Confessions of a Poker Writer: From the Valleys to Vegas

TAGs: Editorial, John Wenzel, Las Vegas, Lee Davy, Phil Ivey, Poker Pro Europe Magazine, Poker Writer Confessions, Sammy George

Where did this all begin?

Confessions of a Poker Writer: From the Valleys to VegasWhen I was first asked this question I really wasn’t sure how to answer it. When I was a whipper snapper I wanted to be a professional footballer, and after Strongbow and Marlboro Light put an end to that I wanted to become the CEO of the rail freight company that I worked for.

But writing?

When I think a little harder I remember a story that I wrote in English class called ‘The Mast’ and my English teacher told me that if I wanted to pay attention to class instead of breasts then I could be quite a decent writer.

At the age of 18 I started to write songs (I guess that was my rock star phase) and lots of poems and love letters to my first wife.

Birthday and Christmas cards apart that was pretty much it.

Then after deciding to quit drinking I joined the Jack Canfield Life Coaching program and really believed that I could do anything that I set my mind to – a belief I still have to this day – but at that precise time I was in love with the game of poker.

So I decided that if I could do anything in the world then I would want to become a professional poker player. So I told my life coach that I was going to quit my job on the railway and do just that.

So 19-years to the day that I joined I quit the iron road and went on my merry way.

I set myself a goal to earn $45,000 through playing poker in a year, and started with a $4,000 bankroll. 29 days later and I had $7,000 and a big smile on my face.

This was easy.

29 days later and I had nearly lost the lot. I secretly reloaded with one of my spare credit cards and tried again, only this time I decided to change my goal and removed the word ‘playing’ to be left with the goal of ‘Earning $45,000 through poker in 12-months.’

I quickly set about trying to find other ways to earn money through poker, other than playing, and one of these proposed work streams was to write about my experience and charge a fee.

Jack Canfield’s Success Principle No.23 is called ‘Practice the Rule of Five’ where you commit to do five things each day that will move you closer to your goal.

I decided to write a pitch to five different magazines asking them if they wanted to publish my story and made sure that it would be a serial so I could gain more longevity and therefore money.

I intended to do this every day until somebody finally caved into my enthusiasm when lo and behold I got this reply on the first day from the Editor of Poker Pro Europe Magazine John Wenzel.

“I love the column idea! I definitely could use something on a monthly basis from you, as long as it was exclusive to us. It is not something we can pay you for, but we could include a photo of you along with anything you would like to promote, such as your blog, etc.”

I couldn’t believe it.

My idea had been accepted after my very first pitch, the only problem was the lack of payment for my work. This is where I would love to say that my business acumen took control over my ego and said that I should write for free because the exposure would lead to more respect, and therefore over time, a paid income for my work.

But that would be a lie.

It was all ego.

I was so excited about getting my work into a magazine that I didn’t care about the money. I only had one problem though.

I didn’t know how to write…

I decided to call my serial ’From the Valleys to Vegas’ and had a dream that I would start my $45,000 goal through writing in my humble home of Ogmore Valley and end it with a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet.

I also had plans to write a book about the whole thing until I realized another famous Welshman called Tom Jones had already used the title for his autobiography.

Cheeky bastard.

My first article was called ‘Downswings and Wild Swings’ and it was written at a time when I was consistently losing and the whole ‘poker thing’ was starting to eat into my family life like a termite chewing into wood.

It was October 2009 and Sammy ‘Any Two’ George was on the front cover, Phil Ivey was advertising Full Tilt Poker on the inside cover, the EPT were invading the Ukraine, Victoria Coren was about to release her new book and the Editor had wrote.

“We also have a new feature by Lee Davey of Wales, an amateur online player who will chronicle his quest to build a bankroll of $45,000 by May, and the effect this will have on his family and work.”

Great…he didn’t even spell my name right.

I remember buying the magazine in WHSmiths and my son told the woman behind the counter that I was in the magazine. She asked me to show her, which I did, and she started to show the rest of the staff.

“Is he famous?” Asked one of them.

“Yeah.” Said my son.

I had plans to frame that first piece and put it on my wall in my office, but that all changed when I got divorced and no longer had an office.

I look back on that article and am embarrassed by the lack of respect that I showed my ex wife. I quite clearly remember asking my ex wife for permission to embellish an argument we had so the story would seem more interesting, but all I really did was railroad her into agreeing to something she didn’t feel comfortable with.

She could see how much this meant to me and reluctantly agreed for me to ridicule her in print. It was not just my life that I was sharing with the world. It was my ex wife’s and my son’s and I didn’t respect either of them.

This is what the desire to achieve something can sometimes do to a man with low levels of integrity, and I still have blurred lines when it comes to these types of things today.

I have since forgiven myself, and my ex wife has also forgiven me, but it hurts to remember just what a bastard I was.

The series ran and ran.

The magazine was given away for free at my local casino and people would come up to me all the time to ask me how I was doing and to tell me they liked my work. I still couldn’t write very well, but I was given a great canvass from which to learn, and I continue to learn to this day.

Eventually, when the time was right I asked the Editor for a fee for my work and he agreed to give me $100 per article. I was thrilled when I got my first check because it was the first poundage towards the $45,000 goal other than poker winnings.

Then the checks dried up.

I kept working but they stopped paying me.

In the end I parted ways with Poker Pro Europe after they refused to pay me $600 for six articles I had written for them, but despite the acrimonious ending I will always be grateful for John Wenzel for giving me my shot, otherwise I may never have achieved my goal, and might not have been paid to sit at my kitchen table and write this.


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