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World Series Of Poker Finalist Strives For Better Life

Robert Salaburu Hopes To Retire From Grinding 80 Hours Per Week


Robert Salaburu is a main event finalist and a realist.

He has been in the game of poker for a decade and, not surprisingly, has experienced the typical swings that come with playing cards for a living.

He said he has gone broke more than 10 times during over the years due to poor bankroll management. He said those were moments when he asked himself the questions: “What the f**k am I doing? Why I am still playing this game?”

Poker may be the casino game where skill is predominant over the long run, but regardless of how good you are, the variance devil rears its ugly face from time to time. That can be especially dangerous when trying to climb the poker ladder.

Even the best of the best go broke. Moving up in stakes is one of the risks many in the game take in order to avoid a sense of stagnation, or perhaps acquire more recognition and material wealth. When you are doing well, the mentality is to keep challenging yourself.

“I had no discipline, ever,” he said of his bankroll blunders of the past, but claims he’s a lot better these days.

The 28-year-old from Texas came into the main event with just $10,875 in career tournament earnings, but managed to survive in $5-$10 no-limit hold’em cash games. For him, a huge score in the main event is about making his life easier.

His goal is to win, snag some “capital” and invest it outside of the felt.

His brother is involved with his own business endeavors, and so the main event finalist could go into the entrepreneurial world if he decides to take poker less seriously.

However, he also sees business as gambling. Either way, Salaburu is a risk taker.

There’s a $7,773,184 difference between ninth and first-place money in the event. Like everyone else, Salaburu’s life could be a whole different if he’s the last man standing. Simply making the main event final table doesn’t guarantee any financial security whatsoever, especially when you factor in that Salaburu sold pieces of himself.

At the Rio in Las Vegas, with the bright spaceship-like lights and the crowd reacting emotionally to every flop, the deep run in the main event rejuvenated him in a sense, making the veteran grinder excited about poker once again.

The memories of cash game drudgery faded away in the expansive Amazon Room during his run up to the final table — and will likely be out of his mind once again when he’s playing for $8.5 million next week in the Penn and Teller Theater.

The performance is extra sweet since Salaburu was having a rough summer financially before the main event started.

He has thought about leaving the game before, but it has always pulled him back in. “I’ve invested so much time and effort into [poker] at this point,” he said. “Once it digs its claws into you, you’re kind of stuck. It’s like a dirty drug.”

“I’m not going to walk away from poker,” he added. “But, I’m not going to be an 80-hour per week grinder like I’ve been. Poker is swingy. It can emotionally mess with you. You have to become numb almost.”

Regardless of what he does professionally after the main event, poker will always be a part of his life in some capacity. “I love the game,” he admits despite his criticisms of the sport and its deepest and darkest pitfalls.

Surviving in poker is stressful, but he still cherishes the freedom it can provide. The main event is the event that gives the most in that department, and he just doesn’t want to look back and have any regrets — not with his play, but with how he responds.

“I don’t want to be another one of those stories of a degen who fu**ed it all up,” Salaburu said of cases in the past where poker pros squandered a large tournament score.

The laid-back Salaburu enjoys traveling and “going out with friends.” He said he doesn’t really have any hobbies, but he hopes to be able to explore himself and the world more if he’s able to solidify some financial freedom.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus



almost 9 years ago

Hey Rob, message to you. Maybe it was the editing at ESPN but you looked like a real jerk on TV. What's with all the sounds and faces???? I hope you bust 9th


almost 9 years ago

I'm with you Bob2. Not only did Rob act like a jerk...he clearly was an ass when Hille was in for her tournament life...calling for cards to beat her even though he wasn't in the hand. Did the same when Bauman was all in. Maybe the guy in pink plaid doesn't like the girls....I hope you bust on your first hand!!