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In poker, there’s no easy path to success. While few may stumble into fortune, for most the winning hand is made with hard work and the right guidance. "'If others can do it, I can do it too.' That’s exactly what I thought," said poker pro Andreas Ponath. "But it turned out to be way harder than I expected." Six years after rediscovering the game of poker, Hamburg, Germany’s Andreas 'derbegott' Ponath is seeing the results of putting in the work. Currently a full-time online grinder, Ponath has been enjoying some of the biggest cashes of his young pro career, including deep runs at some of his highest buy-ins during the 2020 PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker. "SCOOP was really exciting for me since I played my highest [average buy-in] so far and wanted to see how competitive I am while battling the best in the world," Ponath said. "Despite not getting a top-five finish and a lot of very brutal bustouts, I am still happy with my performance." Ponath has every reason to be proud. He racked up 20 total cashes during SCOOP including a seventh-place finish in Event #79 Low ($109 Mini Super Tuesday) for $10,187 and another final table appearance in Event #120 Medium (Sunday Warm-Up SE) for $5,976. But making final tables in one of the most challenging online poker series of the year didn’t come from just picking the game back up from where he left off - it took time and dedication. Like many fans of the game, Ponath first discovered poker during the Moneymaker-inspired boom era. Watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN may have led to home games with friends but no initial dreams of taking the game seriously. Years later, during his first-semester break while at university for an engineering degree, Ponath happened upon a Twitch stream. Someone was grinding poker and, basically, it looked like fun. "I watched him for a bit and decided to download a poker client and play for a bit of fun," he recalls. "After playing for around two years recreationally I thought about how nice it would be to actually make some money on the side playing poker instead of doing some other job." But there was a hard truth to overcome. Today’s game is drastically different from the game he discovered on TV in his youth. He was "losing or breakeven at best" in the low stakes games and knew in order to make that change, he had to change. "I realized that I re-discovered poker when it was on a pretty advanced level already and if I wanna win, I actually have to take it way more seriously and put in a ton of work since everyone was playing for so many years already and is way ahead of me." Luckily for Ponath, studying was (and is) not an issue for him. He started watching videos, lots and lots of videos. He was consuming content from training sites across the board. At the same time that he was learning poker, he zeroed in on his engineering degree and finished up his studies. "After I finished my studies, I decided to give poker a shot, do it full time and try to make a living off of it," he said. "I was thinking about ways to improve my game as quickly as possible. I felt that training courses could not help me anymore really, so looking for a private coach who could screen my game for leaks and bring my game to the next level seemed like the logical next step to me." That’s when Ponath crossed paths with BBZ Poker. Helmed by lead coach Jordan Drummond, BBZ is known for excelling in bringing out the best in their students and stables through private coaching and daily seminars. "The daily BBZ seminars have massive value," Ponath said. "Top coaches like BBZ himself [Drummond] and 'apestyles' [Jonathan Van Fleet] teach every aspect of the game such as preflop, postflop, and ICM adjusted play. I especially like that everything we do has a very scientific approach and is mostly supported by solvers and databases." For Ponath, studying with BBZ has become quite enjoyable. He spends about 30% of his poker time studying and 70% putting in volume on the tables. Even during larger series when he needs to cut back on studying hours, Ponath makes it a point to attending the daily seminars. "Fortunately, I do enjoy studying poker a lot," he said. "The most challenging part about studying for me is figuring out what to actually focus on. You can very easily waste a lot of time studying something that will not actually have any meaningful impact on your game at all." That’s just one of the ways in which BBZ and their Coaching For Profit program have been a benefit to Ponath. For Ponath it was the "perfect fit" as it allowed him to get top-tier coaching without an initial investment. Not only is he seeing results in his game but he’s seeing his studying time become even more efficient. "The first one-on-one session with Jordan was