School Teacher now crushing Heads-Up : Going from the Classroom to the Online Poker Tables

Coming from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is BPC’s latest $60k CFP HU NLHE finisher, John. When not crushing at the tables (with his ridiculous winrate of over 9bb/100!) John teaches English and is an avid follower of his home soccer team, Ajax, having never missed a game. While this particular journey was not the easiest, or the fastest, it goes to show that if you continue to apply yourself, listen, apply what you learn, and persevere that you will accomplish your goal. As BPC’s slogan states, “Champions stand up one more time than the rest!” John here is surely a champion, having never quit on his desire to turn poker into a lucrative income. Without further ado…

– Hey John, where are you from?
I’m from The Netherlands originally, but I’ve been living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for seven years now.

Rio de Janeiro

– Do you enjoy any activities outside of poker? I’m sure the grind has taken up quite a bit of your time.
My biggest hobby is following my favorite team, Ajax. Despite the time difference between The Netherlands and Brazil, and the fact that very few games are broadcast here, I always find a way to watch, I never miss a game.

– What sort of work and educational background do you have? Do you think any of it has played a part in succeeding in your poker career thus far?
I actually studied to become an elementary school teacher, but after finishing college I traveled to Rio and that changed my plans for ever. I fell in love with the city and stayed as long as I could. I later went back and met the girl who’s now my wife. In Brazil I actually did start to work as a teacher, be it private English classes for adults. I did this alongside BPC. This last year when I really started my upswing I stopped taking on many new students unless the time and location was really convenient for my schedule. I wanted to focus more on poker, but I had to build up some reserves. I now only have a few students left, with all classes being online, or at home or close to my house. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to continue with these last students. They don’t really mess up my schedule, and I enjoy the classes. Online poker can get pretty boring and solitary at times, so these classes kind of give me a line to the outside world, haha.


– How has your life and lifestyle changed since starting and completing your BPC contract?
In the beginning you won’t make that much money, still playing at the lower limits and learning the tricks of the trade. At times it would be tough to balance everything financially in a way where I could still play and progress through the stakes. Towards the end of the contract the winnings were much more substantial, and it didn’t hurt my progress too much to use some of the money. Of course, ideally you shouldn’t take money out of your bankroll during the program, but in my case it was necessary.
On a more practical note, I’ve been spending a lot of time in front of my computer, increasingly more so towards the end of the contract. I feel that I probably need to start doing some exercise again, because my lifestyle is very sedentary. I don’t really like going to the gym or running though, so I’ll have to figure something out.

– What initially got you to start playing poker, specifically HU NLHE, and to start a contract with BPC?
I started playing over ten years ago, around the time of the poker boom. First just for fun, mostly Sit&Goes. Then I started studying a bit and began to win some money. When Black Friday happened my bankroll of around $2.5k was frozen on Full Tilt. When Pokerstars reopened I deposited there and began grinding the 180-man tournaments and did really well for about a year. Or at least, well in the sense that I worked maybe 100-120 hours a month and made about the same money as my friends in their regular jobs. After moving to Brazil that was my plan, but things didn’t go as planned. The games became tougher and I was just working with some knowledge I had picked up from Colin Moshman books and Pokerstrategy videos. My bankroll slowly dwindled away on real life expenses and I decided to look for a ‘real’ job.
After a while the poker itch came back and I saw that I had some bonus points left on Pokerstars. I managed to spin that up to a NL2 roll and with the lines from BPC’s 6-max NL No BS book that I had found online I managed to climb up the stakes. After a few failed attempts at NL25 I decided to apply for the 6-max program. At that time the requirments were a bit too hardcore for me, so I decided to just grind out some side income at NL10 besides my classes. Maybe around a year later BPC had loosened up the requirments a bit, and I applied again.
This time I was in, and I moved up the stakes until I hit a wall at NL200. I felt frustrated, and eventually decided to move to the HU program when that was offered to me.

– Would you ever consider any other variants of poker in the future other than HU NLHE?
Besides playing on some multiway tables, not right now. I know some guys are looking into PLO too, so that might be on the cards for some time in the future, but first I want to focus on becoming better at HU NLH.

