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Superior Swede Martin Jacobson

Final Table Food For Thought

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Nov 01, 2011

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Martin JacobsonPeople often judge poker players by the amount of titles or bracelets they have to their names, but what about those who consistently make final tables and whose names are always among the last few remaining. One player who has been relentlessly knocking on the door is Martin Jacobson.

Since 2008 the talented Swede has accumulated more than $2.6 million in tournament winnings, and, at just 24 years of age, has already made over 10 final tables with no sign of slowing down. It may seem a bit excessive after all that to say Jacobson really deserves a major title, but it cannot be denied; he does.

So Much, So Young

In 2008, Jacobson hit the international poker scene with a bang finishing in third place at the Hungarian Open for €197,904. A year later he came runner-up to Sven-Ragnar Arstrom at the World Poker Tour Venice for €238,840, and in 2010 he finished fourth for $183,345 and eighth for $65,487 in World Series of Poker $1,500 no-limit hold’em events. Season seven of the European Poker Tour, which crossed over from 2010 to 2011, really saw the Swede come into his own with runner-up finishes at both Vilamoura and Deauville, earning him over $1.1 million for the two. That season saw Jacobson finish in second place to Fernando Brito for EPT Player of The Year but he did manage to win the title of Online Qualifier of the Year after successfully qualifying online for six EPT events, two of which he almost took down.
Season eight of the EPT saw Jacobson back at it again with fourth place in Berlin for €230,000, he also took the $47,266 fourth-place prize from the Nordic Masters of Poker main event, and, at the time of writing, his most recent achievement was sixth place at the WPT Grand Prix de Paris for €88,900. “Making another final table felt great as I feel that I played well throughout the whole tournament,” says Jacobson on his Paris final table experience. “The structure was amazingly deep stacked and made it very enjoyable to play. I was satisfied with how the tournament was run except for the decision to play the final table in a room without air-conditioning! It was literally 35 degrees in there, which caused it to be a real challenge to maintain focus on the game.”

Out of the Kitchen… Onto the Felt

Jacobson has shown he can handle the heat in any major event he plays so it may not be too surprising to learn that before joining the poker scene the cool and collected Swede was aiming for the top spot in quite a different industry. As a young chef, Jacobson had huge ambitions and was planning on moving to Barcelona to work his way up to the top at a three-star Michelin restaurant. He says, “During the process, my contact that got me the job became unavailable so while I was waiting for her to call me back I automatically devoted more time to online poker. She still hasn’t called me back but luckily for me I found something else that I’m very passionate about and enjoy doing. I think that most things happen for a reason.”

Like a lot of young players, the Swede got into poker when he saw it on television. “I started playing home games and also started playing online with free money,” says Jacobson. “Then I deposited some, and lost a little bit until I figured some things out. I started playing professionally in ’08 but the first time I started playing was ’04 or ’05.” It seems Jacobson is a man with the midas touch but dig deeper and you’ll find a dedicated hard-worker who is willing to put in the time and graft. He says, “For every deep run I make I’ve improved a little bit. So I definitely think I’m a way better player than I was one year ago. I’m getting more experience most of all, and for every trip you make you discuss hands with people, you get yourself in different scenarios and spots… you learn a lot through experience.” Jacobson focuses solely on hold’em and although a little tempted to try other games, he says, “I think I can improve a lot in hold’em before I do. I’d rather be an excellent no-limit hold’em player because it’s still the biggest game than try to be mediocre at all the games.”

You Win Some, You Lose Some

During his quest to better his game, Jacobson has experienced the delirium, and indeed frustration, of finishing in second place. When asked whether he felt disappointed with coming so close or happy with what he achieved, Jacobson said, “It’s a little bit of both. I’m incredibly pleased with my results and my success over the last three years and I don’t want anyone to think I’m not. It would of course be unreal to win a major tournament one day but as long as I keep making final tables I’m more than happy.” It was Lucien Cohen (with his mascot rat) and Toby Lewis who would keep Jacobson from striking gold on European ground but if he had to face either of them heads up again for a title, who would it be? “If I had the option,” answers Jacobson, “I’d choose Lucien Cohen and make sure I bring my headphones!”
Jacobson’s results pretty much speak for themselves but since he has neared victory so many times, there must be an element of frustration. However the young pro speaks about it with a very balanced point of view, he says, “I’m well aware of variance in tournament poker. As I see it I’ve had variance on my side in most tournaments I’ve gone deep in and even on most final tables, until I’ve reached the heads up. I’m not saying it’s all based on luck but I think the sample sizes we’re looking at are way too small to speculate too deep into.” He then playfully adds, “That being said, when I lost heads up for the fourth time — to a player I felt I had a huge edge against and on top of that getting a plastic rat shoved in my face — I was definitely on the edge of being frustrated!”

