There’s been a lot of buzz as of late regarding the launch of Pokercode, Fedor Holz’s first foray into the world of poker coaching. As Holz is the main face of the product, it makes sense that “Das Wunderkind” has gotten much of the press coverage, but he’ll also be the first to say that he had a lot of help. While an entire team of people put in loads of effort to create and now promote Pokercode, besides Holz there’s another notable presence: Matthias Eibinger. A high roller with close to $8.5 million in career tournament earnings, Eibinger’s no slouch at the tables, but I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I had not heard of him until my recent Pokercode-focused interview with Holz.
In doing my research on him, I was able to uncover a great deal of information as pertains to his on-felt success, but unfortunately very little about the man himself. Just who is this 20-something Austrian who has earned more in live poker tournaments — $8.5 million! — than any of his fellow countrymen?
These are the types of tales we’re all about here at Cardplayer Lifestyle, so it’s with much gratitude to Matthias for agreeing to this interview that I share his story with you.
How did you first get exposed to the game of poker and what was it that attracted you about it?
I started playing with friends when I was around 17 years old, just for fun, with no money involved. Right from the start I had lots of fun playing, but I was pretty nervous, even with nothing at stake. So everybody knew immediately if I had a good or bad hand, which made me want to practice the game a little more. I started reading poker books and studying the game on a more serious level and soon figured out that this was actually something that I could really enjoy. I also felt that this kind of poker study could fit my talents of logical thinking and a basic understanding of mathematics as well. Basically, the game just fit me, so that’s how my journey started.
I’ve read that you began playing poker online in April 2011. To most people in the poker world, that time reminds them about only one thing: Black Friday. You don’t necessarily have a scale of comparison to before that time, but it would seem in retrospect to be quite the interesting time to begin playing online, no?
I started playing online poker just after Black Friday and I wasn’t a winning player by any means. I was just trying out a lot of different formats, playing for really low stakes, and wasn’t successful at any of the formats. After a while i found hyper six-max sit-and-gos and immediately fell in love with them. I was able to play these games very focused day and night and got very good at that specific format.
A lot of people were telling me that the player pool was extremely soft before Black Friday, so of course I hoped that stuff like the rec-reg ratio would be better. At that time I didn’t know any better, so I just accepted the situation. I made a lot of bad decisions at the beginning bankroll-wise, as everybody does I suppose, so I just learned to really solely focus on myself. Wishing that conditions were as good as before Black Friday or being discouraged by the strong competition isn’t going to get you where you want to be. The more you focus on your own game, the more successful you will be, in my opinion.
What do you feel were some of your greatest achievements playing online for the first five years of your career, and why?
I think that my biggest achievement was being extremely consistent throughout my poker journey. I started playing $3.50 hyper sit and goes basically by myself. I live in Graz, so I didn’t have any poker community like the one in Vienna, but I nonetheless made it up to the highest stakes all alone, sitting at tables online without paying any mind to the line-up.
Aside from that, I also won $100K in a SCOOP tournament, which boosted my bankroll and made things a little easier. Even so, winning a tournament doesn’t mean you’re a good poker player at all. The constant grind in the hyper sit and gos resulted in me achieving Supernova Elite status five times, which was also a huge achievement back then.
In what ways do you feel the online poker landscape has changed over the course of your career?
In the first few years I really liked the platforms a lot. I was only playing PokerStars and they offered a lot of great things and were liked by all of the players on the site because they were rewarding players who grinded a lot. Nowadays, I have the feeling that all of the sites are just squeezing out every dollar they can. Here and there they’re cutting the rakeback a few percent and increasing the rake a few percent.
In my opinion, the online poker environment isn’t as friendly as it used to be to the players, as the sites make it really hard to be profitable. For the best players it’s still profitable of course, however, things just aren’t as easy as back in the day.
What did your family think of your career choice to become a professional poker player?
At the beginning, my family didn’t know what was going on. They knew that I was playing poker, but mainly as a hobby. So they didn’t realize how much time i invested into it at first. For me it was clear that I was going to share it with them as soon as I had some results to demonstrate my consistent winnings and income, so they could actually understand what I was doing.
