About Martin de Knijff
There are plenty of puns to make about Martin "The Knife" de Knijff's sharp reads and ability to cut through the competition at tournaments, none of which would afford his immense success in both the poker and sports betting arenas its deserved recognition.
After all, building up a gambling empire that includes millions in tournament winnings, a lucrative sports betting enterprise and a successful online poker room before middle age looms is no small feat.
Indeed, the 2004 World Poker Tour champion has accomplished a lot since his birth Oct. 2, 1972, in Gothenburg, Sweden.
His parents - a Dutch father and Swedish mother - moved the family to Falkenberg from Gothenburg when the boy was just five years old. Not long after the move, de Knijff's father fell ill and died suddenly. The trying situation was compounded by his mother's job on a cruise ship that saw her gone half of each month.
To cope, de Knijff lost himself in play with the neighborhood children but also took an early shine to gambling by playing cards with his grandmother for penny candy.
As he got older, the teenager used his knowledge of Five-Card Draw to compete at home games in Sweden. Years and millions of dollars in tournament winnings later, de Knijff would credit those matches for his accurate and detailed reads on other players.
Poker, however, wasn't where he found initial success in card play. In his teens he picked up bridge in a similar fashion to poker and grew to excel at the game. De Knijff became something of a bridge phenom, winning five consecutive Swedish championships and representing his country in national competitions for players 25 and under.
Eventually his aspirations became too big for his hometown of Falkenberg. When he turned 19, de Knijff moved to Sweden's capital city, Stockholm, where he continued to flourish on the bridge scene and also took up poker play. At 21 years old, de Knijff became the youngest bridge Life Maser in the country by winning enough tournaments to qualify for the title, which takes some players a lifetime to achieve.
Unlike today's young Internet poker pros - some who've won hundreds of thousands of dollars before the ink is dry on their high school diploma - being a top Swedish bridge player wasn't lucrative. To stay afloat, de Knijff also worked at a pizzeria and tapped into a knack for analyzing soccer games and predicting their outcome by betting on matches.
His poker game began to improve, though, when a friend suggested he read Doyle Brunson's Super/System for guidance. De Knijff also started hanging out in card clubs and studying the game under strong Swedish players Chris Bjorn and Jan Lundberg. Though his experience growing up was only with Five-Card Draw, in Stockholm de Knijff fell in love with Texas Hold'em and Omaha.
This led to tournament play, which took de Knijff out of the country to compete in events around London and, not long after moving to Stockholm and learning poker, he was seeing results. In 1995, de Knijff won his first tournament: the Swedish No-Limit Hold'em event for $35,000. The following year he showed consistency with a third-place finish at London's £500 Hold'em Main Event.
De Knijff breached the U.S. circuit in 2001, placing third at the 2001 Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica, Miss., in the $500 Pot-Limit Hold'em event. He still stuck close to his home in Stockholm, however, finishing second at the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event at the Midnight Sun tournament in Helsinki, Finland, in 2001.
His first cash at the World Series of Poker in 2002 - a $60,000 payday for placing 13th in the Main Event - was also de Knijff's biggest tournament win to date. His sports betting career, meanwhile, was also heating up. That year he participated in Sweden's V75, a horseracing contest put on by the country's government. De Knijff successfully picked five of the seven winning horses and pulled in a tax-free $1.3 million.
But within two years' time, the horseracing wager prize would be more than doubled at the poker table.
In 2004, then-32-year-old de Knijff picked up his biggest poker cash to date: $2.7 million - at the time, the biggest prize ever awarded at a tournament - at the World Poker Tour championship event.
De Knijff came to the final table as chip leader, knocking out pros such as Matt Matros and, finally, Hasan Habib in heads-up play, before taking down the tournament.
The win garnered plenty of media attention for de Knijff who had only recently moved to Las Vegas to make his mark on the poker world.
As if to further prove his clout, the next month de Knijff went out on the bubble in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em event at the WSOP for $210,000.
If de Knijff's tournament results since have failed to impress - though he still continues to cash regularly - blame it on the Swede's active sports betting career. What is some players' leak is actually one of de Knijff's biggest sources of income. He continues to analyze and bet on soccer, and has expanded operations to include two employees to do the same for the European leagues. He also operates his own poker site.
Needless to say, de Knijff's tournament play has slowed to about 20 events per year now, with the consummate gambler favoring No-Limit and Pot-Limit Hold'em events. To keep his game up, de Knijff keeps a healthy diet and maintains a mantra of respecting his opponents, but never fearing them.
For days when poker and sports betting aren't in the equation, de Knijff enjoys playing golf with friends. But probably the biggest portion of his attention is afforded to his son, Robin, who also lives with de Knijff and his girlfriend, Ama, in Las Vegas.
|15||$67,255.00||WPT Season 7 - Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic|
|39||$65,955.00||WPT Season 6 - WPT World Championship|
|1||$2,728,356.00||WPT Season 2 - WPT Championship|