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Poker Stories Podcast With Martin Jacobson

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Sep 22, 2021

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Age: 34
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Live Tournament Earnings: $17 Million
Twitter: @martin_jacobson

Top Live Tournament Scores

July 2014 WSOP $10,000 Main Event 1st Place $10,000,000
June 2013 WSOP $111,111 One Drop 6th Place $807,427
Jan. 2011 EPT Deauville €5,000 Main Event 2nd Place $762,185
June 2017 WSOP $111,111 One Drop 6th Place $641,382
July 2017 CPPT Venetian $5,000 Main Event 3rd Place $398,303
Sept. 2010 EPT Vilamoura €5,000 Main Event 2nd Place $382,156
April 2011 EPT Berlin €5,000 Main Event 4th Place $327,337
May 2009 WPT Venice $5,000 Main Event 2nd Place $319,518
Feb. 2014 Aussie Millions AUD$100,000 High Roller 8th Place $313,425
Nov. 2008 EPT Hungary €5,000 Main Event 3rd Place $277,066

Martin Jacobson found poker as a teenager, but his initial aspirations were focused on becoming a chef. After serving a year in the Royal Swedish Navy feeding the crew of a battleship, the Stockholm-native continued his culinary career while playing poker on the side. After turning a satellite win into a third-place finish at the 2008 EPT Budapest main event for $247,668, Jacobson was off and running.

Jacobson continued to tear up the European circuit, finishing second at WPT Venice for $319,518, second at EPT Vilamoura for $378,706, fourth at EPT Berlin for $327,337, and second at EPT Deauville for another $762,185. He even started finding consistent success in high roller events, final tabling the $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Roller twice.
Although he was frustrated with the close calls, it all came together in 2014 when he took down the World Series of Poker main event for the championship bracelet and the $10 million first-place prize. His $17 million in career tournament earnings is enough to make the top 40 on the all-time money list, and he has three times his nearest competitor on Sweden’s rankings.

Highlights from this interview include attending a culinary high school, choosing a ‘practical’ career, a long year in the Royal Swedish Navy, inspiring Kitchen Nightmares, getting kicked out of internet cafes, on deck battleship sessions, lasting just three hands in the main event, frustrating close calls, three-months of prep work pays off, why he hasn’t watched his WSOP win, the motivation to play following a $10 million score, Stockholm to London, why he hasn’t opened a restaurant, losing $70,000 in a Slovakia hotel lobby, James Bond vibes, ear plugs and eye masks, and a heads-up battle with a Ratatouille villain.

The Transcript Highlights

On His First Career Choice

Martin Jacobson: Before I found poker, I trained to be a chef. I graduated culinary high school in Stockholm, and then I did military service as a cook in the Royal Swedish Navy.

Julio Rodriguez: That seems like a young age to pick a career path. What inspired you to become a chef?

MJ: It was a very young age, but that’s just how the system in Sweden is built. By 15, you’re supposed to know basically what you want to do for the rest of your life. But for me, I was just so fed up with school at that point. It seemed like a great option for me instead of sitting behind a school bench for eight hours every day. I’ve always enjoyed more practical learning.

JR: Tell me about your time in the Navy.

MJ: That was a long year. They come to your school when you’re 14 and show you this promotional video. It looks really cool. You’ve seen the videos, it’s all patriotism and explosions and stuff, really exciting to a 14-year-old boy. Years go by, and I turned 20 and got the letter in the mail that it was time to serve.

I’m happy I did it, in hindsight, although it was a bit of a grind. It taught me a lot of things. It taught me discipline and humbled me a little bit. I got to meet people from all over the country. But I remember at the time, I was pretty fed up with it to be honest. I mean, I was still cooking, but in a completely different environment.

JR: Did they utilize your skills well in the Navy?

MJ: Yeah, I would say they did. That was the good part about doing it in the Navy. If you’re a cook in the Army, it’s a completely different story because you’re very limited on your budget and what you can do. But in the Navy, we got an insane budget. We could literally order anything we wanted. We were just experimenting, you know, ordering all sorts of things and then doing tasting menus like once a week. It was a lot of fun in that sense.

Midway through the military, I bought myself a laptop so I could play on the boat. The only issue was that it was a modern corvette, a stealth battleship, which means that it couldn’t get picked up on radar. It didn’t have any windows, so the only way to play [online poker] was to sit up on deck to get reception.

On His First Time Playing The Main Event

MJ: I found a pathway to getting to live tournaments, which is something that I really aspired to do. It was my biggest dream at the time, to play one of these big live events. I managed to win a package to the WSOP in 2008. I was set to turn 21 three days before the main event.

Back then, you had the option to take the money or go and play, and I wasn’t really sure what to do. It was $12,000, which was such a big lump sum of money to me at the time.

I asked my mom, and she said, “Of course you’re going to go play.” And when she said that, it made the decision easier. I knew in my gut that I wanted this.

JR: So of course, as everyone knows, you went and became the youngest main event champion in history, right?

MJ: (Laughing) Right, that was definitely on my mind.

JR: So, what actually happened that day?

MJ: It was quite the opposite. I was the first player to be eliminated from the entire tournament. It was the third hand, just ten minutes into the day. It was a little bit of a cooler, boat over boat, but I definitely overplayed it. I remember I had read something in a book back then about being pot committed, so that was going through my head. (Laughing) I remember looking down at the last of my chips, which was like 40 big blinds behind, and thinking I [had to call.] It was a good learning experience for sure.

On The Close Calls Before His Main Event Win

JR: You had a run where you finished second at EPT Vilamoura, second at EPT Deauville, second in Las Vegas at a DeepStack event, second at WPT Venice… Were you getting frustrated with the runner-up finishes?

MJ: Yeah, I’m not going to lie. It got more and more frustrating every time it happened. The first time you get a third place, you’re over the moon. I wasn’t even upset. Then the second time, you say at least I made the final table. But then the third time, it gets very frustrating to be that close to taking down the whole thing and [coming up short.]

It wasn’t like I was hunting the fame or anything like that, I just wanted to know what it felt like to win a live tournament. I had won tournaments online, but wanted that feeling live.

JR: Was there a particularly brutal finish that you thought about for a while afterwards?

MJ: Yeah, the worst one was in Deauville. It was a really great score, a huge field with over a thousand players. But the worst thing about it was the person I lost to. If you lose to a really good player or a very nice guy, you don’t mind it as much. But when you lose to someone who is not only not a good player, but is also very obnoxious and disrespectful, it makes it so much worse.

JR: Well obviously you got the win when it mattered most, in 2014. We should look that guy up and see what’s he’s done since then.

MJ: You know what he does for a living?

JR: I assume he’s an arms dealer for evil regimes.

MJ: Even better. He’s a rat exterminator in Paris.

JR: (Laughing) Oh, so he’s the bad guy from Ratatouille then?

MJ: (Laughing) Yeah, exactly. And I’m the rat.


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.

To listen, visit
www.cardplayer.com/poker-podcasts or download it directly to your device from any number of mobile apps, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify. Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu, Patrik Antonius, Justin Bonomo, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Bryn Kenney, Mike Sexton, Layne Flack, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho, Jason Koon, and many more.