killuifuplay in his prime time was the top HU HT player, the one to be truly feared.
I wouldn't be able to accurately describe what other players felt when they were about to face our founder at the table. It was just imaginable, that's why I will just quote one sentence from this interview:
"When I said "jump", they jumped."
This may sound strange to us, Spin & Go players. Even at the highest stakes, our playerpool is huge, but the reality of HU HTs is quite different. Only the small elite group was able to play the $1,000's games. The best in the world, killuifuplay was one of eight players who proved they can be called that.
Even in that small group, he was the top reg. He said "jump".
And they jumped.
Legendary heads-up regular, the most feared player in the history of high stakes games. Now a Head Coach in our Smart Spin Team.
dolareq: Every poker story starts before poker, something that many people may find mind-boggling. Before you reached the top at the HU HTs, you had had a life of a chess player/student. However, you dropped this life and started your affair with poker. What were the reasons behind that decision? Were you not good enough for chess?
killuifuplay: That's a very good and, at the same time, a very intriguing question :) I learnt the rules of chess a little bit too late to mean something serious in the world of chess. I made a very fast progress in the very beginning and I was almost as good as top peers. “Almost” is a great word to describe it. I achieved many bronze and silver medals in national competitions, but I wasn’t the best. There were 2-3 kids better than me. They had started earlier, probably they had a bigger talent, but I never had a proper financial support, I never had any coach who could help me to improve my chess abilities and unfortunately, as is commonly the case, without money and proper help it’s hard to make a progress at some point.
In high school I had to think deeper about my future. I had good grades, that’s a fact. I was about to become a journalist or a lawyer. Those were the dreams of my mother and grandmother, but not mine really.
dolareq: Is that why you decided to devote your time to poker?
killuifuplay: At the very beginning, poker was a passion. An intellectual challenge, something I simply loved to do. I had never imagined I can earn money while playing poker. I think that’s very important. Playing poker to earn some money is not the best motivation one can have. It is all about the passion, as with everything in life. Of course you might be successful even without loving it, but it’s harder.
In the very beginning it wasn’t easy. My grades in school had gradually worsened. I had a very good reputation, which was built in the first term of the first class, and it helped me to finish my education, but after that I started to play poker more seriously. Here, I would like to add a few words to the younger generation whom might find my story motivating. Dropping out of school is not a good idea at all. In life, it is crucial to have some backup plans. The Matura exam is in my opinion a minimum one should have. That was my unwritten deal with my mom. After some time she didn’t have the nerves to yell at me all the time. She said something like: “Do what you need to do, but you need to pass the Matura exam”. Seemed like a good deal back then :)
dolareq: Let’s focus on HU SnG’s, which have made you a poker legend. There are so many different formats - why did you choose this one?
killuifuplay: It was the purest form of rivalry for me. You have one opponent, equal stack sizes and you need to prove that you are a better player. I think the psychological factor was always very important for me. HU is a very emotional form of poker. I was famous for my bad temper, but at the same time I have always controlled my emotions very well while playing. The tilt has never influenced my game. Tilt in my situation “helped” (maybe forced would be a slightly better word) me to play higher and higher stakes and bust my roll, way too often, at the very beginning of my adventure with poker. I didn’t play much worse, but I played against the people and at the stakes I definitely shouldn't have.
dolareq: So, and I am really afraid to ask that, why are you called a psychopath?
killuifuplay: Hehehe. What a question :) Love you anyway. While climbing the stakes I created some sort of alter ego. Some kind of second personality I fully controlled. Well, most of the time :)
Poker might be very dangerous for people, especially when you are successful. You might think, and unfortunately many people think like that, “I am a terrific poker player, a brilliant individual, one of a kind guy.”. Very soon you might think like that about yourself in other areas of your life because “you are a great poker player, you know everything and you are the smartest”. That’s so wrong and so dangerous. I had to create some sort of second personality to avoid this trap.
