Making mistakes is a normal part of being human, both in poker and in life. As such, we are starting a series here on the Pokercode blog titled, “Learn from My Mistakes,” in which we discuss certain areas of our Head Coaches’ poker careers where they have made mistakes they would like to share in the hopes of you finding some takeaway to apply to your own game/life. Like the Otto Von Bismarck saying goes, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
In our first edition of this series, we will dive deeper into the topics of money and lifestyle with our very own Head Coach Simon “IgorKarkarof” Rønnow.
Simon currently lives on a farm in the Danish countryside, but he used to be a city dweller. Around seven years ago in his early 20s, he was living in Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus, with a roommate that was also a poker player. They lived in a penthouse apartment with an equally lavish lifestyle that included partying all weekend long, most weekends.
Of course, this was fueled by poker success, and as a result, it was easy for him to spend the money just as quickly as he earned it: “I think when you give a young guy a huge bag of money and just say, ‘it’s yours,’ (that) you don’t really have any attachment or responsibility,” said Simon. “That’s absolutely meant for failure, to say the least.
“We were partying our fair share and having a good time with the main table in the most important club in the city. And because we were spending so much money, the more prominent names got pushed away. And I’m not saying that to brag. It’s just to give the idea of what actually happened – a young group of guys with the success in poker and that didn’t have responsibilities besides ourselves were partying Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and then we obviously had to grind Sunday.
“Obviously it was not plus-EV, but I just think it was the place we were at in our lives.”
In reality, Simon was not much more than a breakeven player at the time. Sure, he had some scores, but he spent that money with no regard to the fact that eventually variance would go against him.
“Then, it was like more blowing all the money away,” said Simon. “And it was not like we wanted to do that, we were just like, ‘oh, fuck!’ And money came that easily to us, so we didn’t really think about all the consequences until the hot streak ended. And then you would be thinking like, “fuck, you dumbass! Why didn’t you put anything to the side?! And that thought process happened multiple times.”
Living beyond his means eventually caught up to Simon, who did not adjust his lifestyle accordingly: “I’ve been in that place (before) where I was afraid of going down and buying groceries because I wasn’t sure if the card was going to be declined,” he said of the matter.
More Simon Rønnow: Burning Out & Coming Back
Simon continued: “It was just a tough time sometimes, but then you got a bink and you’re like, ‘Oh, I have money again, so let’s continue!’ Until you empty the clip again and there’s nothing left and you’re back like, ‘Fuck! You fucking dumbass! You did it again!’”
Eventually, he had to break what until this point seemed to be a never-ending cycle. Fortunately for him, his motivation grew highest when his life situation and bankroll were at his lowest: “I couldn’t afford to not do it. I couldn’t afford to not get better, I couldn’t afford to not get volume in. So going through those kinds of dark times for sure pushed me in a direction where I at least did something good for myself.”
Simon began working harder on every part of the poker equation he could control, leaving only the variance to chance in many ways. In his eyes, he had to. He still was largely unaccomplished and felt that it was up to him to change that. Plus, he didn’t want to walk away from the game only to go get a meager, dead-end job somewhere. (After all, poker isn’t always the most hirable skill set to put on a résumé.)
He also increased the amount of time he spent working with Pokercode Co-Founder and Head Coach Matthias Eibinger, who picked up on his progress and said based on their conversations that Simon’s success was just a matter of time: “He said there wasn’t any other outcome than me succeeding based on the stuff we studied. It was more about if the variance would be good to me.
“And I’m not sure, six or ten months after I was making $1.2 million in profit.” Simon quickly added that much of that was variance, but said Matthias made sure to point out that it was also due to the improvement in his game. He put himself in a position to make the most of his heater.
“I think the decision of blowing the money away, I’m regretting, but all the memories I have to think back on are only positive,” said Simon. Yes, he made mistakes with regards to how he spent his money in the past; but in the end, he also learned from those mistakes in huge ways.
And sure, he’s put a lot of work into his game and he’s experienced some financial success as a result. But what he feels is even more important is that he’s taken advantage of his success this time around. Rather than blowing it on partying, he has taken a chunk of his winnings and invested it into his dream home. He has invested it in creating a lifestyle he can build off of and sustain for many years to come.
“But I would say, put money aside when the winter is coming…because winter (the ugly face of poker) is going to be fucking cold,” he said. “In poker, it’s going to happen. You’re not going to have a steady income. There will be ups and downs, and it’s all about just preparing for going through the rough times.”
Much the same, Simon believes that’s why we study the game. Yes, you can make mistakes and still win when you’re running hot, but the main reason you study is to raise the level of your worst game when things are going bad.
On a closing note, Simon stated, “I think just try to enjoy the time, because what we’re doing is something not everybody can do. We have a lot of freedom, and that can be one of the most amazing things about being a poker player. But it can also be your cruelest enemy.”
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