Imagine moving from your home to be able to play online poker with the masses only to have the country you moved to impose restrictions of their own. Then what? Is it time to pick up and move again or should you weather the storm? What about leaving the game behind altogether?
Sergio ‘trujustrus’ Cabrera has faced that exact problem multiple times. Originally from Spain, Cabrera headed to Portugal after Spain ring-fenced its online poker liquidity, making games extremely difficult to come by. Then, Portugal began to crack down on the industry, forcing yet another move, this time to Cardiff, Wales. In between was a stint in the Czech Republic.
“I’ve been moving all over Europe like all the Spaniards, ever since I started taking poker seriously just months prior to the Spanish regulation and lockdown,” he said. “I was lucky enough to bink a SCOOP event on the last month of the open market in Spain, so my bankroll changed from roughly $6,000 to $90,000. I used to play 180-man turbos and qualified my way into a few mid-stakes SCOOP events.”
The plan was for Cabrera to move to the city of Faro on the southern tip of Portugal.
“The best Spanish MTT regs were there and I’m from Granada, which is a five-hour drive from there,” he said, “It wasn’t as tough and I had enough of a bankroll then, so I moved there. In a couple of months, I was friends with these guys and we lived in nearby houses. We were like a family since then and we still are.”
Issues in Portugal then popped up that limited his ability to play online. He spent half of 2015 in Bristol, England and, at one point, moved back to Portugal with his circle of friends because it appeared that the new regulations there would be friendlier for players. They weren’t, and so Cabrera eventually ended up in Wales.
“I’m a fighter,” the Spanish transplant said. “It feels like ever since I started playing poker the circumstances and the landscape have been getting as worse as they could get. I’ve lived in four different countries in the last four years. That is not what I want, but I’ve learned to accept the things I can’t control and focus on what I can control.”
Getting back to his hometown in Spain hasn’t been easy. In fact, he won’t head home until at least August.
“It helps that our group rotates together,” he said of his on-the-road family, which serves as a substitute of sorts for the real thing. “A lot of the people who were in Faro are now in Cardiff with me.”
Move after move, setback after setback, unfriendly law after unfriendly law, what keeps him coming back to poker after all these years? Why not give up and try a profession with fewer upheavals and a lot less drama?
“I like it,” he said. “There’s no chance for me out there to get another job with expected income that’s even close to poker, so it seems like a no-brainer. Poker is a love-hate relationship at its finest. You have to chill and keep up the good work when all the bad things are happening and enjoy the good times when they come.”
He has piled up $2.1 million in career online tournament winnings over the years. In the first week of this year, he won the PokerStars Sunday 500 for $56,000. He won a SCOOP $265 No Limit Hold’em Knockout in 2012 for $104,000, his largest cash to date, and won the Super Tuesday in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015 for over $200,000 combined. Clearly, having to move around has not inhibited his ability to rack up big score after big score.
Cabrera, currently the top-ranked player in Cardiff and #89 in the world, found poker during a year abroad and never stopped playing. He had always enjoyed card games and video games, so poker was right up his alley. He dropped out of university one year later and began grinding full-time.
“My brothers are way older than me, so ever since I can remember, we had a PC,” he said. “I played a lot of Diablo II and World of Warcraft, but the games I spent the most time on were SOCOM and SOCOM II. SOCOM was the first online video game available on PlayStation 2. We won the Spanish league and made some decent runs in European tournaments playing it.”
On the third weekend of May, Cabrera took fourth in the PokerStars Sunday Supersonic for $19,000. While the money might seem good, and especially considering he’s on his fourth country in four years, Cabrera was less-than-pumped about it.
“It was the most tilting final table of my career,” he said. “I was in first place with four people left with 60% of the chips in play. I was up against two regs I knew and an unknown. Graftekkel, who ended up winning it, happens to be one of my nemeses. The guy is good, but he runs god-like against me. I had him all-in and covered with 9-9 versus A-5 and A-A versus Q-8 and lost both. The next hand, I was left with eight big blinds and got dealt A-K and lost versus another guy’s K-J.”
“That’s standard in a hyper,” he said, “It was a chance to get to even after the disaster of the whole SCOOP series and in three minutes that horror show happened. It left me in microwave mode.”