My alter ego wasn’t nice, wasn’t friendly and everybody was afraid of it at poker tables. I can give you an anecdote how well it worked. Back then, there was this poker software which helped regulars to register into hyper-turbo tournament. It was a faster method, also more convenient. You could relax, wait in the line and after some time, the software would automatically open a new table for you. I was one of the two people in the world who had never used this software. It was terrifying for some people. At the start of my session, I just wrote “turn off this shit” and 20 people jumped as I said “jump”. Top players in the world. Amongst them icons like Daniel Colman. Please bear in mind that this was my alter ego, a poker personality which I control very well now, but back then…
I was able to track down someone at $60 stakes (former $300-$500 regs) for a month as a punishment (when he tried to regrind a little bit after previous battles at higher stakes) because he wasn’t listening to me. He didn’t turn off the software when I asked him. After that, everyone have learned their lesson. Some of them couldn’t earn a penny because all games they had were versus me.
dolareq: Wait, are you telling me that you’ve never used Sharkystrator? But you talked about and did so many things to improve your winrate. Wasn’t it one of them?
killuifuplay: No. I have never used this software and I am proud of it. It actually shows what I meant in this world when I was at my best. Everybody accepted it, because they knew I am, how you called it, “a psychopath” and I can play against you as a punishment all the time. It was a well-thought behaviour. It looks kind of “psychopath-ish” indeed, but the hourly was most important for me, so they had to believe I am a “psychopath”, where in fact I was some sort of an “investor in the better future”. It is all about the image in this world and I took care of mine very, very well.
There is a movie “Stardust” where Robert De Niro played a small role. In this movie he was this scary ship captain. The entire crew was afraid of him. He was seen as a “brutal” captain, but after a day of work has come to an end, he’s been changing his personality and he wasn’t this person anymore. He even didn’t like this person. That’s one of the reasons why I stopped playing hypers. I really didn’t like this person myself.
dolareq: I’d like to bring one more subject. We all know that today’s people do not tend to play a huge amount of hours, the volume they make at Spin & Go’s somehow shows this. How much did you sacrifice to get to the top? How much time did you spend on poker?
killuifuplay: I sacrificed my entire life. If you really want to achieve something, you need to make some sacrifices in your life. Many people would like to eat a cookie and have a cookie, but I am afraid it is impossible. To give you a larger picture, back then we had 8 or 9 people at $1,000 stakes. To gain your spot in the lobby of those stakes, you had to play thousands of games against other players. You were forced to prove your best, let them accept you as a member of this exclusive group. So, before I became a $1,000 reg, I played thousands of very energy-consuming games against the top players in the world.
dolareq: I’d like to dig a little deeper here, there is a reason for that. I’d like to know how your life looked like at the time you attacked the highest HU HT stakes.
killuifuplay: Poker was the most important thing in my life for more than 3 years. Nothing was more important. I sacrificed many acquaintances. My health. The comfort of today for the better future. My security. I took a big risk back then, that’s for sure. I questioned law and order which were developed by high stakes players. I disagreed with them. I sacrificed the uncertainty and “happy-go-lucky” style of life. I knew that if I want to achieve something really important, that was the best time in my life to do it.
I was a well-programmed machine which wanted to become the best player in the world. No excuses. Only hard work, almost every day. At the end of the day it is all about your habits. They help you, especially in the moments of doubt during “bad days”. I created a lot of helpful habits back then and I believe they will stay with me for the rest of my life. To give a funny anecdote how I managed to trick my mind back then or to gain some extra motivation, I will tell one little story.
I was very good at giving myself some small rewards after finishing the planned task. Nothing big, nothing special. For example 1 episode of my favourite TV show after a hard day at work, visiting the cinema with my friends after 5 days of hard grind etc. Nothing was for free. I had to earn it first. In 2014, at some point around July, I started having serious problems with motivation. I had already proven to myself that I was the best, I didn’t feel I need to prove it to anyone else, but at the same time I knew I was facing the biggest test, the ultimate one. I started to use some great tricks I had developed in the past. Every session cost me a lot of willpower. More often than not, I had to force myself to sit in front of the computer. Probably I made the funniest deal with myself you will ever hear of.
Back then, you could buy some cards of famous footballers (a series designed for World Cup 2014 in Brazil). You had 5 or 6 cards in each package and it cost less than a dollar. When I was younger I loved to collect those kinds of cards. I really love all kinds of sport. I started collecting those cards, but I could open one package only after an hour of grind. The deal was simple 1 package = 1 hour of grind. I sold myself for less than a dollar per hour. I bought like 150 or 200 packages and grinded relentlessly. After every hour on the clock I opened a new package of cards. This is how twisted my mind is :) I have done something like that my whole life.
