Martin Jacobson: ‘I couldn’t believe it when some of the guys told me that they hadn’t done any preparation’

2014 world champion Martin Jacobson speaks exclusively to PokerPlayer about winning $10m, the mistakes his opponents made and why practise makes perfect

PokerPlayer: What were your preparations like in the months leading up to the Main Event final table?
Martin Jacobson: The first thing I did once I secured my spot at the final was to write down a list of things I wanted to include in my preparation. I also contacted many of my poker friends to ask them for advice and see who was willing to help me prepare for the biggest day in my career. I got some really awesome feedback and together we formed a strong team of a wide variety of poker masterminds. One of them helped me set up a simulation of the actual final so we could play it out 15-20 times online, which led to some very interesting and important discussions. Overall I think we all learned a lot of new things from each other and it was a crucial part of my preparation.

I also spent a lot of time going through game theory and maths problems. I knew that this was  probably going to be a once in a lifetime shot of winning the world title so I wanted to make sure I was as prepared as I possibly could be for all the different outcomes.

You’re well known for taking fitness and health very seriously. Did you focus on this any differently leading up to the final table?
Apart from technical preparations I made sure I was mentally and physically ready to play for 20 hours without letting my focus drop despite all the added pressure. I tweaked my training and favoured conditioning over strength training at the gym, and I also did a lot of mediation and yoga.

Right before the final table my goal was to reach the maximum confidence level and make sure I went in there with an ultra-positive mindset, knowing that whatever happens it will go my way, eventually.

Do you think that the four month break from making the final table to playing it out was a benefit to you?
At first I was convinced that the delay of the final table was going to be to my disadvantage since I had the most experience, but as it turned out it worked strongly to my advantage. Because I had the most experience I also had the best options for improving my game even more with the help of all my great friends. Making the final table was really a blessing for me as it gave me all the reason in the world to work hard on my game. I learnt so much during these three months that I think I improved my overall game more than I had done in years.

That’s fascinating. It’s also a huge contrast from ninth place finisher Mark Newhouse, who famously didn’t play poker at all between the break and the final table. Do you think he made a huge mistake?

I couldn’t believe it when some of the guys told me that they hadn’t done any preparation at all. Especially since eight of the nine had been playing professionally for many years and now had an opportunity to play for $10m and a world title in the game they supposedly love or at least care about. Obviously it’s everyone’s choice how they want to approach things but I got the impression that they didn’t want it enough. That definitely motivated me even more.

What did you make of Mark Newhouse’s exit hand? He’s taken a lot of criticism for his play.
I didn’t put too much stock into how he played it. Once he got eliminated he was no longer a threat so I was just rewinding the hand in my head in order to get a better understanding of [William] Tonking’s thought process and gameplan.

You were short stacked and in shove/fold mode for a long period of time. Did you still think you were going to win even during these points?
Yeah, I’m still amazed how positive and confident I was even when I was down to eight big blinds. I never let anything bother me and worked really hard to not let myself get emotional. I definitely credit my mental preparation and experience for this.

Going into the final which player did you think would be the biggest threat to you?
I felt Jorryt [van Hoof] was going to be the biggest threat because he has a high pressure, fearless style and I figured he was going to use his chip lead very well. He is also very experienced and realised the benefits of mental preparation so I knew he would take this very seriously as well.

I think he played great on the first day and I wasn’t surprised at the outcome, that he had increased his chip lead. But on the second day he kind of lost his momentum – that gave me more room to take control of the table and eventually close out the deal.

What is that break between day one and day two of the Main Event final table [when three players return] like?
It’s difficult because you’re so excited and zoned into the game but at the same time you have to relax and get some sleep in order to be fresh. Once I got back to my hotel room it was 5.30am so I took a salt bath and listened to some meditative music in order to calm my senses. After that I got about five hours of sleep, and as soon as I woke I felt ready to go again. Some of my friends picked me up and we discussed the gameplan for the final day.

What was the gameplan?
We discussed how we thought Jorryt and Felix [Stephenson] would approach things and what their individual gameplans would be. We assumed Felix’s coach would advise him with a high risk gameplan given the prize pool pay jumps and his experience disadvantage versus Jorryt and I.

We thought Jorryt would slow down the aggression level and make sure he got heads-up, where we knew he would feel more confident, rather than during three-handed play.

Van Hoof got knocked out in third when he four-bet shoved A-5 suited into your A-T. Do you think he made a mistake in that hand?
I think, given our history and styles, we both played it fine. It’s very tough to fold an Ace when you’re opening the button three-handed and facing a three-bet versus an opponent you know is capable of putting you in a tough spot. The stack sizes didn’t help for him at the time either.

What has the reaction been like in your home of Sweden since the win?
I’ve gotten quite a lot of media attention and they seem to really appreciate and be proud of my achievement, which is nice.

What are your plans in poker going forward as the 2014 world champion?
Making the final table has really given me the fire back to improve my game and I feel like it’s opened up a new chapter in my poker career. I definitely feel more motivated than ever to keep playing right now and also to contribute to poker’s growth as a competitive mind sport. I recently got back from a two week holiday trip to California and Mexico so I feel ready to get back on the tour!

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