LAS VEGAS -- Starting out in a basement in Stockholm, Sweden, Martin Jacobson turned what was once a hobby, into $10,000,000 and made poker history. Jacobson holds the title as the first ever Swede to win the World Series of Poker Main Event. Four years later, the 2014 Main Event champion is involved in charity organizations and travels the world for poker and pleasure. The motivation to win, however, is unchanged. The goal is to be the first two-time Main Event champion in the history of poker.
“It’s never been about the money for me,” said Jacobson. “The poker buzz peaked in Sweden around 2004 and everybody was talking about poker. I bought a poker set and started playing with my friends, and it was mostly a fun way to socialize.”
As the time went by, most of his less patient friends got bored of the game and wanted to do other, less time-consuming activities. Unlike his friends, Jacobson’s love for poker grew fonder.
“I [was] amazed of how much I could improve my chances of winning by studying the game and improving as a player. The people that are not into poker tend to think the game is mostly about luck and getting the right cards, but that is far from true,” said Jacobson.
The more Jacobson practiced, the easier it was to defeat his friends. They soon realized that there was more than just luck to the game of poker. Jacobson needed a bigger challenge and realized he could earn money, so he started playing online tournaments and a few years started playing European Poker Tour events.
Jacobson has been a professional poker player since 2008. The life as a pro poker player is hard to compare to a normal life with a regular routine.
“The best comparison I can come up with is the life of a tennis or golf player. At the start of the year they know that they’ve got Wimbledon in July or the US Open in September, and then they work their schedule around that,” said Jacobson.
Jacobson is happy with his life on the road.
“In January I’ve got the PCA (PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) in the Bahamas and Aussie Millions in Melbourne and then I usually play a big tournament in Monte Carlo in the spring; and of course, the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas all summer,” said Jacobson.
Most of his scheduled poker trips are dream destinations for anyone else, and could be mistaken for vacation trips. According to Jacobson, it’s all business.
“I usually don’t stay in the tournament cities longer than necessary. I know a lot of players that are traveling non-stop and staying in cities to party when tournaments are done. Some of them do not even have a home and are living in their suitcase. I am trying to live a normal life as much as [possible]. I want to be home as soon as possible,” said Jacobson.
Despite all the success and the fact that he moved to London in 2011, Jacobson comes off as a regular guy from Sweden - the country that claimed the motto, “moderate is best.”
He humbly states that there are a lot of players that are better than him, and that he is trying to improve his game every day. Jacobson studies game situations and discusses strategy with other good players. He even watches tutorials on YouTube.
“There [are] a lot of players that are a lot better than me and I learn from everybody. There are so many aspects of poker, and people are good at different parts of the game. It is one thing to have a good strategy, but what separates the best players from the good ones is their ability to execute when it matters,” said Jacobson.
Before starting his poker career, Jacobson aspired to be a chef and dreamt about being a Michelin restaurant chef in Barcelona. Food along with fitness is still a big part of his life. He believes that being in shape is an important aspect of the game and that it gives him a competitive edge.
“The WSOP Main Event goes on for ten days if you go all the way, and if you are physically in shape your mental endurance will be better, and that will give you an advantage on your opponents,” said Jacobson.
Jacobson’s attention to detail along with his professional lifestyle set him apart in 2014 when he won the most prestigious tournament of them all, the World Series of Poker Main Event. Jacobson knew he had the ability to win, but as in any competitive sport, the margins are small and the winner will always need a little bit of luck. The structure of the 2014 Main Event, with the final table starting in November, gave Jacobson three months to prepare and analyze his opponents in detail. Something he took advantage of.
“I simulated the final table with my friends being my opponents with the same stacks I would face in November, and discussed the situations that occurred,” said Jacobson.
According to the Swede, no one was as well prepared as he was and that gave him extra confidence. He got the reports that most of his eight opponents were using their three months partying and celebrating their spot at the Final Table, while he was home in London preparing.
“The feeling that I was the most prepared person at the table gave me confidence, and I got the feeling that I was the most comfortable with the situation,” said Jacobson.
All the hours of hard work finally paid off on November 12, 2014 when he became the WSOP Main Event Champion, won the most prestigious bracelet and the $10,000,000 top prize.
“I am still having a hard time grasping it. Just a few years ago my biggest dream was to just be in a live tournament,” said Jacobson. “The goal is always to win once you’re in it, but even if you are better than the average player you still need a lot of luck to win.”
After winning, Jacobson claims that his life hasn’t been changed drastically. He tries to live the same life as he was before, only with $10,000,000 more in his bank account. To give back to the community, Jacobson chose to help a charity organization called Raising for Effective Giving (REG).
“It’s a charity organization that is cooperating with the charity organizations that makes the most impact. Some charity organizations tend to be inefficient with the money they’re collecting. The people that are donating to those organizations tend to use their hearts more than their brain when choosing who to support. REG has taken a poker players perspective of charity, and tries to maximize the donation value by supporting organizations that are the most effective and save the most lives. All lives matter,” said Jacobson.
Some athletes tend to get content after reaching the ultimate goal. It may seem that after winning the World Series of Poker Main Event there is nothing more prestigious to win for the swede that started his career in a basement in Stockholm. However, Martin Jacobson has a new goal in sight: to be the first ever two-time WSOP Main Event Champion.