_p0nczek: "I quit everything for poker"

Check out a very sincere interview with our brilliant player.

We are glad to present the interview with Smart Backing member _p0nczek. After a long period of difficulties, his game reached a turning point. He has been capturing great results for the last few months, including achieving the first place in Big $27 and PSKO $27, and second place in Hot $27 in just two days.

See the breakthrough in his game on his graph since April 2018:



In 2016, our hero became the finalist of the $11 Low SCOOP Tournament. In 2018, he shows his brilliant skills again. What happened that he faced the crisis and his performance has recently drastically changed? Check his "confession" in this very sincere conversation below:



Smart Backing: Hello, _p0nczek! Recently, in your game there was a turning point and you have achieved great results for the last few months. What was the reason for your development?

In retrospect, I can say that the key change has occurred in my head. I always liked to play cards and this will be an important aspect later in my story.

MTT have always been my love, although I did not do well in this format. I started with great hopes that I, the "big Lord _p0nczek," come into the tournament, destroy everyone because that is how it should be, because I am entitled to.


Was this hope based on a fundament? Was it blind or your skills allowed you to think like that?

It was total stupidity. My knowledge from 180 man SnG gave me some basics but to tell the truth, it did not give me anything if I wanted to think about average stakes.

I did a lot of noodling around and mingling in my head, for example, I got to know a new strategy and immediately wanted to force it by thinking that since I will play this way I will now be destroying and I got spanked again.


These spankings brought you to the ground?

A serious downswing led me to the situation that I played nonstop, every day about 14-16h. I played in the night hours and got very tired. I wanted to quickly retire with the "variance must give away" in my head.

My win rate was good but I was very long under EV and it has incredibly badly affected my psyche. I will add that I did not know about that at the time, I can say it looking from the place where I am today.


Did not you notice your mental problems?

Due to the fact that my second love is psychology and everything that is connection with it I fell into a trap. It seemed to me that tilt, the lack of acceptance of variance isn't something that I would be concerned about because I have psychological knowledge and I have an advantage over the population. Another mistake. Disgusted Ego, the feeling that I am entitled to and the unwillingness of variance led me to the state in which I thought to quit all this, go to work on the handset, relax. But I had a goal.


From the very first contact with poker, you thought that you will succeed or die trying?

Before I started playing online poker, I set a time in which, regardless of whether I will win or not, I will continue and play regularly. You can say I quit everything for poker. I thought it was the only right decision.

At some point, I began to feel like a victim of variance, "after all, I'm doing everything right, only the variance is not on my side," I thought so. I've always tried to be a perfectionist whatever I did. This is very unhealthy.

In poker, I tried to play perfectly to the exaggeration and only the first place counted for me. And again I can say that I was not aware of that at the time, I just dropped out on 6th, 7th, 8th, 13rd, 2nd place and I did not enjoy it.

After all, my win rate was good, why do not I win, why I can not finish on the first place, the rest was less important to me.


You didn’t enjoy your good results. Poker started bothering you?

On the one hand, I realised that I voluntarily chose poker, no one would force me to do it, and on the other hand, I began to feel such reluctance as to work full-time.


Have you managed to cope with this reluctance? Did you work on your mindset?

Having some psychological knowledge, I started to research, read and watch developmental films. By accident, I found a film about meditation, Zen and various philosophical themes.

I had to answer the questions: Why am I doing it? Why did I want to play poker? What was poker for me and what it became for me? What was the reason? What will happen if I stop playing MTT? Should I change the format to Spin & Go? Is it better to become an amateur player? I had so many kinds of questions in my head. I discovered meditation and mindfulness.


Your head was full of questions; inner dialogue. Meditation could have helped you a lot.

At the beginning I was laughing at meditation, but later I started to use breathing exercises to reduce stress, which was associated primarily with quite a significant MU, which in retrospect led to suboptimal decisions, suboptimal game hours.


Stress can have serious consequences – and not only mental ones.

My wrong approach affected my body, I stopped doing sports, I slept during the day, I thought night sessions are easier, and now I see it in a way that no matter if I play in the morning or noon, every part of the day will be good enough if properly prepared in terms of strategy and mental side.

At one point I thought I was doing very well with the analysis of a particular hand. Looking through the hands after the session, I often saw that I made stupid mistakes that I should not commit.

I could do the analysis dry to know what is the right decision and what happened in the game if I did not play an A-game. I gave myself the last chance to be in MTT. I decided to move to the morning sessions in the Panpankracy group. I still have a tendency to play for a long time, I can play until 20-22.

The process of my mental change persists, I do not always manage to implement everything that I plan for the next day, but I stopped blaming and in return verify the goals that I set for myself. I try to plan my day to have time, after a session, for recreational sport.


What is your day like now?

