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17 June 2013
By Aaron Todd
When you're in your 40s, you're generally not an elder statesman in your industry. But in a poker world dominated by a generation of Internet players in their 20s and early 30s, that's exactly what Matt Glantz is.
Glantz discovered poker when he was working on the stock exchange and was invited to an after-hours poker game in the office. He played it as a hobby for awhile, but was more invested in a career as an options trader. He even opened his own firm in Philadelphia, near his home town of Lafayette Hill, Pa.
"I had traders on the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco, I had traders in Chicago, I had traders in New York and Philly where I was," says Glantz, who earned his B.A. and MBA at Temple. "But things changed around 2000. Things became more automated, so a lot of the big firms took over. It was not as lucrative and it was more risky for small firms like ours."
Eventually, trading options seemed to be more risky than playing poker, so he decided to sell his business and make the transition from part-time to full-time player. The timing was a little hairy – Glantz and his wife had just had their first child.
"Thank God I have a very supportive wife," says Glantz. "That's not something most wives want to hear. A lot of wives would have said 'I'm not going to be married to a poker player.' But she said to try it for a year."
And so he did, focusing primarily on cash games in Atlantic City. He set a bar for that first year in terms of total profit, and if he reached it, he would play for another year. If he didn't, he'd go back to options trading. Glantz beat the target, set a new one the following year, and beat that one too. The process continued until finally, he decided that poker was going to be a long-term career and he wanted to make a business out of it.
Glantz plays mostly cash games. Traveling from tournament to tournament doesn’t appeal to him. But he has become a much more active tournament player in recent years, as part of his move to make poker his profession.
"You can just be strictly a cash game player and make money in cash games," Glantz says. "You can make a living. It's not impossible. That's what I did for five or six years, before I started playing tournaments. Then when I realized that if I wanted to make more of a push to make it more of a career, I really had to start playing some tournaments and sort of be more involved."
While he's never won a World Series of Poker bracelet, he does have more than $2 million in WSOP earnings thanks in large part to final table appearances in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship in 2011 and the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event in 2008. He also owns an EPT High Roller title and has more than $4.2 million in career tournament earnings.
Glantz has also become a much more vocal member of the poker community. He started a blog and became an active Twitter user, where he has more than 15,000 followers. He was initially a member of the Epic Poker League Standards and Conduct Committee. But he resigned from the committee when he did not receive the information he requested about the finances and the future of the now defunct league.
He's generally perceived as one of the "good guys" in the poker world, an image bolstered by the fact that he's married and raising two children just a mile and half from the house he grew up in. It's a lifestyle that many of the younger players travelling the tournament circuit on their own may have a hard time imagining.
"There are kids that are in poker, the young kids, it's very hard for them to find a woman that they want to be in a relationship with," says Glantz. "They're just in a bad rut, a bad mindset to grow their life further than just poker. I'm not looking down on them, because I'm sure that if I found poker when I was 17, 18 years old, I would have probably dropped out of college and gotten sucked into poker and my life would be really different."
Instead, Glantz has been able to play at a high level while keeping the industry – and life – in perspective. And he's known an as one of the better thinkers of the game.
His location represents a bit of a hurdle when it comes to influencing the poker world, which can be very Vegas-centric. But it turned out to be a huge advantage when Philadelphia legalized table games, including poker. He is now the Parx Poker Room Ambassador and has been successful in bringing some high stakes games from Atlantic City to the Parx Casino.
"On a Tuesday night, we'll have a $400-$800 game, a $200-$400 game, $75-$150," says Parx Director of Poker Bill Entenman. "(On Tuesdays), probably three of the five biggest games in the country are here, and Matt's game is probably the biggest in the country, right here in Bensalem, Pa. It's almost unthinkable."
While he was originally brought in to help start high stakes games, Glantz has taken on additional responsibilities with Parx, designing the room's Big Stax Poker Series. The first $300 event drew 1,361 players in February, while the second drew 931 last month.
The tournament series has been such a success that it's even been copied, event-by-event, blind-by-blind, by a poker room in Florida.
And Glantz's role doesn't stop there.
"He wants to be involved in every single decision that goes on in the room," says Entenman. "He feels his name is attached to this room, so if the beverage service isn't any good, he feels responsible and wants to fix it. He's really been helpful in getting some meaningful changes done."
When Matt Glantz sees something he doesn't like, he isn't afraid to say so. He's not afraid to call out players that he believes are angle shooters. Look no further than his confrontation with Minh Ly in the 2011 Poker Players Championship, or his recent Twitter callout of Ralph Perry. But unlike a lot of people in the poker world that are long on complaints and short on solutions, Glantz usually has a plan to make things better. And since he recently joined Daniel Negreanu on Twitter in advocating for more games other than no-limit Hold'em at the World Series of Poker, no one should be surprised that he has already come up with a proposal to improve the schedule.
And if the executives at the WSOP are smart, they'll listen.
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