Saturday, 18th May 2024 06:29
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At just 20 years old, Gilles “Ghilley” Simon is one of the youngest Platinum Pass winners the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) 2020 has to date, and his success flips the bird at anyone who has labelled his generation “entitled”.


At 6-feet 10-inches tall and with a shot sweeter than Limoncello, two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant was blessed with some natural gifts that undeniably helped him become the superstar athlete he is today. Yet despite his physical attributes and insane basketball skills, you’ll still find him in the gym day in and day out, even during the off-season. 

That’s because Durant has a motto he lives his life by: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Like Durant, if you possess the talent and an insane work ethic, great things can happen.

Gilles Simon, who goes by the nickname “Ghilley”, can attest to that.

With a love of content creation (he taught himself video editing and 3D animation when he was just 14 years old) and a passion for poker, 20-year-old Ghilley had both the talent and the tenacity to enter the #DaretoStream competition in December. The contest required him to watch the PokerStars Twitch channel for at least 24 hours, and stream a minimum of 10 hours of poker on PokerStars on his own channel

He smashed it. Day in and day out.

“I’m really proud of the fact that I didn’t get lucky to win my Platinum Pass,” Ghilley says. “I won my Platinum Pass through hard work in a competition.”

Ghilley’s commitment and perseverance really shine a light on the common Baby Boomer and Gen X misconception that young Millennials have a lacklustre work ethic. “There are a lot of young kids coming into poker through Twitch who are working really hard, and they’re all going to be watching the event,” he says. 

He’s now looking forward to representing them at the PSPC 2020.

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

Ghilley fired up his first-ever Twitch stream in August 2019 but struggled with consistency while he focused on improving his poker game. When the PSPC 2020 was announced during EPT Barcelona later that same month, however, he knew that somehow streaming on Twitch could lead him to a Platinum Pass.

Those instincts were proved correct a couple of months later when PokerStars streamers Georgina “GJReggie” James and Mason “Pyefacepoker” Pye announced they would be running #DaretoStream, a competition for aspiring Twitch streamers which would award two Platinum Passes on Christmas Eve.

“It really was the perfect opportunity,” Ghilley says. “I had already planned to stream and play on PokerStars as much as I could, and when the challenge was rolled out I knew I had to go for it.”

Trust us, he really went for it. 

Ghilley knew this was his best opportunity at winning a Platinum Pass, and with two up for grabs, he had a pretty good shot. He had also seen the impact a competition like this had had on the careers of “GJReggie” and “Pyefacepoker”, both of whom began streaming in an effort to win a Platinum Pass to the 2019 PSPC and are now part of Team PokerStars.

“I watched some really small streams grow really fast during last year’s edition,” he says. “I wanted to make sure I hopped on that train this time around.”

Hopping on the Twitch train isn’t easy, but as “Pyefacepoker” said during the winner’s announcement: “It was hard to ignore the amount of work and effort [Ghilley] put in”. Those efforts included everything from a 24-hour charity stream (which raised more than $500) to running unique stream challenges and collaborations with other contestants. 

During the challenge, however, Ghilley was oblivious to his own endeavours.

“I honestly didn’t think about it, it just happened naturally,” he says. “When I really want something to happen–like winning a Platinum Pass–I just get into a flow state and I can keep going and going. That’s exactly what happened with #DaretoStream. Time just passed by every day as I was either working on the stream or streaming. I loved every single minute of it.”

Ghilley describes the moment “GJReggie” announced him as a winner as “pure euphoria”. He was sitting at his desk for the revelation (while streaming, of course), but whatever had happened–good or bad–he was going to go out for dinner with his high school friends that night. 

“I hadn’t seen these friends in years and the meal was scheduled for an hour after the reveal was planned,” he says, remembering that he was getting a little stressed as the clock ticked closer. That stress would dissipate upon being named a Platinum Pass winner. “I would’ve loved to stream that night but I just couldn’t. I was running my ass off to make sure I wasn’t too late for dinner.”

REPPING THE TWITCH GENERATION

While he’d heard of poker and seen it briefly on TV, like so many young players his age it was on Twitch where Ghilley truly discovered poker. Approaching his final high school exams and his 18th birthday, he tuned in to watch Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier play Hearthstone, and from there he found poker streamers.

“It took me a while to really get into playing myself as once I’d graduated I prioritized partying,” he says. “But I like to think that I was already a winning player in the super micro stakes simply through watching Twitch. I had already become familiar with preflop ranges and some concepts like ICM through watching streamers play and explain their thoughts.”

A couple of months after finding the game Ghilley was playing live poker, riding his bike for 45 minutes to get to his nearest casino for a €100 tournament. His first experience didn’t go so well. “I got knocked out in less an hour,” he says. “My friend made fun of me all night.”

These weekly events proved to be good practice though, and when he took his first poker trip to the PokerStars Festival in Hamburg (November 2017) he cashed in a €220 event. With his confidence at an all-time high, Ghilley returned to his local casino the next month and took down a €220 event for €4,884. His hot streak continued online too, with a win in the Big $7.50 for $3K followed by a fourth-place in the same event two days for another $1K.

“It takes a couple of live tournaments to really get to know how people play differently from online,” he says. “I’d say paying attention to who you’re playing with at a new table is the most important thing you can do when you sit down.”

With a trip to the PSPC 2020 secured, Ghilley hopes to improve his game and move from low stakes to the mid-stakes, streaming the entire process. But he’s also got to prepare his live game, and he sees his preparation as an opportunity for some cool content.

“I’ll be putting in as many hours as possible before the event on both content creation and playing/streaming poker,” he says. “I want to broadcast as much of the journey towards Barcelona as I can. But I don’t just want to be an entertainer, I want to become an elite player too.”

There’s no doubt he’ll face some elite competition at some point when he sits down to play the PSPC 2020. He’s already thinking about his strategy should that happen.

“I’m probably just going to try and avoid too many awkward spots against them,” he says. “You really don’t want to be in a spot where you’re out of position against one of the best players in the world. I think my strategy for the event would just be to play a little more passively against those elite players, avoiding some more marginal and awkward spots.”

When he contemplates how other PSPC players might perceive him, he believes youth is on his side. “I feel like I tend to get a lot of respect from people when I start off the first few levels in live tournaments as I’m fairly young and play aggressively,” he says. “Hopefully I can make a deep run and inspire other young people to work hard on their game.”

Watch Ghilley on Twitch.


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