It’s hard to walk away from something when you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into it. But it’s odd to walk away when that thing you’re doing is going better than it ever has before.
Gilles Simon’s thing was streaming poker on Twitch. Back in December 2019, the then 20-year-old Simon – known on Twitch as Ghilley and “TaxationIsTheft” on PokerStars – won the first iteration of Dare to Stream, a competition for aspiring streamers that promised a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) for the winner.
Simon shared the honour with Richy “RichyRob” Robinson and booked his trip to the PSPC, originally planned for August 2020. But when the world shut down due to the pandemic, Simon felt it was time for a change.
A FRESH FOCUS
“A couple of things happened in my life outside of poker that made me want to go in a different direction,” he tells me on Day 4 of the European Poker Tour (EPT) Cyprus Main Event. One thing he realised is that he didn’t want to get lost in an ever-growing list of low/mid-stakes poker streamers. “They all have their own audiences and are interesting people, but I didn’t want to just be another one of them.”
So Simon took stock. “I was like, OK, I’m young and with this Platinum Pass, I have an opportunity to keep on growing and building myself as a poker player. To keep getting better and better and move up in stakes.”
He left the streaming behind completely, something he’d be working on – utilising his skills as a video editor and 3D animator – since he was 14 years old. Poker alone became his priority.
The fact that we’re here in Cyprus interviewing Simon with 40 players remaining on Day 4 of the EPT Main Event, and just a couple of weeks ago were reporting on his first World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) title, shows it’s all been going rather well.
But what have the last few years been like for Gilles Simon? How did he go from a $10 average buy-in to dabbling in high stakes?
“That year was pretty good for me,” says Simon, referring to 2020. He slowly worked his way up to a $60 average buy-in, then met a group of experienced players who decided to take him under their wing.
“I think they thought, this could be a chilled dude, he could be nice to hang out with, and we could teach him some things,” he continues. What followed was a continual process of hanging out, playing poker, taking trips to live events together, and studying the game. “We’ve become a great group of friends, it’s been important for me to have them.”
By the end of 2020, he was thrust into the world of mid-high stakes, playing a $200 average buy-in. He admits that that initial step up the ladder was difficult and it took him the next two and a half years to really get settled in with his new stakes and competition.
“You make a lot of mistakes, playing some games that are too high, too tough, you overestimate yourself, you underestimate yourself, you start making mistakes when the pressure is on,” he says. “It takes time to get comfortable there and that really only comes once you have that big score.”
For Simon, that was a $257K score in a $210 buy-in online event at the end of August 2023. Just over a month later he took down his first WCOOP title, winning the $109 Phase for $125K.
“This summer I’ve just been extremely lucky, on a super hot run,” he says. “That has allowed me to feel comfortable in all of the tournaments I play.”
But Simon is yet to capture a big breakout live score. He’s hoping to change that here at EPT Cyprus.
QUITE THE RIDE
When this interview was conducted, Gilles Simon was second in chips with 41 players remaining. We wondered what an EPT title would mean to him.
“It would be an insane win to have on my poker resume,” Simon says, glancing towards the feature table, and then the tournament screen showing the $1,042,000 that awaits the winner. “But honestly, there are 41 people left and there are some amazing players in the field. One of my best buddies Casimir Seire (“ceis25” on PokerStars) is on my left, we came up playing $11 deepstacks together online in 2019/2020, and now we’re here.
“But anything can happen. I don’t like thinking that far ahead. You just take everything hand by hand, step by step.”
Simon has come a long way from his humble poker beginnings, when he’d ride his bike for 45 minutes to play a live tournament at the nearest casino to his parent’s house in Valkenburg, Netherlands.
“When I look back, I see the whole process. There’s been constant improvement but also a lot of luck to get here,” he says. “A lot of people would have got less lucky than I did and would have quit, either being forced to or having to because of pressure from friends, family, having to provide. I’ve just been really lucky that I decided to do this when I was 19, living at home with my parents, during a gap year.”
A NEW PROJECT
Now 24 years old, Gilles Simon is pondering whether it’s time to switch things up once again.
“I’ve been thinking about [starting to stream again] very hard,” he says. “I do miss having the creative process on the side because it’s just been poker poker poker. But I think streaming can be very draining and I’m not sure I’d be able to do that full-time right now.
“I kind of just want to keep building on the poker career and see where that ends up.”
Instead, Simon might have found another creative outlet. He lives in Vienna with two of his best friends, also poker players, and the trio have a new project coming soon.
“It’s called One Percent Better, a social media project,” he says. “So if anyone’s interested in a random group of mid-stakes regs who are buddies that have fun and play poker, they can follow along.”
First things first, though. Let’s follow Simon through the EPT Cyprus Main Event.
Gilles Simon remains second in chips with 32 players remaining at the time of publishing.