I really wanted to make sure they understood that I had plan and wasn’t just randomly gambling. After I showed them on paper that what I was doing was serious, they actually were more supportive than I anticipated them to be at the outset. I really felt encouraged by the support my family provided after I shared my passion with them one year into playing poker professionally.
Your HendonMob page lists results going back to June 2016. Describe what it was like for you to transition into playing live poker.
The first time I played a lot of live-poker was in 2015 in Vegas, exclusively playing sit and gos; pretty much just the satellites for the WSOP Main Event and other events. Back then, the difference between playing live vs. online wasn’t too big, I just went from playing sit and gos online to playing sit and go- type events live. I did that in 2015 and 2016 and that’s also where my first HendonMob entry came from. I entered the Colossus and tried an MTT for the first time, as well as a couple other tournaments. It’s also worth mentioning, that I really enjoyed the feeling of playing live, talking to other players; just the whole atmosphere.
I would say that the main reason I decided to switch to live poker was that the format I specialized in online was basically dying due to the pretty severe rakeback changes on PokerStars, which were happening around 2016. I decided to transition to MTTs mainly because some of the skills required in sit and goes, like playing short-stacked or endgame theories and ICM situations, are valuable in MTTs as well.
It seems that you exclusively played in three- and four-figure buy-in events from mid-2016 until January 2018. Then, all of a sudden, you’ve pretty much exclusively stuck to $10Ks and High Roller events, except for WSOP bracelet events. What made you feel you were ready to make the jump, seemingly so quickly?
I think that this was the right decision for me. After switching to MTTs it was clear to me, that the only acceptable outcome was for me to play the highest stakes in MTTs, like I did in sit and gos. If I was aiming to do that and if I was going to invest a lot of time into it, I have to get to the top.
So what I did was quit poker for roughly six months in 2017 and just study from dawn until dusk. I did still fly to Vegas in the summer though, order to get used to mid-stakes MTTs and live poker in general. Of course it was also important for me to practice my live game and abilities. While playing in Vegas I didn’t feel comfortable enough to tackle the high-stakes games, so that’s why I kept playing $1K and $2K events until I got back home, where I continued studying until the end of the year.
I think that it’s also important to mention, that I literally didn’t do anything other than studying MTTs. No social gatherings, no parties, not a single day off.
In 2018 I decided that I finally felt ready and comfortable enough to play the high-stakes MTTs. I felt like I was able to compete against the best players in the game, for whom I still have a lot of respect, but it’s not like I’m afraid of playing against them anymore.
In 2018 I also got a lot of support from my investors so that I could start playing the 5-figure buy-in events; the $10Ks and the $50Ks. I’m still constantly trying to improve my game and get better and better.
Just arrived at @PokerroomKings to play #wsope 🤓
schedule: €250K today, €25K Friday, €100K Sunday, another €25K Sunday, €50K Tuesday, €100K Wednesday 😅
–#poker #pokercode #teampokercode pic.twitter.com/Bk0SgTV1Pe
— Matthias Eibinger (@Matthias_Eibi) October 16, 2019
At what point did you first connect with Fedor? Did you two hit it off right away?
The first time I met Fedor was at the beginning of this year at the PokerStars PSPC in the Bahamas. We were playing at the same table and he had a really sick call down purely based on a live read he had on me. Afterwards we went to breakfast together and I had the impression that we got along really well right away. We connected because we had a lot of similar approaches on the game and he also gave me some great advice on improving my live game, which I highly appreciated. Funnily enough, that’s also where we came up with the idea of creating Pokercode, which finally recently became a reality.
In what ways do you think you and Fedor have made each other better as players, and how (if at all) is what you’ve taught one another reflected in Pokercode?
I certainly do think that we were able to improve each other’s games, since I was very theory-based. I still work with all the solvers and stuff, but Fedor is a fantastic live player with great live-reads and player recognition tendencies. Whenever we talked, we were able to benefit from the other’s opinions and approaches to the game. I really do think that this is reflected in Pokercode.