mind-blowing to me," Ponath recalled. "I’d done some work in PT4 and PIO solver before, but watching Jordan work with all these tools is just insane. Analyzing my database it took him like five minutes to identify at least 10 aspects of my game which I have to improve on." "To anyone pretty much who wants to improve their game, book a session with Jordan or one of the BBZ coaches. It is clearly the fastest and most effective way to identify leaks in your game that you maybe never would find on your own." Ponath is now reaping the benefits of his time with BBZ. His average buy-in has gone from $25 last year to battling in the $109s, $215s, and selected $530s. He’s putting in a full-time MTT grind but is still able to step back when he needs to so he doesn’t burn out. "[BBZ] has a way bigger impact on my game than any course or masterclass could possibly have," he said. "What I learned so far boosted my confidence immensely and now there’s barely a spot where I feel completely lost. At the same time, every day I realize how much I still do not know and how much I still have to learn." Ponath has been with BBZ for eight months and his recent success has propelled him into the top-5 rankings in all of Germany. He’s a favorite to surpass $500,000 in total recorded lifetime earnings this year. As for what’s next for him, clearly there’s going to be a lot of studying, playing, and enjoying the ups and downs of poker. "I don’t really have any specific goals like winning a certain event or something…although hitting a six-figure score would be very sweet. I just wanna be able to do what I love for a living. Also, I would love to become a coach myself one day and help other people to become successful players."
“You know what my first step was? Looking for Cadillacs to buy. Literally, I was on the internet that night looking at Cadillac’s to buy.” That might sound like a good problem to have but for poker pro Zach Schneider, at that time, he didn’t even realize that it was the beginning of a cycle that many poker players face - hitting a huge score and then finding themselves broke. A product of the Moneymaker era, Schneider, now 35 years old, is quick to recall his start in the game of poker. “The whole Moneymaker thing was the end of high school, beginning of college for me. I got caught up in that, like everyone else.” [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"] Moneymaker’s run and the rush of online poker quickly arrived in Schneider’s life but he can pinpoint the moment he knew he was going to take the game seriously for life. “I remember being super into online poker. I had a small bankroll, but I needed to get a job and I had an interview for one - like a pretty good interview lined up and I needed to get a suit,” Schneider said. “I went to stay at my buddy’s house who lived closer to the interview and I played in a tournament that night. I remember it was the Wednesday Quarter Million or something and I got fourth place for $24K, which felt like a million dollars back then. “I ended up not going to the interview and that was pretty much it. Once I won an amount of money that was, at that point life-changing, that was it for me.” The next he knew, Schneider was reveling in that first big score and shopping for a Cadillac. That wasn’t the only potentially reckless idea Schneider had for the money. He was booking flights to Las Vegas to fire live tournaments on the assumption that $24K scores were commonplace. “It was kind of a bad thing in a way. It reinforced the unhealthy part of poker that a lot of people fall into when they find money early. I don’t know,” he said recalling how he moved up and down the stakes many times. “I went broke many times. I was just kind of…the bad player who thinks he’s good.” “One day you have $20,000 and the next two weeks…you have nothing.” The cycle completed itself a number of times before Schneider hit rock bottom. He decided he not only needed to take the game more seriously, but he also needed to get back on his feet by being staked. So he started to study and he started to build a poker network. First other players and eventually he connected with backers. “I look at myself now, ten years later, and I have a pretty vast network and a lot of resources available to me and it really started with finding a stake and building a network.” Five years ago, he connected with Jordan Drummond, the CEO and lead coach of BBZ Staking and Coaching. While Schneider had never before really had a coach, once he found Drummond and started studying with him, he’s never looked back. “From 2014 to 2016 no one attended more of Jordan’s coaching sessions than me,” Schneider said. “I’ve been his student ever since. When you’re getting coached by Jodan, it’s very clear from the beginning that he’s extremely confident and knowledgable in what he’s talking about. It’s