I first fell in love with poker as a young kid, but I first really got into the game as a starry-eyed 20-year-old watching Chris Moneymaker notch that incredible win at the World Series of Poker. An entire generation of poker players was born right then and there, sold on the dream that if we played our cards right, we, too, could win millions. For so many of us, that remains a dream even today, over a decade and a half later, even if it seems like it’s progressively getting further and further out of our reach.
Yet, who among us ever thought one step further? Which of us in our mid- to late 30s said “OK, after I win my millions, here’s what I’m gonna do next…”? A strange thought, right? Obviously, almost all of us will never have to worry about any of that, but we knew that some fortunate few would eventually manage to reach that impossible dream; perhaps after a lifetime of play…
But a poker supernova?! A previously unknown player who would solve Texas Hold’em so completely and run so pure that he’d rocket to the all-time career top 10 in earnings by the time he’d hit his mid-20s?! Who would ever have imagined such a thing was possible?!
Enter Fedor Holz, “das wunderkind,” who accomplished nothing short of revolutionizing the game the way Stu Ungar did back in his day. To have essentially reached the pinnacle of poker at such a tender age was practically uncharted territory. With quite literally his entire life ahead of him, what would Holz’s next steps be now that he’d conquered poker?
It’s these types of thoughts that buzzed about my mind as I prepared to interview Fedor. I can’t help but admit how impressed I am with his responses to my questions, and I’m sure you will be, too. He may have already accomplished a lot, but this young man is clearly on the path towards doing really big things.
Oh… and he’s got a pretty cool product called Pokercode that’s about to launch as well 🙂
It’s inspiring to witness someone just 26 years old be aiming so high in life, like you are. You’ve been fortunate that poker has been good to you over the last few years, and now it seems like you are focusing on giving back by trying to improve the lives of others. At what point did that epiphany strike you and did you make that mental shift from “being in business for yourself at the poker table” to “let’s make the world a better place”?
It was after my very good poker run in 2016 where I cashed for over $16 million. You’d think that this would be the most amazing time ever for a poker player…
Don’t get me wrong, it was a great feeling and an amazing accomplishment that I worked so hard to achieve, but it was also the day I realized that I didn’t really want to play as much poker anymore. I think I had set expectations of what the feeling would be like to make a lot of money and being #1 poker player in the world, and then once I achieved that I realized that the process of growing and doing something everyday that I’m passionate about was what was most exciting for me.
I guess there just wasn’t much fulfillment for me anymore. The expectation when I started out was that I would reach this point of success, make a lot of money, and then I’m set… happy for the rest of my life. It wasn’t like this at all. It was rather frustrating, mostly because of the expectations I had set. I know it’s cliche to say that “it’s all about the journey,” but it’s so true. The relationships I developed along the way, the countries I got to travel to, and everything that I learned… that’s what really mattered to me, not the end result.
THE RESULT DOESN’T MATTER, IT’S ALL ABOUT WHAT YOU LEARN ALONG THE WAY. What I learned from achieving my goal of becoming the #1 poker player in the world is that it’s all about the passion & the learning curve along the way, & being able to share that with others. @WebSummit pic.twitter.com/l2YDmMrU7M
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) July 25, 2019
One of the greatest things for me is doing things with other people; not playing against others, but building something together with them. I really enjoy collaborating with others and creating something new. I’m fueled by the idea that I can create an impact somewhere and see the people around me grow, knowing that we are building something that is sustainable and has a positive impact on people.
A huge goal that many poker players strive for is financial security. Of the total population of poker players, very few have gotten to that point, relatively speaking. Once you reached that point, aside from having a higher standard of living, what were the most meaningful changes you made or experienced in life?
This is a question that I find hard to answer. I think one of the biggest changes is thinking BIGGER in terms of what is achievable, and thinking bigger in terms of where to invest my energy. Obviously, a big change was not being restrained by money as much. It freed me to focus my energy on where to invest my money and my time, to build something meaningful that lasts.
One of my realizations after reaching my financial goals in poker is that instead of chasing a result I want to focus on shaping my environment & enjoy the daily process. 🤖
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) May 14, 2019
It seems like you’ve been doing a number of speaking engagements lately, where you share the story about your rise to success. What do you enjoy most about doing that?
Again, for me it’s all about the impact. I love that my speaking has the potential to have a positive impact on someone’s life, whether personally or professionally. I know that a lot of people have a hard time getting started because they see other people in their circle or beyond already having success at something, and they feel discouraged to start from zero.
I really enjoy sharing my story because I started from nothing as well. I wasn’t a great student, I was bullied at school, and I don’t come from a rich family, but I had the drive, passion, and goal to learn, become really good at poker, and reach the top of the game. And that’s what I set out to do.
Behind every action is a legitimate need
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) August 8, 2019
Poker is an amazing game because you learn so much along the way when you take it seriously. From financial discipline, to patience, to problem solving, to strategy, and even the art of learning and studying… there are so many different skill sets you develop along the way that are extremely useful beyond poker. When I do public speaking, I get to share how I apply these skills in the business world and on a personal level.
Whether it’s at a big conference like WebSummit, corporate retreats, or to soccer teams (shout out to Vfl Wolfsburg), I’ve really enjoyed all the speaking engagements I’ve done. It’s still a relatively new area for me and I’m working hard together with my coach Scott to improve at it, but if there’s an opportunity for me to bring people value, I’ll take it.
Gave a speech to @VfLWolfsburg_EN Biggest takeaway: the importance of marginal gains. This is how I approached getting better at poker – small, consistent improvements in different areas every single day. What starts as a small win accumulates to much much more in the long run. pic.twitter.com/aYWmv3N8ey
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) August 22, 2019
You’ve also worked hard to develop a new course called Pokercode. Why?
