WCOOP 2011: Sensitive skin, solid core

wcoop2009-thumb.jpgThere is a man in Sweden who knows exactly how many minutes it takes to drive from his home to places all over town. He's a businessman with no time to spare. He runs two companies and has several other financial interests in play. He has more meetings to take than most people have minutes in the day. He is never early. He is never late. He's experienced enough to know that time is money, and the man who best manages the former will make the most of the latter.

"Time is a human's most expensive article," he said, "because we cannot create more."

This man, known as z_balata on PokerStars, hates to wait. Unlike most people, synchronized breaks make him cranky. "I can eat and pee when I play," he said. "I use the break to work."

At 58 years old, z_balata has the age and experience to know that youth, life, and everything they offer are fleeting. He wastes none of it.

Z_balata started his first company 20 years ago. He was his only employee. Today, that company operates as three businesses and employs more than 100 people. It took 80-hour work weeks and years of struggle, but he made it happen. Now, he's cut back to working 40 hours per week, which leaves him the rest of the time for his hobby.

"I can easily also play 40 hours poker without feeling stress or tiredness," he said. "I do statistics on various things and then when I do something, whatever it is, I always try to do it as fast and as good as ever possible. That attribute has really helped me to develop my poker game."

It also may have helped him some in the fast-paced world of four-max tournaments, one of which he won last week in the 2011 World Championship of Online Poker. He defeated more than 2,600 players to win $77,349 in Event #23.

z_balata.jpg

WCOOP winner z_balata

As you might imagine, winning nearly $80,000 was an exciting time for z_balata. It was his second-biggest win, one made better by a lot of friends on the rail. Nonetheless, the money isn't the point.

"I still mainly play poker for fun, for the glory, and for the challenge," he said. "I like playing against the best players. When I win money I do not find any pleasure in spending it right now."

Z_balata only picked up poker six years ago. Since then, he's made no small amount of money on the European Poker Tour. His WCOOP victory was his first major championship. He now has his eye set on an EPT or WSOP title.

If you're a golfer, you might recognize his screen name. The Z Balata is a golfball, one that the PokerStars player has assumed as his own identity.

"It is an old golfball with very sensitive skin, but a solid core," he siad. "Like me."

Z_balata is a grateful man. He's worked harder than most people could imagine. He considers himself fortunate to have been born in a great country and with the talents he has.

"We only have one life. I have decided to take advantage of this good luck and give myself a so rich a life as possible," he said. "Unfortunately everyone does not do that. But it is not primarily about money. It's more about friends, family, accomplishing something meaningful in the world, and having fun all the time."

So, as you sit back today and wonder what makes a successful man, think of z_balata. Think of him timing his crosstown drive down to the minute. Think of him taking the five minute synchronized breaks to get some work done. Think of him filling every second of his day with purpose.

"Maybe I am crazy, but I do not care," z_balata said. "When I get old I can say I did it my way, as Sinatra sang."

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in WCOOP