Justin Saliba: Two-Time WSOP Bracelet Winner and GTO Expert

Justin Saliba: Two-Time WSOP Bracelet Winner and GTO Expert

As a company and team, the staff and coaches of PokerCoaching.com find incredible fulfillment in the success stories we help create. One look at the Scores section of the official PokerCoaching.com Discord server will show thousands of members showing off their success at the cash game and tournament tables. PokerCoaching.com members have even won bracelets at the World Series of Poker (WSOP)! In 2021, PokerCoaching.com members Gershon Distenfeld and Lara Eisenberg both represented Team PokerCoaching well as they won their first career bracelets in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em (NLH) Shootout and $1,000 NLH Ladies Championship respectively. Whether it be crushing cash games, increasing their hourly rate, or taking home WSOP titles, the PokerCoaching community continues to offer success stories for our staff and team to be proud of. However, out of all the success stories, few rival that of PokerCoaching.com coach Justin Saliba.

The company’s first-ever “employee”, Saliba leveraged an initial “work for coaching” arrangement with Jonathan Little to not only become the website’s Head of Content, but also one of the best young, up-and-coming poker players in the world. Under the online monikers JustGTO and Jsaliba2 , Saliba has won hundreds of thousands playing online poker, but has also added two WSOP bracelets to his growing trophy case. Eventually transitioning to live poker tournaments, Saliba has quickly become a fixture in the high roller scene. Securing his first major live tournament win in the $10,000 NLH event at the 2023 PokerGO Cup ($195,000 top prize), Saliba continued his momentum in 2023 when he recorded his highest career cash in the $63,600 buy-in NLH event at the Triton Super High Roller Series in London back in July. Placing third for $690,000, not only did Saliba achieve a new “high score”, but he also proved his ability to play with the likes of Jason Koon, Phil Ivey, and 2022 WSOP Main Event champion Espen Jorstad.

From watching free videos on the Jonathan Little YouTube channel to competing against the best in the world at the highest stakes, Justin Saliba continues to demonstrate what can be achieved when fierce work ethic and dedication are combined with natural ability. Answering some questions in between final tables at the 2023 Poker Masters, Saliba took the time to share more about the early days of his poker career, his transition to high roller tournaments, and PokerCoaching.com’s highly anticipated Advanced Cash Game Course.

Justin Saliba competing at a WSOP final table in 2022 against WSOP bracelet winners Phil Hellmuth and David Jackson.

Justin Saliba competing at the final table of the $3,000 Freezeout during the 2022 WSOP.

The Early Life and Cash Game Career of Justin Saliba

Growing up playing the game with his brother and friends, Saliba always had an affection for poker. Although his love for the game would eventually blossom into a successful poker career, Saliba’s primary focus throughout his youth and in college was athletics. From 2013 through 2017, the Ohio native attended the University of Dayton on a soccer scholarship, where he played for the team as a goalie. After finishing up his athletic career and receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, Saliba began playing poker again as he returned to online poker rooms. Once again in the online streets, Saliba was introduced to online study groups hosted by fellow PokerCoaching coaches Shaundle “CrazySixes” Pruitt and Jarred “GodsBigToe” Gabin. Along with the tutelage of both Pruitt and Gabin, Saliba would also reach out to a figurehead in the poker coaching space. Emailing Jonathan Little and inquiring about private coaching, Saliba and Little would eventually broker a deal where Saliba would work on Little’s YouTube and social media presence in exchange for coaching. 

With his eye for the game now complemented by elite coaching, Saliba grinded online cash games and quickly moved up stakes. Having played $25 NL online in college, by the start of 2018 Saliba was comfortably profiting from playing $200 NL as a recent college graduate. Even though he was a profitable player who sat with a comfortable $30,000 bankroll, Saliba still acknowledges the mistakes he made early on in his poker career.

“I had big leaks and I thought I was the best,” Saliba said. “I’d 2-table $2k NL every once in a while, mostly hanging out, watching TV with my dad not even fully focused on the tables.”

Eventually, Saliba had aspirations of running up his bankroll and making the move to Las Vegas. Attempting to spin up his $30,000 bankroll in the $2k NL streets, Saliba’s ambitions would be met with heavy resistance. After a week of playing $2k NL online, Saliba had torched his entire bankroll. Starting back to square one, Saliba considered using his chemical engineering degree to get a full-time job, and have poker remain as a hobby rather than a career. One phone call with Jonathan Little would change all of that.

“After a phone call with JL, he convinced me to take on more work for PokerCoaching, rebuild my roll, and focus on grinding it up slowly,” Saliba said. “I quickly developed much better discipline, rebuilt the roll, and moved to Vegas at the start of 2019.”

Now in the poker capital of the world, Saliba was ready to continue playing cash games and make his poker career a reality. Although he anticipated focusing on live cash games, eventually JustGTO would return to the virtual felt.

“After my first month of going to Bellagio 5-6 days a week, I was pretty miserable and quickly went back to the online games that I enjoyed,” Saliba shared. “The live game just felt so slow, and the regs in those games were mostly miserable, so I was not having a good time. Online cash games felt like free money, and I was happy with my hourly, so I went back and just played online cash games the entire year.”

Continuing to grow as a poker player as well as PokerCoaching.com’s first employee, Saliba accrued over one million online cash game hands. Leveraging the wealth of experience and insights he had gained grinding on the virtual felt, he would release his first-ever course as a coach for PokerCoaching.com: How to Beat 6-Max Cash Games. Having completed the transition from student to coach and made his dreams of being a professional poker player a reality, Saliba had accomplished quite a lot despite only being 26 years old. However, over the next few years, the poker world would see Saliba was just getting started.

