Lee Davy talks about his journey from ‘owing to giving’ and how poker has been the inspiration behind his transformation.
The bath water is cold, my fingertips are withered and my heart is racing. The time is now. The time is now. The time is now. My wife is brushing her hair. I can see that her lips are moving, but the sound is falling down the plughole along with the strands of stray hair.
“Are you going to ever get out of that bath?” She asks.
“I have something to tell you.” I replied.
The seriousness of my tone stopped her brushing motion. She turned to face me. I stammered. Words wouldn’t come out.
“I have done something unforgivable.”
“What…what is it?”
I will never forget that face.
“We are deep in debt because of my gambling.”
That was one of the most difficult conversations of my life. I was £30,000 in debt and I earned a £45,000 basic salary, with a bonus that arrived with the timeliness of Lord Lucan.
Each month I would receive a paycheck for around £2,500 and my expenses meant that I was in the red before the month had even begun.
There was no way out of this mess.
Today, I have no debt. I have £12,000 sitting in an emergency fund that will be used should poker companies start culling my written words, and today I made my first foray into the world of philanthropy when I sent £108.55 to the Raising For Effective Giving (REG) charity.
Poker is Joffrey Baratheon, or as the character Brick Top said in the Guy Ritchie movie Snatch – “a right ‘Orrible c**t’. I know because I am partly to blame for this character building. Pain and sorrow sells more newspapers than joy and glory.
But poker isn’t all-bad.
Several years ago I was working at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Grand Final in Monte Carlo. I was covering the €100,000 Super High Roller and there was an Englishman in the field that I didn’t recognize, an unusual occurrence given that I am English and the stakes were so high.
“Who is that?” I asked a colleague.
“That’s Talal Shakerchi.”
“He’s a Hedge Fund manager from London.”
A year later and I am working at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). Talal Shakerchi is playing in the BIG ONE for ONE DROP and as I stand in the line at Starbucks, waiting for my daily Chai, I spot Shakerchi sitting on his lonesome.
“Hello, my name is Lee Davy, and I was wondering if I could interview you at some point?”
“Why on earth would you want to interview me? I’m not very interesting I’m afraid.” Said Shakerchi.
A friendship was born out of that cup of Chai, and in the short time that I have known him what strikes me about him is his humility and his passion to give to others. Every penny that he earns goes towards others. He is my inspiration.
My time with Shakerchi got me thinking about giving money to charity long ago. I am a voracious reader of self help literature and I have always been fascinated by the stories that are told of the need to give to others.
But something has always held me back.
I always felt I needed the money more than others.
I always told myself that I would give to charity when I earned more money, and could afford to do so.
Then I met Philipp Gruissem.
Ask anybody about this young man and they have nothing but good things to say about him. His talents on the felt are matched by his generosity and intelligence off it. This is a young man who has a sense of awareness that, by rights, he should not yet have developed. And yet here he is. Setting an example for the entire poker industry.
His visit to Uganda and the photos of him playing with all the children touched me deeply. The creation of the Raising for Effective Giving (REG) Charity overwhelmed me. I am not ashamed to admit that I want to be like Talal Shakerchi and Philipp Gruissem, and if I was to realize this goal I had to start making a difference immediately.
Junior Murchison once said, “Money is like manure. If you spread it around it does a lot of good. But if you pile it up it stinks like hell.’
July is a big turning point in my life. It’s not only the first time in my life that I have stuck to a budget, but I have also sent 2% of my gross income to the REG Charity. I know that their reliance on the science and rational decision making model will ensure that my money creates the most effective change in humanity.
I have also taken steps to give my time to others by approaching my local food bank to act as a volunteer, and my personal business has been created to help people quit drinking alcohol, and create a life of meaning and love.
I used to think that giving money to others was a way of nudging the universe to give me more in return. My friendship with Talal Shakerchi, and my brief meetings with Philipp Gruissem, has taught me a very different lesson.
You don’t do this to get something in return. You do this because you have already gotten something.
I have come a long way since my heart raced in that deep cold bathtub, and I have a long road ahead. Through choosing to give to others I have discovered peace and sense of duty that I never knew existed.
Philipp Gruissem, Talal Shakerchi and the people behind the REG Charity are my inspirations and that’s all I want to be.