113 winnings months and 5m VPPs for Mike "MeleaB" Brooks
Some players are swingy. Others demonstrate an enviable show of steady consistency, but have you ever heard of anyone notching up 113 consecutive winning months? It's a claim made by Mike "MeleaB" Brooks, a 42-year-old Supernova Elite grinder who recently entered the PokerStars Hall of Fame for clocking up 5,000,000 VPPs and more than 15,000,000 hands, picking up an exclusive Slyde watch in the process.
Brooks came to poker later in life than most and it even took him moving country to do so. Having taught maths at school for six years in Bath, a picturesque city in the West of England, Brooks decided to shake things up and moved to the US to continue his teaching career. Don't be mistaken, Brooks isn't a spindly maths geek in a tweed jacket: he regularly boxes, played semi-professional football (soccer to those of you in North America) for a number of years, and even represented his country playing for England Universities. Waving England goodbye, Brooks relocated to North Carolina where he ended up finding a wife and a new career.
It started pretty inconspicuously as most thing do.
"I was on a skiing holiday in Lake Tahoe and sat down next to a friend who was playing 'Let It Ride' poker, a casino game. I thought it was Blackjack, but it was using the hand rankings from poker," said Brooks.
It was enough to raise his interest to try out the real game. When he got back from holiday he got online and sat down at a virtual table.
"I didn't have a clue what I was doing," admitted Brooks. "I was a complete fish and lost money. Played the next day and lost money. Played the next day and lost money. But then I started to pick it up and read some books. After those first few days, I went to the gym and told a friend, 'You know, I think I can make some money at this,' even though I'd been losing. At the end of the first week I was back in profit. Since then, I've gradually made my way up to playing two tables, four tables, eight tables, twelve tables, and up to sixteen tables grinding away at $200NL."
Brooks frequently plays as many as 24 tables and has, quite incredibly, not had a losing month since turning pro, which Brooks attributes to volume and consistency; "If you're playing the same stakes and playing 250,000 hands then you're going to be in the same ballpark every month."
It seems to have worked out for the Brit. He first made Supernova Elite in 2008 and has secured that VIP status every year since, but he's surprisingly humble about that achievement.
"Better players than me would take the route of playing less tables and moving up in stakes experiencing greater variance and bigger volatility, but ultimately some of them go on to much bigger things," said Brooks. "I've been content to enjoy a relatively stress-free, variance-free, guaranteed set amount each month. I still produce quite a nice income and I think I've gone 112, maybe 113, winnings months now. I've never had a losing month in my entire career. It's nice to be able to say that, but better players would move up and experience some fantastic months where they win a lot more. It is still something to be proud of, but it is because I take an easier route. I am older than a lot of other players. I have a family and lot of expenses. It would be great to be 21 and have such limited expenses that you could take greater risks, but I need that guaranteed income."
The reasons for Brooks' lower variance approach is clear, he has two daughters, ten-year-old Narena and eight-year-old Melea, but the self-deprecating analysis of his game appears to be somewhat misplaced. It certainly is if you ask Team PokerStars Online's Marc-Andre Ladouceur.
"I've known Mike since 2009, when we both lived in North Carolina," said Ladouceur, a former nightclub owner. "The first time I actually met him was when he got kicked out of my bar. I went out front and he told me he played online poker, which he introduced me to a few weeks later. Mike's analytical skills and work ethic were always most impressive to me. I don't know many people capable of putting in so much quality volume days in and days out. It's been an inspiration and played a big part in my development. Outside of poker, Mike and I became great friends. Being very generous, him and his wife, Angela, welcomed me at their house countless of times. Congrats to him on that amazing achievement. I'm proud of you, mate!"
Brooks helped Ladouceur to get started and gave him some coaching; "He was always a good player, but was only playing small home games. I showed him how to get to Supernova, and he's gone from strength to strength. It's fantastic," said Brooks.
The pair went to the World Series together and while Ladouceur has embraced the game notching up $1,346,401 in live winnings, including a 13th place in the Big One for $465,159, Brooks returned his focus to cash games
"It takes years to develop the right habits to grind properly, to know when you're tired, when you're hungry, when you need to take a break because you're tilted," explained Brooks. "It's quite amazing how you develop over the years. You don't realise at first how important these things are."
Brooks was probably in the first wave of players to benefit from making sure that he was physically fit. In the lead up to his 40th birthday he set himself a challenge to lose a minimum of 10lbs in the 50 days leading up to the big day while still logging 50,000 hands a week. He lost 21.5lbs to finish on a smidge over 202lbs. It was not a lardy weight, as you might be able to tell from this pic of him giving the heavy bag a going over.
It hasn't all been plain sailing though. Brooks was still living in the US when Black Friday hit and Brooks was one of the first players to relocate and get back on the grind. Having a British passport helped on that front.
"It hit everyone all of a sudden, but I was aware change might be coming and I knew that I could move back to London," said Brooks. "I spoke to PokerStars on the Sunday and I was back in England on the Wednesday ready to play again. It took a few days to go through the security checks, but I was up and playing again on the 20th."
That's not to say that there wasn't a period of transition: it took some months for his family to follow. It's not as simple as just packing a laptop and a change of clothes when you have a young family. They've all since adjusted to life in Brooks' native UK, but the upheaval almost got the better of him.
"I came in drunk one night and opened a couple of $1,000 tables and four $600NL, and ended up being about 11 grand up for the night, which, for a small stakes player, is quite nice." said Brooks, demonstrating in one anecdote that he is both able to mix it up higher up the food chain and make broad understatements at the drop of a hat. He's since settled back into his regular routine of working out, grinding and winning.
His dedication - and that incredible 113 month winning streak - rightfully puts him into the PokerStars Hall of Fame alongside the likes of George "Jorj95" Lind, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Ankush "pistons87" Mandavia, Randy "nanonoko" Lew and Tian "wobbly_au" Shou (who turned $50 into $100,000 in six months). We'd like to echo Marc-Andre's words, "Congrats, mate!"
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.