Gratifications are very, very important, but you need to learn how to limit them, how to have a good balance with them. Pleasures of life are not free, you need to earn them. This approach helped me very much to motivate myself back then and to be honest it became the philosophy of my life later on. Those 3 years basically shaped who I am now. I taught myself what real dedication means.
dolareq: Let’s go back to your story about attacking $1,000 group...
killuifuplay: My most memorable reg-war was against the player called “Serkules” He still plays hyper-turbo games and he is considered a legend, one of the best players in the history of those games. Because of my bad temper I made it more difficult for myself. I wasn’t nice to him and he decided to give me a lesson, a well-deserved lesson I should add. He decided to play over 3,000 games against me, back then it was the longest reg-war in history. At some point in this match, I was $100,000 below expectation. 100BI versus one player, you can imagine the psychological effect it had on me every time I was to play against him...
Back then he was considered the best hyper-turbo player in the world. After more than 3,000 games I had around 2% positive EV ROI against him. It was a life-changer for me. I proved to myself that I can compete against the best in the business and moreover, that I can beat them. At that time, he was clearly more talented player than me. He was and is still gifted, but back then it seemed as if he knew everything.
I learnt so much from him. From those 3,000+ games we played I reviewed hand by hand more than 1000 of them. At some point, I knew how he was thinking better than he did himself. I knew his daily routine, his patterns of sleeping and many similar things. I collected all the necessary info to beat him. It finally helped me to understand that hard work will always win against talent. For sure I had some talent, but believe me, Serkules was from a different planet. He did some things back then that I wouldn’t have thought of. Finally, he gave me a “share” which is an acceptance of sharing the highest possible lobby, but here all the fun started.
One thing is to achieve your spot amongst the bests and another one to protect your place there when every day you meet highly motivated players who are able to stab you in the back without any hesitation and take your place without any remorse. You need to be even more motivated and work even harder than before. Many good players had forgotten about the improvement process. They had believed in their talent too much.
dolareq: Have you seen players who just got crushed with time because they were not able to keep up?
killuifuplay: Of course. I have seen many of them. Even at my $1,000 group at some point the differences between us were very visible. As I wrote, we had 8-9 people there, but you could divide it into the better half of the group and the worse half of the group. The worse half had to play reg-wars all the time. They were constantly attacked by $500 players who wanted to have their place in the lobby and sometimes to just produce some $EV, because it is always better and easier to attack than to defend. The motivation is simply higher.
I was always in the “better half of my group” and they didn’t dare to touch me. Some of my “lobby friends” stopped playing regularly, they tried to be tricky and switched their sleeping patterns, but as I said, that was a jungle. When you showed some sort of weakness, you were gone. No place for you in our exclusive group if you couldn't stand an attack from $500 player whom you should crush. Many players from my group gradually lowered their sample or even stopped playing at some point because they couldn’t stand constant attacks from other players. Here, the reputation comes in handy, because of the reputation of the “psychopath” I had carefully built, I was always very privileged and had some sort of shield which separated me from other regs, the weaker ones. Obviously, at the end of the day it wasn’t only about the reputation. Without any fake humility I can say I was really good :)
dolareq: Were you a stabber yourself?
killuifuplay: I wouldn’t say I was a “stabber” myself. After long-lasting conflict with Serkules I learnt to be nicer. I was a professional. My professionalism was something new in this world. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read something like “I have a hangover after yesterday party, sorry I cannot play now against you”. It was very common, especially while I was climbing the stakes. My approach was something new and surprising for them. They tried to avoid the battles. They were scared about the unknown. I was just astonished. “You play those stakes and you have a hangover, how can you even play poker and have a hangover, such an amateur”. One by one, I eliminated people who didn’t met my standards of quality and professionalism. I battled them and forced them to play lower stakes. They really hated me. One can call it a “stabber”, but I call it being a professional.
dolareq: When did you team up with bakudranski? Was it when you were at the top or much sooner?
killuifuplay: It was way sooner than that. Baku was crucial for me as I was for him. We helped and supported each other in difficult times and enjoyed together our successes.
First time I met Baku in person in the middle of 2011. It was late April I believe. Before our meeting we had already had a lot of strategic conversations and I clearly noticed his potential. I wanted to start working with him on a daily basis.
