A high performance grinder

2013 was the best year of my career. In almost 19,000 games played, I made 1,150 final tables, won almost 200 tournaments and had the biggest annual profit of my life as a professional poker player. And I am absolutely sure it wasn't by chance I reached my best result.

In 2013, I finally felt I could call myself a high performance grinder. Which, in my opinion, is the same as a professional athlete.


Caio Pessagno: looks the part

A high performance athlete has to handle other issues than just practicing and competing. People like Rafael Nadal, LeBron James, Usain Bolt, Fernando Alonso and Neymar surely have the best structure possible around them, so they can focus 100% when they are playing or training in order to become the best in what they do.

My reasoning is simple: if I want to be one of the best in my sport, I must plan my professional routine and optimize my time. I've believed in that since the beginning of my career, back in 2006, but only in 2013 was I fully satisfied with my high performance grinder structure.

I can say I created the best environment for my grind. Note that having other people taking care of some issues is fundamental. Here is my routine:

I wake up at 11 am (always after my sacred seven-hour sleep!) and Zilda, the lady who works at my house, has already prepared breakfast. Without her, life would be way harder.

Around 1 pm my trainer is already there for a Muay Thai, gym or conditioning training. Practicing sports helps me to relieve stress and get more resistant. However, I try not to kill myself training, because I have a day of grinding ahead. It is important to have equilibrium.


Wind it up...


...and attack!

I finish training at 2:30 pm and, guess what, lunch is ready! Zilda, my angel! Having someone handling the kitchen is so important. Everything is prepared early and it is a lot easier to eat healthy. If I had to think about food on my own, I would end up almost everyday eating junk food. Eating well helps me concentrate on my work.

To work!
I start grinding at 3 pm and usually feel ready to play my 'A' game. In order to be always focused, the physical structure I created in my house helps a lot. I always start from the same spot, where I sit in my grandmother's armchair. It is so comfortable! If in the middle of the day I want to change, there is another setup with a regular office chair, with two monitors. Later, when there are only a few tables left, I can move to the couch setup, where I can even play laying down. It is a perfect setup at the end of the day, because I feel relaxed right at the end of the grind, when fatigue starts to show up just when you are playing a final table!


The grind station (grandma's chair not pictured)

More work! Really?
It is not over yet. Between all that, I have to find time to write for the PokerStars Blog, for my personal blog, record video blogs and other videos, coach, give interviews... for all that, I have my own Dana White, my cousin Leonardo Brescia. My friend, my partner and my career manager, he helps me to take care of all work outside the tables. Without Leo, I would never be able to call myself a high performance grinder.

Did you note the people around me are crucial in the process to achieve my goals as an athlete? I think it's impossible to handle everything by yourself.

My structure can look a little too much for you, but I'm sure Neymar's and Nadal's are way bigger than mine. It doesn't matter; the important thing is that the structure is what you need to get the best productivity.

At the end, it can be a losing day. Well, most days are losing days in a grinder's life. But, if I keep my team structure working with me, I know I am doing the right thing in the long term. 2013 was there to prove me that. Coincidence? I can't say for sure. The only thing I know is that I'll keep things that way.

What about you? Do you still think playing poker is just about sitting down and registering?

Caio "pessagno" Pessagno is a member of Team PokerStars Online.