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Poker Stories Podcast: Julien Martini

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Feb 12, 2020


Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 27
From: Paris, France
Live Tournament Earnings: $4.7 Million

Top Five Live Tournament Scores

Jan. 2019 $25k PokerStars Players Championship 2nd Place $2,974,000
Aug. 2018 EPT Barcelona €1k NLHE 2nd Place $377,910
June 2018 WSOP $1.5k Omaha 8/ob 1st Place $239,771
Nov. 2019 Poker Masters $10k Big Bet Mix 1st Place $166,400
Oct. 2019 WSOP Europe €10k Main Event 7th Place $146,539

Julien Martini is just 27 and has only been grinding the tournament circuit for a few years, but during that stretch he has been red hot, winning more than $4.7 million. It’s enough to already place him in France’s all-time tournament earnings top 10. Nearly $3 million of those cashes came in January of this year when he finished runner-up in the $25,000 buy-in PokerStars Players Championship. Martini also has a win at the Poker Masters, and recently made the final table in the World Series of Poker Europe main event.

However, the greatest score of Martini’s short career came in 2018 at the WSOP in Las Vegas. The former handball standout navigated his way through a field of 911 players in the $1,500 Omaha eight-or-better event, winning his first bracelet, and the $239,711 first-place prize. Although the payout wasn’t a personal best, he also managed to land a date with his heads-up opponent, mixed-game specialist Kate Hoang. Martini and Hoang got married in September, in one of the best off-the-felt stories of the year.

Highlights from this interview includes one bad jump out of 100,000, an unwise decision to turn pro at 18, going broke and starting a real job, learning life lessons while selling door-to-door, the joy of being your own boss, being an early GTO  advocate, why he’s not really a tournament pro, gifting his bracelet to his father, finding love at the poker table, what Americans think of the police, France’s top five players, the player he couldn’t quit in a 42-hour session, losing to a one-outer for a $260k pot, rewarding yourself with expensive watches, last name jokes and a love for red wine, underground cash games in Taipei, bricking an entire WSOP, Ryan Gosling’s looks, $25k flips, running from robbers, and why he prefers cats to dogs.

The Transcript Highlights

On His Unwise Decision To Turn Pro

Julien Martini: I was watching on TV, like the WPT and WSOP, and for me it was like a completely other world. It’s pretty funny, back then I was watching people like Antonius, Ivey, Jennifer Harman, and all that crew, and today I’m playing against them. Super crazy.

I was up and down, and I won a tournament on PokerStars when I was just 18. I thought I was very good at poker, so I decided to stop school to play poker full time.

Julio Rodriguez: And did that decision turn out to be wise?

JM: Oh no, it was terrible. Worst decision of my life. I went broke very quickly, and at 21, I needed to start real life and find a job. A very small job.

JR: So, what was that job? We have a question we ask on the podcast, what was the worst job you had before poker?

JM: I don’t know how you say it in English, but I was actually knocking on doors to sell TV [subscriptions].

JR: Door-to-door salesman?

JM: Yeah. It was really hard. I needed to work like ten hours a day to earn like $600 [weekly] income. I think it teaches you [about] life.

On Meeting His Future Wife At The Poker Table

JR: So 2018, you are playing in the Omaha eight-or-better event, and you are heads-up with the lovely Kate Hoang, and battling it out for a bracelet, and all this time sparks are flying?

JM: No, all this time I just wanted to kill her, to win the bracelet!

JR: Okay, so it wasn’t flirting in between hands the entire final table?

JM: Nothing. Not a single word until the end. I still can’t believe that happened. Definitely the best day of my life. Winning the bracelet and the perfect woman, is an amazing day.

JR: So you win $240k and the bracelet, and she wins $150k. The two of you took the big chunk of that prize pool with it all staying in one household. Was she not angry after losing to you?

JM: Kate has a lot of empathy, and I think she really understood how important that bracelet was for me. I think she was more happy for me than sad for her, and she’s just like this. It’s a big part of her personality.

JR: So how did it work? Did you ask her out that night?

JM: We [connected later] and went to karaoke and things went well. We exchanged a lot of texts, and things went pretty smoothly from there.

On The Longest Session He Ever Played At The Table

JR: Longest poker session?

JM: 42 hours. It’s not that crazy when I’ve read some people playing 75 hours or more.

JR: How did it go for you?

JM: Oh, it went pretty well. It was actually here in Vegas, with a guy who couldn’t leave, and I couldn’t leave him…

JR: You couldn’t leave because you couldn’t find a flight, or was the game too good?

JM: The guy couldn’t leave the table because he loved poker too much, and I couldn’t leave because I loved that guy too much. At this point, I was still building my bankroll, and I needed money more than today. I wouldn’t do that today for sure.

JR: Why? For ethics reasons, or just for sleep reasons?

JM: More for my health…. and I think as long as the guy is not drunk, and you know he’s just a successful guy that wants to have fun and push his limits, I don’t mind playing against him. Because he knows what he’s doing. He’s not weak with addiction.
It would bother me if the guy was dead drunk, and I was there just to kill him. I’m always the first when a guy is drunk to say, ‘Hey, maybe it’s time to go back to your room and come back tomorrow.’ I really love when things are ethical and fair. ♠

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Freddy Deeb, Joe Cada, Layne Flack, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.