Nearly two years ago I was blogging live from EPT Deauville, reporting yet another bust-out of a player who I had never heard of. To be fair, this particular player had performed well that week, falling in 11th place, just shy of the final table, for $49,547. This was Martin Staszko from the Czech Republic who, despite coming so close to a title that was eventually clinched by Jake Cody, was very happy to have recorded his first big score. Another cash followed later that year, but it was this year that changed his life. He cashed four times at the the World Series of Poker before playing the Main Event... and made it all the way to second place for $5,433,086.
That run propelled Staszko, who used to manage the paint shop at the Hyundai car plant in his home country, to the summit of world poker, quite appropriate for a man who counts hiking in the Czech and Slovak mountains as a hobby.
Now Staszko, 35, has confirmed his place among poker's elite by joining the prestigious Team PokerStars Pro. His first event for his new team will be his home EPT in Prague, starting on Monday, where he will be re-united with the man who beat him to the WSOP title in Las Vegas just weeks ago, fellow Team PokerStars Pro Pius Heinz.
Staszko said: "I'm really happy to sign for PokerStars and join such a talented team of poker players. I'm playing in my home country at EPT Prague as a Team PokerStars Pro and looking forward to playing many big live and online tournaments in 2012 like the PCA and WCOOP.
"My main focus is to win a mixed game event at the next WSOP, becoming the first Czech player to win a bracelet."
Staszko may have made his name as a live player, but he has an excellent online poker record as well. Having built up a bankroll from playing freerolls, he went on to great tournament success. In May this year he won a SCOOP event, the $109 no limit rebuy (Medium) for $91,000, and followed that with a fourth-place finish in the WCOOP $215 no limit rebuy, where he won another $73,000.
A former Czech university darts champion, no-one can dispute he's now hit the bullseye since that first cash back in Deauville. Welcome to the team, Martin.