Simon “IgorKarkarof” Rønnow took a break from poker recently. Now he's returning to the online felts to crush some souls again. But proved his break to be beneficial to him, both in life and in poker.
The break began after WCOOP 2020, come the second half of last September. At that time, he was actually at the top of his game, feeling like the work he had put in over the past handful of years had finally led to accomplishing the goals he had set for himself in areas such as tournament wins and financial stability.
So, what made him take the break then?
“Sometimes you just need to listen to yourself when all the alarms are ringing,” said Rønnow. Despite the success, something was still missing. A black hole of sorts was present and he felt like he had fallen into it.
Believe it or not, this is 100% normal. It’s called a “success hangover” and it comes from a place of feeling like you don’t have anything left to work for, whether or not it is true. Feelings are funny that way.
Rønnow clearly knew he had achieved a lot and felt like he should be happy. Instead, the exhaustion of success hangover took center stage. He never had the thought of fully retiring from the game; nonetheless, he felt a lack of motivation to grind, and a conversation with Fedor Holz all but confirmed some time away from the game was necessary.
According to Rønnow, the two spoke for about 40 minutes with Holz asking maybe only a handful of questions. Rønnow worked his way through them, and when all was said and done, Holz told Rønnow that he had already stated his decision just by talking through everything. Holz did not need to say those words for Rønnow to know he needed a break.
Poker is a game of intense investment and perseverance, especially when it comes to mental fortitude, emotions, and energy expenditure. Rønnow experienced many stressful moments, both financially and dealing with the long-term variance that inherently accompanies multi-table tournaments. There was a long period of time where he was barely a breakeven player.
Pokercode founder and head coach Matthias Eibinger was a big part of Rønnow’s journey to profitability. The two became good friends, and Rønnow quickly began to study with Eibinger. Even more so, he adapted Eibinger’s intense studying habits. Even during that time, he had thoughts to walk away from the game, but they never lasted as failure would not be an option. Years later, his hard work paid off.
Luckily for Rønnow, he could afford to take a break. This was something he was unable to do for the years of intense study that led up to this point in his career, and he made sure to take advantage of it.
Rønnow also had his sights set on a new lifestyle, so to speak. He purchased a small farmhouse on a piece of land in the Jylland of Denmark and took advantage of his break in order to fully move in and begin adapting to his new environment.
This purchase was also the underlying reason he wanted to fully step away from the game for a bit, as opposed to simply putting fewer hours into the game. Much like his studies in poker, Rønnow wanted to give his new property 100% of his efforts in order to get fully settled and get the most out of the place he now calls home.
It also gave him something concrete to be proud of for his poker accomplishments, something he did not feel prior to the break.
Ultimately, Rønnow hopes to take things to the next level at home, too. The idea to farm and connect with the land is one that appeals to him, and he hopes one day he can find himself in a position where a lot of his food comes from his very own garden, as opposed to purchasing it from the grocery store.
He still has plenty of modernity in his home, though, specifically within his office. However, the dichotomy between his high-tech office and grind station and the undisturbed nature outside his home is present every day in his life. According to Rønnow, everything has a purpose, and that interrelationship amongst everything is something that he loves connecting with and incorporating into his life.
In some senses, Rønnow never fully left. He still remained a part of the Pokercode community and engaged in some coaching arrangements. The community aspect of Pokercode was something he was unwilling to fully detach from, knowing the value it brought him as well as the value he could bring to the community, even if he wasn’t playing.
As mentioned, Rønnow never planned to retire. He also never set a deadline to come back to the game, but he eventually knew it was time to get back into it. Seeing peers still on the grind, still studying to get (or stay) ahead of the curve was something that ultimately caused an itch of sorts in his own being: “That was just the sign that I was ready,” said Rønnow.
That drive and desire is one of the most crucial components towards maintaining a competitive edge in poker. Even after returning to the game, Rønnow’s approach has been to take things slowly and take his time getting back into the games, doing so at comparatively smaller stakes than where he was playing prior to his hiatus.
Poker has been a part of Rønnow’s life for a while now, and it is something he isn’t done with, either. He feels there is plenty more to achieve in the game still, and that his business is not all finished. The competitive aspect is one he loves as he gets back into the game, especially when it comes to identifying areas where his studies are not as sharp as they once were in order to re-hone those skills.
Rønnow has plenty to focus on with regards to his home, too. Many amenities of his prior apartment life like central heat made life easy in ways that he no longer has the privilege of taking for granted in his new home, instead of needing to consistently keep a wood-burning stove going to stay warm in the Denmark winter.
At the end of the day, it’s about finding that balance between poker and life, and Rønnow is still figuring out what is best for him on all fronts. It’s a process, especially on the poker side as he reacquaints himself with many spots he previously knew that are now being met with uncertainty.
But he looks at that uncertainty in two ways: one is that it is frustrating, but also that he is able to use turn that frustration into motivation to get back into studying and playing. The clock is also ticking in some regards, as upcoming online tournament series are becoming an even bigger catalyst towards him getting back up to speed.
Rønnow loves competing at the highest levels, citing his heads-up battle with Eibinger during 2020 SCOOP as being one of the most fun times in his career. There was never any soft play between the two leading up to the pair being the last men left in the tournament. On the converse, actually he felt like the challenge was one that brought out the best in his game.
As for what the future will entail regarding Rønnow’s full comeback, we will have to wait and see. But someone as motivated as our own 'King of the North' will eventually rise to the top again.
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