Stefan Schillhabel Advances from WPT Champion to High Roller Regular

Jan 19, 2018

By Matt Clark

Stefan Schillhabel

WPT Champions Club member Stefan Schillhabel’s (pictured above from Season XV WPT Tournament of Champions) road to a career filled with high roller events started by a happy accident. Schillhabel won the Season XIV WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star and $1.298 million while on vacation with his girlfriend at the time.

Thanks to some advice from friend Rainer Kempe, Schillhabel altered his initial travel plans and hit the WPT California Swing. Schillhabel followed in the footsteps of fellow German Dietrich Fast, who won the WPT L.A. Poker Classic one week prior, to his own victory. The money won by Schillhabel helped advance him into the high roller circle where he now competes in the biggest buy-in events across the world.

The 30-year-old Schillhabel placed third in the 2017 Super High Roller Bowl for $2.4 million and won the $50,000 Super High Roller at the WPT Lucky Hearts Open on Thursday.

Winning a WPT immediately changed the course of Schillhabel’s career.

“It started getting me into higher buy-ins because I was able to sell action for every $10K and it was a big part of getting in the high roller circle and playing regularly,” Schillhabel said. “I cashed in the first high rollers I played and had a really good run of cashing. Every time I played in a high roller tournament, I started running good and found players I can sell action to in the German high roller circle.”

The circle Schillhabel speaks of includes Kempe and WPT Alpha8 winner Fedor Holz.

“I was good friends with Rainer when he first started playing $25Ks,” Schillhabel affirms.

Schillhabel is more selective with his non-high roller schedule and his entry into the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open Championship is a rare excursion for him away from the five-figure buy-ins he frequents.

The reason Schillhabel is playing this event is that there are high rollers at Seminole Hard Rock on either end of the series. The social atmosphere of high roller events is something Schillhabel misses when playing in Day 1a of a large field.

“It’s really hard to come back to this tournament because it’s nine-handed,” Schillhabel laments. “It’s slow and in $25Ks, everyone is talking a lot and they more are fun to play. These tournaments are great. It’s a huge field and a really good tournament to make money in. You just have to sit down and wait and not go crazy because it can be a really boring day and you have players who are in every hand so you have to wait.”

Schillhabel admits he is not a social person by nature in the setting of a regular main event. For most of Day 1a play, Schillhabel opted to watch a television series on a screen that is never far out of reach.

“I’m not talking that much in main events,” Schillhabel observed. “A huge part [in high rollers] is we know each other anyway and have drinks after events. I hope it changes, but maybe I need to change myself.”

As a member of the WPT Champions Club, Schillhabel is part of a select company. Attempting to win his second WPT title is secondary though to the potential hundreds of thousands Schillhabel can earn in every high roller he enters.

Money is good for Schillhabel this week with the $493,000 he won in the $50,000 Super High Roller at Lucky Hearts. Perhaps more will come his way with a deep run this week in the Season XVI WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open Championship. Schillhabel is comfortable with his lifestyle of travel and large buy-ins. A single win is unlikely to shift his focus away from his new preferred tournament setting.

“I wouldn’t travel somewhere just because I can win a title,” he said. “I see which stop makes the most sense for me to play. For the last few months, most of the time I go where the high rollers are going. It’s the most value. The higher the buy-in, the more money I make.”

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