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WSOP 2017: Kevin Martin looking to grow his stack, as well as the game

"Tons! Heaps! Piles!"

If you had checked in with Team PokerStars Online Pro Kevin Martin at the first break today like we did, it never would have occurred to you that he was below the average in chips. Down from 53,200 to a bit more than 36,000 after the first two-hour level, Martin remains full of enthusiasm about his present and future status in this, his first ever World Series of Poker Main Event.

"I've made a couple of big folds... just hero-folding," he grinned. "I think I've been right most of the time, but you check-fold a lot of turns, you lose that stack. I still have tons of big blinds, and I'm really enjoying the experience. It's the Main Event! The buzz and the atmosphere... the hype around the venue is amazing!"

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Kevin Martin

Spend any time at all with Martin and you get to know that positive outlook -- it's pretty infectious, to be honest. Just ask his many Twitch followers who have grown accustomed to being both entertained and enlightened while watching his popular stream.

Martin has had some experience coming back after getting knocked down. While we know him through poker, many more know Martin as the winner of the most recent series of Big Brother Canada. Around a million people watched each episode of the reality show as it aired from March to May, with Martin outlasting a group of 16 players to emerge as champion and win the $100,000 grand prize.

For Martin the victory was itself a comeback, as he'd been on the show once before but was voted off ninth out of 16. Given another opportunity, he seized it, and with added preparation beforehand and perseverance during the two-plus months of the show he succeeded in his goal.

"I broke my first table today, and both of my tables have been good," he explains. "I just haven't been able to capitalize yet."

Table draws and players' lack of control over who they get to play against logically leads us to Big Brother, a game where Martin similarly didn't have the luxury of choosing his competitors.

"On Big Brother they put 15 other people in, and I had to play with those people. They could have been easy to play with, or they could have been difficult. On the poker table, it's the same thing. You can't change what your opponents do. All you can change is how you adapt to it -- there are so many similarities."

Martin characterized his Day 1 as also having been not too terribly eventful, and when recounting his most memorable hand he again talked about a big fold -- in that case pitching pocket queens preflop in a hand in which his opponent held ace-king.

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Kevin (from Day 1)

Knowing he would have a small edge in such a confrontation, Martin notes how -- again, like on the show -- he's in survival mode.

"This is my first Main Event, and I've talked to a lot of players who have played the Main Event before," he said, recalling the extensive preparation that marked his return to Big Brother. "They are really keen on survival and making it past this first bit. Of course, accumulating chips is also the name of the game, and hopefully we're going to be doing that very soon!"

Martin's optimism about his future in this particular tournament extends as well to his feelings about the direction of poker, generally speaking.

"You walk around here and see Antonio Esfandiari, Jeff Gross, "tonkaaaa" [Parker Talbot], and other Twitch streamers.... They're all good for poker, and I'm so proud of Twitch poker and the people making awesome poker content."

Noting the increased turnout for this year's Main Event, Martin believes Twitch has had a role helping grow the game's popularity. And it's no big surprise to hear that he's excited about what's to come, too.

"I've been talking to some people at PokerStars and there are so many awesome, cool things coming out," he says, referring also to having talked with Jason Somerville about other ideas for growing poker as well.

It was hard not to feel as though with more time Martin was ready to get into some of those ideas. And to suspect there are a lot of them in the works. (Tons! Heaps!)

"People are innovating and the energy is great, and I think 2017 and going into 2018, poker is in a good place right now. I hope it continues, it's such a beautiful game," he said.

But the break was nearing its end. Eager to get back to his stack and get to work spinning it up, Martin called out as we parted.

"Come back next level," he said. "Hopefully it's at 70K!"

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