Friday, 12th April 2024 12:51
Home / Poker / Lex Veldhuis on life in New Zealand and New Year Series success

“You’ll have to forgive the baby sounds in the background,” Lex Veldhuis says on the phone from New Zealand, immediately after finishing yet another successful New Year Series stream in which he won the $2,100 Thursday Thrill for $54,443 (January 4).

It’s a sentence he’s never before been able to say after finishing an online poker session. Usually when he’s done playing from his poker base in Belgium, it’s the middle of the night and his family – wife Myrthe and children Navi (3) and Yuna (1) – are asleep back at the family’s home in the Netherlands.

But in late December, the Veldhuis clan decided to pack their bags and head to New Zealand, where they’ll live until April. Not only do they get to escape the European winter and spend more time together as a family, but Veldhuis gets to play knowing they’re just next door (or sometimes in the same room).

That comfort – on top of a health and fitness regime which resulted in 25 lbs of weight loss in 2023 – is helping Veldhuis play the best poker of his life. 

GRINDING ON CHRISTMAS DAY

Like many of the OG online grinders, Lex Veldhuis has had some pretty wild and out-of-line sessions in his time. But waking up on Christmas morning at dusk and immediately sitting at the computer to play online poker isn’t something he usually does.

“Normally Christmas is packed with family and friends and all the fun stuff,” he says. “But because we’re here just the four of us, we could schedule it around us. So we actually celebrated Christmas Day on the 24th.”

That meant that on Christmas Day in New Zealand (Christmas Eve in Europe), Veldhuis could play all of the biggest events on the opening day of the New Year Series. When his session came to an end, he’d won not one but two titles: a $1,050 PKO for $24,100 and a $320 PKO for $13,000. 

“It was such a nice start,” he says. “Having such a big up day at the beginning of a series is wild.”

What made the session even sweeter were the more than 6,000 viewers who tuned in from around the world.

“Lots of people have big family undertakings over the holidays, but Christmas isn’t a great time for everybody,” he says. “I figured there would still be quite a reasonable audience of people who’d like to watch, plus it was a Sunday, so it’s important to grind regardless. 

“But winning at Christmas was amazing. It definitely put me right in the spirit.”

There’s something about this time of year that brings out the best in Veldhuis. In recent years he’s won two Winter Series titles plus a Blowout Series event around this period. Now he has three New Year Series titles – and we’re only around the halfway point.

“It’s an incredible feeling to not only have big scores at the beginning of a series but then halfway through have another massive score,” he says. “It makes grinding so much less stressful and feels really good. I’m super happy and over the moon.”

SUMMER IN WINTER

The idea to escape the winter chill as a family came about after a three-week summer holiday in the south of France in the summer of 2023. “It felt so timeless,” says Lex Veldhuis. “Like life was much slower paced. We were really able to enjoy all the moments with the kids. 

“Everyday life is so busy, we’d always have to alternate our time with them. But on vacation, we were able to do everything together. That got the ball rolling.”

The Veldhuis family wasn’t short of possible summer-in-winter destinations. Thailand was a frontrunner for a while, but they felt the climate was too warm for two young kids accustomed to Netherlands weather. South Africa was also on the table, but with kids crawling around, they decided to avoid anywhere with potentially deadly creepy crawlies. 

“New Zealand ticked all our boxes,” says Veldhuis. “Plus, if you put a pin straight through the earth in the Netherlands, the other side of the planet is New Zealand, so it felt like a huge adventure.”

lex veldhuis

Life in New Zealand has been very kind to Veldhuis so far

The trip got off to a great start long before Veldhuis had even set up his computer to grind. They enjoyed a three-day layover in Singapore to help break up the demanding journey, and even the lengthy flights – which Veldhuis was understandably dreading with a one-year-old and three-year-old – went smoothly.

“We instantly knew we’d made the right choice by coming here,” he says.

And the trip only improved once the poker began. 

POKER ON THE DAD LIFE

New Zealand’s timezone makes it difficult for many poker grinders to play the biggest daily tournaments. The Sunday Million, for example, begins at 6:30 am – and we all know most poker players are night owls.

For Lex Veldhuis, however, the early schedule is ideal. “When you’re on the dad life anyway,” he says. 

He gets out of bed at 4:45 am, does 15 minutes of cardio exercise, eats his breakfast, and then gets ready for the stream which launches at 5:45 am. That means he jumps straight into the peak hour when big events like the $530 Bounty Builder begin. 

“The best part about starting early is that I’m done anywhere between 2-4 pm,” says Veldhuis. “That’s when the kids wake up from their afternoon nap so it’s perfect.”

lex veldhuis

Grinding from Belgium can be a slog for Netherlands-based Veldhuis

It’s a huge difference from his life in Europe, where Netherlands laws force Veldhuis to cross the border and stay in a rented apartment in Belgium to play on PokerStars. He admits he’s often miserable and alone during his off-time there. 

It’s the complete opposite in New Zealand. “[When I finish playing, I get to immediately see the kids and go to the park to play, or go swimming, that sort of thing,” he says. “The grind is really nice.”

“I FEEL LIKE I’M MORE STABLE”

Another grind Lex Veldhuis committed to throughout 2023 was improving his overall health and fitness, something that had been on his mind since his father sadly passed away three years ago.

“It made me think about time and broader concepts,” he says. “I saw some illnesses in people around us and felt grateful that I hadn’t noticed anything genetically. For me, the only thing that makes me not feel great is being out of shape. I didn’t feel good being slightly overweight.

“Having kids, I really want to maximise my time and make sure I’m not busted up with injuries when I’m older that will restrict the things I can do with them.”

Veldhuis lost 25 lbs through a workout regime consisting of four gym sessions and two runs per week, as well as eating clean food. 

“I want to continue that,” he says. “I feel like I’m more stable. When I grind in Europe, I grind such awful times that I always kind of feel awful. But here I have more stamina and focus and feel more emotionally balanced.”

A new country. A New Year Series. For the new-and-improved Lex Vexhuis, there’s an exciting new year ahead.

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