Larry Lurr looks for a return to Smash glory

After 10 years in the competitive Smash scene, Larry "Larry Lurr" Holland has seen the highs and lows of being a pro gamer. Now without a major win in nearly a year, he hopes a change in mindset will lift him back to the top. Provided by Robert Paul

It has been 312 days since Larry "Larry Lurr" Holland won a major esports tournament.

Although he has placed within the top eight in some of the world's largest tournaments, the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player has gone without a big win since he took the 2GGT: Mexico Saga last June. But that doesn't mean he can't be victorious again.

Holland, a 27-year-old student at California State University Northridge, has been considered a great among his peers for quite some time. Previously known by the handle "Does Everyone Hate Falco?" or "DEHF" for short, Holland first made a name for himself as a dual competitor in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl beginning in 2008.

Unlike many pro gamers, Holland works to balance his school life with his esports career, which recently took a step up, as he signed with Miami Heat-co-owned esports team Misfits earlier this year.

"It's just a lot of planning," Holland said to ESPN. "Just make sure things are ready ahead of schedule, like I had an exam this weekend, and I asked my professor if he could move it to another date, [and] he was fine with it. I feel like people make it seem more difficult than what it actually is because it's no different than balance work or anything else. With school, it's just another thing you balance with it."

It has been seven years since Holland's most recent super major win, the 2010 at Apex in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but his ambition is still intact. Holland is aiming for a higher goal: to keep rising in competitive rankings, in which he currently sits fifth, and win another super major tournament.

To get there, he'll have to overcome a landscape far more competitive than the one he faced when he entered the scene 10 years ago. Because of tournaments such as 2GG Championship: Civil War in Santa Ana, California, of which Holland served as a tournament organizer, players from around the world, most notably Japan, have had opportunities to compete that did not exist in Melee or Brawl in prior years.

"[The competition is] great. I love it," Holland said. "I wish the other competitive Smash games were exposed to this level of play in their beginning years. I think it would've prevented the top level of play from being so small, compared to Smash for Wii U. Melee. There are, in my opinion, four people who will realistically win a tournament if everyone goes, whereas with Smash for Wii U, you can't really determine who would and who would not."

At Civil War, players such as Isami "T" Ikeda, Noriyuki "Kirihara" Kirihara and Mason "Locus" Charlton placed within the top eight of an American major event for the first time in their careers. Holland said that though healthy for the game, that is due to inconsistencies that stem from lack of knowledge around the game's diverse set of characters.

"One of the biggest issues that people are having is matchup inexperience," Holland said. "In a game like this that has so many viable characters that are actually good, where you can't sleep on any character, you have to know every one, and because of that, I honestly don't think we're going to have a huge dominance like we had for a while -- not like the ZeRo style of dominance. I think right now there are so many niche matchups that you need to know, and I don't think anyone's getting near that point, especially with people advancing their character's meta constantly."

However, there's a chance things could change and top players could become more consistent. The game has not been updated since May, and as a result, the balance of characters remains the same, while new character releases have halted. That May update is also believed to be the final update to the game prior to the release of an entirely new version in the future.

"As long as there are no more updates to the game, it should be a lot easier to [iron out inconsistencies with matchups]," Holland said. "The other issue that is happening now: Not only are there a large variety of characters, but it's also the introduction of the international scene and others getting better in general, which is making the game seem more inconsistent than what it is."

To climb this mountain and potentially win the next few tournaments that lead into the summer, which begins this weekend with CEO Dreamland in Orlando, Florida, Holland has to deal with some of his own demons. Most of all, Holland said he needs to find a way to fix a mindset flaw that he sees as a constant issue throughout his career.

"I'm sure a lot of people have noticed that I play significantly better after I lose in winners [bracket]," Holland said. "If I could just play like that throughout winners [bracket], it would be great. Obviously, I'm still capable of losing, but it [would] just make my bracket easier if I just played like I was in losers [bracket] in the beginning because I would go farther than I normally do."

Although he wouldn't venture into more detail, he said he has something planned for this weekend's event in Orlando.

"I'm going to try something out at Dreamland and see if it works," Holland said. "Generally, I do well, I just get angry at myself for losing, and I play better that way. I can't really get angry with myself if I'm not losing -- that's how I feel. I'm just going to try something out, and then if it doesn't, I guess I'm back to the drawing board. I have plenty of time to iron things before Evo and the other big events during the summer."

Only one player within Super Smash Bros. for Wii U has managed to be consistent in any time period. Chilean player Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios, who like Holland has had a legacy within the game series, took home trophies from 56 consecutive tournaments from late 2015 to late 2016. Still considered the best player in the game, ZeRo serves as not only a respected adversary but also a role model to many Smash players, including Holland.

"[ZeRo's] a very studious player. He's the hardest working player in Smash," Holland said. "There are players who, they'll practice for a few hours every few days, but he practices every day to iron out his play style and things he needs to work on. His work ethic is so phenomenal. I think that's what drives him to be the best player. Obviously, he's really good, but there are players who get to his level, and they'll get complacent with how they're doing, whereas he'll just strive to improve himself even more."

Holland will get his shot at ZeRo and many of his other longtime peers beginning Friday and will have continuous showings against them in the coming months at events such as DreamHack Austin, Get On My Level, Community Effort Orlando and the biggest of them all, the Evolution Championship Series in Las Vegas this summer.

But regardless of outcome, Holland hopes to continue to learn from his experience, not getting too hung up on one result. He's patient in wanting to achieve his goal.

"I think every event can prepare you for the next one," he said. "You just have to learn from it."