Poker poker poker. Everyone plays poker. And most people who play against Marcel Luske tend to remember it.
As it says aptly in his own personal Web bio, "Life has prepared Marcel Luske very well for the game of poker."
His father was a butcher and a boxer, and named Marcel after a favorite French pugilist, Marcel Sardain. He grew up in Holland wanting to be a singer (as you might be able to discern by his tendency to sing at the tables, and the "poker concept" album he's about to release) but ended up at the center of his country's government, The Hague, working for customs.
For a short time, anyway. He moved on to working in a nightclub; he owned a bar in the Amsterdam marketplace, and opened a card club in Antwerp, Belgium. As a hobby along the way, he and his brothers picked up Five-Card Stud and played in their downtime at the market.
His card prowess among the local vendors led them to suggest he enter a $1,000 buy-in tournament in Prague - one that featured some of the top European poker names at the time. Over $40,000 in winnings later, it was an easy decision: he began flying from city to city to play poker, earning himself the now-famous nickname "The Flying Dutchman" in the process.
Marcel Luske starts flying
He hit the road full time as of 1999, and it wasn't long before it was clear he had made the right choice. In January 2001, the Dutchman won the Prague Poker Open. He quickly followed it up in February with three victories in three days at the Euro Finals of Poker.
In March, it was the British Open title that fell to Luske. By the end of the year, he was ranked the No. 1 player in Europe and by 2002 named Player of the Year, accolades he would again garner in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
In seven short years he's amassed an array of titles, from several continents and a number of world-class tournaments: the Third and Fourth Annual Five Star World Poker Classics in Las Vegas; the Hall of Fame Poker Classic in Paris; the Crown Australian Poker Championship in Melbourne; the Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam; and the Barcelona Open in Spain.
But when it comes to Luske's defining moments, talk always turns to the World Series of Poker.
He first played the WSOP in 2002 and cashed twice, finishing third in Limit Omaha Hi-Lo. In 2003 - the year of Moneymaker - Luske edged even further into the public eye, finishing 14th out of 839 in the Main Event and taking home some valuable camera time along with his $65,000.
But 2004 was his coming-out party. Full of confidence from his first two attempts, Luske finished second behind Joe Awada in Seven-Card Stud for $120,800. And in the much-celebrated Main Event, Luske finished 10th - getting knocked out by Dan Harrington on the final-table bubble, on a hand where Harrington actually misread his hole cards.
The milestone win was worth $373,000 - his biggest single payday at the time - but it wasn't necessarily just the strong result that endeared him to poker fans.
And few have parlayed their poker celebrity more astutely than Luske, turning those few moments on camera into a veritable feast of marketing and promotional enterprises.
They loved the playfulness, the singing, the suits, the polished and professional demeanor. And they loved it when he was right; people still reference the famous moment he laid his hand down to a re-raise pre-flop from a player with pocket kings, to whom he said, "Your kings are good."
Founder of the International Poker Federation
His jocularity got him a gig as a guest commentator for the next World Series. His skill and reputation now get him continual invites to made-for-TV specials, corporate speaking gigs and high-paid poker seminars for fans. He's been dubbed "Poker's Roving Ambassador" for his work promoting goodwill among players.
He sits on the World Poker Federation Advisory Board and campaigns for a set of internationally applicable poker rules and etiquette. He founded the International Poker Federation, where he works to unite the global poker community under a set of common rules and standards.
He has a character on Howard Lederer's All-In video game and is an instructor at Lederer's poker camps. He turned the signature upside-down shades he wears at the poker table into a deal for PokerSpecs, eyewear specifically designed to recreate the tilt of the upside-down lenses.
He has a bobblehead and a Poker My Way DVD series, designed for online players making the move to live casino play. He's apprenticed pros David Williams, Kirill Gerasimov and Noah Boeken, and gone as far as creating the Circle of Outlaws, a loose band of up-and-coming poker pros.
Astute and business-driven, but always a gentleman and an advocate of respect, fair play and fun at the poker tables, Marcel is highly esteemed both on and off the felt. He's appreciated by fans and pros alike for his game and his personality, and this quote from an exclusive interview with PokerListings.com during the 2005 World Series goes a long way in explaining why the Flying Dutchman won't have his wings clipped anytime soon:
"I try to keep my feet on the ground at all times and show people respect regardless of who they are. I think players should treat each other and the casino staff (such as dealers) with more respect than they usually do," he said.
"I also think you shouldn't take it so seriously, people are playing like it's their last penny and can't even smile at the table. I think you should have fun at the table, that's one of the most important things. You can get upset by a bad beat, but you have to remember that it's the guy that outdraws you that will help you to learn to be a better poker player."