Road to SuperNova by Jared Tendler, Ms.
I have coached more than 15 players to the level of Supernova Elite on PokerStars. Every year thousands of players want to get there, but only a few hundred actually do. You may not be ready to go for Supernova Elite, but the methods I used to get my students there are essentially the same ones you could use if you are hoping to get to Supernova (or any other status level) in 2014.
The people who don't get to Supernova or Supernova Elite often make similar mistakes when it comes to planning for their challenge. 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. However, this early burst of inspiration eventually fades and with it their dreams of making Supernova.
Supernova is a marathon, not a sprint
The biggest mistake players make is "playing too much too soon" and this causes burnout. Most players aren't going to make Supernova 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 Supernova need most of the year to get there. This means to get SuperNova you need to earn a little more than 8,333 VPPs per month.
Commonly players who averaged around 4,000 or 5,000 thousand VPPs last year, think it'll be easy to jump up to 8,333 (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, rather than all at once.
Building mental endurance
Mental endurance works in much the same way as physical endurance. 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.
What I get my clients for Supernova Elite to do is to steadily increase their capacity, so they eventually can start averaging more than the required VPPs per a month. You should do the same for Supernova. 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:
Jan 5,500 VPPs
Feb 6,500 VPPs
Mar 7,000 VPPs
Apr 7,500 VPPs
May 8,000 VPPs
Jun 9,000 VPPs
Jul 9,500 VPPs
Aug 10,000 VPPs
Sep 10,000 VPPs
Oct 10,000 VPPs
Nov 10,000 VPPs
Dec 7,000 VPPs
(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 43,500 VPPs in the first half of the year. 6,500 behind how most would think about it. Except that way of thinking is a results-oriented way of looking at making Supernova. 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.
Take time off
One of the most important things to being able to increase your mental endurance and thus your capacity to grind, is rest. One of the other reasons so many players burn out early on the quest for SuperNova is not factoring in proper breaks. 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 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. Only with proper rest, can you increase your endurance to be able to play longer, at a higher level, and across more tables, consistently throughout the year.
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. To get proper rest, I recommend taking at least one day off per week, 5 to 6 days off per month, and ideally, you'll also have a couple times throughout the year where you take off 4 to 7 days in a row.
Another way you can get proper rest 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 fall off schedule
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 Supernova this year you need a better plan. Here are a few things to consider:
1) Identify a new starting point. Let's say 6,500 VPPs per month.
2) Decide a reasonable rate of increase through the remaining months.
3) Decide when and how much rest you're going to take throughout the year.
4) Create an excel spreadsheet to track your progress.
5) Write down the reason why you want to make Supernova.
6) When you hit some bumps in the road, read #5, and through sheer will keep working hard.
The one difference between Supernova and Supernova Elite
When going for Supernova Elite, I recommend my clients minimise their active learning away from the tables. I suggest they keeping working to correct the biggest leaks in their game, but not to spend too much time trying to learn new things. This is because Supernova Elite is so mentally and physically demanding, and worth so much financially, that they need to focus only the task at hand.
This is the one thing I don't believe someone going for Supernova should do. The reason I say this is because someone going for Supernova has much easier time to increase their stakes and improve overall as a player. Most people going for Supernova Elite are already playing pretty high stakes anyway, but players going for Supernova are not. Let's just for arguments sake say that someone going for Supernova is playing $50 NL to $200 NL. The biggest financial gains that player can make is to try and beat the stakes above the ones they are currently playing. If you went from $200 NL to $400 NL, then you essentially half the time it would take you to get to Supernova. So for this reason your primary goal is still to learn and improve as a player. Do that and Supernova will eventually take care of itself.
If you have any questions about this subject I'd be very happy to answer them in our Forum Discussion thread.
Jared Tendler is a mental game coach to over 300 professional poker players and the author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2. Both books are available in all good book stores, potentially free on audiobook and can even be bought with PokerStars FPPs.