a confidence that you know it when you see it and as soon as it hits you it’s very humbling and you have no choice but to kind of submit. Like, it’s very clear this guy knows way more than I do. I just need to shut up and listen.” Schneider did just that. He's been with them for years and he’s now a product of BBZ Staking and Coaching. Schneider finds himself in the same company as notable tournament players like Jae ‘Yugiohpro’ Kim, Parker ‘Tonkaaaa’ Talbot and recent PokerStars Sunday Million winner Conor ‘1_conor_b_1’ Beresford. “I don’t know if I’m capable of stressing enough of how much of a mentor, a friend, and an ally that Jordan has been over the years…even away from poker.” “I called myself a professional poker player and that how I made my very modest and leader living for many years. But it wasn’t until I met Jordan and elevated my game - and the way that I think about the game - that I started to put real money in the bank and feel like the direction of poker was a legitimate one. “He showed me that it was possible and the only thing you need to do is work hard.” Just last year, the dedication that Schneider put into the game paid off in a big way. In October 2018 Schneider booked a career-defining win in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker Circuit event at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana. Schneider took home over $302,000 and his second WSOP Circuit ring in what he calls one of his proudest moments in poker. “The fact that I could share that with friends and family who didn’t quite understand what I’ve been doing for ten years made it more real for everyone else. That was rewarding.” Schnieder continues his work with BBZ Staking and Coaching and recently spent his first summer in Las Vegas, grinding tournaments full-time.
British poker player Jon Clark got his start in poker like many his age did. He was in the latter half of his teenage years in college when he was introduced to the game by friends. Clark took an extreme liking to poker and the rest is history, as they say. “For me, my poker journey started when I was at college,” Clark told PocketFives. “I got introduced to the game by a group of friends, of which no one really had a clue what was going on. We did however start building a love for the game and would find ourselves playing on multiple occasions weekly.” [ptable zone="PokerStars NJ"] [ptable zone="GG Poker"] [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"] Today, Clark can be found regularly in the streets of the virtual poker world, playing as 'luckyfish89' and battling with some of the game’s best. He had a huge 2018 that included a PokerStars SCOOP title to the tune of $169,850 ($104,935 plus $64,915 in bounties) and then closed out the year with another six-figure score in December. The latter was a 19th-place finish in the partypoker MILLIONS Online event that rewrote the online poker record books. Clark scored $109,175 for that finish. Clark described he early days playing poker as a “healthy addiction,” saying that he and his friends got into the game before they were old enough to go out to local pubs, so it was poker that provided them an outlet for fun. Clark added that he didn’t really know what he wanted to do in life and that he bounced between a few jobs. He found that poker would be what he really wanted to do. “Eventually, we discovered there was a poker club in our town and things progressed and the love for the game continued to grow,” Clarke continued about his early time in poker. “I got to a level where I was making a small amount of money playing low buy-in tournaments. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life at that stage, but I believed that I had it in me to progress to a high level and pursue a dream.” He was all in on poker, but then the club he was playing at got shut down. “That’s kind of where I started panicking a little bit,” Clark said. A friend showed him the online poker ropes, a friend who was doing fairly well online and Clark felt that if his friend could do it, he could as well. “A stage came where our club was shutdown, which caused a bit of despair, leaving me with no idea on what I was going to do,” Clark said. “One of my friends from college, ‘Jareth3542,’ had been having some success in the online world, something I hadn’t really tried out yet. I started asking him a lot of questions and it got to a stage where he started staking me at micro stakes.” Clark’s start in online poker was a little slow to start. He said he wasn’t making much money at the beginning, but it was enough to get by and enough to keep him in the game. At the time, he was still living with his parents. His friend was involved with BBZ Staking and Coaching, getting staked by their team. After a handful of months staking Clark online, the friend helped Clark get into