Fedor Holz has earned $10.5 million in the last six months playing poker but he says the recognition that came with it means the most.
With wins in two high-roller events and a runner-up in the $300k Aria SHRB, Holz has earned $4.6 million in less than a month.
Known online as “CrownUpGuy,” Holz has also taken over the number-one spot on Germany's all-time money list and the number-one spot on the Global Poker Index worldwide ranking.
“It all makes me very proud,” Holz told PokerListings.com at the WSOP. “I've been traveling and playing nonstop for the last two years and it can be pretty exhausting.
"That's pretty much the reason I did all of this. It's really the recognition that means the most to me.”
Fedor Holz: "Poker is a Stepping Stone for Me."
In this long-form interview Holz talks about his amazing run over the last six months, his recent bracelet bets with Jason Mercier and how poker is ultimately a stepping stone for something greater.
For more background, read the in-depth story PokerListings.com did with Holz about his extensive staking business.
PokerListings.com: You have to go back pretty far to see when this run of yours started, six or seven months.
Fedor Holz: Three years (laughs).
PL: No kidding. Since about December of 2015, though, it's been crazy. What's the experience been like for you?
FH: It's really hard to explain it. It's like a rollercoaster.
I had a really swingy last year after Vegas and lots of things were going not so well that people don't really see from the outside.
Then starting December of last year, it seems like everything I'm working on is running extremely well. You get really confident in your abilities and I'm feeling really good right now.
PL: Can you tell us about some of the challenges you had last year that people might not know about?
FH: I think if you're successful in poker you probably move more into the entrepreneur side of poker like staking, investing, these kinds of things.
I think overall I was investing in +EV things and just some things didn't work out very well and it cost me a big chunk of my bankroll. So when people see that you win $50k or $100k somewhere, the reality of it might be a little different.
PL: Is it frustrating when people make assumptions based on what they see as far as results on paper?
FH: It can definitely be frustrating at times. Like Vegas last year I had two big cashes but I had swaps and I sold pieces and I busted all the other tournaments so there wasn't really much left over.
People just think that you've won $500k. It's the way people treat you that changes.
PL: How has the way people treat you changed?
FH: Well, it's a normal saying but everyone always thinks you have more money than you really do. It's really true and it's definitely true for all the people I know. It's just this perception that makes it uncomfortable at times.
So you start hanging out only with people who know everything about what's going on so you can be totally open with them and they can understand you better.
PL: How do you deal with the stress? Anxiety and stress is a common challenge for people with way less on the line.
FH: I don't think the feelings I deal with are any different, it's just the scale that's different.
Personally my number-one advice is just to talk to people around you that have different experience and knowledge than you.
It will give you a different perspective on things and that's helped me so much.
I have friends that are so smart in different areas and whenever I have a problem with a specific thing, I go to the person that I think can help me with it.
That's a strategy that helped me a lot to get to where I am now.
PL: Does it ever hit you how crazy this whole world is that you find yourself in the middle of? Looking back to before you got into poker there must have been many paths your life could have taken.
FH: I think there are like three spots in my life that were exactly like that, it could have gone in so many directions. It's crazy when you think about it and realize it was just this one day, one decision that caused all this to happen.
PL: Is there one moment or decision that stands out?
FH: One thing was studying. If I had chosen a different place to study or studied something different, or even a different apartment to live in, maybe I never would have quit studying and gotten into poker.
I only started playing poker because I had nothing else to do. After I started playing I just enjoyed it so much, that's what got me here.
PL: You're now number one on the German all-time money list. Is that something you're proud of?
FH: I actually just read that I'm number one on the GPI too and it all makes me very proud.
I've been traveling and playing nonstop for the last two years and it can be pretty exhausting. So many flights and events and that's pretty much the reason I did all of this.
It's really the recognition that means the most to me.
PL: You had a pretty big sweat a couple days ago that didn't really work out for you but can you tell us a bit about it?
FH: Yeah, I had a big bet against Jason Mercier.
I think this is exactly how a bet should be. Both sides thought they were +EV. I bet on Stephen Chidwick winning a bracelet over Mercier and I bet on Mercier not winning a bracelet.
I made the bet against him at 2.7 to 1 after the Series had started and I think he won his third tournament he played after we made the bet.
It's cool. I'll pay him the money and we're good.
PL: So that's an example of a bet that went smoothly. The bet he has with Vanessa Selbst isn't going so smoothly. What's your take on betting against friends, especially when there's drinking involved?
FH: In general I like bets. I don't like when people talk to much about this and that and don't follow up with what they're saying so betting on it is good.
People take bets too personally, though. When you want to cross-book against someone, for example, they take that to mean you think they suck. That's not what it's about. You just think you're better.
PL: In this situation with Selbst there was drinking involved and they're sort of friends so it seems like kind of a gray area.
FH: I don't think the area is that gray to be honest.
First of all, when you book a bet and at that point if you're friendly and the bet is completely ridiculous, your friend should let you get out of it.
But if you make a real bet and shake hands then you have to stand behind it.
PL: Even if you're drunk when you make the bet?
FH: I just think it happens so rarely that someone forces you to stay in a crazy bet, and especially not Jason.
He's just not that kind of guy, I know that. He would let you buy out if it was ridiculous.
It's just two parties reading the situation completely differently and they both have high reputations.
I think you can learn from this situation and decide not to deal with Jason in the future but I don't think you can just say the bet is off. I don't think that would be correct.
PL: So it's important to be comfortable with the person you're betting with, as well as the bet itself?
FH: Yeah. I have a bet with Tom Marchese and I think he's the perfect person to bet with.
He doesn't take things personally. Whenever there's a problem I know we'll be able to arbitrate with someone we both trust.
The whole situation is important but the basis should be that you know the person, trust the person, you have a good escrow or however you're setting up the money and that the terms are really clear.
PL: Is it risky to bet against friends?
FH: Whoever it is they have to not be emotionally involved.
I would never bet with a friend where the money matters. It's always -EV.
I think it's something people do way too much.
PL: On another topic, we've read you use meditation. How has that helped you and what kinds of techniques do you use?
FH: I started doing meditation but I've been doing a lot more hypnosis. I work with a coach named Elliot Roe who's well known in the poker community.
It helps me a lot. It sets me up to have a clear mind and to be able to focus.
He's a great coach and he helps me with personal stuff too because it's all related. When I have personal problems it always goes into my poker game too.
PL: Is poker a career path you'll stay on in the longer term?
FH: I really do enjoy it but I don't think I'll stay on this path. I just don't feel completely fulfilled by this.
In poker you're always fighting other people and I'd rather have something that's more of a give and take thing that can make everyone happy.
PL: Will your success in poker allow you to do something more fulfilling in the future?
FH: That's exactly it. Poker is a stepping-stone for me.
It's insane. I got to meet so many people. I have so many opportunities now and it also developed me so much as a person.
I'm so happy things have gone the way they have and I'm very thankful for it. I just hope that I can find something new that hooks me the same way, something I can put my heart into.
PL: When will we stop seeing you in these events?
FH: I don't think you'll ever stop seeing me but I've been playing way too much. I'd like to reduce it to 400 or 500 hours per year which would be more like an intensive hobby.