LLinusLLove and the one-way ticket to All Stardom

There is a certain brand of confidence reserved for the young or inebriated. It speaks to you from a more primal part of your brain, and it tells you, "Yes, you can make this leap, and yes, it will all be fine if you do." For the intoxicated set, it usually begins with "Hey, y'all, watch this!" and ends in a hospital's emergency ward. For the young, however, the actuarial charts are a little harder to read, because sometimes those youthful optimists stick the landing in a way that makes them legends.

So, imagine yourself a young man. Imagine waking up one day and realizing you had a gift and believing in that gift with the kind of assuredness one can only find in a man who has not yet crashed and burned.

And now imagine what it feels like to stick the landing so hard that you are a bonafide All Star by the age of 22.

"I've never had a regular job," a young Swiss revealed this week.

If you follow PokerStars cash games, you might have heard of him. He goes by the nom de guerre LLinusLLove.

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By now, you might have heard of the rake-free PokerStars All Stars battle playing out in invitation-only rooms. A collection of PokerStars' most successful regs is going to be playing until the middle of next month to see who can top the best of the best in the PokerStars cash games.

Among the most active players in the rooms right now is the mysterious fellow, LLinusLLove. Only a couple of the All Stars have played more hands than he has as of this morning, and he's not about to back down.

"All in all, my schedule usually revolves around poker unless I'm taking a few days off or I'm on holidays," he said.


ONE-WAY, PLEASE


LLinusLLove was in high school when he discovered he could play better than most people. He knew even before he could play online that he was going to be a success. So, when he turned 18 years old, he decided that's what he was going to do. He had an internship (very) briefly in an IT department, but then decided there was only one way to become what PokerStars would eventually call an All Star.

At age 19, he had a bankroll of $4,000 and was playing 25c-50c Zoom 6-max, and that was enough for him to make the kind of decision that would make old and sober people stare at the ceiling all night long.

"I just booked a one-way ticket to Malta without an apartment or anything booked before. Just my lap top and a one-way ticket," he said.

Who does that? Seriously, who does that?

That's a bit more of a mystery. There are people out there who know who LLinusLLove is, but he's not about to reveal much more than he has to. We know that he is now 22 years old, has moved from Malta to Vienna, and plays the occasional live event. Other than that, he doesn't have much to say about his personal life.

"I prefer to stay out of the spotlight, because usually there's nothing good coming from it, especially in the poker scene," he said.

While there may be some debate regarding whether he is right about that, there is no debate about how successful LLinusLLove has been. PokerStars selected him for the All Stars based on his longterm winnings and skill, something he showcased at the lower limits and continues to show off at the higher stakes.

And it might not have happened but for that one-way ticket to Malta.

"From then on it went pretty smooth," he said.


100% COMMITMENT


It's not simply a matter of taking the leap. Anybody can jump, but not everybody lands well. In poker, it takes someone who is ready to fight every day.

"I used to be really good at video games before poker and took them very competitively, too," LLinusLLove said. "I guess the transition to poker wasn't so hard for me."

When he made that transition, he didn't think about a backup plan. He's never given much thought to what he might study if he decided to quit the game. Moreover, he rolls his eyes at the idea that poker is dying or dead.

"Having that kind of point of view is only going to make it worse," he said

Meanwhile, he takes a different approach to what "talent" means in poker. Sure, he concedes, there are myriad components to poker skill, including but not limited to work ethic, abstract thinking, and mental game. Nevertheless, he has very specific ideas about what it takes to make it in the game.

"I don't think 'talent' is needed a lot to succeed in poker. It's more about how hard you work and how much you want to succeed," he said. "Of course there are always people who are better in certain areas than other people, but in poker there's 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."

That kind of thinking has lifted him to All Star status. He credits himself with the ability and willingness to learn every day while maintaining a serious level of ambition. Moreover (and this may set him apart from the vast majority of successful poker players), he rolls his eyes at the idea of bumhunting.

"I probably play the biggest volume of short-handed deep high stakes NLHE reg-games," he said. "It's always been my favorite format, because having that kind of competition is amazing. I've never been a big fan of game selection and playing in soft lineups, as I think I enjoy the most at poker is the competition. I think I'm very good at them because I have also always enjoyed game theory and studying it, therefore understanding the latest tools out there much quicker and thoroughly than my competition."

That may sound a little cocky, but LLinusLLove has probably earned his right to be as confident. He builds his entire days around waiting for the big action, and then he plays until he's exhausted. It's made him an All Star, and, as far as he's concerned, he can credit his one-way attitude about the game.

"Committing fully and 100% was the most important step," he said.


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is the PokerStars Head of Blogging. Follow him on Twitter: @BradWillis.

Brad Willis
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