Lee Davy sits down with the former European and World Poker Tour champion, Mohsin Charania, to talk about his Triple Crown attempt, the World Series of Poker schedule, and how poker players are susceptible to attacks after Johannes Strassman went missing in Slovenia recently.
Shannon Shorr, Shawn Buchanan or Mohsin Charania?
A talented trio if I have ever seen one, but which amigo is going to be lucky enough to talk to me?
“I’m still in the $5k,’ says Shorr.
“Me too,” says Buchanan.
“Come on then.” Says Charania.
So how has your Series been so far?
“So far it hasn’t been very good. I think I have cashed two events, played a few $10k events and a lot of the mixed games – pretty much everything but the $50k. But there are still a few events left, and I am hopefully going to win a satellite into the One Drop in the next week.”
How did Charania approach this summer?
“My mood was pretty optimistic because I could have gotten a Triple Crown had I won the bracelet. So it was more about playing well, playing a lot of events, going deep and making a lot of good decisions.
“Then about two weeks in, I realized I didn’t like the $1,500 events. I am so used to playing the EPT and WPT events, where you get 30,000 chips in a 4-5 day tournament, and play 12-9pm. Here, I am getting 4,500 chips and playing till 2am. I am not a fan of the 4pm starts because I am here till 3.45am, sometimes, and if I bust, late in the night, I have to get up really early to play another tournament.
“So my mood was generally pretty optimistic and then midway throughout he summer I wasn’t a fan of the schedules, and was only looking forward to the $5k and $10k events because they were pretty deep stacked.
“I am used to playing with more chips, and there are some schedule issues I wasn’t happy with either. There was a $1,500 NLHE event that clashed with the $3k Shootout, and that hurt the Shootout field because the backers would rather their horses played the $1.5k. There was also a $1.5k and a $10k Six Max, and again backers will want their horses playing in the $1.5k so that cut into the $10k field.
“The fact that there is only a few PLO tournaments is a bit of a joke. I wish there was fewer $1.5k events and more $5k and $10k events, but that’s because I have a bias because I can play the bigger buy-in events. So I guess I would like to see more PLO events, bigger buy-ins and some of the games spread out better.”
We change the course of the conversation from WSOP scheduling to the plight of the poker player. The frequency of attacks, or threats of attacks, seems to be on the rise, and the recent news that the German pro Johannes Strassman had been reported missing in Slovenia was another hammer blow for the community. I knew Charania was friendly with Strassman and wanted his opinion.
“I have known Johannes for a couple of years now. I went out with him for a couple of nights at EPT Berlin, for a while, and I saw him in Monte Carlo playing the 100k earlier this year. It’s heartbreaking news and the players are spreading the word around to try and do as much as they can for him.
“Poker players are pretty easy targets. Some of them are a little careless with the way they flaunt their money. I guess Johannes was out partying in Slovenia and someone might have seen he had a lot of money; he is also pretty recognizable because he has been on TV a lot.
“Take Duhamel for example. Even casual players know him. You walk around the Rio and there are banners of him, his face is in magazines, so they are more susceptible to kidnap, robbing’s, and attacks. There have also been so many stories about the Rio car park being unsafe so it’s really terrible news.”
Charania has had huge wins in both Monte Carlo and Paris. How did it feel to have the responsibility of winning that much money in a foreign country?
“In Monte Carlo it’s less likely. It’s very safe and very rich. I joked around that when I won in Monte Carlo I was still probably the poorest person in town. Paris is different. The tournament is in a great area, but it’s a tourist area and people get mugged there every time. I heard Jason Koon and Athanasios Polychronopoulos got involved in a fight trying to defend tourists on the street who were being mugged.
“I don’t feel safe walking around at EPT Barcelona with money in my pocket because of the pick pocketing that goes on there. I don’t feel comfortable cashing out a bunch of money at the Commerce, and then walking to the car in the parking lot. I would like to see casinos doing more to light up car parks and make them more secure.”
So why are we easy targets?
Charania mentions that there are some younger players, who flaunt their money, but we are a very open industry and it’s what makes poker what it is. Where else are you going to be able to sit down with the likes of Nelly, Michael Phelps, Shannon Elisabeth and Don Cheadle and just shoot the breeze? Poker player’s earnings are also very accessible for the public, and often misleading.
“People look at the earnings as a barometer to success but it’s not right. I have friends at home that go to my Hendon Mob page and see $3-4m in earnings and think I have that much money. They don’t understand that there are tax issues, money for backers, etc. People are sometimes too embarrassed about talking about their real earnings and don’t even tell their own girlfriends, and then you also have people who like the hype and talk it up too much.
“I think the thing that makes poker so great has to be preserved though, as it keeps the recreational player interested. I get excited when I play against certain people. I’ve played against Michael Phelps and Jason Alexander and it’s great. Today I played against Ryan Riess in the 5k and there were definitely some random people on my table excited to be playing with him so you have to keep the game open for this. Players need to be more careful and not flaunt their money. A lot of them come into poker; win money early and a year later are looking for backers because they played too much poker, blew money on cars or whatever.
“After Monte Carlo, for example, I spent $70-80k playing a bunch of tourneys and thought oh God I have lost a bunch of money. You don’t realize it until it’s gone. It happens in sports – basketball players have million of dollars and are soon broke and are looking for a new contract. I think it’s a byproduct of being young and really not coming into that much money before. A lot of young poker players are not educated in this way so they have to make mistakes or be educated by mentors in order to learn.”
I guess the difference between professional sports and poker, is the professional sports have systems in place to educate their young stars about money management whereas in poker you are on your own.
“That’s only happened recently since the profile was raised when young basketball players got into the news after blowing lots of money and getting into trouble with gambling and drugs or whatever. There is no incentive for the EPT, WPT or WSOP to help the players in this way because they want them firing of $10k buy-ins.
Ultimately, it’s the player’s responsibility. No one else is going to help you out; you have to help yourself out. I hope they find Johannes because he is one of the nicest players in poker and it’s a very sad situation.”
If anybody has any news on the disappearance of Johannes Strassman then you can call Slovenian Police on +386 801200 and a €10,000 reward has been set up for anyone who is able to give police any useful information.