Jon Kalmar

by snoopy
Submitted by: snoopy on Wed, 24/10/2007 - 1:02am
Unless you had your head in the sand this August then you'll surely already be aware that the United Kingdom enjoyed its first World Series of Poker Main Event finalist since Julian Gardner ran them ragged in 2002. This time, the weight of the nation was on Jon Kalmar's shoulders, the highly popular online pro from Chorley quite literally living the dream after enduring a rather torrid year of bad beats.
But perhaps his poor form spurred him on, a black and blue Skalie refusing to lie down as he took a last ditch attempt at a satellite before plowing his way through over 6 thousand other hopefuls all eying up a piece of that multi-million pie. Well, Jon made it, and eventually finished in 5th for $1,255,069 when he was out-coinflipped by South African amateur Raymond Rahme.
This week I managed to catch a few moments with an increasingly busy Skalie to pick his brains about his WSOP success and a host of other issues... 
Snoopy: It’s a tedious question, but I’ve got to ask… What have you spent your winnings on?

Jon Kalmar: A car or 2 goes without saying. I must admit I went over my budget but it was worth it. It made me feel a little guilty, so I had to get Kila (the wife) a new one too. I also bought my mother-in-law’s house, she’s moving to Spain so my mum will live in it for the remainder of her days. She is not in the best of health and needs a bungalow really.

Snoopy: Where does the Skalie moniker originate from and where the hell is Chorleyville?

JK: Skalie was a name my brother used in school. Basically, our surname is often shortened to Kal, Skalie coming from Kal the Skal (pronounced Skally – spelling isn’t a strong point for either of us).

He thinks I use the name in homage to him but the truth is that I couldn’t think of much else at the time of signing for my first account, I never expected to make a living at the game. In hindsight, I would have picked something else.

Chorleyville is in Lancashireville. It is situated about 10 miles south of Prestonville and is just north of Boltonville in the north west of England er… ville.

Snoopy: Roy Brindley said that at the 2007 WSOP there were more shares in you than BT. How much of yourself did you sell and why did you sell such a high percentage? Did this affect your game at all?

JK: He’s great Roy, he often boosts his own self esteem by taking a dig at others. Maybe he can swap some of himself one day when his results improve. The truth was I sold 20% for some extra cash after getting my seat and then a further 10% (1 x 5% and 2 x 2.5%) - it’s a big comp with plenty to share, lets be honest.

Once we made the money and got deeper into the event I swapped 5% with Conor Tate, Julian Gardner and Richard Harris, hedging my bets really. So 45% I handed out in total (minus the money they owed me of course). Trust me though, I had plenty left over.

The truth is I quite enjoy sharing a decent result (it’s not the first time I’ve had too). Winning money for yourself is great, the best let’s face it, but when you make a difference for your mates it’s a great buzz too. It works both ways, I swapped savers with 4 guys at the poker million and 3 of them are in the final so these thing can even themselves out.

Snoopy: At what point in the tournament did you realise that you could be taking home a lot of money from WSOP? Did you ever think you were going to win it?

JK: The thing that no one ever realises is that in the World Series you spend nearly twice as much time in the money than you do out of it. You have a lot of play and the money constantly goes up. Once I had secured enough to keep me going in the game for the foreseeable future everything else was a bonus. Of course I thought I could win it, if you don’t, what are you playing it for? Cool thing is that even if you don’t win you are still in for a chance of a damn good pay off.

Snoopy: Who did you consider to be the trickiest player to play against on the final table and why?

JK: Jerry Yang, I think the reasons are obvious. The guy had a game plan and executed it exceptionally. He was impossible to read.

Snoopy: Why did you play so few hands in the WSOP final? Was this a conscious decision?

JK: There was no conscious decision to play so few hands, I just got diddly. The few hands I got, missed. Others I would liked to have played I was out of position or the action had already gone too far to get involved.

Snoopy: You seemed as cool as a cucumber throughout. Was there a particular reason for your lack of nerves?

JK: I was already taking home a wedge of cash and the main thing was I now had a result no one could ignore. I had proved to myself and anyone else that I could play the game enough to challenge any event I enter.

