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Tournament Trail Q and A: Michael Martin

The EPT London Champion Before his Big Win at the Grosvenor Victoria Casino

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Michael MartinMichael Martin had come close to live tournament glory before his major victory at the European Poker Tour London stop in early October. Martin finished in fifth place at the EPT Grand Final in season four. He also finished runner-up at the 2007 Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam, and scored another second-place finish at the World Series of Poker circuit event in Council Bluffs, Iowa. All of these cashes, combined with his £1,000,000 win in London, give Martin more than $3 million in career winnings early in his career. He has made $2,513,506 in 2008, which is more than all but a handful of players during that time.

Martin is 24, and he began playing poker five years ago while he was a student at Penn State. He decided to become a poker professional in 2007 after he graduated with a degree in English. The bulk of his poker education took place online, where he plays under the screen name “Martine23” and has cashed for $284,873 in Online Player of the Year-qualified finishes alone. Martin has proved a quick student in the live world, as well, having booked three wins over $500,000 during his short career, all in Europe. Martin will see if he can keep his European success going, and he plans to play in every EPT event until the end of the year. Card Player caught up with Martin twice in London, this interview took place before his big win, while he had a deep stack in the tournament.

PART I

Ryan Lucchesi: How important is it to have the experience of making a few final tables in your career, when you are already in the money here in London, and are attempting to not only make the final table but also win the tournament?

Michael Martin: It’s a huge help, but I’m not nervous because I’ve been here many times online and live. You seriously have to take it one hand at a time. Yesterday, I got really high up, I had 100 big blinds for most of the day, and by the end of the day I had 30 big blinds. I blew off all of my chips, and I wasn’t playing many hands, and that’s just how it is sometimes.

RL:
You have had a lot of success in European poker tournaments. What about your style of play is really effective against the style of these European players?

MM: I don’t really play over in America, because I enjoy playing over here more and traveling, but a lot of it has to do with Europeans getting caught up in preflop aggression. If you raise enough preflop, then they start to make a lot of mistakes against you. I don’t play too crazy after the flop, but preflop they all think I’m in every pot, so they start shoving in with mediocre hands.

RL: Do you employ this strategy a lot online, as well?

MM:
It’s just setting up your table; you try and pick spots preflop to steal and then when you do raise in position at times you do have a big hand. And then when I’m stealing, it’s usually when I’m under the gun.

RL: How important is it when you play online to build your table image through your betting pattern?

MM: I think it’s effective both ways. I used to bash some of the live pros, but now that I’ve been out here for a few years, I really think that some of them are brilliant with how they talk to people. The online guys are better at the actual game, but the live players are amazing with people.

RL: What live strategy have you picked up from the top live professional players to benefit your game?

MM: For me, I used to never speak at the table and be really quiet. The big thing was just being comfortable. I’d like talking to people, becoming friendly with them so they would start folding to me, and that’s helped me a ton. I used to just sit there like a rock with my iPod on, and now I usually don’t have a problem with that.

RL: What is your plan for live tournaments the rest of this year?

MM:
After this, I’m going to go back to the U.S. to maybe play Bellagio, but that's unlikely. And then I’m going to come back out here and play all of the EPTs.

RL: What is it about the EPT tournaments that you really enjoy?

MM: I like the venues; the cities are a lot cooler than going to Tunica. I like to travel a ton. The tournament director, Thomas Kremser, is really good, and the people are more enjoyable here. I just think it’s a better tour overall right now.