– How long were you in the CFP HU program before completing it? What were some of the roadblocks, or moments of adversity, along the way?
I guess I have to be the student that took the longest to complete the contract. I started four years ago in the 6-max program. I think after about two years in I switched to HU. The things that kept me back were mostly my work and my lazyness. Another thing that really hindered my progress was me needing to take money out of my bankroll frequently. The long breakeven stretches and a few downswings really sucked too.
I told Gordon yesterday that I was ready to give up several times. Still, I kept telling myself that if other people could do this, some of whom I studied with myself, I should be able to do it too. My lowest point was about a year and a half ago, when I had to cash out money from my bankroll for real life expenses, whilst running 30 buyins under EV. BPC then demoted me from the Intermediate group to the hobbyist group because my bankroll was too small and I was only playing NL10. I really felt that it wasn’t going to happen for me, and to be honest I expected more support from BPC at that moment. However, after thinking about it a bit more I decided that if I wanted my situation to change, I should go after it myself. Nobody was going to do it for me, but if I put my head down and worked hard, I could change it and have a chance of getting to where I wanted.

John’s CFP 6-max graph

– Was there any moment during your contract when you sort of “got it”? What was that moment for you?
I wouldn’t say one specific moment, it was lots of small things adding up, but things really changed for the better when I started getting coached by Drago in the beginning of last year. He had recently finished the HU program himself, and I believe I was one of his first students. He made me aware of some bet sizing leaks I had and really improved my game in many areas, especially bluff catching and value betting.
Unfortunately, he stopped coaching after a few months to focus more on other things. I then started working with Crunky, who helped me learn to bluff more effectively, besides finetuning all the other stuff. But I learned a lot from the other HU coaches too, like Scott and Nubson.

– How would you say your mindset towards poker has changed since you started at BPC?
I always thought there was still money to be made in poker, but now I know much better what you need to do to get it.

– What is your outlook for the future of poker, the game itself as well as your personal journey in the game?
I’m still positive about the future of online poker. I think it’s safe to say that the Golden Age is behind us, but that has been the case ever since Black Friday. Sure, the games get a little tougher every year, but as long as you keep improving too, there should be no reason why you can’t make money.
My personal plan for the immediate future is to keep grinding, and build my bankroll. It’s hard to say how long I want to keep doing this for a living, but I guess that as long as the money is good there isn’t much reason to do anything else.

John’s CFP HU Soldier €60k graph

– Where do you think we will find you a year from now?
I hope to have had enough good months allowing me to start doing some long term investing and traveling a bit more.

– Do you have any words of wisdom, or things that you wish you had known before embarking on this endeavor, to those who want to be where you are now in your poker career?
First of all, don’t underestimate how much time and effort this will take. It can get quite boring to sit at a computer the whole day every day, and you can’t even talk to a co-worker, you’re all alone. How much time are you able to dedicate to this, and do you think you can keep doing the same things over and over again over long periods of time, even if variance is against you and you’re on a big breakeven or losing streak?
Also, you have to consider your own financial situation. Do you have a good buffer (could you live at least for a year on the money you have right now, or preferably two years), or do you still live with your parents? Then go for it! Do you live from salary to salary and do you have to support a family? Think again, and try to build up that buffer first. A lot of things can go wrong, even if it isn’t your fault, and all of a sudden you could be in a bad spot. Once you start making some money, try to avoid cashing out money from your bankroll as much as possible. I cannot stress this enough, it will really hold you back. I had to do it much too often, and it prevented me from moving up quicker to the limits where you can make some real money. I could have finished much quicker if I hadn’t.
Listen to the people who have done it before you and who are now in the position that you are trying to be in. Think about why you’re doing this, what is your goal?

Thank you, John, for taking the time to go through all of this. Although it took 4 years, and several points where he thought he was going to quit, he continued on. While there are the champions that people recognize quickly for their lightning fast finishes through CFP such as HansTheGreat and Atvars, there are also those champions that are going through it month-after-month, year-after-year. The same champions that are still crushing the tables year-after-year today. The people that don’t let adversity get in their way and that refuse to give up. In the game of poker this is the foundation of becoming a career poker player, the ability to continue playing no matter what because you know that you are doing the right thing. Most would also say this is a fundamental part of being successful in life as well. Anyone can have the results John has had, they simply need to be willing to go through what he has as well and to have the same desire, grit, and determination he had to get across the finish line. Congratulations on your accomplishment and newfound freedom to choose life on your terms, John!

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