Coach Lauri is currently known as a high-stakes pro raking it in at the 1kNL and 2kNL online Heads-Up tables. When he isn’t getting in his 180 hours of poker a month he is busy with classes and his students, training for marathons, and most importantly enjoying time with his family. If you haven’t already noticed Lauri is a very busy man and was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about his rise in poker, his history of training for and running marathons, and gives a very straightforward piece of advice to those wanting to have results similar to his.
-What got you into poker in the first place? When was this and what else were you doing with your life at the time?
It was a funny story. It was 2007 and one of my friends asked me to help move money from one bank to another and he mentioned it’s something to do with poker. I thought it’s some suspicious scheme and that friend has become a hopeless gambler and it’s better to avoid him.
But somehow a couple of months later he contacted me again and still talked about poker. So, I decided to find out what it is and give it a try. I made an account and tried to play with play money. Lost all of it in firsthand and realized I can’t get more money before the next day. So, I researched about poker rules the next day, then I got $2000 play money and I managed to make it to 40K. My friend suggested to play at least a week with play money but after a couple days it became boring and I made my first deposit: $20. Started to play 5NL and was really tight (friends’ advice) but not too much happened – didn’t win nor lose. So, I changed strategy and started to play every 2 hand. At first, I won when I hit but it didn’t last long, I was busto eventually.
So, I made another deposit $20 and played tight again. First, I was still break-even but in my 3rd month, I already made $650 in 10NL. Next half year I was kind of break-even and then somehow I moved to NL25 and even took shots in NL50. It was kind of crazy because my skill was poor and I couldn’t beat games.
-Why the decision to play No-Limit Hold’em, Head’s Up specifically?
It was because of a friend’s suggestion. I tried also fixed limit to get play-through bonuses fast, but it was boring and couldn’t win there.
I moved to Heads Up games beginning of 2011 (same friend again suggested it). And it was really easy to take money from fishes. I finally started to win without too much learning. And it was kind of OK until the end of 2015 when I realized I can’t win anymore (lack of hours and poker rooms was the main reason + poor skill too). So, I joined BPC 6-max program. I lost there about 55 buy-ins in low stakes in the first month and then moved to HU program and somehow started to crush it from the very beginning.
-I understand you also are an avid marathon runner, when and why did you first start to run? Were you always into sport growing up?
I have been into sports my whole life thanks to my dad. I played football for about 20+ years and started to go running competitions then I was 6 or 7. Ran my first half marathon with dad, then I was 15 without special running training. And after that, we have run half marathon in every 5years (next year we will have 25y anniversary).
Then I turned 30 my parents gave me a heart rate monitor and that motivated me to start regularly running and 1 year later I ran my first marathon. 9 years later I did my 10th, 11th, and 12th marathons this year and actually ran new personal best, 2.58.05 and hoping to get even faster next years.
-Do you think there is any cross-over between long hours of running mainly by yourself to playing long hours of a heads-up variant of the game? Do any of the insights from either the marathons or playing heads-up, or poker in general for that matter, ever give you an advantage in the other?
There are some similarities. For example, if I’m running a marathon I have to be well trained for it and I have to be focused on my results and be disciplined not to go out too fast. It’s similar to poker: I have to have a good skill to make money, be focused while playing and disciplined to not make too fancy plays or not to go playing too high levels (fortunately I never have had this problem).
But training for a marathon helps me relax from the stress poker causes.
-I see you’re also playing high-stakes, 1k-2knl and occasionally even 3k-4k. First off congratulations on the accomplishment and secondly what does it feel like to go from someone like me and many of those reading, a student, to be playing in some of the biggest games online at the moment?
It’s not the highest stakes, because there are some games also running in 10kNL or even 20kNL but I’m pretty close to my goal which was to reach to high stakes (for me 5kNL+) and I actually played it even once (didn’t go too well).
But my highest games are mentally challenging. Because you don’t get too much action from 2kNL+ anymore and because of that it’s tough to go through losing sessions there.
You have to have big balls to win in those games but if you do then the reward is really nice.
-On that note, you are also the HU coach for BPC! Do you have any key pieces of advice you’d like to share with those aspiring to try and rise up the ranks of the HU ladder, or something that you would tell yourself if you could speak to yourself back on your first day in BPC as a student?
Just listen to your coach. Everyone thinks they are smart and want to be creative in some situations (and you might be right from time to time) but still your coach has so much more experience in this area. So just shut up and do what your coach tells you to do.
-Do you think this grind to the top at all compares to training for a marathon? What do you believe are the main similarities in them and mindsets you have when setting out on these two endeavors?
I think yes, it’s kind of similar. You have to be very consistent with your training if you want to get good results in marathon. The same goes to poker. To move up limits you have to work hard: attend coachings, watch videos, do lots of off table work, etc.
Like I told earlier: focus and discipline. The thing needed for both, to [run a] marathon and poker.
-What do you believe was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome to reach the level you are at now?
