Lee Davy sits down with Ilan Boujenah to talk about his life in London, how tough the World Poker Tour UK Main Event is, and his experience of life in modern Israel.Here is some advice to any budding young live tournament reporter.
If you want some action, then spend some time at the table of Ilan Boujenah. The Israeli is a little firecracker. If he isn’t getting involved in the action on the felt, he will often get involved in the action off the felt.
Away from the tables he is as lovely a man as you will ever meet on the circuit. He’s the type of guy who will walk into a poker room full of Martians and leave with all of their phone numbers.
I caught up with him as he was waiting to play a side event at the World Poker Tour (WPT) UK, in Dusk till Dawn (DTD), and this is what he had to say.
How’s life Ilan?
“I am ok. I’ve had a rough week. Five tournaments, including today.”
How much would you have spent on buy-ins by the end of the week?
“£10k by the end of the week.”
I noticed you re-entered the Main Event. Are the new re-entry rules making life too expensive for the professional – or do you prefer it this way?
“It increases variance. I don’t think it changes anything in the long run. I was surprised there were so many re-entries in the Main Event. It’s a pretty deep tournament so I think it makes people play a little looser. It makes sense, I guess, because you don’t win a tournament without building chips. So if you have an opportunity to build chips; no matter what it costs, you have more equity in a tournament. I think it’s ok, but it definitely gives an advantage to people who can re-enter, compared to qualifiers. I think amateurs don’t like it…but myself…it doesn’t change anything.”
There are not a lot of foreign players here – why is that?
“It’s Nottingham. It’s Robin Hood city. I don’t know? I have been here one time only. The field is tough because English players are way better than French and Italian players for example. I don’t see a lot of people coming to Nottingham from outside of the country. Perhaps, if it was in a major city you may see more, but EPT London didn’t have high numbers. I feel the UK is expensive, and it’s not a location that excites you such as Barcelona and Monte Carlo. I like it though. It’s one of the nicest card rooms I have ever played in. You can see every vantage point from every area of the room, and can walk around without bothering anyone.”
Where do you call home? Is it France?
“I have never been a resident in France. I live in London now, but before that my home was always Israel, and at some point I moved to the UK to avoid problems that may come to me one day. Even if the taxes in Israel won’t come to me because I don’t spend time there I moved here. There are a lot of airports, and it’s a central location. Lots of people move here. Obviously, now they have changed the legislation I am a little less happy about it. The same happened when I moved to Spain and they created .es. It’s just a little worse because you pay more rake, get a little less rakeback and FPP points and such.”
What are you doing when you aren’t playing poker?
“When I don’t play I have this privilege that I can do what I want. My first option is to visit my family. But I love traveling and learning different languages. I have family in Israel and France.”
I was invited to spend time in Israel recently. I was scared to go, but a few poker players told me I would be fine. What do you think?
“I used to agree that it was fine. In the last 15-years I would have said it was ok to go. As a tourist you don’t feel the tension. Even when you live there, there is a kind of solidarity between people that makes dangerous situations not so worrying. It’s been 10-years since there has been a real proper war. But it’s changing. A few days ago people got into a synagogue with axes and stuff…that hasn’t happened in the past 10-years. Since this thing happened I believe a tourist was killed a month ago also. The situation is out of control.
“I remember a bombing a few hundred yards from my school, and a head from one of the people landed in my school. It was an insane situation, but it didn’t scare me too much. I felt like obviously if you are in the wrong time at the wrong place then it’s dangerous. But I have been attacked twice in Paris, and never in Israel.
“What is going on now is too scary. A guy takes a knife, walks into university and kills two people. You can’t control that. To be honest it was the first time that I have been afraid to visit myself.”
Do you worry when you travel?
“It’s all down to experience. When you travel you see a lot of fucked up things happening. The Strassmann thing for example, people getting put into jail, people putting drugs into your bags – you have to be careful.”
I love watching you play because you are capable of having a few blow-ups. You had another in Cyprus recently. Do you work on this part of your game?
“I was wrong on this occasion. For sure I need to work on it. But it’s not just my game it’s a part of my personality. You don’t want to be the guy who always loses it, obviously if you play poker it’s worse.
“There were a few things that made me lose it that day. I found myself in a stupid situation on the river. Then I did something I shouldn’t have done. I faked to call for literally one second. I folded my hand, and after the floor came and explained what happened, in Russian, to the Russian player, and I felt a little bit colluded against. Then I got a penalty and missed the cutoff and hijack. Obviously, I went mad. People have angled me a thousand times and here I was getting punished. This is why I went mad.
“I am not a hard worker on this, although I do try to work on it. I do a bit of yoga and some sports. But I don’t meditate and stuff like that. When I go super mad it’s not always about the ruling. People tilt me. Yesterday, I made a big bet on the river. This guys tanks for two minutes and then raises me. This is what is pathetic to me, and what makes me react. But people think I am out of my mind, when I am whining and getting angry, but I know what I am doing.”