The number of poker players with two Platinum Passes is already now at three after Pierre Lewandowski joined Paulo Milani and Jennifer Carter in booking a seat for the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) in Barcelona not even a year after they played the first event in the Bahamas. Lewandowski, who won his first Platinum Pass in a Megastack event in Dublin, this time qualified via a Mega Path satellite on PokerStars last weekend.
Lewandowski’s success is the result of a rare and brilliant commitment to poker, and the PSPC in particular. Having sampled the thrill of the tournament in the Bahamas, which included an audacious bluff against the then all-time money list leader Justin Bonomo, the 26-year-old Frenchman, who now lives in Amsterdam, set himself a very simple goal: get back into the action.
“I can tell you that I never felt so excited and pumped up in my life than when I sat at my seat with my starting stack, the $25,000 buy-in cashier receipt folded in front of my chips and Bruce Buffer, the UFC announcer, screaming ‘Shuffle up and deal’ in my ears!” Lewandowski said of his first PSPC experience. “The PSPC opened my eyes to poker in different aspects. First is how much I love the game, the community and everything around it and how I want to play more live events. But also I learned how much work needs to be put in to get there.”
Like countless other recreational poker players, Lewandowski took up the game as a teenager, playing for low stakes with friends, before also playing online when he was 18. He still plays poker only as a hobby, but realised that “recreational” did not mean he could not be aspirational, and started to put together some deep runs in tournaments, encouraging him to aim a little higher.
“Motivation,” Lewandowski said when asked for his secret to winning a Platinum Pass. “I don’t think there is another recipe than motivation, and a bit of luck, and since I already knew what the PSPC experience was like, it didn’t take me long to figure out winning another Platinum Pass was my new short-term goal in poker.”
He added: “It’s the love of the game. It’s the fun and adrenaline I find while playing. I love the strategy part and that you can always improve your plays and learn more. I could probably talk hours on why I play poker!”
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By happy coincidence — or maybe fate — Lewandowski won his second Platinum Pass on his 26th birthday, immediately describing it as the best birthday present he had ever received. (“Sorry for all the people that ever offered me birthday presents,” he said.) He added: “That was pretty amazing but I think if the day I played the second Step 4 hadn’t been my birthday, I may have played differently and who knows what would have happened. During all the final table I kept telling myself: ‘If there is one day of all the days of the year to win a Pass, it has to be today!” And Barcelona, here I come!'”
Read the full interview with Pierre Lewandowski, two-time Platinum Pass winner:
Congratulations on winning another Platinum Pass. You’re probably the right person to answer this question: what’s the secret to winning a Platinum Pass?
Motivation. I don’t think there is another recipe than motivation, and a bit of luck, and since I already knew what the PSPC experience was like, it didn’t take me long to figure out winning another Platinum Pass was my new short-term goal in poker.
The Mega Path that PokerStars put up is the easiest way to win a Pass in my opinion. It’s also the cheapest ($2 Step 2) and most low variance if you consider you can have unlimited tries to make it to Step 4 and to win the Pass. Along with the second to eighth places of the Step 4 guaranteeing a ticket for Step 4 again. That said, it is winning the MegaStack in Dublin last year that brings me the most satisfaction. Winning a live tournament is very rewarding because of the large field and the variance. It was a strange dynamic at the final table of the MegaStack because the chip-leader offered to chop the money five-ways (which I immediately agreed being fourth of five) and to play for the Pass only, like a winner takes all, and I was lucky enough to take it down.
Can you describe your regular poker diet: how much you play, what kind of games, etc.
I am trying my best to organise my time between poker, work and my extra activities. I am playing online cash game several evenings a week, live cash games in Amsterdam Friday and Saturday and online tournaments every Sunday. I also play regularly festivals like the WCOOP, SCOOP, etc.
How did you originally get into the game, and how have you developed as a player?
I got into the game probably like a lot of players. It started with home games between friends, and when I turned 18 I started playing free-rolls and low stakes online. Until a couple years ago I never took poker seriously playing on and off for several months. I had a really good 2016/2017 year in online tournaments and took coaching to study and work the game. I realised that even if I preferred to keep poker as a side hobby without trying to become pro, I could do so properly and have even more fun becoming a winning player and having deeper and more frequent runs in tournaments.
What one thing, more than anything else, keeps you playing poker?
If I had to pick one: the love of the game! It’s the fun and adrenaline I find while playing. I love the strategy part and that you can always improve your plays and learn more. I could probably talk hours on why I play poker!
What’s been the high point of your poker career? And what about the lows?
Well the high point is easy…winning two Platinum Passes! It’s one of the few times I actually set myself a goal and gave myself a clear plan to get there…and got there! Researching the live events I could play in Europe that offered a Pass, checking the Mega Path steps and the best way to qualify in each, working out my schedule around the goal and not the other way around.
The lows were probably the first few years I started playing poker because I didn’t know a lot about it aside from the rules and basic plays and I convinced myself I was winning overall when I wasn’t, not even close. I guess the actual highest point of my poker career is when I realised that a few years ago (better late than never!), opened my eyes and decided to do something about it: by studying, taking coaching, lowering the stakes to practice more efficiently and spending time on the theoretical side of poker, which isn’t always the most fun. But otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.
I believe the most expensive live tournament I played before the PSPC was a $1K. I never thought that one day I could play such high stakes in such a beautiful place as the Bahamas. As I said earlier the adrenaline is one of the things I was after in poker. I can tell you that I never felt so excited and pumped up in my life than when I sat at my seat with my starting stack, the $25,000 buy-in cashier receipt folded in front of my chips and Bruce Buffer, the UFC announcer, screaming “Shuffle up and deal” in my ears!
