Salsberg, who has written and produced on TV shows Weeds and Entourage, has won more than $645,000 this year playing tournaments and he’s hoping to put some of that experience to work on his new show Whales.
Our colleague at PokerListings.it, Giovanni Angioni, caught up with Salbserg at EPT San Remo to find out more about his new poker television series and what it’s like to ride a massive live-tournament heater.
PL: PokerListings.com: Do you ever base characters in your shows on people from the poker world?
Matt Salsberg: I haven’t met many people I would place in Weeds. But right now I have a show in development that I’m working on and it’s about poker players so there is probably a mix of fifty people in the room that I could potentially put there.
PL: Can you tell us more about the new show?
MS: It’s about guys in their twenties that travel the circuit playing poker. It’s going to be a comedy but sort of a pretty realistic one. Reasonably realistic, let’s say.
Kind of like the way Entourage was in Hollywood, sort of the similar kind of realism to that.
PL: We’re seeing more poker movies coming out, and there’s always the classics, so do you feel like the projects that deal with poker have been generally good for the game?
MS: Well, some were good. Rounders was really good for poker, I think.
But I think sometimes we are falling into the trap of trying to reach a larger audience – and this means that you end up making a movie that has some romance in it. I don’t know if you want to talk about that movie Lucky You with Drew Barrymore because, yeah, that wasn’t that good. (smiles)
Salsberg picked up his first major win at the WPT Grand Prix de Paris.
PL: That was not good at all.
MS: (laughs) No, that was not good at all. But, yeah, I’d say Rounders is the best poker movie.
PL: True. But it’s not like Rounders came out yesterday.
MS: True, but they haven’t made that many movies about poker. They made one TV show about poker called Tilt which was on ESPN like in 2005 and that was a little too over the top. That was not that realistic. I mean, it had shades of realism but it was too stylized and it was too melodramatic.
So, what I am trying to capture with my show is the realism of guys that live this life on the road. They’re in their twenties, they have never lived outside of their homes before and all of a sudden they are in this international high-stakes world of poker.
I am going to show how they deal with that, how they deal with winning a lot of money and then losing a lot of money. Traveling, calling people “friends” who are not really their friends, seeing real friends becoming enemies at the table.
It is going to be a scripted show, not a reality show, so they will be all actors with some cameos of real players.
PL: Do you know when is it going to be on air?
Salsberg will draw from the poker community for the characters in his new series.
MS: No, I don’t know yet. It needs some works still so it is indefinite right now.
PL: You’ve got big poker results now so are you introducing yourself to people you meet as a poker player or a TV producer/writer?
MS: I prefer writer, but a writer that plays way too much poker.
This is the thing. I spend more time playing poker than writing, but I've made more money writing than I did in poker. So it’s kind of twisted.
There is not THAT much point for me in playing poker on some levels but it’s such a fun game, very competitive. I love the game. Paris was a huge win and I always wanted to win a big tournament so that was pretty special.
PL: When you think of the Black Friday story and everything that’s happened in the last 18 months, could you even write a story like that?
MS: You know, the best stories come out of truth usually, and then it’s weird because sometimes you write a story based on truth and people are like “how did you come up with that?!” and they’re surprised when you tell them it’s based on truth.
I think that specific one was a tricky situation. I think that was something that potentially was going to come down at some point. There were such vague laws and so many issues with payment processors.
You know, there were guys signing up for Full Tilt, putting $500 on their accounts and they’re getting a receipt saying they bought “Golf Clubs online”. You have to think somebody’s going to catch on to this at some point.
We love the game a lot. We love playing online a lot so people turn a blind eye to what could potentially be a very serious legal situation.
They were doing it before, nobody expected anything to happen but really, you know, it was all pretty stupid. For the players also, to not assume that at some point this thing could get blown up.
PL: Is the one about golf clubs a true example?
Salsberg feels like American poker players should have seen Black Friday coming.
MS: Oh yeah! I would get statements saying golf clubs, whatever, sporting goods. You know, when I would upload money to Full Tilt I would get this and this is really what they got nailed for. For fraud. Bank fraud.
PL: What’s the best poker movie ever?
MS: I think Rounders.
PL: I was still hoping you would say Cincinnati Kid.
MS: I watched The Cincinnati Kid not that long ago and I thought it was a little dated.
PL: You think it’s dated? I think it was a masterpiece.
MS: Ok, I’ll re-watch it.
PL: Are you spending a lot of time playing poker in Europe?
MS: Well, I did. This was by far the longest trip I have ever taken. I went to Partouche and then Paris. Then I went back to Borgata and then I said I would come back to Europe to Cannes for the World Series only if I won something. So I won the Paris one.
Then I was on the East Coast and I was already planning to spend a week visiting family and hanging out with friends so I didn’t have any rush to get back to L.A. And it’s not too horrible a flight from NY to Cannes as there was a direct flight on Delta.
So I did that. I ran like shit on Day 1 at the WSOPE. I busted aces vs AK all in preflop which is your best spot ever and, you know, losing to that was a bummer. So then I started thinking about San Remo – I didn’t know if I would go but then it turned out I came and so far it seems I made a good decision.
PL: Do you buy yourself into these big events or qualify online?
MS: I cannot qualify online when I am in the States and there’s nowhere to qualify. I played a super-satellite for the Paris one. I stone-bubbled it. They were giving away 10 seats and I came 11th stupidly. I had some chips, the average stack was like 9BBs so I had no comfort zone and the first mistake you make there can cost you everything.
I was mad about that but, obviously, it worked out in the end. Normally I just buy in because I am very bad at mega satellites and I have never won a seat in a mega in my life.