A few hours ago CrownUpGuy ("I just like Crowns"), won the WCOOP 2014 Main Event and a first prize of $1.3 million after a compelling finale that boasted the type of line-up that only ever produces a worthy champion.
To anyone with a connection to Google though "CrownUpGuy" was Fedor Holz; a young German player who has had something of a break out year in 2014, notably in the European Poker Tour season opener in Barcelona last month. There he won a €2k side event, came fourth in the next, then cashed in the Main and High Roller events before finishing the week with another side event final table.
So few poker people woke up this morning surprised to find his name topping the list as the Main Event finished. In fact to many it would have been confirmation of what they already suspected--that Holz was among the most exciting new players in the game.
He certainly proved that over the summer (admitting that the hardest thing he'd ever had to do was bluff Olivier Busquet) and now has proved it again in the most prestigious online poker event in the world.
Here Holz--who evidently right now is wide awake even after a 13 hour session--gives an honest, revealing and thoughtful account of his win and of his career so far, all with hints of joy that right now are nothing short of contagious.
Q. How are you feeling right now? Has the result sunk in yet?
FH: I feel great. I always wanted to run deep in such a tournament and it feels amazing to win the biggest tournament of the year. It's my biggest achievement so far and I can't put in words how happy I am that I am that fortunate. I think I'll take it.
Q. Talk me through the tournament. How was your day one, and what were your thoughts coming into day two and then again as you reached the final table?
FH: My Day 1 went pretty well. I think I played pretty steady and took the right spots. I ended with a good stack, so after my third place in the Bigger $109 I was really confident going into Day 2. I slept until 5pm on Sunday to be completely focussed for the whole grind and I think that favoured me in the end of Day 1. On Monday I slept until 8pm and then took a shower, ate something and started playing.
Q. Were there any moments when you came close to being eliminated?
FH: Actually I don't really remember, because I played a lot of tables. I think I was down to 10k at some point, but I had a big stack for the majority of the tournament. In the end it was much more of a rollercoaster, but I always managed to fight my way back.
Q. You had some very tough opposition at the final table. Who did you consider to be the biggest threats?
FH: I respect all of them. I think Elior (Eliot "Crazy Elior" Sion) is the biggest boss though for playing it from his Ipad!
Q. At what point during the final did you think "I can win this"?
FH: I believed in it from the beginning. I think a big part of success is having the right mind-set. When I struggled I motivated myself by watching motivational videos and I got right back into it. Believing in yourself and making the right decisions is the key to winning, in my opinion.
Q. Three-handed you were the short stack. Did you worry at that stage that the title was slipping away?
FH: I just tried to pictured myself taking this tournament down and I didn't think about the possibility of me busting - and happily I somehow made it happen.
Q. Who was with you as you played the final table?
FH: I'm happy that I wasn't alone. My roommates checked in from time to time and where railing me in their rooms, because they wanted to get some sleep. But when we made the deal they joined me and railed. Before that another good poker friend of mine came by for a couple of hours so I had someone to talk to in between hands and in breaks. That was nice. I'm super happy with how I played, I was focused the whole way through and I think I played my best possible game.
Q. So what did you do in the moments after you won your title?
FH: I called my mother and after that my roommates and me went to a cafe right around the corner and got some delicious breakfast. That's our ritual after shipping something big and I think this one qualifies!
Q. How special is it to win the WCOOP Main Event?
FH: It is the most prestigious tournament in Online Poker - so yes, it means pretty much everything to me poker-wise. I've always been a very competitive person when it's about poker, so there is nothing comparable to winning this bracelet for me.
Q. The second day lasted something like 13 hours. How difficult is it to remain focused and to concentrate for all of that time?
FH: I prepared well by sleeping well, so I was super focussed the whole way and never felt tired. I think that was a big part of it all as well.
Q. How had your WCOOP been up to the Main Event?
FH: Sadly I couldn't play more events. I've just been travelling in California so I just played this Sunday, so it was the first big WCOOP event I played this series. I just skipped the tough grind right into heaven I guess, haha!
Q. You're quite new to the poker scene. Can you tell me a little about your background?
FH: I've been playing poker for about three years now. I've always just played on PokerStars, it's my favourite site, because everything is so smooth on there and they have an incredible support. I started taking it seriously two and a half years ago when I quit my studies. I was playing low stakes, but I spent every free minute thinking and playing poker and connecting with other players. After a year of struggling I started showing off results and I never really looked back since then.
Q. Do you have any plans for the money you won in WCOOP?
FH: Yes - I always wanted to buy a house for my family in Germany, because it would increase their living quality by a ton and it would make me really happy to see that. I can now make that happen - that was my main motivation and I can't put in words how much that means to me.
Q. It's been quite a year for your so far in the game. Who would you say you most admire in the game?
FH: It's tough to name one. If I could chose who to talk poker with I'd definitely pick Ike Haxton, Phil Galfond, Doug Polk and Dan Colman. I think Ike and Phil are extremely clever. All their posts and everything they say is just so smart and mature.
Doug in my opinion is the best cash game player out there and super fun to talk to. He has an extreme work ethic and his love for the game is admirable. Dan's feeling for changing game situations, ICM and how to apply it to certain situations is just amazing.
Last but not least: Olivier Busquet. Such a nice and relaxed human being. It's always a pleasure to have him at the table. I try to watch all the footage I can get on those guys and I really enjoy watching them talk and play. I haven't had the pleasure yet to talk too much to most of them so maybe soon!
Q. Finally, how much does this win mean to you?
FH: I want to be a change. I want to be a positive influence on as many people as possible and that's why I set very high standards for myself. Although I'm just 21 I've been through very tough times as well as I've had a lot moments of joy. We never had much money when I grew up, but my mother loves me more than anything so money never mattered to me as much as it did to others. I don't see it as a disadvantage, I just see it as a valuable experience.
When I started playing poker I wanted to get better at poker - I loved the challenge. But after a year of struggling and living a shitty life I realised I have to drastically change my life. I just wanted to live a better life and have more of those positive experiences instead of always comparing "what have I achieved in comparison to others" - because that always ended in me being disappointed comparing it to societies standards.
Then I accepted quitting my studies and didn't take it as a failure anymore, because it was clearly the right decision and it dragged me down mentally. I decided to travel the world with a good poker friend (without much money it's even more fun!) and I couldn't have done anything better. I don't think my success was the reason for my progress, I'd like to think it was the other way around.
But after all I became who I am right now because of those guys I met on my way. For us it's not just a game, it's sharing a dream. Some of them became my closest friends and my idols in life. They are grounded, mature, clever and they know so much more about life than I do. They enriched my life and they are the reason why I became so successful - even more important a way happier person. I'm pretty sure they don't even know how big of an impact they had on me and I think this is a good way to tell them.
Watch Fedor Holz's performance at the Main Event final table below.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.