We have a lot of different lectures in pre- and post-flop, a section specifically for live-poker and player-adjustments. Both of our specialties are implemented in the course: my theory and point of view as well as Fedor’s strong live abilities. Naturally, we continue to work on improving the platform every day, to make it as good as it possibly can be.
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) October 14, 2019
When I spoke to Fedor a little while back, he talked to me quite a bit about what Pokercode is all about. What made you decide to get involved in the project with him, and what was the most exciting part of working on it?
We started working on Pokercode in the beginning of 2019 and spent a lot of time throughout the year. The most exciting part of working on Pokercode together was the cooperation among a lot of different people. As I said earlier, in poker I always found my way on my own, but here we have a very cool team. A lot of people were involved in creating the product we are offering now, so it wasn’t just Fedor and me; many other people were part of the entire exciting process as well.
THE TIME HAS COME!!! So excited. @_pokercode will be going live at 1am CEST ~ 3hrs on https://t.co/H9TY2Pytgb | shout out to the entire team for all the hard work & so much love to ALL OF YOU who signed up early. Can’t wait for you to take your game to the next level!! #poker pic.twitter.com/r3Zh1eFuaV
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) October 1, 2019
Way back in the day, Doyle Brunson was the first to “reveal his secrets” when he came out with Super System and he was widely criticized by his peers. We now live in an age where there’s tons of poker knowledge out there, and with so many people studying the game every edge has the potential to make a huge difference. What is it that specifically makes you feel comfortable sharing your secrets with the poker world via Pokercode?
I think that when the first comprehensive book with poker strategy advice was released, it was quite a different situation. Now there’s so much content out there available for everyone to learn from. It’s not like releasing one product is going to be a huge game changer in terms of making the competition better. My goal was always to provide a platform for people who want to improve that they can really love. When you get such great feedback, it makes you want to work even harder because it’s an enormous motivational boost. I really feel like I have improved as a person through this whole process as well.
In your opinion, what separates Pokercode from all of the other poker training products out there? What makes it unique?
What makes Pokercode unique is the product as a whole. What I mean by that is that we offer 60 lectures with the goal of guiding the user through the game. In the video series we start with pre-and post-flop, then blind versus blind, 3-bet pots and then get to ICM and live games. So we really cover a lot in the video series alone.
On top of that, we provide a community for our users, where they have their questions answered by a hired coach, but Fedor and I are also actively trying to give advice and continuous support regarding specific problems our users have. Of course we have more ideas for the community, on which we are working on a daily basis.
What’s more, the production value of our videos was immensely heightened by the professional team we hired to make it as user-friendly as possible. Combining all of these elements into one product is what makes Pokercode a unique experience for every single one of our users.
How would you classify the difference in the playing competition, generally speaking, in four-figure buy-in events versus High Roller tournaments? What are the types of things that players at the highest levels are just plain better at?
The difference between players of 4-figure buy-ins and players of the highest stakes is evident in pretty much every aspect of the game. Adjusting to different players is a huge deal, as well as adjusting to recreational players. On average, a high roller player will find the better adjustments. In terms of “regular” knowledge vs. GTO knowledge of how to play versus very good regs, high roller players will usually have the higher quality, broader knowledge in this area. On the whole, the highest stakes players just perform better on many different levels.
You’re only in your mid-20s. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Have you given any thought to long-term goals that you’d like to achieve at poker beyond continuing to perform well and win big?
If I´m being honest, currently i am putting my mind to being present in the moment and working on a lot of different parts of my game. That´s why I don´t have a clear vision of how my life will look like after poker. With that said, I always wanted to do something that would create positivity and that will help other people. A lot of the high rollers are already donating a percentage of their winnings to charity, and this is certainly something I am interested in doing as well if the next few months and years work out well.
Right now, I´m really happy with the job I have, mainly because I value the independence it gives me a lot. I am my own boss, you know. So, I am the one who decides how I´m going to spend my day and that´s a great thing to be able to enjoy. I´m sure that there are a lot of awesome opportunities and adventures coming my way. I´m really excited about that.