So if Jacobson could go back and play any of the events again, would he do anything differently? “It’s hard to say; maybe,” he says, “But maybe some things I would do worse. I wouldn’t want to replay the season… There is a lot of variance involved. There were a lot of flips where something could have gone wrong and I wouldn’t have made those final tables. On the other hand, I could have ran better, I could have been the first to win two EPTs and do it in one season, but overall I’m happy with my results so far.”

Rejoicing in the Success of Others

Although Jacobson positively marches on towards taking down his first major title, deep down it’s really a World Series of Poker bracelet that he wants. It didn’t come this summer but that didn’t bother Jacobson as it was the success of a friend that made the trip worthwhile, “I got relatively close to making the final table in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event for the third year in a row,” he says. “Unfortunately I got a bit unlucky when I lost J-J to 9-9 for the chip lead with 25 left. Other than that I had a couple of smaller cashes here and there. One of my housemates did however win the $5,000 shootout, and to be on the rail watching him go all the way through one of the toughest fields of the Series was one of the greatest feelings I have ever had in poker.”

Secret Recipe

Many people dream of living the life Martin Jacobson is currently enjoying; travelling to different events around the world, eating well, partying, having fun, and earning money, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. At this level, you have to be good, and I mean really, really good. Otherwise you won’t be doing it for long. The many players who work hard at it but don’t seem to get anywhere could do with a tip or two from the chef-turned-poker pro. So, what is it that the Swede has done to his game to bring him to this point? “I used to play a very high variance style of poker where you basically either make a final table or you bust pretty early on. It might sound stupid,” says Jacobson. “Lately I’ve tried to play a low variance style where you try to avoid the really big pots and flips; they’re unavoidable in some spots, but if you can avoid them it’s always nice because you don’t really want to flip for your tournament life in a soft field. I try to play many small pots and chip up that way.” Jacobson refrains from mentioning any names when it comes to talking about the players who have challenged him in the past but says that the opponents he respects the most and finds the toughest to play against are normally creative players that are very good at balancing their ranges and maximising the value out of each hand without chasing too many pots. “It’s a fine line between a genius and a ‘spewtard’ and there are very few who master this playing style without getting out of line too often,” he says.

Just a Matter of Time

Born in Sweden, Jacobson, like many other professional poker players, has recently moved to the UK and is currently looking for a permanent residence in London. “I will still spend a lot of time travelling around the live circuit so London suits me great considering its location and all the direct flights,” he says. A convenient base is pretty important when you take a look at Jacobson’s poker schedule for the coming (and recent) months; EPT London, WSOPE, EPT San Remo etc.. “Theres always a live tournament somewhere in the world these days,” says Jacobson, “So if you don’t want to be on the road full-time you have to prioritise where you’re going. Later this year I’m planning on going to Prague for the WPT and EPT and then maybe Vegas for the third event in the EPIC Poker League right before Christmas.”

Jacobson attends all of these events off his own back but, according to the pro, sponsorship is something he would be interested in. He says, “I have always managed to finance my poker expenses myself. I don’t have any sponsor at the moment but I could definitely see myself representing a poker site in the future.” Poker sites be on your guard as if, for some reason, the Swede has not already proved himself, it won’t be long before he does. “I don’t think there’s much you can do but try to play your best and just keep playing,” he says. “For every final table I make I feel more and more relaxed and experienced in the situation I’m in. This works to my advantage in order to play better and make fewer mistakes than more inexperienced players that might not perform their best due to nervousness.”

Such a busy schedule makes it even more likely that one of these days the Swede’s name will be in poker headlines and not just for yet another final table, but for the title, the gold, and all the glory that goes with it. Only then will justice be done. ♠