At Pokercode we’re always trying to evolve our product and provide the best possible experience for our community. Coaching is a big part of that experience, which is why we’ve recently added Manuel ‘Phemo’ to our coaching staff to provide a fresh outlook on the game and share his vast knowledge with our members.
This week, our Community Success Manager Adam sat down with Manuel to discuss how he joined the Pokercode Team, his own personal rise to high-stakes MTT’s, and what the future holds for his career in poker.
Manuel, aged 36, is a poker player and coach from Hamburg, Germany. He joined the Pokercode team in the summer of 2022 and has made a huge impact on the community ever since. Not only through his captivating coaching sessions, but his success at the tables has affirmed his addition to the team.
Everyone has their own story of how they got introduced to poker and Manuel’s is quite a rare one. Back in 2010, he started playing during his university days in a cold and dark semester abroad in Finland. The game made such an impression on him that after he attended his first poker event at the university club, he signed up to a strategy site and PokerStars as soon as he got home.
His passion for the game was evident from day one and he used that to drive himself toward decent success up until 2016. However, that success soon came to an end as Manuel had other plans for his future at that time.“Back then the idea of doing this full time didn’t fit my idea of my future and it was always somehow clear to me that I would quit once I finished my studies.”
As a lot of poker players will tell you, it’s very difficult to just stop playing poker and that itch to compete always comes back to some degree. For Manuel, it came back in 2019. After half a year of traveling the world and experiencing the life of a 9-to-5 office career in project management, it was clear that poker was his true passion and it had to be explored much further. His second stint at poker began in the UK as he started playing full-time and for him, it felt like “starting from scratch again.”
As you can imagine, since restarting his poker career in 2019, things have gone extremely well for Manuel, both on and off the tables.
No matter where we all start our poker journey, we all have that dream of one day reaching the highest level and competing on the biggest stages, both live and online. Dreaming of it and actually reaching it after two very different things, as Manuel will be able to tell you. For him, he’s well on his way to reaching the top, but it hasn’t been easy. “It was very rough for the first two years. Lots of swings and doubts both financially and regarding my skill.”
After moving to the UK to fulfill his poker ambitions, Covid hit just four months later and the lockdowns began. For most people, this was a very difficult time for their careers, but for poker players, this was an amazing opportunity, as Manuel stated: “I knew a few people in the UK, but there were basically no distractions at all and I took it as an opportunity to fully immerse myself into poker and study and play as much as I could.”
This process is still ongoing to this day and with the competition being so high in modern-day poker, there’s no time to sit back and rest on your laurels. However, it’s always intriguing how each individual finds their way to high-stakes MTT’s and if there are certain steps that Manuel took that others haven’t yet. “Overall, I think I got to the high stakes with a constant process of studying GTO. But, there were for sure a few aha moments. One was when I joined a study group of high-stakes players and noticed that my thought process could hold up against theirs. The biggest one was probably when Fedor approached me and told me about the potential he saw in me. That lifted my goals to a completely different level and gave me much more confidence in my game.”
Success doesn’t come without sacrifice. That’s one thing that Manuel has clearly understood from day one, almost to his detriment as he admitted “I had no balance at all, it was kind of a crazy time.”
Transitioning from a poker player to a coach isn’t something that comes naturally to most people, but Manuel has always had a true passion for studying the game and developing his thought process by teaching others. “I generally enjoy studying poker more than actually playing. I also like to create study content a lot. Coaching publicly is interesting to me because it challenges your material and forces you to create a very digestible fundamental baseline.”
Manuel had started to make plans of doing some form of public coaching, but it wasn’t clear to him where and how this would take place. Thankfully for him, our Head Coach Fedor Holz reached out to him and asked if he wanted to work closer together and when Fedor comes calling, there was only one answer to give. Manuel had some terms of his own; “I was part of a bigger private study group where Fedor was also a member and I regularly published content there. At some point, Fedor approached me and asked if I wanted to work closer together. Coaching at Pokercode was part of that. Actually, that was something I specifically asked him for.”
It’s been four months since Manuel has been part of the Pokercode team and the impact he’s had on the community has been tremendous. Whether it’s a regular member of his study sessions or a first-time attendee, the feedback is always positive when it comes to his style of coaching. Join the Pokercode discord server to find out more!
Thankfully, when Manuel was asked about the community and Pokercode he had some great things to say. “I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I like the interactive format of the coaching sessions and I think the Pokercode community is exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Which is not as natural in the Poker space. Pokercode stands out to me because the community seems very positive and eager to improve. I remember how positively surprised I was when I went there for the first time and saw how people just wished each other a “good morning” in the general chat.”
It’s clear that Manuel is on the right track when it comes to his poker career and he’s more than motivated to keep progressing in the game and reach new heights. “I am very much in a ‘not-there-yet’ mindset. I still feel like I am very far away from the player I want to become. I am still very curious about the game and there are tons of specific scenarios where I want to improve my knowledge and understanding. To be honest, I think it’s quite important to have an ambition in poker to become something like the best, or the best you can be. I also don’t see myself as established on the highest stakes online, yet.”
Poker is very much at the forefront of Manuel’s mind in the near future and evolving his skill set is going to be his main focus, alongside developing the knowledge of the Pokercode community with more in-depth coaching sessions.
As he previously mentioned before about his experience back in 2019; “I had no balance at all”. Manuel has learned a lot since then and takes a conscious effort to balance his time by exploring other interests outside of poker. “I love to travel and experience new cultures. I enjoy taking care of my physical and mental health, doing all kinds of different sports, and meditating. But I don’t have any passions that can hold up against poker”.
One thing that is rivaling his passion for poker is the addition of a baby daughter to his family. “It’s a great experience, very fulfilling. The first few months are a bit chaotic, all routines change, and the little one still needs to get used to the world. But, the older she grows the greater it becomes as you can interact more with her.”
Since his poker story began all the way back in 2010 in the freezing cold of Finland, Manuel has collected an abundance of memories and experiences along the way. During those experiences, it’s hard to self-reflect and understand what impact they are having on you at the time, but when asked about giving advice to his younger self, he had some words of wisdom. “Don’t rush things, take your time and keep a long-term focus. Don’t play too much on low to mid stakes and focus on getting better. Take notes and use it as a training ground. Take time off from poker, balance your life and pursue other things along the way.”
If you have the feeling you need to sharpen up your game then Pokercode is a great place to start. Sign up for a free account and set your first steps towards becoming a better poker player.
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