I started thinking about creating a program where I could share my poker knowledge a couple years ago. I would say the first time the idea came to mind was in 2017. I was at a point where I was getting asked the same set of questions over and over again on a daily basis: “What poker books should I read?” “What poker course should I buy?” “How do I improve my game?”
While there was a lot of material out there, there was never anything that I could really stand behind and fully endorse. I felt like all of the available tools were good, but always lacked some solid insight that I knew existed. So, I wanted to create the answer to people’s questions. It took a while but we’re finally here.
I partnered up with Matthias Eibinger who is one of the best professionals in the game right now, and together we created Pokercode, which features 60+ lectures mostly focused on online & live tournaments.
There are lots of poker training sites out there these days. What are Pokercode’s unique selling points as opposed to other poker training products out there?
I credit a lot of my success to the community of poker players I was a part of early on. That’s what I want Pokercode to be; not just a poker course, but a poker community with like-minded poker players who are all looking to become better players.
Well before the official launch of the course material, our member-exclusive communication channel already became very active. It’s exciting seeing people sharing hands and helping each other out. It’s also a great opportunity for Matthias and I to extend our support beyond just the course material.
Additionally, a lot of the content…especially in the post-flop section and the live reads sections is just material that I’ve never seen or heard anyone share before. These two sections alone already provide so much value and a great return on investment for our members.
In particular, we’re partnering with other companies to offer our members exclusive deals on very useful poker tools. So far we’ve partnered with Holdem Resources which have the best tools for calculating short stack and ICM spots, offering our members a 75% discount. Our second partner is Primed Mind, where we’re offering members an amazing deal on a lifetime membership ($59 instead of $250).
I am so passionate about this project I could go on and on about it. As long as you have the basic understanding of poker, Pokercode will definitely be valuable and worth the investment.
Why specifically choose Matthias Elbinger as a partner? Was/is anyone else involved behind the scenes?
Matthias is no doubt one of the best poker players in the game right now. We’ve been friends for quite some time and I have to admit, he is probably the hardest working person I know. He’s the type of person who, while traveling around the world, plays online for 12 hours or more, and when he’d get back to the room he sits down at the desk studying, going through hands that he’d played that day trying to improve. It is insane. So inspiring. The amazing thing is that when I started creating the content with Matthias, I realized that I was learning a lot of new material myself. It got me hyped to play poker again. This whole project has got me hyped to study & play more poker.
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) May 31, 2019
Approximately how long will the entire Pokercode production process have taken, from initial concept until launch?
Well, calendar-wise, it’s over two-and-a-half years. Matthias and I spent hundreds of hours actually creating the content and writing the script, and then there was a week of production in Germany. It was such a long week! I think we had 12-hour shoot days that week just for recording the content. Then, post-production once again takes hundreds of hours.
I really appreciate everyone’s patience, especially all our pre-sale members. It’s also amazing to see so many people show their belief in us and investing in Pokercode even before the official release. The community channel is already very active and I can’t wait for everyone to start going through the material.
As we are getting closer to releasing the @_pokercode I want to thank the entire team behind the project. This wouldn’t have been possible without you. Thanks for all the hard work before, during (🥶) & after the shoot. ($200 discount till release https://t.co/H9TY2Pytgb) pic.twitter.com/JqtorzPPnO
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) August 24, 2019
Did you experience any sort of interesting or unforeseen obstacles or challenges along the way when creating the course? If so, how did you tackle/approach them?
I would say that the post-production side of the Pokercode was more complex than I imagined and took longer than expected. We really want to provide the best course out there, and part of that includes cutting down the content in an engaging way using high-end graphics and learning tools that make it a more enjoyable learning experience for our community. We have an amazing team that has put in so much time, effort, and passion into the project, and other than offer my support along the way, I learned to be patient and to trust the process.
During the shoot the heating was too loud and started to mess with the audio so we had to shut it off and record in the cold 😓🥶The rest of the shooting days were very long & cold but shout out to the entire team for pushing through and keeping the energy high!
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) August 24, 2019
When you decided to embark on the project of creating Pokercode, I imagine you had a specific audience in mind. Who are you targeting and who should NOT be signing up for Pokercode?
I really wanted to provide the answer for all players who would ask me what the best learning resources were for poker. Even though the course is mostly designed for tournament poker players, Pokercode definitely offers amazing value for everyone. As long as you’re well-versed in the basics of poker, you’ll find it to be a valuable learning tool.
Outside of poker, I know that the idea of community is important to you, and that you want to build a community space in Vienna. Tell us more about that.
For me, at the core is having as much impact as possible with the key measure being consciousness. Specifically, I see my personal spot in constantly asking questions not many people are asking. In Vienna we are building a community space to bring together open-minded, creative individuals to explore alternative futures, together.
I’ve always been fascinated by the potential that is created when you bring great people together in one space to learn from each other, work together, collaborate on new ideas, and to grow together. I really believe we do things better in a community than alone. I credit a lot of my poker success to this and I believe it is applicable across the board.
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It’s funny asking this question to someone so young, but you’re obviously on an incredible trajectory that could take you to some amazing places down the road, so: have you ever given any thought to what you would like your legacy to be? Beyond your success at the poker table, is there something for which you would like to be remembered?
I’d love to be remembered for having a positive impact. I know that still sounds quite vague and broad, but I’m being patient with figuring that part out along the way. Until then, I am focused on surrounding myself with amazing people and building great things together.
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Happiness first ☺️ Taking care of & training my mindset was one of the greatest decisions of my life – resulting in 🚀🚀 boosts in my performance in all areas of life. I credit a lot of my poker success to working with my coach @elliotroe. I hope that there will come a time when everyone is training their mindset. That’s what I’ve been working on with my team at @primedmindapp.