the stable. “I started at the very bottom, playing $0-22 buy-ins,” Clark said, “I was by far the weakest player in the group and had a lot of work to do to have a chance of survival in this industry. We were receiving group coaching Monday through Friday and this is where I started getting a much better grip of the game. After adding one-on-ones to my schedule with the likes of ‘bigbluffzinc,’ ‘Niet2maar3,’ and ‘BanicIvan,’ my game really started to progress and my buy-in limits were increased. Within a year I was playing weekly 1K buy-ins, EPTs, etc. “All of those guys had an impact on my progression,” Clark said. “Notably, though, it is Jordan Drummond (bigbluffzinc) who has helped me the most over the years. His coaching techniques and ability to articulate his thoughts in such a way have been huge for me. I don’t think you will find many people out there with a better ability to coach this game.” Clark has more than $2.4 million in online tournament earnings, highlighted by the two previously mentioned six-figure scores, and then in the live realm he has $185,369 in earnings. The PokerStars SCOOP event Clark won came in 2018. It was in the SCOOP-18-H $1,050 NLHE Progressive KO, Thursday Thrill SE tournament that attracted a field of 1,344 entries. Clark battled his way to the final table where he wound up facing ‘owilson25’ in heads-up play. Clark started heads-up play with about one-fourth of the chips that his opponent had, but he fought back to get the victory. This win was a big success for Clark and put his name in some headlines around the industry, but it was another victory that Clark views as his breakthrough. “Notably, my real breakthrough moment in poker was when I shipped the PokerStars Thursday Thrill in 2016, for just shy of $100K,” Clark said. “For me, this is one of my most memorable accolades in my poker career and really gave my future and confidence a huge boost. Winning the Thursday Thrill SCOOP in 2018 for just shy of $170K is my fondest poker memory and finally getting my first six-figure score after being so close on several occasions. The feeling of winning an event of such prestige was unbelievable.” Clark has now been with BBZ for more than four years and he’s worked his way up through the ranks to become a coach himself. “Over four years after joining the stable, I now find myself in a position where I am hosting two of the weekly group sessions, with as many as 30-40 people on the call on some occasions,” Clark said. “For anyone who wants to take their game to the next level, I would strongly advise getting involved. I also offer one-to-one coaching to the guys in the stable, as well as externally.” While the coaching he does is certainly to help others advance their games and hopefully enjoy the same career success that Clark has had, Clark also believes that becoming a coach has helped to improve his game. It’s turned him on to new ways of thinking, new tools, and more. “Running these coaching sessions was the point which really encouraged me to get my act together with the utilization of poker tools, such as PioSOLVER and MonkerSolver,” Clark said. “I was a bit of a late bloomer with these. I have been studying a huge amount in these areas this year and it is having a big impact on mine and my student’s ability.” One of the things that is very much evident when you speak to Clark is his truthfulness. If you’re looking for a poker coach, you’re going to want someone who has the ability to tell you the honest truths. In the end, that’s only going to help a student progress. Clark’s honesty came from him realizing himself that he needed to improve, to get with the times of poker, so to speak, and that’s now a lesson he looks to teach to those he coaches. “To be honest, I think I only got by without using these tools in the past as I was doing so many one-on-ones with Jordan,” Clark said. “For many people who don’t use these tools on a regular basis or at least have a top-tier coach or work with guys who do run simulations, the strong likelihood is that they will fall behind and wither out. This game is forever evolving and if you don’t stay ahead of the curve, your days will likely be numbered.” After much success in 2018, Clark is looking forward to enjoying more of it in 2019, of at least giving it his all to have another great year. He’s specifically excited for the PokerStars WCOOP series that is on the horizon. “I am looking forward to tackling the upcoming WCOOP and am aiming to go that little bit further than last year, where I picked up a third-place finish in the 2K PKO for $67K,” Clark said. “I tend to rise to the bigger occasions online and I have no doubt that I will be in the mix for some big prizes. Poker has helped me evolve as a person and I am very grateful for finding such an opportunity in life in which I thrive to improve daily.”