Ever considered the emotional strains of being a high stakes poker player? The highs, as we all well know, can be be extraordinary: lavish riches, your name in headlines and widespread acclaim. But the nature of the game means those moments are fleeting and sporadic. Most of the time you rock up, plonk down a wedge of notes, and never see them again.
The Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier is one of the more unflappable characters in poker. It likely comes with the fact that he’s won a good deal more than most. However he has been having something of a fallow period of late (at least by his standards) and although he picked up min-cashes in the Main Event and a €2,000 side event here, today he was eliminated from the €10,000 High Roller without making the money.
We talked to ElkY in Deauville last month about the swings of the poker player’s life, asking him to name the high point and the low point of his career, and give an assessment of all in between. His words, as ever, were revealing–and offer a convincing lesson to any young players that you shouldn’t lose sight of the important things in life away from the tables.
Over to ElkY:
“It’s hard to name the high point of my life. I feel really good right now. I’m really happy with everything. I’m really in love now, so that’s really good. I also love playing poker. It hasn’t been the best in the last couple of years, but hopefully it will change around soon, so I’m pretty confident.
“I try to separate my life in poker and outside. I’m getting better at it. I’m bringing balance to my life. Two years ago, for sure, I was only thinking about poker all the time, there was not much else that mattered, so definitely my happiness was linked a lot to my success at the tables. But lately I try get more perspective and more balance on everything and to be more happy and grateful because I’m pretty lucky. Even if I didn’t win a coin-flip or a 70/30, everything else is pretty good in my life so I can’t really feel bad.
“I’ve been trying to improve on it because…I mean, I still get really down when I lose a poker tournament. I think it’s always going to be somehow like that because I’m very competitive and I really want to win and I will give my best. So it’s very disappointing when you lose. But I’ve tried to improve and to find ways to find balance. Getting older also helps, seeing more things in life, getting more perspective. And no matter how much I love poker, I know there’s more to it than purely poker. Definitely that’s a part of it.
“The PCA win [in January 2008, ElkY’s biggest tournament score] definitely meant more than StarCraft events [ElkY was a former champion in StarCraft too]. Just because poker tournaments are so huge it’s really hard to win again. So many of the best poker players in the world have never won an EPT. It was even higher back then because it was my first tournament win. It’s probably still top of the list even now because as time goes by, you realise how hard it is. Luckily I got to win it.
“You have to put in a lot of work, for sure. This increases your chances of winning. But no matter how much work you put in, even though it’s very important, there’s still huge variance. I’ve realised how lucky I was to win the tournament. No matter how good you play, I mean obviously, you want always to play your best and make as few mistakes as possible. But you have to be lucky when the situations happen.
“Poker is really hard. There’s so much luck to the game. Sometimes it’s hard to be completely honest with yourself, because obviously when you lose, you are getting unlucky in some ways, for sure. It’s like a cycle. Because when you win, you are getting lucky in some ways too, but also you are playing good. And when you lose, yes, you are getting unlucky but there might have been some spots where you could improve and get better. You might have made some mistakes.
“Poker is a game where the confidence level is important and that’s why it’s so swingy. When you play well and you run good, you tend to play even better. And when you get very unlucky, you tend to get worse. It affects your play. It affects every single player. There’s nobody who plays their A-game 100 per cent of the time. You try to let it affect you as little as possible, but it still does.
“The hardest, poker wise, was 2006. I wasn’t doing so well. I started playing poker in 2003, I turned professional in 2005, and in 2006, I wasn’t doing the best in poker. Or in anything else either, if I’m honest.
“Now things aren’t really working out, to be honest. I’ve been having a pretty bad streak in tournaments. Hopefully it will return. I’m pretty sure it will return. Because luckily when you have the confidence necessary to realise I was good before and it will happen again.
“Results wise 2013 was my worst year in poker. But life in general is still good.”