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Stefan Schillhabel

Here’s the deal.

This morning, naked, I walked out on my veranda to hang my clean knickers out to dry, when I realised I had not been outside the casino in six days.

Cue, full on life-assessment mode.

The first question that sprung to mind is what am I doing? Bill Perkins has gotten me re-reading Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, and the transference of money earned into life-energy expended has been on my mind ever since.

Writing about poker is pretty cool; interviewing the best players in the world is even better, but am I working towards an epitaph that says, “Here lies the man who once interviewed Phil Ivey?”

I hope not.

I’m talking about meaning and purpose. To be immersed in a thing that transports you to another plane. Joy. Happiness. Fulfilment.

What is it?

I’m still searching.

It’s for this reason I always ask High Stakes Poker players – what’s the point?

Take my current vantage point.

The cultural clash of East meets West sit down for another marathon poker session. Cigarette and cigar smoke poisons the air. Butts sit on seats, only moving to take a piss. Food is a distraction.

What’s the point?

Are we winning all of the money so we can save the world, buy a more luxurious mansion, or because we love more than anything in the world?

It’s a question that stumps many high stakes players.

At least I know, it’s a question that’s on the mind of Stefan Schillhabel.

I was excited when I learned the German High Stakes crew had created a new venture called No Limit Gaming (NLG).

The brand first flashed in front of my eyes after the announcement that the Triple Crown winner, Niall Farrell, would join the team. I did some digging and learned that Schillhabel was the mastermind. I knew that poker was involved, but the early splash page and social media posts promised a broader focus on esports.

Intrigued, I copped hold of Schillhabel to ask him a few questions, and it was nice to find out that I’m not alone.

Meaning.

Purpose.

Joy.

Fulfilment.

A hark back to childhood.

Figure it out for yourself.

Where did the idea from No Limit Gaming come from?

The Idea of founding an esports team stuck in my mind for a long time. Since my youth, I was interested in esports, until poker and the necessary travelling that comes with it took away all my time and energy. After moving to Vienna, I got tired of travelling that much and started playing less and instead focused more on “life”. Back in Vegas at the start of the summer this year I realised that I needed to do something else besides playing poker.

No Limit Gaming logo

That’s where the idea of building an esports team came back to my mind, and I started doing a lot of research in the following weeks. On my flight back to Vienna I already started reading studies about esports, and I used my whole four-week break from the WSOP to work on the concept. During that time I had a lot of discussions with Fedor {Holz} and other poker-playing friends, and I decided to start with a poker team, to get the project started. Back in Vegas at the beginning of July I spoke with possible candidates and finalised the concept for the poker team.

Who are the principal founders?

All team members are founders of the company. Everybody will contribute their time and energy to make it work. If I have to name the principal founders, it would be Steffen {Sontheimer}, Fedor and me. I started to speak about the esports team idea with friends like Christian Christner a lot and also had a longer talk with Fedor on our flight home.

Stefan Schillhabel
Stefan Schillhabel

Afterwards, I decided to start with a poker team that includes streaming on Twitch. For that matter, I spoke with Steffen first. We’re good friends, and he was interested in the idea from the beginning. Having Steffen on board made it way easier to speak with other potential team members. He helped a lot to concretise the idea.

1-2 weeks later I came back to Fedor, and after describing my plans, he was excited to be part of the project. He helped a lot with all his experience and connections and gave really good inputs. So I am taking care of the daily business, Steffen will help me from time to time and Fedor will bring in his experience. Working with these guys is easy. We know each other pretty well, know each other’s strengths, and we’re also used to work together for years now. There’s also a complete trust between us, after travelling and playing poker together for such a long time.

I also have to thank all the other team members we have. Everybody was excited to be part of the team from the beginning. This isn’t about making a lot of money, and all of us promised to invest some time to make this project successful. Everyone I asked to join the team ended up being a part of it. That increases my motivation, even more, to make it as good as possible and invest as much time and energy as I can.

What influenced you?

I used to play semi-professional when I was younger. I played a lot of Counter-Strike, and though I never got really good, I loved and still love the game. It’s interesting on so many levels. It taught me a lot for my poker career, and without taking it too high, I’d say I also learned some things for my life. Especially the strategic aspect of the game gave me a lot of input for my thinking processes and solution finding in high-pressure situations.

I also played Pro Evolution Soccer and was a top 10 player in Germany when I was 18-21 years old. That gave me a first insight into the industry. I played for teams which got some money to travel to national tournaments and some free hardware. The scene wasn’t big, nothing compared to what professional esports looks like nowadays, but it was a start. I was always interested in the organisational part and tried to do more than just playing.

