Poker professional Matt Glantz has won more than $4 million playing in tournaments over his career, but he's never won a World Series of Poker bracelet.
Hollidaysburg resident Dr. Michael Saltzburg hasn't earned close to that number playing cards, but he proudly shows off his bracelet from the 2003 WSOP any time a house guest asks him to see it.
"We call him Dr. Mike," said Glantz, referring to Saltzburg, an orthopedic surgeon at Tri-County Orthopedics in Altoona. "I nicknamed him that years ago. He's actually pretty famous among poker pros like [10-time bracelet winner] Doyle Brunson. When he comes to Vegas, everyone knows him as Dr. Mike."
Hollidaysburg’s Michael Saltzburg competes in the WSOP in Las Vegas.
Saltzburg returned to Las Vegas earlier this month and continued to build on his poker resume, finishing second in the 10-game mixed tournament at the WSOP. It was Saltzburg's third cash in just seven career events at the World Series. He paid $2,500 to enter and won $150,849 by finishing as the runner-up to champion Vanessa Selbst.
"I'm what is called a serious amateur," Saltzburg said. "I play three times a month. I go down and meet friends in Atlantic City, play Friday at noon and midnight, and that's it.
"That's how I learned the games. I started out playing seven-card stud and moved on from there to big-bet games. I'm in the medical field, but I just happen to have an affinity for some of these games."
Current residence: Hollidaysburg
Employment: Orthopedic surgeon at Tri-County Orthopedics in Altoona
Family: Wife, Wendy; Four kids, Chris, Becky, Mark and Lauren
Career tournament poker winnings: $251,722
WSOP bracelets: 1
WSOP events entered: 7
WSOP cashes: 3
Favorite card game: Seven-card stud
Saltzburg began playing poker in high school for just 25 to 50 cents a hand. He played through college before stopping to begin a career as a high school teacher.
The Philadelphia native taught at Cherry Hill, N.J., for five years and was the head baseball coach at the school before deciding, at the age of 27, to go to medical school.
It was while at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine that Saltzburg met his future wife, Wendy.
The pair lived in Haddonfield, N.J., until 1982. When Saltzburg completed medical school, he started a practice in Philadelphia before moving to Hollidaysburg in 1986.
They have four children, Chris, Becky, Mark and Lauren.
"We have a summer place in Stone Harbor, N.J., and my son was on a traveling team for baseball," Saltzburg said. "I started to play seven-card stud, which was very popular on the East Coast, during our trips.
"I took a vacation in 2003 to Las Vegas, and it just happened to be when the World Series of Poker was taking place."
Saltzburg bought in to a seven-card stud tournament at the 34th WSOP for $2,500 and outlasted 125 people over two days to win a bracelet and $95,580.
"The WSOP was just starting to get popular," Saltzburg said. "That was the year [poker professional] Phil Ivey won three bracelets. It was a definite high.
"The internet had just started streaming poker at that time, and my family could barely make out the scene at the final table on their computer back in Pennsylvania. That win really increased my interest in poker."
In December of 2004, Saltzburg finished fifth in the Trump Classic Seven-Card Stud Championship, and he cashed with a 61st-place finish in the Seven-Card Stud, 8-or-Better tournament at the 37th World Series of Poker in 2006.
Saltzburg's second-place finish on July 1 was his first cash in a mixed game at the WSOP.
"I've been playing with Mike weekly for seven to eight years," Glantz said. "He's a great guy who is really friendly, which is rare in our sport. He's very well liked, and he's a great poker player."
Glantz, who was recently named the ambassador at the Parx Casino poker room near Philadelphia in Bensalem, is considered one of the top poker professionals to have never won a bracelet.
"[Saltzburg] already had a ton of respect before he finished second at this most recent event," Glantz said. "Everyone already knew he was a top player. This is just like another trophy on the bookshelf for him."
The second-place finish in a 10-game event with 421 entrants was even more impressive considering Saltzburg's status as a part-time player.
"You have to know the games," Saltzburg said. "I knew nine of the 10 games well. The skill level to win a tournament with 10 games is 90-percent skill and 10-percent luck.
"One of the games we played was deuce-seven single draw no limit. That game is not played back East, and people from the West have a huge edge. I had never played it before I sat down at the table."
Luck turned on Saltzburg once he got into heads-up competition against Selbst. The first game the two played was deuce-seven single draw no limit, one of Selbst's better games.
Saltzburg already faced a 5-to-1 chip disadvantage after Selbst won two huge pots as an underdog with two tables of players left.
"She drew a lot of good hands at the end," Saltzburg said. "She had the first, second or third best hands possible each time. She got the best cards, and she played the best the last day.
"She deserved to win. Most people consider her the top female player in the world right now."
Despite Saltzburg's level of success in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, he has entered poker's most well-known and prestigious event, the World Series of Poker Main Event, just once.
The Main Event is a Texas Hold 'em tournament that is televised on ESPN and considered by many the championship of poker. In 2006, Jamie Gold won $12 million by winning the event, which costs $10,000 to enter and drew 8,772 players that year.
"In a no-limit Texas Hold 'em game, there's a lot of luck due to coin toss hands," Saltzburg said. "That kind of tournament is 30- to 40-percent luck. You have to just take a stand and hope the poker gods smile on you."
In Saltzburg's lone appearance two years ago, the gods ignored his pleas.
"I got knocked out on the first day before dinner time," Saltzburg said. "I started at noon and was out by 5 p.m. I lost two big hands, one where I had a king-high flush and another where my kings-full [house] lost to four sixes."
For now, Saltzburg plans on continuing to do most of his operating in a hospital and not at a poker table, but "Dr. Mike" certainly plans on returning to Las Vegas before long.
"Stud tournaments start at the end of June," Saltzburg said. "So I'll probably be back out there again next year. I knew some of the people who just played in the million-dollar buy-in that was on ESPN. Poker can really lead to some exciting times."