Czech Martin Staszko finishes second in world’s biggest poker event

Martin Staszko, photo: CTK

Czech player Martin Staszko achieved the greatest success of his poker career when he finished second in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas on Wednesday where the 35-year-old Czech won over 5.4 million US dollars in prize money. Czech players now hope his accomplishment will popularize poker back home, and eventually relax recently tightened Czech legislation on the game.

Martin Staszko, photo: CTK
Four of diamonds was not enough for Martin Staszko in the final of the 2011 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas; in the final showdown, the Czech was holding ten and seven of clubs while his opponent, Pius Heinz from Germany, an ace and a king. The last card meant Martin Staszko finished second, with over 5.4 million US dollars in prize money. But Staszko, speaking immediately after the final was over, said second place was a great success.

“I think that it’s great for poker in the Czech Republic. I’m very happy with second place, and congratulations to Pius for beating me.”

Martin Stazko had to beat nearly 7,000 players in the Texas Hold’em tournament to advance to the final three-handed game, along with Pius Heinz and Ben Lamb from the US. There, in the very first hand, Staszko, wearing his signature flannel shirt, doubled up on Lamb, knocked the American out and took the chip lead. Staszko and Heinz then exchanged the lead nine times in more than six hours before the Czech began to pull away, and ultimately failed to win the famed WSOP bracelet. I asked Czech poker expert Jaroslav Sita, who was following the game at home, what spoilt Staszko’s chances of the overall win.

Pius Heinz, photo: CTK
“What he was lacking was a bit of luck, I guess. People say poker is all about luck but that’s not quite true. But you do need a bit of luck in anything you do, and I think that was what Martin needed to win.”

The second place in the world’s biggest poker event is a career highlight for the 35-year-old Martin Staszko, who only took up the game four years ago. In fact, he only gave up his car factory job last May. But his strong analytical skills made him one of the world’s top players. Jaroslav Sita again.

“I think his strongest skills are analytical thinking and a mathematical approach to the game. He is a former chess player, which is great for playing poker. He has been training his logical thinking since he was a child, and that I think that is his greatest advantage.”

Martin Staszko’s accomplishment was cheered in his home town of Třinec, in the northeast of the country. When the multi-millionaire returns home, he will receive an award from the town hall. But others hope his success will popularize poker in the Czech Republic, and more importantly, relax recently tightened legislation which treats the game as gambling, and removes it from the public place into casinos and poker clubs.

Photo: CTK
“I think it’s a breaking point. I don’t blame Czech MPs for treating poker the same way as gabling machines, betting roulette, and so on. They did not know much about the game but now, thanks to Martin’s success, poker will be talked about a lot more. So I hope poker will be taken out of this legislation, and some special rules will be aplied.”