Snoopy: In fact, throughout the whole tournament you were upbeat, bubbly and seemingly having the time of your life. How important do you feel personality and attitude is in poker?

JK: That could be because I was having the time of my life. Looking completely at ease surely affects others on the table, no one should be that comfortable. Truth was I felt like I was back and had never been more confident of a good result. I am sure the deep result 2 years ago helped me immensely, without it I doubt I’d have gone nearly as far this year.

Snoopy: It’s no secret that finances were low going into this event. How did this come about? Did it assist/hinder your game? Did you ever consider quitting poker?

JK: It was no secret because I feel people should know things don’t always go well. Pretending nothing is wrong just isn’t me. I had basically been on a hell of a long bad run, it happens and people don’t realise how long these can continue. I have no other source of income coming into my house and no sponsorship to fall back on, I still have bills to pay and the pressure builds. This does not always lead you to playing your best poker and can make a bad thing worse.

I wasn’t planning to quit poker completely but a long break was imminent and maybe permanent. I had been offered some well paid consultancy work and it was getting more appealing by the day. I would probably have taken that and gone back to being a part time player trying to win my seats through online satellites again. The WSOP was to be my last event for some time so it was important I did my best, so yes, I guess it helped my game immensely.

I still had some money left over but I didn’t want to lose the lot. I had no intention of going back to work owing money, I wanted to look back on the last 2 and half years with good memories.

Snoopy: Do you consider yourself a gambler – are you one of those playing Chinese until 5am in the hotel lobbies of the world?

JK: Before I started playing poker I was a sick gambler. Although the figures may have been considerably smaller, when you compare it to income I was as bad as anyone. The poker saved me from this and now other forms of gambling seem sick. I try to keep most betting to reasonable levels and treat it as fun. That’s not to say I don’t at times get sucked into gambling more than I should but that’s often after a few too many beers.

Snoopy: Are there ever times where you wish you weren’t a professional poker player? What would you do instead?

JK: Every time I’m on a losing streak or a plane is delayed. I often wonder what life would have been like as a porn star or male model but frankly I just never got the chance (sob).  Besides, a picture of me on the front cover ain’t gonna break record sales is it? Being in a band would be great but getting fifty quid a gig split five ways doesn’t go too far (not after petrol and kebabs).

Snoopy: How did you get into online poker and who were your mentors?

JK: I needed to curb my gambling. When I met Kila I realised I could no longer bet at the levels I had been doing. The thought of giving up gambling all together was not feasible, so I stated with $5 online Sit and Go’s to channel my needs. This was even cheaper than a night out.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a tourney in Dorchester run by Micky Herron. I gave a lift to a guy called Conor Tate (you may have heard of him) and the ten hours we spent in the car talking poker changed my life. I was still okay at the game but the penny had dropped and that trip changed my destiny.

Kila is obviously very important, it’s difficult to go through the highs and lows of this game without a very understanding partner.

Snoopy: If you could steal the skill of one player, what would that skill be and which player would you choose?

Some of the chip tricks you see. That butterfly chip trick thingy is good, that would be a good start.

Snoopy: If there were one thing that you could change in poker what would it be?

JK: The elitism that seems to be emerging and all the famous players (I say famous, not best) who now have huge incomes coming in from endorsements. They try to protect themselves by upping the cost of events, but just because an event is more expensive doesn’t mean the players are better, they just have more money. I have no issues with sponsorship or endorsements, far from it, who wouldn’t want it, but to create events like the 50k Horse (with games most guys don’t play, c’mon) and harping on about how this will produce the ‘real’ champ is just bollocks. These people forget what made them famous. Poker is a game that anyone should be able to play, don’t forget at one time most of these guys had nothing either.

Snoopy: What are your hopes for the future? Are you searching for sponsorship?

JK: I am currently in talks with someone about a very exciting offer. Hopefully I will have something to announce soon. I hope it will be more than just a basic “wear this shirt we pay you in" deal. I’m looking to be able to offer things to players that I would like to see happen with sites myself.

Snoopy: Finally, what’s the worst thing about winning $1.25 million?

JK: Your ex-wife finding out. Oh and winning it when the US dollar is at the biggest low in my lifetime. I doubt people will sympathise

Snoopy: Thank you for your time.