The WSOP is the biggest Poker event of the year, and playing there is on the to-do list of many aspiring poker players around the globe. This year the event reached a total of 6,865 players for the 3rd largest World Series of Poker tournament held in the event’s forty two year history.
Following a request by a local player about locals’ participation and placing in the WSOP event, we contacted Harrah’s entertainment – organizers of the mammoth event – to ask whether there were any placements from players originating from Malta – This was their reply:
“Four players from Malta entered the Main Event. Steven Van Zadelhoff of St. Julians, Jacques Balzan Demajo, Marco Tschirch of Msida and Julian Jacob.
Of the four, only Van Zadelhoff cashed. He finished in 658 place, earning $19,359.”
We quickly got in contact with Steven who was more than happy to get in touch with us after his holiday in Vegas. It was only a few weeks back that he was in the blistering heat in Nevada, playing off at the world’s most revered poker destination in the world – Las Vegas!
Upon his return, Steven joined us to exchange a few words in anticipation of the WPT Malta 2011 at the Portomaso Casino.
Steven, tell us about your experience at this year’s WSOP event
Everest Poker paid the main event buy-in for me as I am a sponsored player. It was not the only event I played though. I participated in a lot of tourneys, about 20 or so, actually maybe 25+ with side events, and I made the final table at the Venetian for about 20K. I even won a $1,000 satellite into the main event. Actually I played a lot and I won a lot. It was pretty balanced over all. The thing with the WSOP is that you always want to go deeper and try to play at the higher stakes or buy-ins to reach the magical six digit figure, and then end up saying “oh well, Ill give it a try next year”
Apart from playing at the tables, how did you spend your time in Vegas?
We rented a house with a pool and garden and stayed there for around 7 weeks. It was great as we could eat lots of healthy food and stayed away from all the noise of the hotel. We actually felt like we lived there for a couple of months, I even kept a good training routine going to the gym almost everyday throughout my stay.
How about your WSOP Performance?
The tourney kicked off with two very good starting days, yet I crippled myself on the end of day two. I had a few bad beats like when I lost with KK against AK, and got unlucky with cards like 99 against QQ on an AQ9 board, losing with a secondary set. After a few similar plays, I was quite short stacked on day three – which pushed me into survival mode – and after that I never got big again.
Eventually, late in the third day, the tourney was progressing really fast and many people were going out faster than one could imagine. It was then that it struck me that I might have a decent shot for the money. Since my stack was small, I had to try and go for it. Half way into the day on the fourth tournament day, I had succeeded to make it into the money. Very soon after, I busted my remaining 12 big blinds.
Well done on your placement! You obviously came a very long way since you started playing poker. How did you get started in Poker and what was it like in the beginning?
I started out 10 years ago and in a way, one could say that I started early. I sort of had a head start on many of the players we see today. It was 2001 when I started playing with friends just for fun. After that it took me 2 years to start playing well. Early on, I didn’t have the feeling that Poker could turn out to be so big, but by 2003 more people started to like it, and I saw a good potential it. That pushed me to educate myself further, so I started studying books, playing whenever I got a chance to, and I started to see myself getting better at it – I actually started to get a feel for the dynamics of the game and started to enjoy it more and more.
So what happened next? Were there any big tournaments that helped boost your confidence and take your game further?
In 04 I won a $300 tourney I played online, and won $25,000 from that. That was in the time I was still training Free-Fighting. After a very heavy training session, I got behind my computer and started playing. I had to walk downstairs every break for drinks, and barely could get back up the stairs from the pain in my knee. Nonetheless, halfway through the night the tournament was over, and it said on my screen that I had won $25.000. I was ecstatic! I could easily say it was the incident that started my semi pro career. It was my first bankroll, and although I was still working, I knew that this is where I wanted to be, earning a living from playing my favourite card game! That was my dream, and I had started to live it!
After I made up my mind, I gave it full throttle with the intentions of becoming a pro and eventually I started working less and less whilst playing more and more poker. Eventually in 2007 I won the Sunday million winning $160k and that led me onto the big games. It was then that I started playing big tournaments like the EPT’s, etc…By that time, the bigger tournaments started to take place in Europe so I obviously had a much wider choice of venues where to take my skills to the felt and play against some of the best Poker players that exist in the global poker community.
So at which stage did your sponsorship with Everest Poker come about?
In 2008, Everest Poker had a “Live the dream” promotion and they invited 200 poker players to Vienna from whom they were to select 10 finalists. These lucky ten were to receive a $100k sponsorship. I sort of had a head start there too, because I already had a lot of decent results, and I was way ahead of the other people who I competed against. The promo was actually an easy one for me and before I knew it, I had my sponsorship package. The people from Everest are a great team. I knew that if I did well they would reward me and we could had a good relationship, im fact, it’s still active till this day! Out of all the Live the dream players, I’m actually the only one of the original 10 that is still on the everest team. To me, this is a very big compliment, it means that they are happy with me, so I am grateful of their confidence in me and my skills at the felt. And of course, I feel blessed to still be able to work with them, I think we are a great team!
So what’s a professional poker player doing in Malta? What was it that actually brought you here?
First of all, the weather is much better than in the Netherlands, and besides that: tax purposes – The taxes are much friendlier here than they are in the Netherlands! From 2007 on, I had made several good cashes, I also received a sponsorship, and started winning very big prizes…still not six digits, but very nice nonetheless. Then I had to give most of it away to the taxman in Holland. It was a difficult time for me. The government told me that I had to pay a couple of hundred thousand euro in taxes, and it felt really…well…strangling! It was everything I had saved to buy a house from, and that plan was by then out of the window. I’m almost done paying the taxes till this day, from a total of €200k.
Yes it is, you wouldn’t begin to imagine, however I’m a straight guy, and I had to make it right. I agreed with them on a very heavy deal. Obviously since I won a lot of money I had to give it away. The most annoying thing is that I even paid taxes on winnings that weren’t mine as some of the tournaments that I placed in were staked, and when I gave my investors their winnings I hadn’t deducted their taxes. I was then faced with the awkward situation of asking them for part of the money back to repay the taxes that I forked out on their behalf; A messy situation really.
Well, good thing that’s all over then. How’s life in Malta been treating you?
I like Malta a lot, there’s everything I need here. When I’m here, I can focus on playing a lot and spending a lot of hours at the tables. My girlfriend is here with me too. Although she would prefer to live in the Netherlands, she likes it here so we’re both happy to be here. This does not mean that I will be here for ever though. Eventually I might go back to the Netherlands. We might move back, especially if the laws change – but I guess it will be a while before that happens! For now, life here is perfect!
We wish you all the best of luck with that! And what have you got planned in the next couple of months, years?
Well, very recently, I’ve been travelling a lot and I haven’t been to Malta in almost 4 months. There’s a lot of my friends and family coming here to visit. My brother is coming next week, my girlfriend’s sister was just here, and some of my closer friends are coming to visit in about 4 weeks time. This means I’ll have to take some breaks, and I wont be able to play too much. But after that I’ll kick off full throttle once again – Maybe the EPT London, and of course the World Poker Tour Malta 2011. Let’s take one down for Malta and for Everest Poker!