When I played in a CS team, I always worked on tactics and tried to find ways to improve the whole team. For PES I motivated my teammates a lot and became the team captain of the German national team at some point. I also used to play a lot of real soccer in a team my whole life. I just like team sports and all the interactive, tactical and social aspects that come with it.

I think these characteristics are fitting for a lot of German poker players. Maybe this is one of the reasons why some of the German high rollers became such a close group and helped each other to develop their strategies together.

What value did you think you could bring to the industry? How does poker and esports work under the same banner? And what are your greatest strengths?

Almost all of our team members have a similar story. Of course, we all are coming from different backgrounds, but all of us tried to make a living by doing what we love. Most of us decided to find a way to not get into that “normal 9 to 5”-life. And we all did it. We experienced a lot on our way. We’ve been in the poker world for a very long time and saw many other players fail. So we gained a lot of experience and knowledge of how to be successful. Many of us are a bit tired of just playing like we did for many years. Some of us don’t play for the money anymore. So we’re looking for something else.

To start streaming online poker at a high level is one thing we will do. Using our experiences to help others succeeding in something they love is the other thing we want to do. Esports is very similar to poker. Many poker players used to play video games on a competitive level themselves. In both sections, you have similar obstacles you need to surpass to succeed. Esports players have the same dream we had when we started our poker careers: Support oneself with their passion and improve every day to become one of the best in the world.

Who is your audience?

In the beginning, the biggest part of our audience will be within the poker community of course. But as you can see on Twitch, there are also many non-poker players that like to watch poker. Most people like to watch when there are huge prizes to win. With the high limits all of us are playing, I’m pretty sure we’ll get a lot of viewers from outside the poker scene, too.

We’ll also like to show the esports and gaming community on Twitch how exciting the game of poker is, how much fun it can be and how important the strategic and logical aspects are to be successful. As I said before, there are many similarities between poker and competitive gaming, and I hope we can help to bring more interest to our game.

Furthermore, after we start the esports section of our project, we will show the poker scene how exciting esports can be, and we will try to combine both communities and provide content for both parts. Our main focus will be on the esports scene at some point, but with our background, we’ll always provide a lot of poker content with No Limit Gaming for sure.

If you could achieve one thing in 2019 what would it be?

We hope to make a significant impact on the Twitch poker scene in the next months. After we get that started, we want to focus on the esports section. So for 2019, it would be awesome to make NLG a name in the esports community and build an infrastructure that helps esports teams and players to improve. We’re still working on the concept, but it’s not the plan to just put a lot of money in and buy the best players. As I said we want to use our experience and knowledge, so the focus will be on building a lasting environment where we can use our strengths to train and develop our players in different games.

What happens in the future because of No Limit Gaming?

I hope we can show that our idea (that we’re working on atm) of how we make players better and prepare them for the things that come up will be successful and helps to professionalise the esports scene. All the studies I read and people/insiders I spoke to said that this is the main problem in esports and that there are only a few teams that handle esports like real sports what it definitely can be. There’s a lot of space for improvement.

nlg poker roster

How will your customers find you?

We’ll be active on Twitter, Instagram and Twitch of course. We’re also working on our website and might start a YouTube channel at some point. We’ll also play a lot of live tournaments like we always did and I’m pretty sure there are a lot of streamed final tables to come.

Why should they choose you?

There is really nice Twitch poker stuff out there, but most of the streams are more about entertainment than good and qualified content. We will try to cover both: Play the highest limits there are, speak about our thought processes and also try to be entertaining. It won’t be easy in the beginning. Hardly any of us have streamed before, but the community seems to be really nice, and I’m sure they’ll give us some time to get used to it. Our Idea has a lot of potential, and we already got a lot of positive feedback, so I’m sure the community will grant us the time we need.

What’s your timeline?

The idea of the whole project is very young. As I said, I started thinking of it two months ago. The planning for the poker team began six weeks ago. We already played the $1m One Drop wearing team hoodies and have our social media live. So I’m really happy how it all goes. The next weeks will be about finally founding the company in Austria. Because that’s all new to the most of us and especially me, it’s always possible that there might be some delays, so I don’t want to promise anything. But we plan to show up at EPT Barcelona with a big team and start streaming from the beginning of WCOOP in September.

About the Author

By paulp / Administrator, bbp_keymaster on Jul 31, 2018