with €30 or €50 buy-in at the casino, which is less than an hour from my home. But my biggest live tournament was the €500 buy-in in Malta.
Are there any other plans for preparation, besides the coaching with Marc?
Not really. But I have been in the GRND-Community of Felix Schneiders for a long time. He used to be a cash game player before he switched to MTTs. And if he organises another coaching weekend with the Platinum Pass winners in Cologne, as he did last time, then I would fly to Germany and participate.