Martin Hruby is the flagbearer for Team PokerStars Pro in the Czech Republic and a spearhead of Eastern European poker.
With thousands of poker players streaming into Prague for the ongoing Eureka Poker Tour/EPT series this week it appears the Czech Republic is still one of Europe's true poker hot spots.
While that's partly true, Hruby says it's not exactly the poker paradise it might seem to be.
PokerListings caught up with Hruby at the Hilton in Prague for his take on his home country as a place for online grinders, the perks of the King’s Casino in Rozvadov and just how much of his time he spends going after fish.
PokerListings: What’s the status of poker in the Czech Republic?
Martin Hruby: There's not a long-standing tradition of poker but there is a good base.
A lot of players started playing when I did in the year 2000. The market in the Czech Republic is pretty saturated.
It’s a surprise for me that the numbers are still growing, because I thought the boom was over.
PL: Since the UIGEA lots of US players have left the country and relocated to Canada, Mexico or Malta. Would the Czech Republic be a good alternative?
MH: The Czech Republic is not exactly a top place for those players to relocate. It’s not a tax paradise.
If I didn’t have a family I would probably move somewhere else where it would be easier for me to grind.
The current legislation in the Czech Republic is not in accordance with EU laws. So for now, poker is a grey zone.
There are legal proceedings going on to bring Czech law inline with EU law but it could take until 2016 before anything is official.
PL: In 2011 Martin Staszko came second in the WSOP main event. How did that affect the poker scene in the Czech Republic?
MH: It didn’t exactly trigger a poker boom but Martin was all over the talk shows on television, so it definitely made poker more popular.
PL: We’ve heard that your favorite hobby is fishing. That’s a little ironic for a poker player.
MH: (laughs) Yes, catching fish is always on my mind. Unfortunately, I often let them go.
But seriously, fishing is the perfect way to relax for me. There is nothing else where I can completely shut myself off from the world and truly recover.
PL: Do you see parallels between poker and fishing?
MH: There are, actually. In both you have long contemplative phases where you don’t actually do something, and in both you wait for the fish to come close to you.
Then you wait for the perfect moment to catch it.
PL: The King’s Casino in Rozvadov is Europe’s largest privately run casino. What does that mean for the Czech players?
MH: That’s a great benefit for the Czech players. It is definitely a major attraction.
Personally, I don’t go that often because they have their big tournaments on the weekend and I’m also a family man and need to spend some time with my family.
PL: Maybe there have been some fishing competitions between you and other players in Rozvadov?
MH: Not in Rozvadov, but somewhere else. I used to go on holiday to the Ebro river in Spain with a couple of other players.
We were there to go fishing together but of course there were lots of side bets. Last time for example we were 16 players.
We paired up in teams and then simply counted the number of fish we were catching. Only one of us didn’t do any fishing at all because he was playing online Chinese poker all the time.
PL: You mentioned your family. There is allegedly a Czech tradition that the more you celebrate the birth of a child, the more luck it brings. You had your third child this year.
MH: Yes, the tradition exists but luckily for me it mainly concerns the first child. So this year I didn’t party too much.
But after the first child, I was drunk for three days. Actually, I was missing for three days!
Honestly, after that, I could never celebrate as hard again.