For many who take the game of poker seriously, they can point to another player who has had a profound effect on their game.
Whether it’s emerging from obscurity to win the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, pulling off heart-stopping bluffs on High Stakes Poker, or crushing the nosebleed stakes of online poker, some of the best poker players in the world have helped to inspire generations of new players find their way in poker.
We’ve spoken with some of the biggest stars in the game today about who it their poker idols are.
Brazil’s Vivian Saliba first gained the attention of the poker world through her consistent play and results in the Brazilian Series of Poker. In 2017, the PLO specialist made a splash at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, racking up five cashes including a resume-building run in the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha 8 Handed Championship for $47,923.
As more results in high profile tournaments came her way, Saliba’s poker career took another step forward as she signed on to become an ambassador for 888poker and started traveling all over the world playing in live events.
In 2019, she earned the biggest score of her career after finishing in fourth place in the WSOP $888 Crazy Eights event for $308,888.
When you first started playing poker, who was the player you admired the most?
I remember that when I first started playing poker, I would spend many of my weekends watching Poker After Dark on TV or any other poker show that I could find.
I used to admire Patrik Antonius, Phil Ivey, and Tom Dwan. If I have to pick one name, I would say probably Patrick Antonius.
What was it about that player that you liked or admired?
Patrik Antonius had a very professional approach at the poker table and booked constant wins. Tom Dwan and Ivey used to impress me because of their very aggressive style, crazy bluffs, and unbelievable reads.
When did you first get to see them play (either on TV, or live)?
I started watching poker shows on TV since I was a teenager and this was the time I got to have knowledge of these players. The first time I traveled to Las Vegas for the WSOP, back in 2016, I had the opportunity to play the Ladies Event at the same table as Vanessa Selbst. That was the first I played against a real big name in poker. The first time I played against one of the players of my original list was in 2017 during the WSOPE Main Event, Patrick Antonius was at my table on Day 2.
Did you ever get to meet that player and what was that like?
When I used to be very inexperienced with poker, probably I would just imagine that any professional poker player could do “miracles” with the cards they were dealt, but as I grew older and more experienced, I learned that after all, we all make mistakes and most of the players I used to put on a pedestal are in the end just normal people that play very good poker. I was excited about playing at the same table as some big names but mostly because it meant to me how far I have progressed from where I first started (playing freerolls with my dad on weekends).
Can you tell me about something either on the felt or off of the felt that you learned from them?
I would say that I learned that is very important to have a good presence at the table, to keep your ambitions high, and to constantly improve your game.
How does it feel to know somebody out there looks at you the way you looked up to your favorite player?
I feel very flattered but at the same time with great responsibility. As a public person in the poker market, I must represent the sport well and set a good example for others. I remember the first time someone asked me for a picture during a poker tournament, I couldn´t understand why someone would want to take a picture with me but I felt very happy with the situation. Nowadays I receive a lot of support in the live events and thru my social media channels and this motivates me to do better and keep improving as a person and as a poker player.