The one poker-related situation (because I’ll never forget the Bahamas resort for so many reasons!) that I will always remember was the sweat dripping down my head and my heart racing when Justin Bonomo stared at me for three minutes straight while I tried to bluff putting him all in for 80 percent of my stack during Day 2. Fortunately he folded!
How did the PSPC affect you as a poker player?
The PSPC opened my eyes on poker in different respects. First is how much I love the game, the community and everything around it and how I want to play more live events. But also how much work needs to be put in to get there.
Not having the time to play online tournaments during the week, I decided to study and take coaching for cash games this time. It certainly improved my post-flop game and helped me understand situations and spots I always was confused about before.
I am very grateful to Nick O’Hara who came up with the idea of building Team Ireland. There were so many of us, compared with other countries, being Platinum Pass winners it made sense to bond together. We had a group chat where we could follow everyone’s progress and results, discuss hands but also casual friendly chats. It was a great feeling to know you weren’t alone and helped take the pressure off the intimidating PSPC. Although I do not live in Ireland anymore, I hope the best for my former teammates and wish them all to win a second pass too!
Will you be playing Moneymaker Tour in Dublin? If so, how will the fact you already have a Platinum Pass affect your game?
I will not play the Moneymaker tour in Dublin, partly because I’m not in the competition for a pass anymore. Nevertheless it sounds like great fun (all tournaments in Ireland are) and an amazing opportunity to win a Platinum Pass.
What are your tips and advice to anyone coming to Dublin to play that event?
I think all the usual “live tournament best practices” apply like having good sleep, eating regularly and light food, etc. But if one is lucky enough (because yes, on the sample of one tournament, luck plays its part) to reach the last, let’s say, 10 percent of the field, the important thing won’t be to ladder up a few places to get a good cash but the focus should be set on the first place and its Platinum Pass reward.
How smooth was your progress through the Mega Path? Was it your first try, or did you have a few goes?
Overall I didn’t really count how many Step 2s I played, probably in the 30 to 40 times mark. The Step 3 is certainly the most difficult one to complete due to the field of 300-400 players for only 15-20 tickets. Probably like most of my opponents, I played the Step 4 like a satellite until we reached the final eight players to ensure I would have a ticket for the week after. I played for the win because, let’s be honest, I really didn’t want to go through Step 3 again! I managed to qualify for the Step 4 on my second attempt of Step 3 – I finished fourth of the Step 4 last week which gave me the extra confidence that I was very close to the goal and that it was indeed achievable. I remember being short most of the second attempt at Step 4 – around and under 15BB. The pivotal moment was after a couple double-ups at the final table when I busted 5 of the last 8 players and told myself “Alright, we’re so close, let’s do it!”
I certainly hope to last longer than mid Day 2! I think an achievable goal is at least a min cash (because, yeah, that’s a lot of money), and then play the best I can and go for the win! Having the chance to go to the PSPC again, I will make sure to not be late for the players party (it was awesome in the Bahamas!), be less shy and to go for a quick chat with the pros I admire.
How do you intend to prepare for the event?
I will continue to work on my tournament game and practice as often as I can with players better than me to learn the most I can. Starting with the Prague EPT festival in two weeks!
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What would be a dream line-up at a PSPC table for you?
I would very much enjoy a table composed of 50 percent pros, also called “the guys I used to watch on TV” because that’s also what the PSPC is about: the opportunity of playing with the best players, the ones you spent hundreds of hours watching online. I wouldn’t mind the other 50 percent of the table being recreational players, so that I can try to build a stack. I’m not fooling myself and know in which of the 50 percent I belong…?
Away from poker, what do you do?
I worked in multiple roles within IT Support organisations in four different countries over the past seven years. I recently moved to Amsterdam to take on a new opportunity with one of the largest worldwide enterprise IT storage companies, where I handle complex issues being the link between the support engineers and the developers. In my free time, I really like playing all kind of racket sports but specifically tennis and table tennis. I also enjoy playing video games and cooking good home-made meals.
Does your family know much about poker? What have you told them about the Platinum Pass/PSPC?
My family knows poker is played with cards. Now, how many cards or how, is a different story. Most of my family members considered poker like gambling and not a very healthy activity (based on clichés) but their mindset evolved when they saw you can regularly make money and having great time…like all-inclusive holidays in the Bahamas! I think the fun part is how their speech changed from “Why do you gamble your money away” to “When will you buy me a house?” My girlfriend however is very understanding of my passion. For instance, she will happily bring food to my desk if I’m playing online tournaments, and most of all is always there to remind me not to go all in with KQ off-suit…for some reason. She supports me at all times and even had a first taste at live poker in the Bahamas playing the $50 Nikhil Segel’s family and +1’s tournament, professionally organised by Garry Gates.
You won your second Platinum Pass on your birthday. Ever had a better birthday present than that?
Not even remotely close (sorry for all the people that ever offered me birthday presents). That was pretty amazing but I think if the day I played the second Step 4 hadn’t been my birthday, I may have played differently and who knows what would have happened. During all the final table I kept telling myself: “If there is one day of all the days of the year to win a Pass, it has to be today!” And Barcelona, here I come!
Immense thanks to Lewandowski for such full and entertaining answers to our questions. We’ll see you in Prague next month, and Barcelona next year.