German poker pro Fedor Holz used to garner most of his attention online for living a globetrotter’s life and creating a captivating charity project.
This past week in Barcelona, however, his name is on everyone's lips for winning a side event, the Super High Roller satellite and coming 4th in another side event.
Holz has won almost $100k in live poker this year, making it his career-best live performance. But that's not the only way the RunItOnce coach makes a big impact on poker and those around him.
PokerListings Germany's Dirk Oetzmann managed to catch up with perhaps the hottest running player in BCN to talk about his live poker success but also his "secret" adventures as a major backer in the poker business.
Fedor Holz, Major Poker Backer
PokerListings: There is a rumor about you being very successful in staking lately, making you one of the biggest backers in the game right now. How much of this is true?
Fedor Holz: Most of it. I got involved in staking one year ago. I don’t want to reveal too much but I’ve been pretty successful in the WCOOP 2013.
"It’s my goal to help other players on a personal and game level."
My plan was to take a couple of players by the hand, coach them, and lead them to success.
I’ve been searching the mid stakes, contacted people and then quickly checked if we would get along well on a personal level.
By now I know every single one of them personally, and I’m delighted to say they all made the switch to high stakes. It’s been a win-win for all of us.
PL: Staking is a pretty risky and speculative niche in the poker business.
FH: It’s more complex than you might think. But that’s exactly what I like about it.
If I wanted I could earn more money if I’d grind the same hours. I like to closely follow and support my players, and it’s important to me to only work with players I have personal relationships with.
This leads to a deep form of loyalty. One of my biggest hits, for example, a guy who won the Sunday Million and doesn’t really need staking anymore, still gives me first option to buy shares of him.
PL: Who are your idols in staking? People like Max Katz from Russia?
FH: He does pretty much the opposite of what I want to do. The Russians had an idea that worked for a long time. But it was mostly about small margins for profit.
Who doesn't idolize Calvin Anderson at least a little bit?
I can’t play on that level. Also, it’s my goal to help other players on a personal and game level.
If you compare it with football I would be the coach or manager, whereas Katz would be a sports better. I might not make as much profit as him but I’m sure I have more fun.
My idols are people like Elio Fox and Calvin Anderson. They get involved into training their stakees, too. And I know the players they support.
PL: You’ve been playing very well here in Barcelona. Are you finally reaping what you sowed?
FH: I guess every player has that kind of expectation and feels that kind of satisfaction when it finally happens. Feels like judgment day (laughs)
But this is exactly the aspect of the game I’ve been focusing on for the last two years. Emotions are risky in poker, if you let them dominate you.
PL: You played a €50k high roller event here in Barcelona. Aren’t you out of your league? How far are players like Gruissem, Reinkemeier ahead of you?
FH: I can’t really say. I’ve only been in two high buy-in tournaments with them. But I can see that they follow a similar path.
Holz also inspired by Phil Gruissem.
They are both interested in meditation, they read a lot, and they think outside the regular poker theory.
They both understand that poker is not just the game but also the man behind it. Seen from this angle, they are both definitely idols.
PL: People seem to follow their footsteps when it comes to charity, too. You have also collected $50,000 with your own project. Where is the money going?
FH: It goes to Casa Esperanza in Chile, an institution that takes care of children who lost their families or live in desperate poverty.
In Chile, this is a huge problem. At the end of the day we want to build a proper children’s home. The project only just got underway and we’re still looking for the right spot.
If the first one is a success we’re going to carry on with a second one.
PL: Somehow, charity seems to be fashionable among poker players, completely opposed to the past.
FH: Correct. I think most poker pros actually have a big heart, but they quite simply never thought about things like charity.
I decided for myself that this responsibility is a part of my life. I realized that I feel more motivated if I can connect with other people.
"I feel more motivated if I can connect with other people."
It’s more fun, and you avoid that feeling of emptiness that has been the topic of plenty of discussions lately.
PL: Travelling also seems to make your life complete. You are on the road all the time.
FH: Yes, I am a passionate traveler and poker helps me a lot. Even when I was little my mother would take me along on her trips as a journalist.
However, if I play at an event, I play as many tournaments as possible. So, I separate some of my journeys from poker.
To be honest, sometimes I like to be around people who have nothing to do with poker.
In fact, I've just been in South America for six weeks, and I didn't play a single hand there.