With a residency on the island of Ibiza since 2000, his own record label and any number of hit remixes for famous artists from Diana Ross to Maroon 5, Sanchez has forged a legacy in house music few can match.
What's the parallel to poker? It's not all flashy parties, stacks of cash or big final tables. There's a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes to get to the top of whichever game you're playing.
Brought in by PokerStars to DJ the players party at EPT100 in Barcelona this week Sanchez took some time before his gig at the Teatre Principal to talk with PokerListings Germany's Dirk Oetzmann about what it takes to be a success, whatever your field.
PokerListings: As a major DJ in the club scene, how did you end up performing here at a poker event?
Roger Sanchez: One of the interesting things here is that the organizers wanted their players to have a real clubbing experience.
Me, although I'm not a classic poker player, I really like the vibe of it. I really like to see people compete.
PL: Poker players need to have specific characteristics to be successful. What is it in music that you need to get by?
"I consider myself lucky to have been in it for such a long time."
RS: To me, generally speaking, it's love and the passion for what you do that you definitely need. You need the dedication and you can’t be afraid to fail.
You have to be consistent. You have to be ready to learn from any mistake you made and apply that to future success.
PL: I guess that means you’ve made a couple of mistakes yourself?
RS: I’m pretty sure everybody makes mistakes. I certainly have.
PL: Why have you been more successful in Europe than in your homeland, the United States?
RS: Dance music took off earlier in Europe. But in the beginning it was very underground, so maybe it wasn’t that popular in the mainstream.
It might have originated in the US, but it really exploded in Europe first. By now I guess the US caught up. I used to spend more time in Europe in the past, accordingly, but now it’s pretty much even.
PL: You hold a degree in architecture…
RS: No, I don’t. I studied architecture, but then music started calling.
PL: Point being you went to university first and you are, at 47, a tad older than the regular DJ. Would you consider yourself a late bloomer?
RS: Actually, I’ve been in the music scene from an early age on and I am one of the people who really established the house music scene.
I consider myself lucky to have been in it for such a long time.
PL: DJing then is – just like poker – not as age sensitive as you might think?
RS: I think it’s the mental state more than physical age. As long as you love music – or poker – and you feel you can keep yourself in shape, the vibe will provide for you to have a long career.
This might apply to music and other things, too. One thing I can tell you for sure is that music has no expiration date.
PL: Being a DJ, just like being a professional poker player, for such a long time sounds like a dream. Is it really like that?
RS: I think the fact that I can do what I love, that’s a dream life. But there is a lot of hard work that goes into this.
People think you just show up, the records play themselves and the rest is party and girls and money, but it’s a lot of hard work.
PL: That’s something remarkably similar to the poker world, where people see some final table with all the guys who get the big money and – presumably – the girls. But in truth, players have told us they wouldn’t recommend young people become players because it’s less glamorous and easy than it looks.
RS: The difference with me is, and I’m going back to what my father said: You need to follow what your heart is telling you.
So, if somebody says they are passionate about music or passionate about poker, I would say chase it. If you have passion for something, you have to go for it because you never know what can happen.
"As a DJ you might never play to 10,000 or 100,000 people but if you can make a living in something you truly enjoy, that’s success."
PL: In poker there are millions of people who will never appear on a TV screen. In music, it’s the same. What do you think are the odds of becoming successful?
RS: Success in music is not that much about numbers, the way I see it. It's about how much you're successful in terms of doing what you love.
As a DJ you might never play to 10,000 or 100,000 people but if you can make a living in something you truly enjoy, that’s success.
Cause what’s success other than being happy? Making money is great, but making music is as lucrative as it can be if it can make you feel good.
PL: When you perform in front of a bunch of poker players, which is not your regular crowd, do you approach it differently?
RS: It’s important to take a look at the crowd to get an impression, get a sense of who they are. A lot depends on the feedback of the crowd and every set is different.
PL: Poker players adapt all the time. Do you follow through with your program or do you have to adjust, too?
RS: As a DJ you adapt all the time. Every crowd is different and you adapt to it.
A truly successful DJ understands how to change but still maintains who they are, what sound they want to play and what they really want to do.