Steffen Sontheimer is the talk of the town the last few days at the Poker Masters. The young German pro finished fourth in Event #1, won Event #2 and leads the Poker Masters Purple Jacket™ standings. He’s at his third final table exclusively on PokerGO in Event #4 and hopes to build an uncatchable lead before the $100,000 Finale begins on Monday.
To an outside observer Sontheimer’s handled all the pressure in stride. “You should have been around the bubble the night before the past few nights,” he said. “I was only one enjoying a couple beers. It didn’t work once and worked out once, so we’ll see.”
Doug Polk is also at the Final Table and could challenge his lead for the Jacket. “I expect the Doug Polk show to be honest,” he said. “Because with different pay jumps this time it’s important for me as a mid-stack to climb the ladder, because these jumps matter. Polk has an insane chip lead so I expect him to find the gas pedal.”
Sontheimer made a name for himself over the past year – where’s he’s won $4 million – but came from very humble beginnings. “I was one of those kids that started playing online poker when I went to university and I made my way up from there,” he said. “2014 was a special for year me – it’s when I met all the German guys who are crushing and I went and played WCOOP with them in Canada. It was a key time in my whole career.”
Sontheimer was known on a couple of poker forums and randomly was contacted by Fedor Holz to join the crew in Canada. “I had nothing to do, so I replied yes – easy game.”
Getting exposed to different players and talking about the game opened mental doors for Sontheimer. “I think everyone has their special way of thinking and talking poker with all those guys gives you the whole big picture,” he said. “You can categorize your opponents a little better. You learn so much overall.”
Sontheimer fit in well with the group, traveled with them and brought valuable experience, “I studied game theory, so I’m the numbers guy of the group,” he said.
Sontheimer’s studies push him to be as close to GTO as possible. “Well GTO is a defined term, there’s no opinion about that, but we’re getting closer and closer in hard situations in poker,” he said.
“I always have a three-step concept,” he continued. “Which is first, you have to know what GTO is, but that doesn’t mean you have to play that way. The second step is to know what your opponent is doing wrong and third – this where the money comes from - know the counter strategy.”
“I always compare it to rock-paper-scissors, which is pretty easy to learn from,” Sontheimer said. “Everyone knows that GTO in that game you should randomize into thirds and when you figure out a person’s tendencies to take rock, that’s when you take a little more paper. I think that’s an easy way to explain it.”
Sontheimer is still a relative rookie on the high roller circuit, but it didn’t stop him from verbally sparring with Phil Hellmuth during Event #2’s Final Table. “I’ve played people like him before online, but I don’t want to say anything bad.”
“Obviously Hellmuth is a legend,” he said. “But he’s way too tight in a lot of situations. He will get me, as he says, when he has pocket aces, that’s ok – but the other 90% of the time the pot will be mine. When you know the numbers it’s easy to play.”