Life Outside of Poker: Tamer Kamel on Faith

TAGs: audio interview, Editorial, Lee Davy, life outside of poker, Tamer Kamel, World Poker Tour, WPT

Life Outside of Poker: Tamer Kamel on Faith Audio


In this week’s episode of Life Outside of Poker, Lee Davy sits down with the recent World Poker Tour UK final tablist, Tamer Kamel, to talk about faith.

Life Outside of Poker: Tamer Kamel on FaithWhen the players reach a World Poker Tour (WPT) final table they are asked to complete a bio sheet. Its purpose is to provide the commentary team, and the blogger, with as much information about you as you can muster to help them promote you during the final table coverage.

Normally, you are lucky if you get a name and a chip count, but Tamer Kamel was different. After a long day’s graft he put pen to paper and didn’t stop writing until he told his story. It fascinated me. Here was a man with a mission. I don’t see that very much in poker. Poker can consume you; it can take over your life. Every signpost shows cards, chips, and money.

Not for Tamer Kamel.

“It’s very important to have the right mainframe when you go into poker tournaments. When you put positive thought into it, positive things will come out of It. “ – Tamer Kamel

Poker and religion don’t usually mix, and you are a religious person, talk about that dichotomy.

“It was a tough one for me. Even in my personal family, there are people who don’t agree with what I do. It’s interesting, because one of my friends, and mentors, is Nick ‘fu_15’ Maimone. He is one of the best online poker players in the world, and we became friend’s three years ago in Vegas.

“We had so much in common. Even though we are from different religions – he is a very religious guy himself – he helped me a lot in trying to explain to my family the whole point of how I don’t think it has to be this thing where poker is on one side and religion on the other. They can both come together. If you take the positives out of poker, and use them in a good way, you can help people who are less privileged than you in the world.

“I am not sure a lot of poker players do this. Most are about winning and then putting the money back into poker, or purchasing material things. Nick Maimone moved to Honduras to live in a little village. He is a sponsor for 10 kids. He puts them through school and funds their orphanage.

“My wife and I went out there two months ago and he showed me around the village. It was amazing. It really inspired me. I have always wanted to help, and it’s really fitting that I am now running deep in this competition {WPT UK} and I may have the money to help these people.”

Do you think God, or the universe, has put you in this position so you can help those children in Honduras?

“I don’t know…I don’t want people to think that if they think all of these good thoughts they will be rewarded. It doesn’t work like that. Nick and I talk about this a lot. There are people who win vast amounts of money and perhaps aren’t the nicest people in the world. We came to the conclusion that the universe doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to go on your own journey, use your own brain, have faith in God, and if you are rewarded like that, you can do something with it that not a lot of people do.”

A lot of people are scared of religion and there is animosity between different belief systems. Did this affect you when you were growing up?

“I have not always been as religious as I have been in the past five years. I always had my faith, but it’s a lot stronger now. I have done a lot of things. I have lived a normal UK life. I went to Manchester University and had a great time, but nothing I was doing was making me happy internally. When I found faith; it gave me purpose. I managed to use it in a positive way…I have my ups and downs like everyone else. The past few months have not been good for me in poker. I didn’t have a great WCOOP, I haven’t had good live scores…I cashed in the Shootout in Vegas, but that apart it’s been pretty tough. My wife knows better than anyone else, that I go through the downs, but I always have that faith and never give up believing in myself.”

What changed for you? What plunged you deeper into your faith?

“I think there was a point in my life where I was doing things wrong. It’s very hard to be a poker player and take the addictive side of that out of it. You need to do that in order to be in control. I have quite an addictive personality. I needed to take the competitive side and make sure that was what I focused on, and not the addictive side. I don’t think I will stop until I am recognized as one of the best poker players. I need to prove that to myself. If I focus on the addictive side of things I may play all the time and not strike the right balance in my life. I realized that what makes me happy is helping others. That’s my purpose.”

You are also the owner of a Pizzeria, so you have the stark contrast of spending a lot of time with your restaurant, or poker, where the latter could actually end up allowing you to help more people.

“People always assume that I am a professional but I work Mon-Fri in my own business. It wouldn’t be for me – being 100% professional. I like being in the real world. I mingle with people who work for me earning £300 per week, and then I come in here {DTD} and play a £3,000 event. It levels me and it’s a good thing. I see what they do, see what I do, and make sure that I don’t blow these chances because I have the opportunity to help a lot of people.

What is your religion?

“I am Muslim and my religion teaches me to be submissive, to be really happy for what we have been given, and treat everyone as you would your son or father.”

The word Muslim can produce fear in the uneducated because of recent events in the world…what’s your view on that?

“Once again, I feel like I have been given the chance to show people that Muslims are not just these crazy terrorists that everyone thinks we are. Obviously, the educated know that we are not, and that it’s only a small percentage that misinterpret our religion. Perhaps, I have been given this opportunity to show that we are normal people.

“Perhaps there are Muslims out there who think I am a bad person because they see me as a gambler. I don’t play cash games for a reason. I haven’t played for four years. For me, that’s on the verge of gambling. I don’t like the idea that I could take money off someone who is using money that could affect his family, could be addicted, and won’t stop playing. I don’t like that. It never made me feel happy, and it never will.

“When we play tournaments it’s a level playing field. I have not forced anyone to spend more than they know they are risking. You have a brain, I have a brain, let’s tango and see who is the best here.”


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