The winner's chill: Luciana Manolea's trip to zen...and a SCOOP title

The lesser temperatures don't get a lot of respect in poker. Talk about cold deck, getting dealt a cooler, or running cold, and you're bound to get at least a couple sympathetic looks. Sorry, man. It's a cold and cruel world out there.

Luciana Manolea doesn't care. She's about as chill as it gets, and she credits that very thing with her recent Spring Championship of Online Poker title. Talk to her for just a minute, and you'll get it.

"Balancing all aspects of my life is even more important to me than balancing my ranges," she said.

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It's possible you already know her. Over the past five years, she showed up on the European Poker Tour scene and started racking up cashes. She won a couple side events, final tabled some others, and put together $200,000 in live winnings. Meanwhile, she established herself on PokerStars as a well-known and successful player, notably in the Women's Sunday tournament. She's a grinder who seems to be playing all day every day.

You could sort through all her results from this month (there are a lot), but you're best focusing on the big one: Playing as luckyno75, she won the medium buy-in SCOOP Event #17 for more than $43,000. She got there by way of study and a zen-like approach to the game.

"I had two big downswings in my career, and those inevitably got me down, made me question my poker game, and got me studying even more," she said.


ON HER OWN


Manolea calls herself a Romanian country girl. She left home at age 14 for a boarding school, picked up poker at university, and kicked off a whole new life for herself.

She said she got lucky in the early going, and didn't look back. But eventually, those downswings caught up with her, and she had to look inside herself.

"I started looking for looked for answers. I wanted to better understand and deal with my feelings," she said.

For a lot of people in the game, this work would've resulted in a lot of hand histories, training videos, and such. For Manolea, it mean something else. She started checking her mental game and how she lived her life in general.

"I realized if only I brought acceptance to my flaws and mistakes, I put myself in a better state of mind that will lead to overall better decisions," she said.

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BACK TO BASICS


Manolea stripped everything down. She changed how she ate. She changed what she drank. She started working out, and did it as much for the strength of her mind as the strength of her body.

"All the times I overcame laziness and resistance and did some form of exercise, I felt so much better afterwards," she said. "The first step is always the hardest. Breathing controls the activity of the strongest electromagnetic organ in the body--the heart."

Manolea started meditating. She focused on the relationships with people around her. And she found her kitchen.

The daughter of a mom who likes to cook, Manolea changed her diet and started tweaking recipes to her taste: a plant-based diet full of locally-sourced organic food.

"For me, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication," she said.

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THE PAYOFF AND PAYBACK


The results are undeniable. Manolea, despite her chill attitude, is running hot and can now call herself a SCOOP champion. She can add the title to her EPT side event wins and all the other tournaments she's racking up on PokerStars.

Meanwhile, Manolea's trip to enlightenment is benefiting more than her bankroll. She's taken a sincere interest in the Effective Altruism movement and actively gives as part of the REG charity.

While she may not be the prototypical online poker player for 2017, she is a happy one, and has found a certain chill that's hard to find these days.

She sums it up in much the same way she lives her life.

"Remember to be grateful," she said.

And that's pretty cool.


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

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