A problem with your heart muscle sounds very serious, what happened to you and how did you recover from it?
I felt some random pains in my chest, nothing absurd but I told my doctor about it. He said that it wasn’t a big deal and that it was probably nothing. I was like, “Really?” and eventually he said that I could go to the hospital for a check up. That was about a year after I finished high school, and I was working at the time. So I went to the hospital and I didn’t know what I had at that point. I walked into the hospital feeling really good, so I thought it was really stupid that I went there in the first place. They took some of my blood and after that I went outside since you can’t use your phone inside the hospital. I stood there and called one of my buddies to make party plans for that night. At that point a nurse comes running out of the hospital asking me if I was Marvin. Five minutes later I was in the emergency room hooked up to all these machines and I stayed there for about a week. The weird thing was that I still felt very good while all of this was going on. For about two weeks they did all sorts of tests, and after that I couldn’t do sports or drink alcoholic beverages. Especially at that age it was really hard because those are the things you do!
So did they find anything specific from doing all those tests?
It’s called heart muscle ache. There was something wrong with my heart muscle and they found a little gap somewhere, but I couldn’t tell you the exact terms for it.
And then you played a lot more poker because you couldn’t do a lot of other things?
I was playing poker from the hospital, and I actually had some friends coming in that were also playing. It wasn’t like I couldn’t do absolutely nothing, for instance they didn’t tell me that I couldn’t walk up any stairs or something like that, it was just that I couldn’t play sports or drink alcohol. I think poker was okay to play, but I wasn’t even sure about that. When you first start playing live poker your heart is racing like crazy, so I’m not sure if that’s good for you in that situation. Online it’s a little different and that’s what I did, a lot.
Where your parents okay with that?
Of course! (Laughing) I was the injured boy. I already played before that and had some decent scores. They were also fine with it as long as I didn’t lose money that I didn’t have. Parents are always worried when you tell them that you’re going to be a professional poker player. When I told my parents that I was going to try it, which was not even that long ago, I was already making money with poker. It was my last semester of college and while it had always been just a lot of fun to play, I then realized that I could play it professionally. I went to a good University, the European Business School in Oestrich-Winkel, and I always figured I had to do something with my degree even though I didn’t get the best grades, because I was playing poker all the time. So I thought that I was going to do something in the business world, but I decided to give poker a shot because if that would succeed it would be the best thing in the world. It really did and I’m so grateful that I was able to get that chance, and that I’m able to win good money with it. I definitely don’t regret any of my choices.
Was it a very conscious decision to become a professional when you reached a certain bankroll?
I didn’t even know what bankroll management was at the time. I didn’t really care and I just said. In the beginning of 2010 I started playing professionally and that summer I went to Las Vegas for the first time. I told myself I will just go there for a month and play as much live poker as I can. Every day after about four, or five hours of play I was just completely exhausted. I was trying to focus on every little thing and I was dead tired every single session. I would sleep for 12 hours and then start playing again. After every couple of days I took a break and played online for a few days, back when you were still allowed to do that from the US. So that got me started and I became a sponsored player after the summer.
Rettenmaier during the EPT Grand Final. (Photo: Neil Stoddart, PokerNews)
Did you sell a lot of action in the beginning when you just started playing live poker?
Even during the first six months that I was playing professionally I didn’t even know that you could sell action. I didn’t even know that you could get backed, or how any of that stuff worked. Like I said, I didn’t even know what bankroll management was. I was smart enough to know that I couldn’t just risk all my money in one tournament, but I didn’t know how many buy ins you need to have to play a tournament responsibly. We did a lot of road trips through Europe back during the beginning of my live poker career, and we played some weird tournaments even in Slovenia and Croatia for instance. Alexander Debus is probably the only one of that group that people would know.
About the selling of action, I’ve probably only done that two or three times. Very few people are rolled to play a €100,000 event out of their own pocket. I sold action for one 50k event that I played and the €100,000 event here in Monte Carlo. I also sold action for the One Drop, but I eventually ended up not getting in because it was full. That really hurt, because it cost me an insane amount of equity.