While turning pro is no doubt the dream for many of you reading this*, it’s not always a possibility depending on your circumstances. Perhaps you’ve got a job you love, a family to support, a mortgage to keep up with, and putting all your eggs into the proverbial MTT basket is a bit too risky.
*If turning pro is your goal, apply for the BBZ Academy today!
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still play seriously and make good money from poker. After all, to truly be successful at poker, you’ve simply got to have the passion to play. Playing purely for money is never a good strategy.
But when free time is a luxury and exhaustion often sets in after a long day at work, how can you turn poker into your side hustle?
How can you find the time to ensure you’re getting better?
To find out, we spoke with BBZ community member ‘ZEKURA’. If that name seems familiar, that’s because you might have seen it in the BBZ Brags Discord, where the 31-year-old Financial Advisor from Oslo recently posted about a very fine score indeed.
We’ve had a bit of time to decompress after an intense #SCOOP, but we still can’t get over Team BBZ taking home over 10% of the $109 Main Event prize pool!
— BBZ Poker (@BBZPoker) June 8, 2022
ZEKURA finished sixth in the $109 SCOOP Main Event–one of the biggest tournaments of the year–for a $47,753 payday. But, as mentioned, poker isn’t his full-time gig.
We wanted to know how he juggled his career with his poker playing, how making the SCOOP final table has changed his attitude to poker, and how he managed to study BBZ content while working full-time.
BBZ Blog: Hey Zekura! I hear you have an interesting story of how you got into poker, involving another member of the BBZ Community. How did you first discover poker?
ZEKURA: In 2011, I started at BI Norwegian Business School and studied economics. I was on the subway with my girlfriend (who I’m still with to this day) on our way to school and one day I got to know Barrebløff–another BBZ community member–who was a childhood friend of my girl.
Five years later (2016), I spoke to Barrebløff and he said he was out playing poker at a club and told me to come. I took the trip, but I actually didn’t play. But I knew Barrebløff was a very smart individual who is good at maths, so I told myself: “this guy knows something”. He wasn’t playing because he was a gambler. Since then, I started playing regularly.
At what point did you begin to take poker seriously?
I started taking poker seriously in September 2018. In 2017, I satellited into the Norwegian Championship that is hosted in Dublin (due to some political issues). When I was there I got inspired looking at Preben Stokkan (called ‘prebz’ online), a Norwegian player who was delivering good results and was an online player. I then invested in a course to bring up my game.
Through commentators, blogs, YouTube videos, etc., it was mentioned several times that you most likely will not keep up with how the game develops if you are not an online player. After exploring a bit, I realized that it was about seeing as many hands as possible, but also working with the spots you end up in. I could develop by using profitable tools like post-flop and pre-flop solvers, and also by being part of a community.
How did you find BBZ Poker and what impact has BBZ had on your game?
I used a lot of Twitch and YouTube during periods when I wanted to chill a bit. It was my way of getting a little extra space in everyday life to become a better poker player. If my head or body was not fit to study, I would rather watch how professionals play and ask myself ‘why is he doing that and this’. I came across apestyles and BBZ’s material, and I perceived the material as very ICM-focused.
At that time, there was very little material to extract on this very topic. This led to investing in a package on BBZ called “Complete Chart Package”. This package had some ICM ranges that have been very valuable. I was amazed how much difference these types of strategies deviate from regular chipEV strategies, and it has helped a lot in the way of reaching final tables – in addition to playing them.
But to the readers: these ranges are not a direct answer to how to play. You have to put in the work to learn new concepts, in addition to having to adjust to the population. The job needs to be done. But the material itself helps you develop much faster. If you don’t have the material, you would not have had a starting point – then you just sit there with your pants down and you do not understand where to start.
How did you progress up the stakes whilst working full-time as a Financial Advisor?
In the evenings after work, I was not always mentally prepared to study because I could be tired. But there is always time to study.
There are probably two or three nights a week where I get off work at 4pm and sit at the PC to study until 7pm.
What would you study?
It started with pre-flop, everything starts there, and then over to post-flop. Then comes the details, ICM, late stages, how to implement exploits pre-flop / post-flop, how things differ on different stack sizes, bounties and so on.
The best thing to do is structure your studying because there are new things to learn all the time. The most important thing in this process is to remember that you are constantly learning something that someone else doesn’t know. Every time you don’t study, someone else is they will come out better.
How was SCOOP going for you before the Main Event?
I played almost every day during SCOOP, depending on the schedule. I selected the tournaments I was going to play very carefully, even though I had 6-12 tables up at times. I took a quick look at the schedule the day before or the same day.
I ran quite well in a number of tournaments, and in almost all $109 SCOOP events I cashed in the top 100 out of around 5,000 runners. So I actually had a good run this series. I also had some nice small cashes on GG during the series, making me up about $4,500 before the Main event was played.
In your BBZ Discord post, you thanked BBZ for the ICM ranges. How and what did you study before the final table?
Yeah, these ranges are very nice to have as a guideline. To make it clear to the above readers, these ranges are divided into different avg stack sizes, and one can specifically see how your strategy changes (preflop) based on several types of scenarios.
I knew how big my stack and others’ were before the final table and I, therefore, tried to find sims that are similar to the exact scenario I was in. In addition, I explored them a little deeper, to see if my opponents will most likely play the same as the strategies shown in these sims. I also used another tool called HRC to sharpen the preparations.
I came in as a short stack, but I think it’s also important to look at the perspectives of mid stacks and big stacks, so I’m prepared for how I should change my strategy if my stack changes. Overall, it is important to specify that this can not be learned in one day, one should look at this over time to get a more solid understanding.
How did it feel knowing you were playing for so much money? Do you think it impacted the way you played?
If it was two years ago, my face would be blue, and my head would look like a watermelon. But I’ve had several deep runs over the last two years. I think the more often you experience getting deeper, the easier it is to deal with. In addition, I trusted that my several hours of training/study a day would give me the confidence I needed. But you also need a little luck!
There were other BBZ community members at the final table. Did you recognize any names?
I heard there were two others. I recognized eike_akio because he has had a sick year, but he had a different nickname on PokerStars (Mr. Havener), so I didn’t know it was him.
What does this score mean to you? How will it impact your poker career moving forward?
It has made me more motivated than ever. It’s a big step to say that I’ll become a full-time professional, I’d have to think about it a bit. Regardless, I feel like I’m surrounded by like-minded friends.
I have a good structure in my everyday life to get the study time I need. The only thing I wish I could do is to play more volume, as I only play on Sundays and maybe Tuesdays. But what I can say is that I will continue to work on my game and play on, that’s for sure!