I knew Baku can motivate me very much, I saw how badly he wants it, how badly he wants to achieve something in the poker world. I became some sort of his coach-mentor. I put maximum pressure on myself with this decision. We made some serious plans how to solve his non-poker problems and dealt with them step by step. He is one of the most intelligent persons I have ever met and I noticed it since the very beginning, but simply he lost the right direction in his in life. He just needed some guidance. He needed someone who would believe in him and give him the necessary confidence back then. That was mainly my role. I helped him a lot with poker, but to be honest I just helped him to realise his full potential.
dolareq: And how did bakudranski help you?
killuifuplay: Baku is a visionary. He is like “let’s try that, no let’s try that, ok now that” he has more ideas in one minute than some people in an hour and that’s why we get on like the house on fire, because I am calmer. I questioned every idea he had and the opposite. I was like “no Baku, you are wrong, no Baku, it cannot work out, no Baku, I disagree”. Of course the ratio of me being right was pretty huge, but the moments when he was right were the most enjoyable and the most rewarding, because then we learnt most. Gradually we had more and more “moments” when Baku was right. He put constant pressure on me. I couldn’t stop developing my skill, because he was right behind the corner asking millions of questions, disagreeing with half of my answers. Thanks to his passion and vision I gained a lot of new perspective. He needed and still needs to check it on his own skin. He needs THE PROOF.
After some time we formed some sort of a partnership. If it hadn’t been for Baku I am sure I would have never achieved what I achieved and I am sure he can say the same about me. Baku was a factor X for me. The decisive puzzle I needed in my jigsaw. Something clicked in my head after I had met him. I had this “flash moment”, it is even hard to explain, I felt inside my head that I finally understood it. I shared this vision with him instantly and we have never looked back. It wasn’t always easy, especially at the very beginning, because Baku is the “alpha male”, so am I. I had to teach him a lot, but at the same time I learnt at least as much from him as he learnt from me. I am very proud of him, because what can be better from the coach perspective than the student who exceeded his coach in so many areas now.
dolareq: Poker partners becoming friends?
killuifuplay: Yes, now he is one of the greatest friends I have and I have no doubts that it will be a lifetime friendship.
dolareq: As I remember, you also took him on board for Smart Spin project, right?
killuifuplay: iJustGamble called and asked me about potential investment in Spin & Go’s and almost instantly I agreed. I had only one condition during this memorable phone conversation. I said I am in only with Baku on the board. Just and FCD back then didn’t know Baku as much as I did. The loyalty is one of the most important things in life for me. I could go in instantly, but without a true friend you don’t have me on the board. That’s the way I am. When you are in my closest circle I would die for you. I will defend you with my own chest. You are more important than I am, but when you are not you need to turn off the Sharkystrator :)
The same thing happened with xHKLx. He have to be mentioned in this interview as well. He is one of the most talented person I know. PokerTracker magician and actually a magician in many other areas as well :) Back in the nosebleed times, he helped me and Baku with being ahead of the rest of population. He designed some HUD stats other regs had never heard of. For example, I had some tough battles where every detail mattered and I had an idea how to crush my opponent, but HUD didn’t provide the numbers I needed. One day later I had it. Baku and Luke (xHKLx) teamed up, Baku actually discovered his potential and helped him to develop it and back then together they did crazy things in PT4. It was also extremely important for me, because as I wrote, at the level where I was any extra info could decide about the outcome of the match. Today in Smart Spin they do exactly the same. They help us to be always at least one step ahead of the competition, but to be honest with them it’s more like 5 Gulliver’s steps ;) They are probably one of the most productive duo I know and I am privileged to work with them.
dolareq: I cannot imagine being one of the top (or the top) HU HT regs. But you did accomplish that and, to my surprise, you decided to quit. Why? How did you come to that decision?
killuifuplay: My most important goal was to become the best. I wanted to be the best in the world. I established my position after getting to $1,000 group. Other regs knew who “killuifuplay” was. A good player, respected one, but that was never enough for me. My motivation was much higher than only this. In 2012 and 2013 I was at the top. Clearly top 5 in the world, maybe higher, no one can argue with that, but that still that wasn’t enough. There were some nicknames which I knew were better than me, I was aware of that. Two players. They played more and they sacrificed even more than I did. At that point of my career it was all about putting the good volume. At the end of 2013 year, ‘SkaiWalkurrr’ gave an interview where he was asked “Who can threaten you as a number one in the world apart from Daniel Colman in hyper-turbo world?” “No one”, he answered, but after that he added: “Killuifuplay, if I had to pick one nickname”. SkaiWalkurrrr is the biggest winner in the hyper-turbo history. He is the legend, he is like a godfather of those games. I read it and it gave me some extra puzzles of motivation I needed at that time.
