The decisions. The emotions. The ups, downs, and make or break coin flip moments. It’s all part of this beautiful game we call poker.

Anything can happen in a tournament. One moment you could be big stack and the next moment bust. In major MTTs and events like SCOOP, you’re bound to lose more often than you cash. It’s a journey, for sure.

Is the enjoyment of the journey enough? Or is it only possible to be satisfied with a tournament when you make the money?

We asked 2020 SCOOP winners, “Assuming you don’t win, when are you happy with a big tournament performance?”

Here’s what they told us…

The path to success in poker

In an ideal world, you’d win every tournament. That’s never going to happen, and if it did your opponents wouldn’t stick around for very long. In reality, even top players only hit the final tables a fraction of the time.

That said, how can players measure short term success at the tables? How do you know if it’s been a “good game” when you don’t win?

Main Event #96-M winner “LFFF22” explains, “The right decisions do not prevail in the short term, so it is important to have resilience and understand that making the right decisions is the path to success in poker. Sometimes you don’t win, but in the long run you will.”

Making the best decisions

Players are often content with their performance when they know they have made the best decisions. This sentiment is echoed in many of the 2020 SCOOP winner’s responses.

“I just need to have played my best in the present moment, resolving each situation the way I know best, hand after hand,” says #85-H winner Victor “victorbco” Hugo.

SCOOP #95-H winner Troy “Teckidtq” Quenneville says he is content if he made “what I deem to be the best decisions”

“I am content with a tournament performance so long as I made what I deem to be the best decisions,” says #95-H winner Troy “teckidtq” Quenneville.

“I am happy after a big tournament when I played well… This is a game of chance, so someone can get a straight flush over your ace flush,” says #86-L winner Xiaoxiao “W.Leung” Niao.

Niao also touches on a side point here. You don’t have control over the outcomes of hands. You don’t choose whether someone hits their draw or spikes their ace. All you do have control over is your own decisions.

Making the money

Ideals aside, we all know that going bust and missing the money is a horrific feeling. It’s never going to be an enjoyable moment, whether it happens because of a mistake or bad beat.

Several 2020 SCOOP winners say that making the money is a factor when it comes to how happy they are with the tournament.

#87-M winner Tore “eagletore69” Pedersen says he is happy “to make the money”, but also stresses that he will always “play to win”.

“TripleAjaxxx”, winner of #99-H, says, “To be honest, I would never be happy with a tournament if I don’t cash.”

Making the money takes a the pressure off. It means that those hours of investment have paid off in tangible terms. The only problem is, this would mean a lot of unhappy games if it were me playing!

Learn from your experiences

Tournament poker is an exciting game. The process of learning, practicing, and ultimately failing, eventually refines a player into a potential title winner.

“vpisjak” shares his thoughts. “Even if I don’t win in a big tournament, I’m still happy I can take part in it and keep fighting, evolving, and doing what I love. You learn from your experiences. If you love what you do, you never give up no matter how it goes. Failure is a part of life and so is success. One can’t exist without the other.”

This attitude seems to have served “vpisjak” well enough. He now has a SCOOP title to his name after winning event #103-L.

The middle ground

Some SCOOP winners say they are happy when they make the money, others when they make the best possible decisions. “pingu2k4”, winner of #92-M, suggests there’s a middle ground.

“Before playing any tournament, all the final table payouts look worthwhile. However, by the time you get there, busting out in anything but first place feels like an anti-climax. There’s always the lingering thought of ‘what if’. That’s not really practical or useful thinking, so recognizing that is important. I still get that feeling in tournaments, but if I played a good game that’s all I really ask for from myself,” says pingu2k4.

Could it be the case that many players feel a sense of disappointment after crashing out, but have trained themselves in a more rational and practical way of thinking? We suspect so.

For #89-M winner “Will Eye Amm”, happiness in a tournament comes from both the result and playing well. “I am happy whenever I cash and make a profit, but most importantly I’m happy if I play well and lose to a bad beat, as opposed to losing to a mistake or being outplayed.”

Bonus tip: just don’t lose

Not all the 2020 SCOOP winners we spoke to even had to be concerned with not winning.

“Don’t win? Have you seen my resume? All I do is win,” says #97-M winner “TruthBeTold7”.

We did take a look at your resume. It’s reasonably impressive… Bonus points for anyone who cracks TruthBeTold7’s aces!

Final question to readers: Is it the winning or the taking part that counts in tournament poker?

More wisdom from SCOOP winners:

4-step roadmap to winning a title
Six SCOOP winner’s tips
3 Things SCOOP winners do well
Common mistakes you’re making
Break free of your downswings
Mistakes are your friend

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