After listening to this episode of The School of Greatness, it's very obvious why Fedor Holz ascended to the top of the poker food chain. Holz might seem like an all-knowing robot AI with his insane poker skills, but he comes off super intelligent and self-aware. Holz made a recent appearance on the Lewis Howes podcast. Howes likes to sit down and pick the brains of the top performers in various sectors of business and sports. He wanted to figure out what made Fedor Holz great at poker. During their hour-long conversation, Holz shared many things that helped him become one of the greatest high-stakes poker pros… in a very short period of time.
If you do not know the Holz origins tory, he started playing at 16 years old at a home game with school friends. He started school a year earlier than his peers, so most f his friends were a year or two older. They were into poker, but he wasn't a good player… initially. A couple of his older friends were making money online. He noticed that his winning friends were more serious and disciplined, whereas he was not a consistent person back then.
Holz emphasized that you need to seriously devote time and energy into becoming a master at something. For him it was poker and during his education, he played ten hours a day and as Holz put it, “I spent time with poker 80 hours a week... minimum.” His roommates joked that Holz got so deep into poker education that even talked poker in his sleep.
Holz's friends were a huge part of how he became so great. “You attract people who have a similar mindset. I built a network of interested people in poker,” he explained. A group of six or so friends that he started out with are now among the Top 30 players in the world. This support group of German upstarts helped each other life-hack online poker.
When Howes asked Holz what poker books he read, Holz blankly told him that he only read one poker book and never finished it. “Because information in poker books are outdated before they are published. The game progresses so fast. It's way better to talk to people.”
Holz turned to his friends and various poker forums to fill in his education. Hand discussion and long talks about strategy with his friends are what helped him “level up” through his early days in poker. Non-poker books have helped Holz more with his game, which he shared earlier this year.
At the beginning I was a little better than average, but I was not a Zen guy and nothing can phase me. I had moments when I lost 20 days in a row and lost 50% of my bankroll. I played too high. I got tilted. I went broke a couple of times in the beginning. You spin it up, then you go broke because you think you can compete on higher levels than you can. That's when you have to be disciplined and know how good the players are and how good you are.
Holz realized he was a good player by the time he turned 18-years old. He entered university and studied computer science for a while before he realized he was not very good at it, plus he lacked passion. That's when he decided to take poker more seriously. At first, the transition didn't work out well due to his inconsistent play. “The strength of very good players, they are all super consistent.”
"You have this absurd expectation... you got to be winning, right now! Maybe it's a generational thing. Oh, it has to happen now. Instead of slowly seeing the progress and setting goals and changing my surrounding to get to that goal."
Holz felt he had too many bad influences on him, so he had to get out of that rut and situation. He started running to build his self-esteem and confidence. By improving on his time every day, he could see incremental changes. Now all he had to do was transfer that to poker.
For a while, Holz's biggest obstacle was questioning why he was doing what he was doing. Holz always sough growth, but that also included his mental approach to the game and his overall mental health. “The way I set up my brain and the way I think about decisions and feelings... I spent a lot of time on that. Dissecting what are the different parts of a decision and the different parts of an outcome. Do you feel good about the decision? And why? There's never a situation when it's 100% right. If that's how you want to make decisions... you're doing something wrong. There's always going to be risk.”
Howes asked Holz about how professional poker players had the ability to distance themselves for the actual money when making decisions at the table. “The big issue people have with losing money,” explained Holz, “is when they didn't make a conscious decision. Maybe it's 80% emotional and then later rationality kicks in, and you have a different decision-making process.”
So why is Holz getting out of poker? He was worried about being stuck in neutral all the time. High-stakes pros needed to keep their emotions in check at the tables… on both end of the spectrum… win or lose. “You shouldn't be too happy when you win, which is such a weird thing... don't be happy, don't be sad. Be a robot. However, when you realize everything is neutral, poker is not a cool thing anymore. If everything else goes away and it only becomes financial interest and a mental competition, then the game loses some of its magic.”
Seems like Holz lost that magic we all had when we first fell in love with the game. That magic is what inspired him, but he also knew what he needed to do to stay competitive.
Holz discussed how poker is a really good training camp for life. “It's not only playing a card game, but also it's a lot about networking and a lot about money management. And you have to run your own business. There's a lot of money involved in a wild wild west setting. That teaches you a lot of things in a street smart kind of way. You see very quickly what people intentions are. You see that all day.”
When Howes asked how he coached himself when he lost, Holz answered “It's about the decisions you make, not the outcome.”
Holz does not like to make mistakes twice and he was all for “extracting the value in experiences.”
Holz explained that “Visualization is extremely important. Focusing on positivity. Trying to find a different angle.”
When asked about tells, Holz said it was easier to read amateurs than pros. But he mentioned how player's hands are a huge give away. Wow, make sure I wear gloves at the table the next time I'm seat with Holz.
At the end of each podcast, Howes asks his guest to reveal 3 absolute truths they learned. Holz gave some of the best answers he's ever had on the show.
Three Truths by Fedor Holz
Watch/listen to the School of Greatness episode here…