With more people staying at home and no live sporting events on the TV, we reckon it’s about time railing high stakes poker online made a comeback.
Thankfully, the High Rollers series kicks off on PokerStars on Monday 23 March, and we can’t wait to tune in and watch poker’s heavy hitters battle it out for hundreds of thousands of dollars over a week’s worth of action.
The High Rollers themselves will no doubt be taking the time to self-isolate and brush up on their strategies as the massive series approaches. After all, these events will be the biggest thing going on in the poker world, and all eyes will be on them.
But regardless of how confident a High Roller feels as they register their first event, there will always be certain screen names they’ll hope to avoid sitting alongside at their virtual tables.
Here are three poker players who must make even their fellow High Rollers nervous.
And the lessons you can learn from them to improve your own game.
While this humble PokerStars Blog writer can only take a guess at which players strike the most fear into their peers, this first name seems like a lock.
Stephen Chidwick is widely referred to as one of the best tournament poker players in the world, and right now his name is one of the first-mentioned whenever other great players ponder the game’s brightest stars.
At just 30 years of age, Chidwick has already enjoyed the kind of “future Hall of Fame” career you’d expect from a player twice his age. He has $34.1 million in live career earnings, with $23.3 million of that coming in the past two years, and began his career as a formidable online poker player (accumulating $5.1 million in online cashes to date).
That sudden spike in live scores goes to show that whatever strategies Chidwick has been working on in the lab are working like a charm. He might be ahead of everyone right now, and when he applies his focus to online poker again, there could be no stopping him.
“I’ve had rough stretches. I didn’t have very good results in high rollers for quite a while after I started playing them,” Chidwick told us when he first became the no.1 live tournament player in the world.
“There was definitely some going from chip leader to bubbling a tournament in the space of an hour and feeling dejected from that. Luckily I have an amazing support system – friends and family to help pick me up and convince me I’m playing well and to keep at it and stuff. But yeah, it’s been a long road to get to number one. But a pretty rewarding one too.”
For a while, we heard whispers among poker’s elite that those who dominate the $25/$50 cash games on PokerStars are likely some of the best players in the world.
Linus “LLinusLLove” Loeliger has done just that for the past couple of years. Throughout 2019, he turned his attention to playing the odd live High Roller tournament. Within a four-month stretch, he banked $1.8 million across just three cashes.
His ascent from the micro-stakes to the High Rollers has been well documented. A 19-year-old Loeliger started a thread on the 2+2 poker forum back in 2013, stating he was about to embark on a bankroll challenge.
“I’ve always had some tilting problems and bankroll management (BRM) problems, so to help that I’m gonna start a challenge, where I update graphs, hands and other stuff,” the young Loeliger wrote. “I’ll do this challenge for me, so I stay within my BRM and so I can review some hands in this thread.”
His bankroll was at $150 and he was playing $0.5/$0.10 cash games on PokerStars. His goal was to reach $0.50/$1 cash games by the end of 2013.
Seven years spent in the lab and on the grind later, Loeliger is considered one of the top GTO (game theory optimal) players in all of poker, with content creators breaking down his hands in videos and discovering the guy is pretty much a walking, talking solver.
We bet it’s pretty scary to play against a guy who seemingly always knows the right move.
He’s had success in online tournaments too, most notably taking down the 2018 World Championship of Online Poker $25K High Roller for $588K.
“LLinusLLove” is a name no poker players wants to see at their table.
Just read through that 2+2 thread again. Loeliger documented his early poker journey for all of us to see.
When he was running good and playing great, he more than doubled his bankroll. But after a disastrous session at a higher stake in which he lost half his bankroll, he dropped back down and rebuilt. That’s a great lesson right there.
It’s what he did behind the scenes in the years he wasn’t updating the thread that’s the most inspiring, though.
“All in all, my schedule usually revolves around poker unless I’m taking a few days off or I’m on holidays,” he told PokerStars Blog two years ago, aged 22.
“I don’t think ‘talent’ is needed a lot to succeed in poker,” he continued. “It’s more about how hard you work and how much you want to succeed.
“Of course there are always people who are better in certain areas than other people, but in poker, there are so many different areas you need to excel in that understanding where you need to improve and actually trying hard to improve becomes much more important. I think the word ‘talent’ is one of the most misunderstood terms in the poker world, especially by the media.”
We might not understand it, but we respect it.
Six-foot four-inches tall and built like the former college football player he is (that’s American football, folks), Alex “BigFox86” Foxen has an intimidating presence at the poker table. Then again, so does every no.1-ranked player in the world (Foxen is currently the GPI world no.1, followed by Chidwick in second).
Foxen started playing online poker and only transitioned to live poker in 2016, dabbling in $200 to $500 buy-in tournaments. He now plays the highest possible stakes going and has $16.8 million in career earnings.
Despite his live success, his work on the online felt has never wained. He has cashed online for just shy of $5.4 million at the time of writing, with two Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) titles and plenty won in the PokerStars High Roller Club.
In 2019 he was ranked fourth in the world online, according to PocketFives, and we have no doubt he’ll be a player most want to avoid during the upcoming High Roller Series.
As he told PokerStars Blog back in 2015, Foxen played football for Boston College between 2009-12, an experience that years later he credits with making him the kind of poker player he is today, disciplined and able to handle high-pressure situations.
“After running out onto an opponent like Clemson or Florida State’s field with 90,000 people in the stands who all want you to lose more than anything else, the pressure of a final table seems a little less imposing,” he said.
However, while he had the poker chops to succeed, Foxen struggled with his mental game during his online poker beginnings.
“Honestly, I think that the mental and emotional aspects of the game were probably the ones I struggled the most with,” he told SoMuchPoker in 2019. “I have a history in sports, so sometimes I would have some emotional responses to losing, sometimes versus a certain type of player.
“The biggest thing I had to work on was my mental game and my emotional responses to things because when you play a sport you can get really mad and play really hard, but in poker, if you play really hard, it’s not going to help you. You’ll just end up losing your chips. That’s definitely something I struggled with.”
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