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0ivka: Poker's just like foosball - it's all mind games at the top level!

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The torture, the wait, the anxiety... it is over! The second part of Awkward Banter 3 with 0ivka is finally, finally here! Yaaaay!

First part available here!

One of the reasons we are doing this is that you have recently returned from a big event, where you did pretty well. Where have you been and what is it that you’ve achieved?

Yep, I was in Salzburg for the World Series Garlando (Garlando is one of the five official foosball table brands). We finished 3rd with my mate in the Women Doubles, which is a huge accomplishment for me!  I also got 5th in Mixed Doubles with my other good friend and I 9th place in Women Singles.

So... final tabled each one, huh?!

Haha, I haven’t looked at it this way, but yeah, pretty much :D I got also two more 5ths in Women Classic Doubles and Women Speedball. But I did not really make it ITM.

Oh! Did you bubble something?

Pretty much all the 5th places were bubbles :D

Pff. If pLAYERsvk could explain how females hormones work, he also could have taught you some foosball ICM.

pLAYER usually bluffs of his stack during first levels of play, so I am not even sure if he actually knows anything about ICM D

Yeah, tough to prove your ICM skills, if you never make it to the ICM-phase in the first place. But anyways... all tourneys paid 4th+ only? That seems like a worse payout structure than what that $2,500 Mixed Limit Omaha event at the WSOP had. How much money is there in foosball anyway?

Let’s start with the entry fees first – those are €80 per a World Series package. First place money in Open events is 1000€ in Singles and 1500€ in Doubles, which is nice. However, in Women Singles it is only €300 with €600 in Doubles. Other Double events usually pay 200 – 400€.

And since the whole trip usually costs about 400 – 500€ per person and we have 3 – 4 of these World Series events a year, you can hardly make any money.

Then there are the most prestigious events, World Championships and World Cup, which are something like the Olympics for us. An event of this kind is played only once in every two years and you have to go through qualifications first. There is no entry fee, but no prize money either, so everyone playing has a guaranteed ROI or -100% :D

Back in the day we used to have these special Tour tourneys, where the first prize was a Porsche. Good times.

Wow, that must have been right after the Moneymaker boom! Where do these recent accomplishments of yours rank in your foosball career?

This is definitely the biggest one of them all, like 10x better than my second best. After this event I jumped to 5th place in the Women World Rankings for the season and hopefully, I can add a World Championship title to my name pretty soon. I won everything I could here in Slovakia, but the world rankings are something else. To compare it to poker, it’s like the difference of wanting to be first in Slovak all-time money list and first in the world’s all-time money list.

Unbelievable! The way to the top must have been a pretty long and tough one.

Oh, yeah. I first got into foosball in 2007. I don’t really remember how exactly, but I know that Vovo was already one of the best Slovak players. He used to come to my hometown of Prievidza to coach me and some of my friends and later they started a training club together. Apart from that we used to play after school in some pubs like every day and all that. Then we started to play in Trnava and then there was my first Slovak Championship where I could challenge myself versus some of the best players in Central Europe. However, I started college soon after and I just did not have enough time to put the hours in. Knowing that I cannot give it 100%, I decided to give it up.

It all really began when I started going out with Vovo, though. He used to take me to like every single tournament and I gained both experience and ranking points. I played in my first World Champs in 2011 in Nantes and I started winning tourneys in Slovakia. The 2-year break due to college was like 2013-2014 I think.

I got back to foosball last year after a new training club opened up here in Bratislava. We played a bunch of tourneys ever since, from Czech Republic through World Champs in Berlin and St. Quentine (close to Paris) and now the World Series in Salzburg. We are also going to Germany soon and then it is Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary afterwards. So a lot coming up :)

Sounds like a pretty heavy grind indeed! How do you even manage to split your time inbetween poker, foosball and all the other stuff? I am assuming you had to put a lot of work in to make it where you are now.

I am one of those people who’s always trying to work really hard, I just can’t do nothing. There were times when I grinded 400 sit & gos a day and I was okay, but it’s true that that was when I played poker full-time. Nowadays I am trying to play a lot of foosball as well, work out, hang out with friends... But, you know, when you really stop wasting your time, you quickly realise you can actually do a lot in a day.

Isn’t it too much for you though? Are you able to find enough time to just chill and relax?

Of course, I am not forcing things. Whenever I want to chill, I chill. I used to push it to the extremes back in the day and I was sometimes quite burnt-out, but I eventually found a balance.

As a poker player, you are surely aware that there is ton of money to be earned in some games/sports. Isn’t this a little bit demotivating when it comes to foosball? The fact that there is like no return on investment?

I believe that most of the top athletes don’t do it for the money. And I think it is the same in poker, too – it is really about the process and money are a positive by-product. I do not go to foosball tourneys to win money, I go there to compete and to meet friends and people who are as passionate about the game as I am.