Master a GTO short stack preflop poker tournament strategy and know when to move all-in with the help of Jonathan Little's Push Fold Charts on PokerCoaching.com

Make the best preflop decisions with Jonathan Little’s Push/Fold Charts!

Transitioning From Cash Games To Poker Tournaments

Before eventually becoming a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, Saliba was simply another poker player in Las Vegas making a good living from online cash games. While he continued to crush the online cash streets, a desire for more connection with other players motivated Saliba to take up tournaments.

“I think during COVID, I was really yearning for social interaction after spending all of 2019 at my computer,” Saliba recalled. “I’d met a couple of poker friends in Vegas that were playing tournaments, so I start dabbling every once in awhile.”

In just a few sessions, Saliba would take down his first significant online tournament, winning the $109 Warm Up on America’s Cardroom for over $50,000. Seeing the profit in tournaments as well as the connections that came with them, Saliba began transitioning into what is now his poker specialty. Fully embracing the “tournament bug” he had caught following his win in the ACR Warm Up, Saliba set out to play even more tournaments alongside fellow PokerCoaching.com coach Aram Zobian

“I went and lived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with Aram Zobian to take some shots at the GG online series in the summer and fall of 2020,” Saliba shared. “Although I didn’t have much success there, it was a really cool time. I met more tournament players like Adam Hendrix, Brock Wilson, & Jon Dokler. They were living in an apartment close by, and there was much more camaraderie than I’d ever felt playing cash games. It’s fun to sweat friends and feel more competitive on sites where many people were ‘real named’.”

Becoming fully immersed in online poker tournaments, Saliba took his career to new heights in 2021. Competing in the 2021 WSOP Online series, Saliba won his first-ever WSOP bracelet in the $5,300 buy-in NLH High Roller Freezeout for $253,800. Joining a special class of poker players and winning the most coveted trophy in all of poker, Saliba continued his momentum into the following year winning his second WSOP bracelet in October of 2022 in the $10,000 buy-in Super High Roller 8-Max tournament for a $154,752 score. Just a few months later, Saliba would win his first significant live poker tournament at PokerGO Studios, winning a $10,000 buy-in event at the 2023 PokerGO Cup ($195,000 top prize).

Justin Saliba posing with his first career World Series of Poker bracelet after winning an online WSOP tournament.

Justin Saliba posing with his first career WSOP bracelet.

Solidifying himself as one of the best young, rising poker players in the industry, Saliba is now a regular at high-roller tournaments all across the world. Whether it be in the familiar confines of PokerGO Studios or “across the pond” competing in Triton London events against the likes of Jason Koon and Phil Ivey, Saliba not only adds to his growing career win totals but does his best to represent the PokerCoaching.com Team. 

Saliba takes great pride in applying himself to the game he has built a career on, but also relishes the opportunities he gets to make PokerCoaching.com members better poker players. Continuing his mission to uplift other poker players, Saliba has been putting in countless hours behind the scenes preparing PokerCoaching.com’s next piece of premier content: the Advanced Cash Game Course (ACGC).

The Upcoming Advanced Cash Game Course and The Secrets of Beating the High Stakes

As the Head of Content for PokerCoaching.com, Saliba has been working with fellow poker coaches to provide cash game players the course they need to take their game to the next level. Along with coordinating the creation of the overall course, Saliba will also be providing his very own course section which will focus on the secrets of high stakes, live cash games. Discussing the upcoming ACGC, Saliba shared how he looks forward to bringing students back to the fundamentals.

“It’s a bit funny and paradoxical because, in reality, the secrets of live high stakes cash games are all about leaning into the fundamentals and creating a framework that you can execute in high pressure, high stakes situations,” Saliba said. “I’ve worked with many people developing strategies for nosebleed live cash games, and for each one of them, when we go back to the fundamentals and start trying to build out strategies, I immediately find big leaks.”

Drawing on his own experience with leaks earlier in his cash game career, Saliba brings experience as well as thousands of hours of study to the ACGC. When asked what he felt members would benefit the most from after completing the course, Saliba highlighted his goal of introducing players to new concepts that can transform their game.

“My hope is that players will have light bulbs click throughout the course,” Saliba said. “Light bulbs about new concepts that open up a new realm to their own game and light bulbs about concepts that they felt they knew well, but after more thought, they look at it in a whole new way.”

Whether you are a $1/$3 grinder or a cash game professional looking to improve your hourly in high stakes games, Saliba aspires to provide a course that can benefit every type of cash game player.

“I hope this course can take the avid weekly player who wants to win more money in their local game and give them that success while also taking the aspirational high stakes cash game pro and give them the framework to keep pushing and improving towards their goals.”

Justin Saliba playing on Poker After Dark with Jonathan Little, James Romero, Matt Affleck, Brad Owen, and Faraz Jaka.

Justin Saliba appearing in a special PokerCoaching.com themed episode of Poker After Dark.

Conclusion: Prepare To Crush The High Stakes with the Help of Justin Saliba

A special thank you to PokerCoaching.com coach and Head of Content Justin Saliba for taking the time not only to tell us more about himself and his career but also offer a sneak preview of the upcoming Advanced Cash Game Course. Justin is a coach who truly inspires the entire PokerCoaching.com community, and I speak for all of our members when I say we are incredibly excited to see what he and the other coaches have created with the ACGC. If you are an aspiring cash game player who cannot wait for the release of the ACGC to start learning from Justin, check out his course on how to beat online 6-max cash games, exclusive to PokerCoaching.com premium members!

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