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Gaming Guru

Jerry Fink

Poker Whiz Sartori Hopes to Deal an Ace in Music

26 October 2005

The maverick musician from Buffalo, N.Y., travels the country singing his songs and raking in the chips.

Thirty-year-old Tom Sartori is using his fame at the poker table to boost his career onstage and in the recording business.

"The publicity has been helpful," Sartori said last week while in town competing with 450 other poker players in the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship, a World Poker Tour event, at the Bellagio. He was ousted about halfway through, but picked up $20,000 in side games.

Sartori came in 26th out of more than 5,600 entries in Harrah's World Series of Poker at the Rio over the summer, taking home $300,000.

He used that money to hire a first-rate producer, Geza X (producer of Meredith Brooks' multiplatinum "Bitch"); a Latin Grammy-winning mixer, Charles Dy (2001's Latin album "Arrasando"); and a publicist.

All of whom helped Sartori create his first major album, "All In," which will be released in late December.

"The title is a poker reference, since all of my poker winnings are being dumped into my music career," Sartori said.

The album is being produced by his own independent label, Ace High.

A cut from the album, "You're Still Standing," will be played when ESPN2 airs an interview with Sartori on Channel 31 at various times during the day on Tuesday.

ESPN taped the World Series of Poker last year and is airing it over the next several weeks.

Since placing among the top Texas hold 'em poker players in the world, Sartori has become a target for every would-be poker player on college campuses around the country.

"My band was always fairly popular on the college circuit," Sartori, a pop artist, said. "Then I got into the poker thing, and a lot of fans found out -- now when I go to college towns, everyone wants to play poker after the concert. They want to take on a winner."

And he says he wins about 90 percent of the time against the college students, who are getting an education in losing.

"That's been helping out a lot," he said.

Which came first, the poker or the music?

The music.

Sartori has been playing professionally since leaving high school. In the early years he mostly played small clubs in and around Buffalo.

Although his five-piece band mostly plays clubs and colleges in the East, he has toured five countries and opened for such artists as Meatloaf, 98 Degrees, Chuck Berry and Cheap Trick.

Music -- playing and writing -- is his passion. Poker didn't become a factor in his life until about 18 months ago when he decided to look into the game to see what all of the fuss was about among today's younger generation.

"I was intrigued," Sartori said. "I would watch the games on TV, and I kept seeing all the same faces coming into the money.

"I had always assumed poker was mainly luck, but I decided there must be something more to it."

So he read some books on the subject and started playing online.

"My first online tournament, I won $50,000," he said.

For a year he played a lot of online poker.

"We were touring, living out of the van," Sartori said. "It's pretty difficult to make money when you don't have a hit record and you're trying to do original music.

"Basically you starve."

Poker was a salvation.

"I was doing so well, I used the poker earnings to fund the band's tour," Sartori said. "We would be traveling on the road in our van, and I would have a laptop with me to play poker.

"I played pretty much every day, and I'd win 75 to 80 percent of the time."

His second online tournament, the Satellite World Series of Poker, he won a free trip to Las Vegas for a week and $10,000 for the buy-in for Harrah's World Series of Poker -- which he turned into $300,000.

He says he earns most of his poker money in cash games, not tournaments.

"The cash games are where the money is," he said.

Sartori will be in Las Vegas again in December to play in the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic, another World Poker Tour event, at the Bellagio.

Meanwhile, he will continue to make music and win jackpots around the country.

"I have never looked at poker as a job, it's a hobby I do really well," Sartori said. "With the poker celebrity I'm gaining right now, it's helping get my music career to another level. It's a springboard, affording me the opportunity to put out a good, quality album and a little extra money to keep the band on the road for a few more months."

Poker Whiz Sartori Hopes to Deal an Ace in Music is republished from