I always had trouble putting in decent hours. Before BPC I was too lazy to put in even 100h monthly. Now I’m aiming 180h every month (which is not that high compared to some guys) but it’s not that easy with all the coaching’s and running’s. Plus, family comes first. So, I have to balance a lot between all this.
-What hurdles do you feel you have to face on a weekly or daily basis to maintain and continue to try and build upon your current and already high level of success?
Being in your comfort zone. At some point, I realized I don’t need to learn anymore to beat fishes in my game. And after that realization its quite hard to push yourself to learn something new.
Fortunately, I have my coachings that will keep me sharp and force my brain to do some thinking 🙂
-I understand that marathons have been known to make lesser men quit, same as the soul- crushing swings in poker have been known to do the same. What helps you climb out of the pit if you end up in one along the way? Any advice for avoiding these pits and dark places, to begin with?
Yeah, that’s true. I have had some really tough marathons. On the marathon, it’s quite common that you can hit the wall. You just run out of energy and only asking yourself: “why am I doing this?” and telling yourself, “never again”.
This spring it happened to me. But instead of it usually happening somewhere 35-37km I already felt quite tired after halfway (21km). I slowed my pace but 5km later I got so bad pain in my thigh that I had to stop for a moment and massage it. Sadly, I was too far from town center so I kept running and luckily it went over 5 or 6km later. I was still quite exhausted, but I didn’t give up and finished the race (about 15min later than planned).
The same has happened in poker. Before joining the BPC at some point I just couldn’t win anymore: month after month break-even or slightly negative. I was really desperate about it. But at that time I didn’t realize it was a lack of skill and hours and poker rooms. Lack of everything.
I think to avoid pits you need to put in decent hours, develop yourself (work your game, mindset, body), always look for new opportunities and don’t become lazy.
-What are your plans for the future? Rise through the high-stakes ranks? Move more into coaching? Go into another business?
I want to achieve financial freedom by the age of 45 (6 years from now). For that I’m looking different opportunities to build my portfolio: stocks, bonds, start-ups, giving loans etc.
My dream is to have one day investments that will make me €10K every month. Then I can retire.
-What about your plans for your marathon endeavors? Where do you see yourself going in that world, and do you see it coinciding with your poker intentions?
About 5 years ago I set myself a goal to achieve the best running results when I turn into 40. At the moment I already ran my marathon best but in the next few years, I want to crush all my records from 1500m to marathon. If I train smart I’m hoping to cut at least 10 min from my marathon time. But the minimum goal is to be the fastest marathoner in the family (one of my relatives ran 2.52 back in the days) and ran as fast times as possible so that my son would have a hard time trying to beat them at someday 🙂
There are many lessons we can take away from this short interview on what it takes to be successful in multiple facets of life. Now the onus is on us to listen to them and act. Coach Lauri seems to have laid out the recipe to the secret sauce for us all in terms of achieving not only success in poker, but success in life: put in hours, stay focused, make disciplined decisions, keep eyes open for opportunity, and shut up and listen to your coach. The only question is: are you willing to put in the work?
Coach Lauri started getting serious with poker with BPC at the end of 2015, four years prior to the date this is being written. In another 6 years he is planned to reach his goal to achieve financial freedom (that is €10K from investments per month). That is 10 years of work to get to a standard of living that the majority of westerners, let alone the world, will ever have; and if managed correctly will go on for his life and perhaps into his children’s while not having to actively work.
Personally, it is pretty powerful that poker has the ability to give people that sort of opportunity. Especially considering everyone else is probably going to work a career they don’t like and meticulously plan for 25-30+ years before being able to consider what he is in 6 more years. Of course, this doesn’t come without it’s sacrifices to get there as all things worth having do.
As Coach Lauri said, you must put in hours. Trying to play 180 hours a month is already over a 40-hour workweek, 45 hours to be precise. Not to mention that he has peers that are playing 200+ hours per month.
180 hours a month, staying focused and making disciplined decisions. Can you do it with your living on the line? With the proper bankroll management and foundation gained from putting in the time and rising through the stakes you sure can. Thousands of players make their living doing exactly this every year.
All that’s left is to shut up and listen to your coach. It worked for Coach Lauri, he listened to his and went from a 25NL player that couldn’t beat the game to thriving off the 1kNL and 2kNL games. Now four years later since starting as a student he is teaching others how to do the same, all the while providing his family a comfortable lifestyle and setting them up for a financially fruitful and stable future.
Whether it’s a marathon, poker, or anything else in life: if you put in the work and time, stay focused on your goals, disciplined in your plan to get there, shut up and listen to your mentor or coach, and keep going, you’ll not only succeed in your endeavors but continue to as long as your body allows.
Take note of Coach Lauri who has been running and setting personal records his entire life, yet still planning on smashing them after he turns 40. The success doesn’t stop until you do.
Thank you again Coach Lauri for taking the time to answer these questions.
Article by Thomas Snyder