EPT10 Vienna: Jack Salter, a professional's professional
Poker by its very nature is full of BS, but you're never more at risk of being drowned in nonsense than when someone starts talking about the lack of characters in the modern game.
This topic, the subject of rants from illiterate poker righters and former World Champions alike, has hogged more column inches than perhaps any other in recent months, and it is all utter bilge. At every European Poker Tour event, for instance, it's possible to peer into a grand ballroom and see upwards of 500 characters, all still very much involved in this game.
The thing is, you're just less likely than ever to be asked to lend somebody money, and fewer players these days will wake up tomorrow morning in a cell. Poker has simply cleaned up its act and it is now a game where to prosper in the top echelons, you need to take it seriously. If you want to be a professional you need, in short, to be professional.
"I try to treat it for what it is, a job," Jack Salter, the 27-year-old British pro, said during Day 1A of EPT Vienna. "Always remember that if you're saying that's your source of income, you don't want to end up being just a gambler, or some of the stereotypes people might have. You want to treat it like a job, and work and improve."
Salter is going about his career as a poker pro in a manner that best resembles that of a businessman climbing steadily up the corporate ladder. A few years ago, he was almost exclusively an online sit and go player when he "randomly" played a live tournament at the Palm Beach casino in London, which he won.
The £30,000 first prize, and the taste of brick and mortar success, suddenly endeared Salter to the live game, and brought him the bankroll to play more frequently and at incrementally higher stakes. Since then, he has racked up cashes in countries across the globe, including the United States, Malta, Spain, Macau, Amsterdam, Ireland and Australia. The latter, in February of this year, was his largest. He won a side event at the Aussie Millions for A$114,000.
"I'm loving it, to be honest," Salter said. "I really enjoy the travelling especially. I guess in poker, you've always got to be careful and try to make sensible choices because a lot of us don't have that much to fall back on if things don't go so well. You've got to work hard while it's around, basically."
Here's the thing: although Salter may sound terrifyingly sensible to those who inexplicably prefer to see broke and broken middle-aged men slumped on the couch of a pitying stranger's Budget Inn suite, the modern-day poker pro tends to have more passport stamps and more stories than almost anyone of the same age.
Salter, who is originally from London and has already spent some time living in Spain, said he has recently been looking at alternative locations to set up a grinding base. Lisbon was on the list, as was Budapest. To get here, he drove from France and across Germany, accompanied by his poker-playing brother Louis and another friend. Our brief chat did not allow time for him to regale with anecdotes from the road, but one suspects Salter is not one to duck all the potential joys of a young bloke with a bunch of mates and a decent disposable income.
"We saw Munich and a few other small towns, then straight to Vienna," he said. "Pretty good stuff. I'm kind of sick of airports and planes and that kind of stuff, so it was a nice change....It's just more fun [travelling with friends]. You cut down on costs. It's good to talk hands together in the evenings, chill out, go over it together."
Salter said he is also improving his admin skills, booking trips in advance to save money, and looking at sensible options to keep him on the road.
"Booking things two minutes before can cost you quite a bit," he said. "I stay in apartments rather than hotels, not getting taxis the whole time. A lot of people who might in theory be winning a fair bit in poker are spending so much on holidays and going out while they're there. It can all rack up."
He is also a regular on the online marketplaces selling chunks of his action, and if you look at any thread offering shares in "jackziyang", Salter's online name, you'll see regularly updated information on his performances and a string of happy backers.
"I'm always careful to sell action in tournaments that I might not be rolled for, and keep on playing the lower stakes online," he said. "Keep everything running steady. Hopefully even if I don't get that big win, I'll be doing well enough."
This, folks, is the face and voice of the contemporary poker professional, doing well enough. You're mad if you still hanker after the old days.