“Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker EVERY YEAR?” argues Mike McDermott (played by Matt Damon) in Rounders. “What, are they the luckiest guys in Las Vegas? It’s a skill game.”

Here we are, some 22 years later, and If you still don’t believe Mike McD that poker is a game of skill then let us introduce you to Yuri “theNERDguy” Martins.

Forget about making headlines once a year, this 28-year-old Brazilian is a mainstay in our daily World Championship of Online Poker updates. And I mean every single day, in every single game.

Martins has won an incredible three WCOOP titles in the first two weeks of online poker’s most prestigious series, taking his career tally to four. At the time of writing, he’s in second place on both the overall and High WCOOP leaderboards and sits third in the Medium contest.

Here’s a look at Martins’ 2020 titles (so far):

1st — $245,535.01 — 48-H: $5,200 NLHE [8-Max, Progressive KO, Sunday Slam]
1st — $31,115 — 20-H: $1,050 HORSE
1st — $21,938 — 09-H: $1,050 2-7 Single Draw

But one glance at his WCOOP résumé shows he could have more than a dozen titles by now, thanks to a plethora of second and third place finishes along the way, including a runner-up finish to Fedor Holz in the $5,200 WCOOP Main Event back in 2014 for $708,251.

The man can’t stop winning and making final tables, but thankfully he took time off the grind to talk to us. If you’ve ever wanted to know how hot it can get in the heater, then read on.

You won’t want to miss this one.


PokerStars Blog: Hey Yuri, congratulations on your amazing WCOOP so far and thanks for taking some time off from winning to talk to us!

Yuri “theNERDguy” Martins: No problem. Thank you!

Martins studies poker “almost every day”

When you’re playing as well as you’re playing and running as hot as you are too, it must be a great feeling to wake up every day and head to the computer. Do you still get excited?

Super excited! I think the reason for that is the infinite amount of new knowledge we can learn every day. We face difficult situations all the time and I am super curious to solve all of it. Tournament poker is super complex. We have to study a lot of stack depths, GTO (game theory optimal), exploits, ICM (independent chip model), and the mental game. It’s fascinating!

How do you prepare for a big series like WCOOP?

The preparation has taken place throughout my entire career. I study almost every day and do my best to evolve in all areas of my life every day. So I don’t really prepare for a big series, I just keep doing what I do every day anyway.

Do you have any routines during a big online poker series that you stick to every day?

Not really. The only thing I change during a big series is the number of days I play. I try to play almost every day, but my routine stays the same.

You’re such a well-rounded player. What advice would you give to players who want to become better at games other than No Limit Hold’em?

I would say it’s good to have a good understanding of the fundamentals of poker so you can apply them in games that you can’t study with software programs. I would also try to find out who is the best coach in each game and then pay them whatever it costs. Honestly, all the money I have invested in poker has now been returned to me many times over.

One of your 2020 titles came in 2-7 Single Draw, while another came in HORSE. What do you enjoy most about mixed games?

People play very differently from each other as almost nobody is studying these games with programs, so playing them takes me back in time to when everybody just played with their minds, using creativity, rather than solvers.

Martins is a master in every poker variant

You’re currently a front runner to win WCOOP Player of the Year. Is that something you’re going to actively pursue? Will it change your game plan at all?

I play each tournament with the intention to first cash and then win. WCOOP and SCOOP have infinite opportunities in all poker formats to do it, so I just play as much as I can and because of the large volume I have the chance to win PoY.

I’ll now add some medium and low tournaments that I wouldn’t play normally because of it, but I keep respecting my limits. It’s not my main goal, but if I PoY win I will love it, for sure. It’s going to be something that will forever stay in my mind.

With cards-up coverage of final tables being streamed to thousands, is there ever an added pressure knowing that your peers will be watching every hand you play?

It doesn’t make me nervous but it’s also not super comfortable knowing that a lot of players will see what you are doing. However, it’s not something that makes me change my game plan.


MORE ABOUT WCOOP 2020:
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I’m always interested in the idea of career progression for poker players who have already enjoyed so much success, like yourself. How do you look at your career at the moment? Are there bigger games you’d like to be playing in that you aren’t currently? Is there a higher level of skill you’re still striving for?

I feel a great sense of joy and gratitude for where I am, but I do want to play higher stakes and be a consistent winner there. I also know that there’s so much more to learn and room to evolve. Every day I learn something new and realise that poker is almost infinite because each play is so opponent dependent. I want to develop the ability to know how to play against different opponent profiles.

Martins won the LAPT Grand Final for $175K (2015)

You battle against the best in the world every day and are no doubt comfortable playing against anyone. But are there any particular players who you hate to see on your table?

I respect a lot my Brazilian crew, plus players like “Lena900” (Niklas Astedt) and “C.Darwin2” (Simon Mattsson). There are plenty of other guys I respect highly but I don’t know them personally so I don’t want to let them know I that respect them!

How did you first discover poker and what was your journey to becoming a professional like?

I discovered poker when I was 16. My friends played a home game and I started to participate. My older brother, Vitor “vitinho dzi” Hugo, bought a poker book which I read and then fell in love with the game. After that, I never stopped studying and playing.

Looking back at the 2014 WCOOP Main Event [in which Martins finished second to Fedor Holz], how much did that $708K score impact your poker career?

That result changed my life. It gave me a good bankroll to move up in stakes and a good financial reserve for the difficult times in poker.

It must have been crushing to finish second, but $708K is still so much money. How do you look back on that result now that you’re so accomplished?

It’s still the most special result because, as I said, it changed my entire life. Sometimes I watch the replay on YouTube and remember the amazing time I was having at that final table.

You went on to win your first WCOOP title the next year in 2015 [Martins won a $1,050 PLO-8 event for $59,840]. What did that title mean to you?

Before that WCOOP it seemed like there was a barrier between me and the 1st place in all ‘COOP events. So it was special because I broke the barrier.

How many titles will he get by the end of WCOOP 2020?

You’ve had so many close calls in WCOOP events, it feels like you could have 15 WCOOP titles! At this point in your career is it all about the money or do the titles mean something?

This really is true and it’s crazy! Before this year I had a lot of heads ups for COOP tournament titles and almost always finished in second place. It’s not bad of course, but when you are so close you just want to win.

I play poker for the money basically, but I can’t deny that winning tournaments is a very good and unique feeling.

Finally, what advice would you give to low and mid-stakes players who dream of battling in the tournaments you now play on a daily basis?

There is no secret. You have to study the game more than your opponents and work your mind. If you do it every day the success is inevitable. I also recommend you to not compare yourself with others. Each poker player has a unique path because of variance.

Heed his advice and hit the books!


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Jack Stanton is a freelance writer specialising in poker.

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