For many serious and casual poker players alike, winning a SCOOP would be a dream come true. Hundreds of thousands try, but only a few succeed to earn a title.

We spoke to dozens of SCOOP winners to discover the roadmap to victory. What does it take to win a SCOOP event, and how can aspiring players follow their lead to secure their own place in poker history?

The skill factor

If poker was just a game of luck, we wouldn’t have the same faces appearing on the final tables time and time again. This SCOOP, Connor “blanconegro” Drinan has claimed five titles, making it six in total in his career. Many other pros have three, four or five SCOOP wins to their name. It’s no coincidence. They have to be doing something right.

Connor Drinan has won five titles in SCOOP 2020, six in total

“Usually people outside poker don’t understand the importance of the number of hours you dedicate to your work. They want the result out of it; but you have to follow the opposite path, care about the dedicated hours and the quality of your work. The result is always a consequence of that,” says Marcelo “Portaluppi.7” Crippa, winner of the#69-M.

SCOOP 2020 winners played their best game, avoided making the mistakes that less experienced players tend to make, and did a lot right to earn themselves a title, whether that be working on ICM or improving post-flop strategy. Whatever the case, most agree that skill is a huge factor.

Tapio “PikkuHUMPPA” Vihakas recounts his win in the #47-H. “My timing on bluffs was good. Most of the time when I got chips in the middle I was in a very good position, but I didn’t make big mistakes either.”

Given the complexity of poker strategy, it’s important to understand how you stack up against the competition to determine what level you should play at. Humility will get you a long way. It might even get you a SCOOP title.

“I know that poker is a game of skill and if I play bigger buy-in tournaments, the regs are going to eat me alive,” says Dimitrios “papadatos69” Papadatos after winning #4-L, “so I will try to improve by studying poker theory and climb the stakes slowly.”

Takeaway point: Poker is a game of skill, which is why we often see the same players at the final tables. You need to play your best game, avoid making big mistakes and capitalize on your opportunities. Newer players should recognize their own skill level and play at a level they are comfortable. 

Patience and composure

SCOOP tournaments are often multi-day affairs that can last 18+ hours. One of the key themes that SCOOP winners highlighted was the patience needed to win one of these events.

Nicolas Wright at the moment of taking down his SCOOP title

“Patience and attention have to go hand in hand during the whole tournament,” says Vitor “vitoradiron” Adiron, who earned $96k for his victory in the #36-M.

Jonathan Therme, winner of the SCOOP special edition Sunday Million, says “patience is, of course, one of the most important things to work on!”

With so much money and prestige on the line, SCOOP tournaments are high pressure events. Winners have to remain composed. A couple of players reminded us that it helps “not to think too much about the prizes”. Just enjoy playing cards and making the best moves possible.

It helps to have your own tricks to deal with the rising pressures of tournament poker. Our favorite method had to be that of Nicolas “Nicoverlast” Wright, winner of the #46-L, who dealt with extreme tension by jumping on his treadmill.

“I knew one way for me to stay loose would be to be physical — to get my body moving. I couldn’t do push-ups or anything like that where I wouldn’t be able to see the screen. But I realized I could put my laptop on the treadmill and walk while I play. That’s my advice… if you want to win, buy a treadmill!”

Takeaway point: SCOOP tournaments last for hours, sometimes days. You have to be patient for the whole event. As the pressure builds in later stages, you’ll need to find your own way to deal with it and continue making the best decisions.

It helps when the cards fall your way

The stacks and blind levels are generous in SCOOP events, so there’s plenty of opportunity for exciting action and strategic play. But no matter how solid your post flop game, or how many chips you can accumulate in the early stages, you still have to win those crucial all-ins and double ups if you’re going to take the title.

“I doubled up on a flip — nines vs. ace-queen off — to get up to 52 BBs. Then we got to play some poker,” says William “Williaml666” Barbosa, winner of #4-M.

Tapio “PikkuHUMPPA” Vihakas remembers winning lots of double-ups to make the final table

When SCOOP winners were asked to describe important hands, we expected more players to tell us about their epic 4-bet bluffs. Many of the memorable moments for 2020 champions were spots where they were behind and still came back to win the race.

“With 800 players left, I was all-in with pocket queens against pocket aces and I doubled up. With 200 players left, I was all-in with pocket jacks against pocket kings and again, I doubled up,” says Papadatos.

For “PufuMiu”, winner of #11-L, it was all about getting that killer hand at the right time. “I was dealt a straight,” he says. “And both players pushed all in! With that I won the tournament and two big bounties.”

You typically have to win a lot of all-ins if you’re going to take down a SCOOP. “I guess I won like nine out of 10 preflop all-ins before the final table,” says Tapio Vihakas. “So mainly I was lucky… nothing special there!”

As Alwin “plens”, winner of the #20-M puts it, “poker can be easy sometimes”.

That’s not to take anything away from the fantastic players who gave SCOOP everything they’ve got, but when all is said and done the cards still have to fall your way.

Takeaway point: No matter how skillful you are, the cards also have to fall your way. You’ll have to win a lot of double ups on your road to SCOOP victory. Still, you have to take your opportunity and play your best game. 

Finding the state of flow

Winners described finding their state of flow and obtaining the focus they needed to play their A-game, especially as the tournament got deeper.

“You know that moment… when you start to believe you could win,” says Nicolas “Nicoverlast” Wright. “I started to be very focused, just trying to make the best decisions and not think too much about the consequences.”

“That special feeling takes over, the reason why we play poker tournaments. Completely in the zone, I closed the lobby, 100% focused on the table. Wife and kids were in bed. Burglars could have robbed the TV in front of me without me noticing it,” says Alwin “plens”.

The best chance you have of winning a SCOOP tournament, according to the words of the winners, is to have the skills, patience and perseverance, and also for the cards to fall your way. It’s when all of these factors come together in perfect harmony that SCOOP winners are born.

Takeaway point: The recipe for SCOOP victory includes skill, patience and composure. It also helps if the cards are falling your way! When all of this comes together, you can find that state of flow so often described by our 2020 SCOOP champions.

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