In most sports, success does not happen overnight. In the United States, the career of most players, let alone most champions, starts quite young and must be planned out intricately at every stage. College scholarships and Major League drafts are all part of the process, with football, basketball or baseball being the sole focus of the players’ life for years on end. If you want to reach the top of these games, you must have a whole team behind you, fine-tuning your training, checking your diet and micro-managing every single element of your life.
Fortunately, when it comes to poker, this is not the case. You don’t need to be blessed with an athletic physique, and you don’t need to invest in any special clothing or equipment. You don’t have to start young and build your life around the game, and you don’t have to be lucky enough to attend the right schools with the right coaches. You can take up poker at any point in life and do as well as the young bucks, if not better, thanks to your life experience. All you need is a pack of cards and an understanding of the game and the minds of those who play it.
If you want proof of this, you only need to look at the life of Ramón Colillas, the personal trainer from Spain who recently walked away with the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) title and the life-changing $5.1 million pot that goes with it. Colillas started out with the hopes of being a pro soccer player, but after a series of injuries, that dream soon disappeared. Instead, he set up his own gym in his home village of Puig-reig and started to learn his way around the poker table instead of the football field.
With no formal training, Colillas spent every spare moment he had either playing poker or studying the game online and in books, entering small local tournaments to try out his new skills and tactics. Slowly but surely, he discovered that he had a talent for the poker table, and he began entering bigger and bigger tournaments, building an impressive bankroll. Despite a disastrous year in 2017, he fought his way back until he was in a position to take on the Campeonato de España de Poker (CEP), the premium tournament in his home country.
The tour gave him the chance to play in all of Spain’s major cities, including Barcelona, Madrid and Marbella, and play against the best that Spain had to offer. More importantly, the winner would not only gain the title and the trophy but a Platinum Pass to PokerStars’ inaugural Players Championship in the Bahamas, including flights, accommodations and a free seat at the $25,000 buy-in event.
The tour made six grueling stops, creating a long battle with fellow hopefuls Conejos Baixas and Zapateria Miranda. The lead changed hands regularly between the three, but eventually, Colillas emerged triumphant on the final leg, beating 831 other players to secure the title and claim his ticket to the big time. The 1,000 strong field of the PSPC awaited him, including 320 other Platinum Pass winners.
Despite being a virtual unknown on the world poker circuit, Colillas calmly worked his way through the field, dispensing with the pros and the pass winners alike. Once again proving how open and accessible poker is, another Platinum Pass free-roller, Marc Rivera from the Philippines, who ultimately took third place and a tasty pot of $2.1m from his free entry ticket, joined him at the final table. However, it was to be the Spaniard’s day in the end, with his final hand of a pair of aces being enough to take the crown.
As if to underline how anyone can win, and win big, in the poker world, Colillas received his trophy from the biggest shock winner of all time, Chris Moneymaker, who won the World Series of Poker as an unknown accountant back in 2003, sparking a revolution in the game. Thanks to his success, Colillas is now part of the top Team PokerStars Pro, capping his remarkable rise from small-town Spanish amateur to world-class poker pro in only a few short years. His incredible run only goes to prove that quite literally anyone can make it to the final table if they have the know-how and the nerve to succeed. So, keep playing and learning, and you never know, the next big winner could be you!