So you never thought about foosball in the ways of „You know, if I gave it up, I could spent so many more hours playing poker“ ?

Nope, not at all. In fact, right now it is the exact opposite. That last event really pumped me up and we now have a table in our appartment, so I can finally train inbetween poker sessions! :)

...and so you got two activities between which you need to be splitting your time.

Those are the only two really, so there is plenty of time for both. I can train 2 – 3 hours and dedicate 6 – 8 more hours a day to poker pretty easily.

Yeah, that makes sense. Do you see any similarities between poker and foosball? Are there any transferable skills?

Absolutely! It may not seem like it, but foosball is a really strategic game. Everyone can learn how to execute all the shots, if they train properly. Once you get there, at the top level it is all mind games. You’re trying to make your opponent do whatever you want, make him behave the way you want him to. And tilt in foosball is the same too. People tend to punch the tables, kick the tables, shout and swear, all that stuff :D It’s one of the reasons why we have official referees.

...you call clock on each other if someone’s tanking with the ball for too long...

Haha, in a way, yes. There is a shot slock, so there are usually two referees – one overlooks the game, the other one keeps track of the time.

Sir, you have 30 seconds to make your decision, otherwise your ball will be folded.“

:D It’s not 30, that would be horrible. It is either 10 or 15 depending on where the ball is.

So one guy works as a shot clock and the other gives you an one orbit penalty if you swear, I get it. So, what where like the biggest blow ups you have ever seen at a foosball table?

It actually isn’t that common at the events we play. But there is this one guy who always tilts his opponents and is actually quite famous for it. Here is a clip of how he celebrated his victory in Open Singles :D He usually does stuff like this throughout entire matches!

I still feel like he’s got a LOT to learn from poker players. How’s your mindset in foosball, though? Were you able to learn to not tilt in foosball the same way you learnt it in poker?

Eventually yes. Last year in september I played my very first World Series event and I was preparing for this event for months. I came in with really big expections and it took really just a handful things to go wrong for my mindset to crumble completely. I pretty much „tilted it away“ because of this – high expectations, no experience and I was far from my A-game. That was a big wake up call for me.

Then I met this Romanian girl, we played together at the event. We have very similiar playing styles and the way she thinks about the game is just amazing. We started analysing every single match together, both in terms of mindset and strategy. That helped me a ton and it is one of the main reasons why I was able to make such a progress and do so well in Salzburg.

So, it seems that just like in poker, there is a lot to learn even away from the table.

Oh yes, there are a ton of things you can work on.

So you have your opening ranges sorted out in both games, huh? Alhough there may be similiarities, there is one huge and obvious difference between poker and foosball and that’s the fact that while poker is a completely individual game, in foosball you often play in teams.

I am glad you said that, because I absolutely love the team events! Either nations, where we play as team Slovakia or the European Champions League, where you also have to qualify with your team. Those events have amazing atmosphere. We also got the Slovak Regional Championship, which is one of my favorites.

I used to be classmates with Rišo Nagy (Slovak swimming machine currently at the Olympics) and he always used to say that he wouldn't be able to do any of the team sports, cause he would just kill the guy if he’d screwed up his performance.

Everyone has a bad day. Sometimes it’s me, other times my mate. But those are exactly the things you can analyse and work on before and after the matches. It sucks when your teammate screws up, but it never really upsets me.

Right. I guess we have finally came to the ultimate question. Who would you rather be, then? A World Foosball Champion or the Main Event champion?

That is a tough one. I think shipping the Main Event and then using the money won to play all the foosball tourneys around the world would be the way to go. :D Seriously though, I would really love to play some of the tournaments in Vegas. Foosball is really huge there and those events are just epic. But such a trip is just way too expensive and since I do not have any sponsors I just need to bink a huge MTT I guess! But it’s one of my little dreams – to go for an awesome USA trip and finish it with these Vegas tourneys. :)

Vegas, baby! Alright. Before we wrap it up, let’s bring out some pub stories of when you crushed some poor random unsuspecting guys who challenged you to a foosball match.

Oh I got a shitload of those :D Ever since we got pretty good at the game, we used to challenge guys all the time – usually playing for a drink or something. They were usually pretty stunned when they got their asses kicked :D However, to be fair, a couple of months back it kind of backfired. I was in a bar with some friends and I was like „Don’t tell anyone!“ and went to play someone. We actually lost 10-0 and in the end we were actually happy no one knew we are supposed to be really good :D

There was also this one time, again in a pub, where there were some guys playing and they asked me to be their referee. That really cracked me up, cause like... if they only knew that I actually could be their official referee :D

Hold on a second though. How do you lose 10 – 0? I mean, I play foosball like twice a year and even I do usually better than 10 – 0!

:D It was really reallz late... actually it was morning already and we were just super-tired. :D

Speaking of super-tired, it really is time to wrap this up now! Especially since it is 4:30 a.m. right now and I am done with the final cut!

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