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Chef Turned Poker Player Wins His First Major Tournament

Nov 14, 2014 - by Monica Erdei
Martin Jacobson has won the final battle of the World Series of Poker

Martin Jacobson has won the final battle of the World Series of Poker

If you thought amateur poker players don’t have what it takes to win major tournaments, guess again.

When 27 year-old Martin Jacobson made it to the final table at the World Series of Poker 2014, many believed the Swedish poker player just got lucky. To think that he would actually win the tournament seemed unthinkable a few weeks ago, when online gambling news introduced him to the world as a former cook who took a break from his time in the kitchen to give poker a try.

Before participating in the November Nine, he had made it to four final tables and had earned more than $1.2 million. But nothing compares to his latest accomplishment: the $10 million guaranteed prize offered at the World Series of Poker, along with a title coveted even by the industry’s biggest names.

The tournament lasted for more than 81 hours. It took Jacobson 45 hours to oust Norwegian player Felix Stephensenand and win his first gold bracelet. “This is what I played for,” he said, referring to his new $500,000 bracelet. “This is all that mattered to me.”

Bleacher Report: WSOP 2014 Results: Winner, Prize Money for November 9 Main Event Finals

Martin Jacobson was already on the right track to becoming a well-respected poker player, but the $10 million prize and gold bracelet he won at this year’s WSOP will surely boost his career. His outstanding performance was applauded by fellow players and poker fans, as he beat out Jorryt van Hoof and Felix Stephensen on the last day of the main event.

Van Hoof, who entered the game as chip leader, was nearly flawless on Monday night, but he was the first one to go after struggling to make decisions all night. First he lost a massive pot to Stephensen, then he held on for a while, but when blinds were increased to $800,000 and $1.6 million, he started to run out of time. A couple of hands later, he was eliminated.

“I didn’t feel as comfortable out there playing tonight as I was yesterday. I moved to the five seat and the light was bothering me. It seemed brighter there. I had more trouble seeing and focusing,” he explained.

After that, Jacobson had the advantage and did not make any mistakes. Finally, on hand no. 328, he went all in and Stephensen had no option but to call. The Swedish player beat his Norwegian opponent, whose described his second-place result as disappointing.

Independent: World Series of Poker 2014: Martin Jacobsen claims $10m prize after learning the game while training to be a chef

Out of all players who made it to the November Nine, Jacobson was the only one who had won more than $1 million in World Series of Poker career earnings. He did come out second in some cases, but he has never managed to make his way to the top.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect tournament’, but this was close to perfect, maybe,” he said in an interview after the game was over.

Throughout the two days of playing, the young Swedish poker pro kept a calm stillness. He didn’t care for any of the tricks other players use to hide their tells, like wearing sunglasses, a hoodie or a baseball cap.

His main rival, the 24 year-old Norwegian player Felix Stephensen, took home $5.1 million in cash. “It’s disappointing to be so close, but I got really lucky to get this far, and it was a tough final table,” he told reporters.

They defeated Dutch player Jorryt van Hoof, who started out as chip leader and maintained his position at the top throughout most of the game. The 31 year-old poker pro won $3.8 million for third place.

“I enjoyed playing with these guys. We’re going to meet up. And the winner will pay for my dinner,” he said.

GamingZion: Martin Jacobson Cooking Up a Plan to Win the WSOP

Jacobson started developing an interest for poker when he was 18, after his father gave him a poker book as a birthday present. He liked the game from the very beginning, but his real passion was cooking so he studied culinary school to become a world-class chef.

After working as a chef in Stockholm for a while, he decided to take a chance on another offer. But this suddenly fell through, leaving him with little options. So while he was looking for another opportunity to work as a chef, he took up poker.

“I started playing sit-and-gos online, and they were my bread and butter,” he told reporters. “I made some extra money online and [those sit-and-gos] ironically helped prepare me for the steps on PokerStars.”

His first notable result in poker was qualifying for the 2008 World Series of Poker. With $12,000 in his pocket after winning one of the satellites, he wasn’t sure about what to do next: head for Vegas or keep the money?

“I called my mom and asked for her advice,” he told reporters. “She said, ‘Obviously, you are going to Vegas.’ That’s not what I was expecting her to say, but when she did, I definitely decided to go.”

Things didn’t work out for him back in 2008, but since then he started to take the game more seriously. His scores got better and better, he finished second in the PokerStars Sunday Million, then he qualified for the European Poker Tour in London and Budapest. In just one year, he had the chance to be in three major main events.

The WSOP 2014 brought him his first gold bracelet, as well as the respect and admirations of his fellow poker players.

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