For the last few months, I start a day with a moment of reflection, I never sit down to a session with the so-called walk, what I used to do, and what ended up with the first tournaments in which I registered, ended up stupid and dropped off.

During the session I play and try to enjoy the game, I stopped focusing on how much money is awarded for the first place. I'm just looking for opportunities to win the hand. Often when I was on a semi-FT, I opened a lobby of a tournament, I checked how much is for the first place, no sense in my opinion.

I had the best wins and usually I was in this state of flow when I have never looked into a lobby, and suddenly bang - I am already on a FT as a CL.


_p0nczek's victory- Big $27, June 2018


What is the importance of sport for you?

A very important element is recreational sport, not to become a world champion in this sport but because the long sitting at the computer affects the deterioration of circulation which leads to hypoxia which leads to the worse quality of thinking.

I and my bicycle have been friends for the last few months. And recently I add at least one mind podcast to my bike. I must do breathing exercises before bedtime, fall asleep more calmly, sleep better, I wake up happier because I do not remember the bad moments from the session before going to bed.


In sum:

- I started to enjoy playing cards again,

- I changed my approach to life,

- I try to be more aware of my emotions that accompany me during the session,

- before the session I try to calm down, choose the right music and do not change anything during it, do not mix,

- after session a 1-2h of cycling,

- meditation at bedtime.


This is me. I would love to get to know the methods of our other players.


I am impressed by your honesty in this interview and that you describe your difficult emotions. I would like to ask you how you see your future?

My development process continues. In my opinion, this is not a recipe for success. I myself have a lot to do to find myself in a place where I would like to be.

Now I know that this is a process that you have to take time for everything and try to move consistently into designated direction. I treat it as an adventure, my personal journey, which I decided myself.

What's next? I do not know, I will try to do everything to get to Olimp ;) Will I succeed? Time will tell.


We mainly talked about negative emotions. Let's talk about something more positive. Is poker now more enjoyable? What turns you on the most in poker?

I fell in love with poker again, not for money but for development.

Now I'm enjoying every day that I could spend it on my life passion, that I can grow because Smart Backing gives me this opportunity.

For me today, the best thing in poker is that it allows you to get to know each other, gives you the opportunity to develop, or rather forces (in a positive way) the need for development on the player. All this way can be an amazing adventure if you approach it.


What does your grinding from the non-mindset point of view look like now? What about the schedule, the most memorable results?

You ask about the results hmm ... as I said earlier, I try not to attach so much importance to specific wins. From the financial side recently, Bounty Builder $44 was the most enjoyable one, in particular that I won HU which is crucial in bounty tournaments. Big $16.50 is important to me because on its basis sz3sz made a training video which was a mega kick, because I played there so well that it was possible to record the training. Now I have to move on and prove that it was not a coincidence.

I try not to focus on a specific result and how I played a given tournament. If I crushed opponents and I decided about the action on the table then I enjoy this tournament.

I had the largest ship financially on SCOOP and I returned to it so long that I did not perform well. Therefore, if the tournament is played well and I used every opportunity to win chips then such a tournament is important to me and if I additionally win a large amount of money, I can enjoy it even more.

From the non-mindset side it's mostly playing in the morning. In bounty tournaments I started playing focusing on bounties and previously I was a nit. The analysis in HRC with new feature helped a lot. And I try to build maximally to go like a tank on FT.

The turning point was after Big $16.50, about which sz3sz made a recording and FT analysis from Panpankracy as I saw him destroying players and told myself "I can do it too” :)

I try to play a minimum of 20 tournaments a day and a minimum of 20-25 sessions per month, which gives about 500 tourneys a month.

The breakthrough was the transition to morning games.


_p0nczek's victory - Bounty Builder $44, July 2018


What are your interests outside of poker? What are you doing to relax?

Interests outside of poker are modest, but I like to read a good book about a psychological topic, occasionally a fiction.

I am rather pragmatic and I am interested in topics that help me to become a better player. The best form of relaxation that I met this year is a bike and I recommend it to everyone. Maybe a cliché but it helps me.


How do you feel in Smart Backing? What helped you the most here?

Thanks to the Smart Backing I met a lot of interesting people and I'm in a place where I wanted to be so I judge it positively. I'm just glad I'm here.

What helped me? Hm... I learned / I’m learning from everything. Smart Backing is a large entity and is divided into small groups. IMO my team is the best, Donikk, Shiryu100, Akserr, Wojtek kaz, MaybeTurek, Majkel, Jenor.

Of course, from every trainer I've learned a lot  - from Panpankracy, Ninus, Pokerbluffer, sz3sz -  their advice is very useful. And of course the most helpful, irreplaceable Certh, the best accountant ever :)

Just joining such a group is very important in this field. Because the player spends most of his time alone unfortunately.



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