Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to spend some time interviewing the Swedish online poker player Lukas Berglund. The young lad was on top of the world (quite literally according to PocketFives) and so I asked him how he first got into poker.
“I started out like most people really. I deposited $10 and lost it, then I did it again and lost that, and then I did another $10 and never needed to deposit again. So I guess it was third time lucky for me.” Said Berglund.
I guess I am not most people…
I don’t remember the year, but I do know I was still drinking so it must have been around 2008/9 when my good friend Scott ‘Skit’ Harris asked me if I would host a game of poker.
“Why do I have to host it? I don’t even know how to play the game.” I told him.
“Because you are the only person I know who has a kitchen table big enough for 10-players to sit around.” Came his reply.
“But I don’t even know how to play.” I said.
“You can’t play,” said Skit, “We need you to deal.”
“But I don’t know how to deal.”
And that’s how poker and I met.
So 10 people settled into my kitchen to play this game called poker. The place was so cold the lads chilled the cans of Strongbow outside of the fridge. Next to the cans of bow were ten lines of £10 notes all equating to £100 per line, and it was winner takes all. Before this game, my only experience of playing cards was some Three-Card Brag, Pontoon and Shoot the Pool – I had never seen a game with £1,000 as a prize.
I got £50 for dealing and was made up to be honest. My ex wife was running the show at the time. She made sure everyone’s drink was topped up and that the bowl of cheesy nachos never dried up. Each time someone yawned – and plenty did as the night wore on – she would force them to neck a shot of Absinthe.
The night ended in a drunken mess and Wayne ‘Bill’ Jenkins walked away with the grand.
We fucking loved it.
A few weeks later and we were all heading to Vegas for my mates Neil Farm’s stag party. By this time I had learned the basics of poker, but we were all still doing our money playing Three Card Brag.
I remember drinking all day and night prior to flying to Vegas. There were so many of us – me included – that couldn’t even remember getting there, but get there we did.
We stayed at the Plaza Hotel in Fremont Street and it took us a week to get used to the fact that we had a McDonalds restaurant in our hotel.
“We have a fucking McDonald’s restaurant in our hotel”
That one sentence must have been spread from man to wife on every transatlantic phone call home. We just couldn’t believe it. Suddenly, there were fairies at the bottom of your garden.
We had a fucking McDonald’s restaurant in our hotel.
I remember that Skit was the first person to sit down at a cash table. I was shitting myself when I took my seat. I couldn’t stop shaking. Also nobody told us that the drinks were free.
We were shit faced within hours and money ran everywhere except into our pockets.
My first-ever tournament was a small buy-in event at Binnions. We had a last longer bet and I won it when everyone else was knocked out within the first 30-minutes. It was back when I thought playing under the gun was the nuts because each time I opened everyone would fold. Even when they called I would just bet until they folded. I felt like a bit of a dick when I learned the power of position.
Before Vegas, poker just seemed like a friendly thing to do whilst you had a pint or twelve. The £100 freezeout turned into a £10 rebuy and nobody had any interest in cash games. In a way I miss those times. It was all about the camaraderie and any sense of seriousness was left at the front door next to the wellington boots and the brolly.
That trip to Vegas changed my life in so many ways and the biggest change was the experience of playing cash games. When we returned to the valley nobody cared about the tournaments anymore, and before long we were all playing Dealers Choice cash games with pots the same size as our monthly wages.
It was also during this trip that I fell in love with the table games, and I actually came back from Vegas in profit. I had drunk myself to a stupor, bought everyone I loved a shit ton of presents, and yet came away from Sin City with more money that I went out there with.
That was a very dangerous thing indeed.
Suddenly, earning £45,000 per year as a manager of Operations didn’t seem that appealing.
Not when I could live this kind of life.
That was when I decided to become a professional gambler, and unlike the young Swede it wasn’t a case of third time lucky.
In fact it was nothing like that at all…
But that’s a different confession altogether.