Mental Game Coach and author of The Mental Game of Poker Jared Tendler shares his insights into how he has helped several professional players get to the status of SuperNova Elite on PokerStars.
Every year thousands of players start the quest to get to the promised land of poker VIP programs, SuperNova Elite on PokerStars. Around about now, many of them give up on their mission. As a mental game coach for poker players I have unique insight into why players quit and why others are successful. I have coached eight players to getting to SuperNova Elite (as well as many more who reached SuperNova using the same advice). This year I am also helping another break the world record for VPPs in a year.
The obvious skill that’s needed to make SNE is the ability to grind a ton of poker. What may not be obvious is how exactly you acquire that skill if you don’t already have it.
Grinding large amounts of quality volume is a skill, yet players too often think it should be easy to do. On January 1st, they’re really motivated and get off to a great start. Maybe there’s a prop bet on the line to inspire them even more. However, this early burst of inspiration eventually fades and with it their dreams of making SNE.
The biggest mistake players make is play too much too soon and this cause burnout. Making SNE is not a sprint it’s an ultra-marathon. Most players, other than Andrew “azntracker” Li, aren’t going to make SNE in the first quarter or even half of the year, but how they pace themselves can cause them to fail by this time. A majority of the players going for SNE need the whole year to get it. This means to get SuperNova Elite, you need to earn a little more than 83,000 VPPs per month.
Commonly players who averaged around 40 or 50 thousand VPPs last year, think it’ll be easy to jump up to 83,000 (or more) in the first month. If you think about it logically, that’s around an 80 to 100% increase. Meaning you’re going to have to massively increase your hours, your tables, your stakes or all three. It’s a huge increase in capacity. An increase that can be made, but the only way you can make this increase hold up throughout the year is to build it steadily.
Mental capacity works in much the same way as physical capacity. You wouldn’t expect to be able to double your maximum bench press or the distance of your longest run overnight, so you shouldn’t expect to do the same thing with your online volume either. Instead, you gradually increase the weight, build in periods of rest, so you can build up to the point where you can lift double your maximum bench press easily. This strategy is exactly what you should do trying to get to SuperNova Elite.
What I get my clients to do is to steadily increase their capacity, so they eventually can start averaging way more than the required 83,000 in a month. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be playing like crazy all the way through December 31. You can pace yourself while working with the reality of your VPP capacity, and still have time to spare at the end. The main difference with my method is that you won’t burn out. An example of a schedule looks like this:
(The actual schedule of course will vary depending on the individual player, their circumstances and the games they play.)
Following this plan you only earn 435,000 VPPs in the first half of the year. 65,000 behind how most would think about it. Except that way of thinking is a results-oriented way of looking at making SNE. Even though you’re “behind” you’re really building the mental muscle that’s required to grind this kind of volume throughout the year. Even though you have to put in a lot of volume in the second half of the year, grinding is exponentially easier, so it’s much easier to get that volume in. Not to mention, there’s still a buffer in December for the holidays or any other time you may have lost during the year.
One of the most important things to being able to build the mental muscle increase your grinding ability is rest. One of the other reasons so many players burn out early on the quest for SuperNova Elite is not factoring in proper breaks. A lot of people think you need to have no life to get to SuperNova Elite, but that’s not the case. Rest is critical because it’s during that time when the brain neurons grow to support the increase in grinding ability. This is much like how muscles actually grow when you’re resting, not when you’re working out. In the gym, bench pressing or running tells the body what you want it to be able to do. When you rest, the body grows to support your demands. The brain works the same way. With adequate rest, you’re able to play more, longer, at a higher level, and across more tables.
Proper rest means taking a day off per week. Although during stretches of time you can go without rest and be fine, if you push yourself too long without rest, your hurt your brains ability to keep growing. I recommend taking one day off per week and 5-6 days off per month. Ideally, you’ll also have a couple times throughout the year where you take off 3-7 days in a row.
Another way you can rest properly is by putting poker out of your mind after you’re done playing. Once a session is over and after you’ve done any evaluation, you need to stop thinking about poker. That way you don’t keep grinding on poker well after you’re done grinding. If you keep grinding on poker, you don’t give your brain the ability to recover and you waste energy.
If you are already on your journey to SuperNova Elite you might be getting pretty anxious about what I have just said. If you’ve fallen off schedule because you’ve burned yourself out, don’t worry. There’s still a lot of time to recover. Having tried to play a lot of hands early in the year, you were able to increase your capacity, just not in a sustainable way. To get on track to make SNE this year you need a better plan. Here are a few things to consider:
- Identify a new starting point. Let’s say 65,000 VPPs per month.
- Decide a reasonable rate of increase through the remaining 7 months.
- Decide when and how much rest you’re going to take throughout the year.
- Create an excel spreadsheet to track your progress.
- Write down the reason why you want to make SNE.
- When you hit some bumps in the road, read #5, and through sheer will keep working hard.
Many more players who try to make SNE this year will fail than succeed. You’re far more likely to succeed if you follow the advice in this article and avoid burn-out.
The only place to become a SuperNova Elite is at PokerStars.