One aspect of online poker success that’s often overlooked is the physical space and ambience in which you play.
When we imagine the grind stations of the top online players in the world, we picture them in a peaceful monocoloured room, with Alexa playing calming ocean sounds, pleasant scents emanating from incense sticks, and a steady stream of natural light pouring in.
All the while, their focus remains solely on the massive monitors in front of them.
Then again, when Charlie “Epiphany77” Carrel won the 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) Main Event for $1.2 million, he did so while playing on a laptop from a Starbucks during a power cut opposite a busy beach in Mexico.
The optimal grind station will be different for everyone, but when we asked some Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) winners what theirs looked like, there were a bunch of common denominators.
Here’s what they told us.
For online poker players, like anyone who works from home, it’s a good idea to carve out a workstation that’s separate from where you like to relax. That way, you can go to work and leave it behind when your session is done.
“I have an area reserved just for poker,” says Brazil’s “LFFF22”, who won the SCOOP #96-M: $530 NLHE 8-Max 2nd Chance Main Event in 2020 for an incredible $348,642 payday.
“I am a CGO (chief growth officer) of an advertising agency, and I have many responsibilities in my daily life,” he adds, highlighting why having his own poker space lets him get away from it all and focus his efforts on the tables.
Those regular life responsibilities can sometimes find a way to creep into the grind, though. Thankfully for Xiaoxiao “W.Leung” Niao, winner of #86-L: $22 NLHE/PLO 6-Max in 2020 for $14,724, he has a solution.
“My grind station is in a quiet room in the corner of the house,” he says. “I chose it as it’s the only room that can be locked from inside!”
Meanwhile, one of the greatest COOP players of all time, Tobias “Senkel92” Leknes, always chooses to grind in the same spot in his home, for a rather cute reason.
“My optimal grind station is next to my piano, as it’s where my cats sleep,” he says.
Those cats have proved to be good luck charms for the Norwegian. He now has nine WCOOP titles (tied for the most of all time) and four SCOOP titles.
Once you’ve picked your spot, the next step is to kit out your desk. We might remember fondly the legendary tales of grinders like Shaun Deeb winning SCOOPS while taking a dip in a hot tub or lying on a sofa while playing more than 20 tables, but it seems most players now opt for a desktop computer.
For example, “Xthewall” says: “My optimal grind station is a desktop computer with at least two monitors and an adjustable table.”
For “pingu2k4”, who was victorious in #92-M: $55 HORSE in 2020 for $10,323, he opts for one large 43” monitor. “It helps quite a lot as it gives me the space to have a few tables open, and have some work stuff going on too,” he tells us.
Having won $348,642 just a few weeks ago, “LFFF22” can now kit out his grind station with whatever he likes. However, he seems pretty happy with the set-up he already has.
“I have a very comfortable table and chair, two laptops, one monitor, two internet connections and 4G as back-up,” he says. Knowing he has backup internet means that when he starts the session his focus is only on the tables.
Speaking of which, an optimal grind station can become uncomfortable if you choose to play too many tables at one time.
“I think it’s very hard to play your best with so many tables open,” says Croatia’s Branimir “ThoNapalm” Barać, who took the top spot in #94-H: $530 NLHE in 2020 for a healthy $73,388 score.
As for Leknes, he usually plays three to five tables so he can keep in flow with table dynamics. “One time when I was thinking through a tough spot in a big pot, I had to say ‘He knows that I know that he knows that I know…’ and so on. I couldn’t have come to the right decision if I was playing too many tables at once.”
Multi-tabling is a skill that good players have developed slowly over time (Latvia’s “Vpisjak”, winner of #103-L: $11 PLO8 6-Max in 2020 for $5,645, told us his optimal daily grind consists of him fully focusing on 10-12 tables, for example). But in order to truly focus and play your A-game, it’s sometimes best to limit them.
Former Premier League and Bundesliga player Tore Pederson took down his first SCOOP title of 2020 with a win in #87-M: $55 NLHE for $48,285, and he puts his success down to his game selection.
“I don’t like to play more than six tables at the same time,” he says. “That’s enough for me.”
Brazil’s “KKAArdoso”, who came out on top in #101-L: $11 NLHE in 2020 for $11,167, agrees. “I’m blessed in this way because I’m a focused person. These days I only play around five or six tables, that’s my limit.”
Germany’s Rene “Renemastermi” Majed, winner of #91-L: $11 NLHE Progressive KO in 2020 for $20,062, has a different reason for limiting his tables.
“I stream on Twitch under the name ‘Renemastermix’, so I only play six tables at a time. That way I can keep up with the chat and have a good time with them,” he says.
Not one of our SCOOP champs recommends one-tabling though, for one very good reason: boredom can creep in.
“I find it useful to only play a small number of tables, particularly when playing mixed games so that I can concentrate on what is happening,” says “pingu2k4”. “However, if I only have a small number of tables open and nothing else to occupy myself, then I find it too easy to start playing bad hands out of boredom. So, I often am working on another part of the monitor.”
One of the hardest parts of a long poker grind is avoiding distractions, particularly towards the end of sessions when you’re not playing as many tables. However, this point in the session is usually where you’ll make the most money, as you’ll often be deep in the one or two tables you still have open.
“Pingu2k4” chooses to do some work on the side throughout a session, but turns it all off the deeper he gets in an event. “If I wasn’t so busy with work then I imagine it would be replaced with something like YouTube, Netflix, or perhaps a low-intensity game,” he says.
“Of course, for the final table and the lead-up to it, I cut out all distractions and focus more on it.”
“Vpisjak” agrees that you should do your best to cut out all distractions when playing poker. He only likes to play when he’s alone.
That’s not always possible though, particularly when you’re a parent. “Since we have a newborn it´s almost impossible to avoid distractions, so instead it´s a lot more ‘googoo-gagaa’ while playing,” says Fredrik “Xthewall” Wallen.
More wisdom from SCOOP winners:
4-step roadmap to winning a title
Six SCOOP winner’s tips
3 Things SCOOP winners do well
Common mistakes you’re making
Break free of your downswings
Mistakes are your friend
Tournament poker: Is it winning or taking part that counts?