WSOP 2015: Felix Schneiders takes Main Event anxiety head-on
When Felix Schneiders got off the plane in Las Vegas this week his head began to pound. His stomach started to ache. Nothing felt right, despite the fact he was on his way to fulfilling a dream he had been harboring for years.
He walked through McCarran airport with his insides tied in knots doing his best to remind himself what he knew to be true.
"This is the time," he thought. "This is the right time to do it."
Scheniders, a member of Team PokerStars Pro Online, has been coming here for years. What's more, the man from Germany routinely travels the US with his wife, and it never makes him feel anything but happy.
This time, however, he felt sick.
"I was really worried it was starting all over again," he said.
Schneiders spent years battling a chronic stomach disease, one that sidelined him for a long time and did nothing to help a pervasive shyness that he'd had his entire life. As soon as he touched down in Vegas, he felt it all rushing back at the worst possible time.
In just a few days, he would be starting at the 2015 WSOP Main Event for this first time in his life.
Schneiders (known as xflixx online) is a small to mid-stakes grinder. He does very well for himself, but a $10,000 tournament always felt a bit of out of his range. That's not a place he likes to be.
A born introvert, Schneider's thrives in the safe places he finds or creates for himself. Like anyone of his ilk, the idea of being around lots of people, thrust into mindless conversation and small talk, and surrounded by the rank humanity Vegas can offer...well, that is just exhausting, and, for Schneiders, almost sickening.
"The only explanation I have is that the extra adrenaline I have is stressing me out so much," he said.
But a man who has come this far in his poker career hasn't done it without figuring out how to cope. Like any poker hand, there is a strategy to dealing with life.
"It's a slow learning process like poker," Schneiders said of his evolution. "I keep trying to learn the things that make me more happy, more healthy, and more positive."
Schneiders traveled here with a friend, a mentor who (in exchange for poker lessons) helps Schneiders keep his mind right.
"He knows what life is about and what needs to be taken care of," Schneiders said.
While the mental coach may be one arrow in Schneiders' quiver, he has many others. To help his stomach issues, Schneiders went vegan and has prepared all of his own meals for the WSOP.
But that's not the best part.
Before traveling to Vegas, Schneiders gave away 2% of his action to his online fans, people he records videos for and offers advice.
"It's a little bit more pressure. I won't lie" he said. "At the same time it also gets me more pumped."
This may be Schneiders' best secret of all. A man who recoils at the idea of idle, in-person conversation, Schneider revels in the time he spends in front of his camera.
"A lot of people don't know what I'm like," he said. "There are so many downer days I have. Interacting with (my followers) gets me more positive. It's easier to be yourself because you only have to talk to the camera. You get the reactions later and focus on what you're doing right now. It leaves you in your comfort zone."
Now, his fans watch as he kicks off his very first Main Event campaign. Since he's been here in Vegas, he's recovered from that initial bout of adrenaline, and despite all that might have kept him at home and behind a camera, he's here and ready to play.
"I got back in the rhythm, and now I'm perfect," he said.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging