Alexander Straub has been a member and supporter of the Pokercode community since its early days and has since been involved in projects and promotions including the Pokercode Grindhouse and the recent Pokécode event.
Straub is also running another project called 'Road 2 WSOP' in which he prepares for the recently-announced WSOP and WSOP Europe that are set to take place this upcoming fall.
Despite all that, did you know Alexander is relatively brand new to the game? And did you know poker is not his primary source of expertise, nor will it be anytime soon regardless of how many hours he spends studying?
We recently caught up with Alex in order to share his story and give him some love and appreciation for all he brings to our community. Hope you enjoy.
Born and raised in Germany, Straub is best known for being a world champion magician. In fact, until less than two years ago, pretty much the only thing he knew about cards were card tricks.
For those who didn’t know (myself included), his entry into magic was rather standard: It all started about 15 years ago when he was 11. He was moving and changing schools frequently and it was tough on him, so his mom did what any good mom would do - she looked into fun, time-intensive hobbies and wound up getting him a magic kit for his birthday.
We could say the rest was history, but what fun would that be?
Alex quickly found an affinity for doing magic and began to practice in front of his friends, eventually winning a local talent show where he performed in front of several hundred people.
Such accolades paved the way to working kids’ birthday parties, which then led to more gigs at other small parties and similar functions. The media got word of him when he was 16 and broke a story on his efforts, and he eventually was invited to travel to Las Vegas because of magic.
Prior to traveling, Alex connected with a colleague and wound up becoming good friends with him. It proved to be one of the best breaks he could have gotten in terms of networking, too.
“I met all the magicians in the world you could imagine,” Straub said. “Because it turns out [his friend] knows everybody. His father was a Cirque du Soleil artist, he’s a performer kid. So, we met David Copperfield, all those big magicians, and they gave me the push to pursue magic.”
Despite that push, Alex was still in the process of finishing his primary education back home and debating if he should continue his studies or legitimately take up magic as a full-time career. Then, the universe gave him the perfect scenario: he was asked to represent Team Germany at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Hollywood, California.
“Maybe I was into gambling early,” Alex joked of what transpired next. He made a bet with his mom and told her, “If I win this, I’m gonna pursue it full time. And if I lose, if I don’t get first place I’ll go and study.”
His mom loved her odds and as such, was all in on Alex’s proposition.
“So I packed my stuff, I went to LA, I was there for two weeks, and I came home with the trophy. And I put it on the table and was like, ‘Well, I guess, let’s do it!’”
It wasn’t long before Alex had taken his magic career full time going on tour all over the world performing evening shows and the like: “Magic brings you to fun places and you meet a lot of funny and very strange people. And very interesting people,” Alex said.
One such place it took him was a networking event with a lot of older big shots, but one person looked to be about the same age as Alex. He went and talked to the person and found him to be genuinely nice. He also seemed to take an interest in magic.
Of course, Alex wanted to know what this person did with his life just the same. But as soon as he returned the question, he was interrupted by a request for his conversation mate to come on stage and be introduced to the members of the event as someone who had made close to $40 million in two years playing poker.
“So yeah,” laughed Alex of the encounter. “That was Fedor.”
Not one to shy away from interaction, Alex made sure to catch up with Fedor after he got off stage. The two connected pretty easily given that both were young and had relatively unconventional careers in magic and poker. They also mutually found each other’s careers fairly fascinating, and the friendship took root from there.
Fedor and Alex kept in touch, and after a few weeks passed Alex couldn’t shake poker and Fedor’s story from his mind. Having a YouTube channel with over 300,000 subscribers, Alex reached out to Fedor about doing some poker-related video content together.
The original concept involved Alex dusting off some money at low stakes and then saying the stakes needed to be higher, despite clearly having no idea what he was doing. From there, Fedor stepped in and turned like €5,000 into €20,000 in like an hour.
One thing led to another, and eventually, Pokercode CEO Johannes Mansbart contacted Alex to invite him to visit the Pokercode Grindhouse. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until the Grindhouse that Alex had his first formal introduction to the game of poker.
As anyone reading this knows, the intricacies and complexities of poker strategy can be some of the most fascinating things for our brains to study. Alex, too, fell into this camp after being exposed to the game on such a deep level at Grindhouse and was only more enthralled given the inclusive atmosphere of everybody there (one found all throughout the Pokercode community, might I shamelessly add). Everybody went out of their way to help wherever they could.
After Grindhouse, Alex really felt motivated to get into the game more and as such, has been steadily ramping up all aspects of his game (playing, studying, and receiving coaching). He also took from an idea that came up at Grindhouse, though with a much-more +EV modification.
The original idea was to take a complete novice (Alex) and send him to Vegas to compete at the WSOP completely dark. Just try it. But then he decided more dedicated preparation, coaching, etc. would probably bring about a better result.
With the above idea, “Road 2 WSOP” was born. The official announcement came in January 2021 and Alex has been working even harder on his game ever since. He’s playing more and becoming more familiar with elements of game flow and pattern recognition across similar situations. He’s also supplementing his play by studying Pokercode.
When he started, even much of the poker terminology was foreign to him. But he’s growing at a quick pace and able to see the progress he’s making as his understanding of the game expands.
“Now it’s just playing as much as I can, asking the right questions…and the next step for me now is I have a problem and I go to (a pro) and ask them, ‘Why is that how it is?’” Alex said. Then, they will dive in further and go from there with regards to seeing how else they can use the situation to help him grow as much and quickly as possible.
With the headline “From Amateur to Pro in Six Months,” a recent announcement of a fall WSOP actually gives Alex nine months to prepare, and he feels great about his progress so far. Of course, he also understands he has relatively not put in much volume. But he’s learning as he goes, and his thought process has evolved towards figuring out why his in-game decisions are or are not correct instead of looking solely at results.
Alex is an entertainer by nature. Part of the reason he is excited about a live WSOP this year is that while he knows he’s unlikely to become a world class player in such a short timeframe leading up to the series, he also looks forward to the opportunity to potentially make up for some of his faults at the tables with wit and humor. He also knows that he will be having as much fun as anybody else in the room, if not more. And he will be able to do it in ways he couldn’t were the series 100% online.
That same personality is what’s enabled him to excel in front of a crowd, too, whether in a large showroom or online for his followers. And it’s absolutely translatable from magic to poker.
The recent Pokécode event was also Alex’s idea. As he put it:
“The idea was, we make so much content around poker now and I’m not a Doug Polk or a Daniel Negreanu who knows a lot of poker insights and does really valuable poker content**.** Not at all. I Just try to make poker content that anybody can watch and be like, that’s funny!”
For Alex, it’s about creating entertaining content first and foremost. Then, he looks to where he can create value within that framework.
In that light, he thought of possible ways to expand his poker content in a way that would reach the biggest possible audience and be as entertaining as possible. Given the hype of opening Pokémon cards on YouTube and his already-existent network and following including streamers and YouTubers, Alex had the idea to run a nine-person sit-n-go involving himself, Fedor, and seven other various streamers/YouTubers.
The only difference was to play for Pokémon cards rather than money because the idea would translate better and create far more entertainment value. It was a way to keep everybody engaged, and everybody Alex called was immediately on board, including Fedor, who also happens to be a Pokémon fan.
The total prize pool was a 2000 1st edition Gym Challenge booster display containing 36 packs of cards set to be distributed throughout the field. Even the bottom three got “in the money” with the bottom three finishers earning a pack apiece.
As for the winner? None other than Fedor Holz. Holz then gave away a pack the next day in a Pokercode freeroll along with thousands of dollars’ worth of other Pokémon merch.
Overall, the event was a huge success. It generated huge interest from a wide range of viewers given the other streamers’ involvement. Some of them had played poker before, while others had no idea at all what was going on. And it ultimately made for a really fun night.
As for the future, Straub’s main focus is Road 2 WSOP. He’s got plenty on his plate as he gets ready for Vegas this upcoming fall. Here’s to getting the opportunity to hear the German national anthem for his bracelet ceremony.
Check out Alexander's YouTube channel for the Road 2 WSOP videos!
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