In the olden days, the concept of pole vaulting came from people needing to traverse obstacles like creeks, marshes, and mud quickly and efficiently. Nowadays, it’s a highly competitive Olympic sport whose champs include Germany’s Raphael Holzdeppe and America’s Jenn Suhr.
For poker pro Melanie ‘Callisto 5’ Weisner, an Olympic gold medal isn’t in the cards anytime soon… probably. However, an irregular poker schedule has allowed her to tackle pole vaulting head-on.
She picked the sport up recreationally after going to the 2012 Olympics in London with Rupert Elder. “There have been places all over the world where I’ve been able to train,” she said, “and while I’m still somewhat of a beginner, I’ve started to compete in open meets. My goal is to be able to jump three meters by the end of the year.”
Weisner caught the women’s pole vaulting final in London four years ago and was inspired. “I did some research about Yelena Isinbayeva, who in my opinion is the greatest of all time. I had been pretty athletic as part of my daily life, working out and running and playing tennis, so I wanted something new to pursue athletically.”
Weisner won the PokerStars Sunday 500 two weeks ago for $58,000, defeating a field of 622 players. It was just her seventh online cash since the end of 2013. She has very little time for poker, or much of anything for that matter, as her pole vaulting regimen is pretty intensive.
“It’s an insanely athletic sport,” she said. “I’m in the gym pretty much every day I’m not training for at least an hour-and-a-half. My training sessions are four to five hours. So, I’m training or conditioning over 20 hours a week.”
Poker and pole vaulting have numerous differences, not the least of which is being able to measure your success and progress. “Poker is very unrewarding in the sense that you don’t always know how well you’re doing,” Weisner said. “There are a myriad factors that contribute to your results, many which are not under your control and, even when they are, you might not have complete information.”
Therefore, how “well” or “poorly” a player is doing in poker can be difficult to qualify. “You need the long-run to assess results in poker,” she said. “While you want to be able to execute your A-game constantly and be as impervious as possible to results, I have definitely struggled with stretches of poor results wondering if I’m playing as well as I think I am.”
Contrast that with a sport like pole vaulting, where a participant knows exactly how well she is doing at any given time. “You either make the bar or you don’t,” Weisner pointed out. “Your step is either on the mark or it’s one inch out or in. Your sprint time is cumulatively faster. You can feel and see yourself getting incrementally stronger week by week. It’s extremely gratifying to improve in something that is so distinctly measurable.”
“A lot of people, myself included, get conditioned not to care about results and devalue individual wins and losses,” she said. “We forget how gratifying it is to be rewarded with a better result. I think this became my perfect balance to poker in a way that I didn’t realize until I saw what I was getting out of it that I wasn’t out of poker. When a lot of people talk about ‘balance’ in their lives with regards to poker, they are more likely to think in general terms about work/life balance or work/pleasure balance.”
The world record for pole vaulting is over 16 feet. Women competing in the Olympics can routinely jump over four meters (13 feet). Therefore, Weisner still has a long way to go to. “If I can jump three meters by the end of the year, the goal would probably be to get to 3.5 the next year and so on. So, I’ll have to see how it goes and pairs with my life and what I’d like to be doing with poker the next few years. It’s an amazing thing to pursue even just recreationally, and no matter where I travel I can do it since coaches across the world are extremely welcoming to anyone wanting to train with them.”
Marching around the live poker circuit, Weisner has been able to train with high schoolers, collegiate athletes, Olympians, and vaulters competing in masters divisions. In Australia, she trained with a world record-holder as well as a 75-year-old man picking up pole vaulting for the first time to complete his decathlon pursuit. Weisner has been able to hone her pole vaulting skills no matter where the poker circuit has taken her.
Speaking of the circuit, in 2016, Weisner has already been to WPT South Africa, where she had two third-place finishes, and an HPT event in Colorado already that she coupled with a snowboarding adventure. She may soon end up back in Canada for the PokerStars SCOOP and has eight students learning poker from her to juggle as well. In between now and the WSOP, she’ll hit up live cash games in Los Angeles and possibly in Florida.