When the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star event gets underway this week in San Jose, California, Ian Kalman will be in the field taking on some of the biggest names in the game.
“I love the Shooting Star tournament. It’s nice that it’s local and easy to get too. I mean, I don’t have to take a flight to play in it – so that’s nice,” said Kalman.
The Shooting Star event is a unique one on the WPT. A total of 54 top pros are invited to be ‘Shooting Stars’ and players who send one of them to the rail earn $2,500 and an autographed shirt from that player. Almost every table on Day 1 has a ‘Shooting Star’, meaning amateur players are guaranteed to get the chance to play with a top pro.
Kalman has played the event before. In 2005 he finished 29th and won $25,000, but he also managed to get himself one of those highly coveted bounties and that’s the story he tells about that tournament.
“It was $5,000 to knock out a pro. I knocked out 1983 WSOP Main Event Champion Tom McEvoy and he hasn’t talked to me since,” said Kalman, who has been playing satellites in attempt to get into this year’s event. “But to be fair, he doesn’t know who I am, so there’s no real reason for us to talk.”
All joking aside, the San Francisco business owner and recreational poker player isn’t at all intimidated at all by having to play against top competition. It’s something he’s used to. In 2005, Kalman and his business partner Sean Farrell started a greeting card company, Bald Guy Greetings, and he’s been competing alongside some of the bigger names in that industry since.
“We started Bald Guy Greetings for fun and had no idea that we’d be taking on Hallmark. I didn’t know what would come of it and I didn’t think Hallmark would even know who we were,” said Kalman. “ I should be clear though — we’re not taking on Hallmark. They’ve already won.”
The idea behind the company isn’t to one day be Hallmark. Kalman knows his products are unique in the marketplace and not the same old birthday or anniversary cards you’ll find in chain stores across the country. He’d much rather focus on continuing to find smaller stores to get the products in.
“We thought that we were filling a void in the greeting card industry and people would be beating down our door. But it turns out, a lot of storeowners are very happy selling watered-down greeting cards,” said Kalman. “Our dream is to be in the best card stores in every city. The stores that take pride in what they carry. Those are the stores that gave us a chance in the beginning and we will forever be thankful to them for that.”
Poker is a hobby for Kalman, but one that he’s enjoyed some success with. Just over four months ago, Kalman made the final table of the Heartland Poker Tour event at Thunder Valley Casino just outside of Sacramento. Kalman, busted in ninth place, earning $21,758 – his third largest lifetime score.
His biggest score came in 2006 when he lived the dream of every amateur player with a deep run in the World Series of Poker Main Event. Finishing in 167th place in the year Jamie Gold won, Kalman walked away with $47,006.
While a six-figure score in the Bay 101 event this week would be fantastic for Kalman, he wouldn’t have to or even want to invest any of that money into the business.
“Bald Guy Greetings is doing well and we really don’t have a need for more capital. Investors and people that just love the brand have approached us and they’re interested in investing. But for now, we like that it’s just me and Sean making all the decisions,” said Kalman.
Kalman has imagined what it would be like to be the last player standing, posing for winner’s shots with Mike Sexton, Vince van Patten and the Hublot watch, but even that dream isn’t as exciting as the opportunity to turn his company into a national brand.
“Poker tournaments are exciting and of course, I always want to win, but Bald Guy Greetings is something that Sean and I started from scratch and that’s exciting.”