Lee Davy sits down with Martin Jacobson to discuss his life, making it to the November Nine and his plans for the final table.
Martin Jacobson is one of the greatest European poker players yet to find the rub of the green necessary to win a major title.
I think it’s time for that statistic to change.
The Swede has made the final table of the $10,000 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, and he will start as the most experienced live tournament player left in the field.
With 37 big blinds, a great technical poker game and all the big time tournament experience on his side, I certainly wouldn’t bet against him taking the title.
Who is Martin Jacobson?
“I grew up on a small island just outside of Stockholm that had a reputation of being slightly upper class, but I would say I come from a middle class family background. When I was in my 20s I moved into the city of Stockholm where I started to play poker professionally, before moving on to London where I currently live.”
Were you a good little boy in school?
“I didn’t really like school that much. I got fed up with the academic classes like math and such, so when I was looking at High Schools I decided I wanted to choose a school, and subject, that was more practical – and so I went to a culinary school.”
So you had a vision to be the next Gordon Ramsay?
“Not at the time. It was just an outcome of being sick of math and all the academic classes. But I always enjoyed cooking so I did have that going for me.”
So you hated math and then ended up playing a game that uses math all of the time.
“Math is just a small part of poker, and playing poker is a lot different than attending your average math class. I don’t necessarily dislike math I just dislike going to math class.”
So what happened after school?
“I graduated in 2006 and got a job working as a cook in my hometown. Then in 2007 I spent a year in the military, working as a cook in the Navy. I then moved to the city and worked as a cook at one of the restaurants there. All this time I was playing poker as a hobby, and creating extra income. I was beating the games, but not in the way where I could make a living out of it. It was a dream to play poker, for a living, but not a realistic one at the time. I had high aspirations, dedicated a lot of time studying the game, and playing, but at the same time it was just a hobby.”
So where did your goals lie at this point in your life?
“I didn’t have a clear path about what I wanted to do in life. I was happy with cooking, and being a chef, but I also enjoyed playing poker. I have never been the type of guy to set goals for the future. I’m the kind of guy who keeps changing my goals, and takes each day as it comes.”
Are we going to see you moving into the restaurant business in the future?
“That was one of my dreams when I was in culinary school. I thought it would be interesting, and fun, to own a restaurant. When I started working in the industry I saw the owners and realized that they didn’t seem particularly happy with their lives. So it turned me off. If I was to venture into the business it would have to be as a hobby and not necessarily for financial reasons.”
Are you content with life?
“About six-months ago I was in Australia having a little break from poker. There was a 2-3 month period where I barely played and instead travelled through Australia and New Zealand. It gave me more time to think about my life and what was meaningful for me. I started thinking of outlets outside of poker and had an idea to open a healthy fast food chain. Then I went to the Aussie Millions, had a lot of success, and my goals changed again. The business ideas have now been put on ice – for a while at least.”
You have to keep riding the wave when it’s high I guess?
“It’s not so much about the money. When you are successful at something it’s tough to give it up, especially if it’s something you have a close relationship to. It’s just difficult to let something like poker go when you have been doing it for so long.
“There are a lot of ups and downs when you are a pro poker player. You are on top of the world when things go great, but then you can feel depressed and destructive when things are not going well.”
What are you like when things are going poorly?
“I definitely have had downswings in my career. I’m just fortunate that they haven’t been too brutal. When it happens it’s not fun. You start questioning yourself, your play and your work ethic. Questions come up: Am I ever going to win again? What’s next for me? Is the game even beatable anymore?
Does your mood affect those you love?
“I would like to say no, but it’s tough for me to answer. I try not to let it affect my social life, but it’s easier said than done.
Who is going to be on your rail come November?
“My family will be there and a wide variety of friends from different countries.”
Is it the first time your family has watched you play poker live?
“They have watched me live before, but nothing like this. It brings extra pressure to do well but it will also be a lot of fun. I don’t think any of them have been in Vegas, with the exception of my girlfriend, so it will be a good trip.”
You have had so many close run things at EPT and WPT final tables; do any of them hurt you more than most?
“I would have to say EPT Deauville. Mostly because I had been close a couple of time before. Of all of them, taking second is the most gutted feeling because you are so close. It’s just one person away from winning a huge tournament, and when you bust and it’s all over. You see the other person cheering, and celebrating, and it could have been you if things would have gone differently.”
Speaking to you at the series, you wasn’t especially happy with things and then bang! What happened?
“I had a pretty poor series leading up the Main Event. I was in Vegas form the start so I had played probably 30-ish of the prelims and cashed just twice. I final tabled bubbled the $10k Six-Max but it didn’t cover all of my expenses so I was in quite deep and looking for a way to get out – and there is always the Main Event. It’s always a nice feeling knowing there is always a possibility to make up for it at the end.”
Do you have 100% of your own action?
“No definitely not. For most tournaments I play, and the same goes for my colleagues, it’s very common to swap out a big percentage of yourself to reduce variance. It’s also more fun, because if you bust with 100% of yourself there is no other way of winning your money back or having a sweat.”
You are the man with all the live tournament experience. Do you feel any added pressure?
“I don’t feel any pressure. I feel very confident coming in knowing that I have the most experience. I would have liked to play the final the day after, because now I feel a little bit disadvantaged because they have four months to prepare themselves a little better for the final. When I read the player profiles I noticed that not a lot of them have a lot of live tournament experience.”
Have you seen the ICM calculations? What’s your view on the numbers? A lot of people are saying there is no way you would take a deal.
“I wouldn’t accept those numbers. I don’t mind it being top heavy because it’s going to change the play at the final table. Everyone will play more conservatively, and try to ladder up, and I think that will play to my advantage. For me personally, it’s not so much the money that’s in focus. I want to win more than anything. Winning the Main Event will be a huge achievement, and one of my personal goals in life.”