From zero-to-Supernova Elite in 52 days: Quadchrazs on how it's done
On the face of it Martijn "'Quadchrazs" Ardon's record breaking status as a Supernova Elite is spectacular enough. But according to the man himself, it wasn't his plan to set the record on 21 February. No sir. According to Ardon, he was a week late.
"I intended to reach it 15 February," said Ardon, 24, the new record holder for the fastest player ever to reach Supernova Elite status. "But I got stomach flu, so had to do some smaller VPP days at some point."
You get the impression a smaller day for Ardon would be the biggest day or your career for you or I. As he explained, VPPs come quickly at the stakes he plays, so in that regard SNE status was inevitable, and nothing all that new to the Dutchman. But still, he set out to make this year different.
"I was kind of lazy in 2014 and decided I wanted to work hard in 2015," he said. "That kind of spiralled into a three really big days at the start of the year. It then became apparent I was first in the leader board and I wanted to keep it that way. I looked up the VPP record and decided to go for it, as I felt I was still playing fine."
Then that stomach illness put everything on hold, or at least slowed his level of play. But Ardon had still beaten the previous record, held by Andrew "azntracker" Li, by a clear seven days.
Let's take a moment, because I know what you're thinking. "This is ridiculous. I didn't even shake off New Years until the first week of February!" And you'd be right. But let's brace ourselves and look at just how ridiculous this feat was.
On average Ardon was playing sit and go's with buy-ins of $100. Each one of those paid roughly 20 VPPs. On some days he was logging more than 35,000 VPPs, but on average he was playing 1,000 SNGs a day. For 52 days. And those smaller VPP days he mentioned? The ones played while he was bent double with stomach flu? They still amounted to around 10,000 VPPs a day. In all he played close to 50,000 games and almost one million hands.
"I cannot see how this can be beaten," said Gareth Davies, VIP Program Manager at PokerStars, presumably as someone laid a cold compress on his forehead. "It must have been like Groundhog Day!"
Yeah, Groundhog Day. Which is what I said to Ardon.
"Yes it was at some point," he admitted. "Ideally I would have wanted to quit after 40 days or so. The games were really hard at some point in February because PokerStars was doing that ULTIMATE promotion, which caused a lot of good players to make a lot of extra hours."
Sorry about that Martijn.
But once you've taken all of this in, you can sit back and begin to take stock of what is an incredible achievement. Then curiosity kicks in and you want to know exactly how it was done. Ardon himself takes up the story.
"My standard day was getting up at between 12pm and 2pm and getting to sleep between 4am and 6am. I would usually do four three-hour sessions a day depending on the action. I played 6-Max hypers mostly - my game of choice for the last few years.
"In February, when the $60 spin and go's were released, I was forced to play a little more hours and a little more other games as well, like fifty50 sit and go's and satellite hypers. The spins are very popular but I wasn't planning on learning an entirely new game while in this chase."
Did he ever get bored chasing this target which, let's face it, was still more than seven weeks in the making.
"It's funny, people ask me this sometimes about SNGs," said Ardon. "If you think SNGs are boring you miss a lot of important stuff to take into account!"
For Ardon that means delight in short stack strategies and a fast paced environment, not to mention swings unlike any other game. "It's more like a lot of stress than it is boring!"
But stress with an enormous pay off at the end. If you make SNE we'll throw you a few freebies, obviously, and it's a status that comes with a great many benefits. But if you're going to set out on a mission like this it has to be for more than your pick of the FPP store.
"It is a very good feeling if you set the bar really high and reach something hard to actually achieve, whatever it may be," said Ardon. "For me it was to get Supernova Elite as fast as possible while still playing on a good level. I'm very happy I finished it while I could."
For Ardon it's the latest flagstone on what has been steep journey towards the higher reaches of the poker world. Or as he put it: "The standard story of a student playing poker to try to make some easy money on the side which spiralled into something more."
That began with penny poker at school in the Netherlands with friends before it developed into a way to make some easy money as a student. Then higher education got put on hold for a while as he dedicated more time to a game he soon found he was good at, although he's now in the last year of studying Business Administration.
But first Ardon will have to find a reason not to play, and right now that doesn't seem to be any time soon, with long sessions in his expensive chair ("a good investment") still bringing those moments every player dreams of. "If everything goes smooth and you feel like you can't lose it's hard to quit sometimes!"
That will mean Ardon finding something else to aim for. What will his next target be? Could he beat his own record perhaps? Is that even possible? Yes, says Ardon, but it will take a different type of player, one prepared to throw some of their instinctive (and profitable) caution to the wind.
"I think if you play the very highest stakes, which I didn't feel comfortable doing while playing so many hours, you can be done somewhere in January," said Ardon. "But most of the guys who play those games play a very little amount of tables at the same time, and a small amount of hours to make sure they play well, and get enough free time and study away from the tables."
For now Ardon has his status (and his health) secured and it's back to the regular grind, however grueling that might be to the rest of us.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to play the rest of the year," said Ardon. "There will no doubt be a lot of 6-Max hypers in there, but exploring other game types that are less stressful, like full ring games or heads-up are very good options as well. I will be taking some more free time off to begin with."
A well-earned break, even if it is a week later than he'd originally planned.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.