I started out 2014 furiously. I wanted it so bad, to have better results than they had. At some point, it’s not about the money, it is about being the best. Every day after waking up I had only two nicknames in my head: “Skaiwalkurrr” and “mrGR33N13” (Daniel Colman). “They are better than you Killu”, I kept saying to myself all the time. “They grind more than you Killu”. In 2014 I practically chained myself to the computer. I grinded relentlessly, my motivation was higher than ever. After Dan Colman won his One Drop in the middle of 2014, his motivation obviously lowered. SkaiWalkurrr grinded as much as in the past, but the quality of his game simply worsened. He didn’t have the same motivation as in the past. The only rivals left I had weren’t to the best of their abilities. I used it into my advantage and I absolutely demolished everybody in 2014.
It was the year of Killuifuplay. I gave 100% of myself and I was rewarded. I became number one in the hyper-turbo world after many years of hard work. I have finally achieved my ultimate goal. I wanted to leave this world on my own terms. I wanted to leave this world unbeaten, when I was at the top. I wanted to be remembered as one of the most fearless players in the history of those games and also after three very stressful years, I wanted to get some life for a change. I didn’t like the person whom I had to become to achieve what I achieved. Finally, I deserved some time off.
dolareq: A little time off or was it a definitive end of your career at HU HTs?
killuifuplay: At the end of 2014, the 31st of December, I had one of the biggest inner battles in my life. Every year I started my grind very fast. 1st January 7:00 A.M. you could expect me in front of the computer. New year, new month, new challenge, new motivation. Something what I try to teach our members. I promised myself before to make 2015 as a transitory year. Play a little bit here, a little bit there and basically keep my SNE status (so grind like 800-1,000 games per month, holidays for me). On the 31st of December I decided to question this promise I gave to myself. 2-3 hours of an inner battle which is even harder to imagine.
I won or I lost one could say. I didn’t end up sitting in front of the computer and I didn’t start grinding. I started my year (2015) very late as for my standards, it was I believe 3rd of January. I sat down in front of the computer, I opened PokerStars client, I started the session. Then, I have finally realised I need some serious break. I was too tired to be invincible that year. I didn’t have the strength to act a “psychopath” anymore. My role has come to an end. I have never played any hyper-turbo $1,000 game since then, out of the respect I have to those stakes. Even today I could attack some players, I think I am a better poker player than I was in 2014. I know more, I understand more, I improve my knowledge all the time, but I am out of practice and that’s crucial. Being a coach is my role now and I absolutely love every second of it.
dolareq: Is that your only job now? Can you tell our readers what do you exactly do in Smart Spin Team?
killuifuplay: Everything and nothing at the same time would be a good answer :) On a daily basis I am the advisor of our CEO. I am his right hand and try to remember about the things he might forget and help him when he has too much work. Apart from that, along with iJustGamble we are managing our coaches and judges crew. I can recruit, I can renegotiate your deal, I can write 50 posts on our forum daily, give coaching or record a new video series. Smart Spin is the biggest challenge I had in my life, especially at the intellectual level, and I love every second of it because I love intellectual challenges. Other founders give me some sort of a freedom. They know how emotionally attached to the project I am and every day I try to make it as visible as possible. I don’t have the programming knowledge of FCD’s. I don’t have the analytical mind of Baku’s. I am not as creative as IJustGamble is and I am not as handsome and eloquent as Banis, however my emotional attachment is very contagious.
dolareq: Do you see yourself as an active player once again in the future?
killuifuplay: Not really. It is impossible to be the top player and at the same time help to manage one of the biggest poker schools in the world, as examples of other “schools” have proved. I am still not completely rusty. I play here and there to provide better knowledge and feel the flow of the game. I have more than 50 chips at $100’s so you can still learn something from me :)
We have too big and too serious plans for the future, so it is impossible to play professionally at the same time. Smart Spin is out there not even 2 years and look where we are. It is not even the beginning. It is a prelude of where we want to be. We created this project for you, for our members, and only with your help we can achieve what we really want to achieve as a group, something greater and bigger than ourselves, something that will be written in the books of poker history. As a group, as a collective we can achieve everything what we want.
At the end of this interview I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the wonderful people who are working tirelessly on this project: our whole administration team, our strategic department and of course our judges and coaches. Smart Spin is in the current place because of the people like you. You are the most important. Also, I would like to thank every single member who decided to join us. Who trusted us.
We are already one of the biggest TEAMS in the world and it’s only the beginning of our journey. They say “sky is the limit”, but I am sure that we can achieve even more than that, but only as a TEAM.