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Tournament Trail Q & A: Antonio Salorio

High Stakes Poker's Antonio Salorio Speaks About His Game


Antonio Salorio on High Stakes PokerAntonio Salorio is perhaps best known for playing the seven-deuce game on the fourth season of the Game Show Network’s High Stakes Poker. Salorio, a prominent nosebleed-stakes cash-game player himself, was invited onto the show but took a huge hit to his bankroll when he got into a confrontation with Brian Brandon holding 7 2. At the start of the game, the players had agreed to pay $500 each to any player who could win a pot holding the worst hand in hold’em. This game within the game invariably led to Salorio losing more than $100,000 after Brandon flopped quad kings.

Despite the infamy surrounding one of the most talked about hands in the history of televised poker, Salorio remains upbeat and optimistic about his game and place in the poker world. He has earned more than $300,000 on the tournament trail and claims to have won more than three times that in the side games in the past year alone. Card Player caught up with the South Florida native at the Borgata Poker Classic to talk about how he learned the game and the success he’s had against the rich and the famous.

Julio Rodriguez: You are best known for playin in this season of High Stakes Poker. When did you first learn the game?

Antonio Salorio: I just started playing cards about five years ago, steady. I was working in construction before that. I just started playing the cash games along with Lee Markholt; I attribute a lot of my success to Lee. We met at the tables and started to chat it up. I studied him; he’s a great teacher.

JR: What limits did you start out at?

AS: I started pretty high at $10-$25, but now I’ll pretty much play any limit.

JR: Other than your $100,000 hit on High Stakes Poker, how have things gone for you?

AS: Really well. Things have been going very well for me. Last year, I pretty much broke even in tournaments. I spent about a quarter of a million dollars and I won about a quarter of a million dollars. But in cash games, [I've won] seven figures.

JR: Do you think you’re a better cash-game player?

AS: I’m starting to feel that way. In cash games I have no fear, but tournaments, for some reason, I have the fear. I think it’s supposed to be the opposite. I think it’s because I really want to win a tournament. You know, I want to win a tournament more than I want to win a half a million dollars in a cash game. It’s not about the money; it’s the prestige of a tournament win.

JR: What’s the biggest problem with your tournament game right now?

AS: I got all kinds of leaks. These Internet kids pick you apart. With them, it’s all about pressure, pressure, pressure. I think I’m playing too weak in tournaments for that kind of pressure. I need to step it up and re-pop these guys if I want to be successful.

JR: Who is your favorite type of opponent, a knowledgeable professional or a complete amateur?

AS: In a cash game, I prefer to play with Internet guys; the more Internet guys, the better. I want them to re-pop me, and I want that aggression. But in a tournament, I’d rather be with the older, less aggressive professionals, or, of course, satellite winners. Those are my two choices. I think the Internet guys have a real advantage in the tournaments, the same advantage I have when the blinds never go up.

JR: Do you think it’s possible for anyone to make a living playing strictly tournaments alone?

Antonio Salorio on High Stakes Poker with Phil HellmuthAS: No. Hardly anyone can make a living playing tournament poker alone. I honestly think it’s nearly impossible. With the cost of travel, hotels, and buy-ins, I’d say only about five percent [of players] can profit from being strictly tournament players. You have the guys who win a few million dollars and then you have a few guys that are just consistent. Guys like Gene [Todd], for example; he may not win a lot of money, but he’s constantly there, turning a profit. Lee [Markholt], as well; he might have the largest ROI [return on investment] in all of poker, but still, it’s not a lot of money.

JR: How is the home-game scene in Florida?

AS: The cash game scene isn’t too good, nowadays. The big games dried up. Antoine [Walker] got traded [from the Miami Heat], so I’m looking for a new big game.

JR: So, you’ve played with celebrities and professional athletes before?

AS: I’ve played with everybody. I’ve played with Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas [Miami Dolphins] and a bunch more [Miami] Heat players. I was invited to [Michael] Jordan’s game several times. I’ve never shown up, but I might one day. As far as the pros go, I think I’ve played with almost all of them. I’ve played with actors; in fact, those are the best to play with. They don’t give a shit about losing, and they just throw their money around looking for a good time.

JR: How do most of these athletes play? Do they show the same kind of competitiveness that they do at their day jobs?

AS: Most of them are pretty bad, but you never know. Here’s a funny thing I’ve realized. Football players play tight as balls. Basketball players don’t give a s---. I don’t know what it is; maybe it’s the money difference or whatever. Every football player I’ve ever played with is a nit, and every basketball player has been a maniac. I think it must be the money, I think basketball players make more than the football players.

JR: So, are we going to see more of you on the tournament trail, or is it back to the cash-game grind?

AS: Both. I’m looking forward to Commerce. It’s going to be great. They’re going to have the best cash games. Aside from the World Series of Poker, those are the best games. I’m really going to try hard to focus on the WSOP this year. Last year, I cashed in the main event and the Omaha championship, but other than that, I really just focused on the cash games. This year, I’m going to take the tournaments more seriously and see if I can take one down. I’m really looking forward to playing the $50K H.O.R.S.E. tournament, which I think should determine the real champion.