Lee Davy continues his confessions series by talking about the dichotomy presented by revealing truths within the industry that whilst entertaining could harm the industry’s growth.
Sometimes I think life was so much easier when I was younger. Back then I only had to think about myself. As I age, my thoughts drift to the needs of others. I find myself in moral dilemmas all of the time. I don’t know whether to take the blue pill, or the red one?
This week I conducted the greatest interview I have ever been involved with. It was a discussion about life with two of the best players in the business: Bryn Kenney and Sorel Mizzi. The interview took place in a beautiful park in Amsterdam, a city where tolerance seems to be the buzzword.
What constitutes a great interview?
For me, a great interview is one where vulnerability rises to the surface, where connections are made, and truth triumphs over falsity. It’s my job to make this happen. I enjoy it. It’s fulfilling. But there is also a price to pay for stories they reveal.
As we were in Amsterdam the discussion inevitably turned to weed. I wanted to understand why both players smoked, and how it affected, not only their game, but also their life. Both players admitted that smoking, whilst playing against the elite was a bad idea, but they also maintained that smoking helped reduce stress in other areas of their lives, which in turn helps their game.
There is no doubt that people can play poker when stoned. Jason Wheeler won the High Roller when stoned, and Mizzi did likewise when he won his SCOOP event. Both players won hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How can that not be an interesting topic to prod and poke?
But there is a dichotomy, however, and one that intrigues me. I am a big advocate of the work that Alex Dreyfus is doing over at the Global Poker Index (GPI). I love this industry. I love this game. Dreyfus is trying to elevate what we all do, so it can be viewed upon as a respected sport. I want to be apart of that.
Will we ever make it, if some of our players are winning some of the games top prizes whilst under the influence of drugs? Mainstream sponsors are already forced to take a punt on poker, because of the seedier side of gambling. Add recreational drug taking into the mix, and they won’t want to touch us with a barge pole.
When I walk through the streets of Cardiff I regularly see men walking hand in hand with their children whilst smoking a spliff. The widespread use of marijuana is there for everyone to see (and smell), and nobody is afraid of being caught. Our society has normalized it.
So I do not believe that poker is the only sport that has a drug problem. I imagine that most sports will have a similar issue, but they manage it by putting constraints in place. They protect their industry.
Last week the Hull City midfielder Jake Livermore failed a random drugs test. Both his club and the Football Association (FA) immediately suspended him until the rest of the season. It is likely that he will be banned for two years. His personal brand tainted for life. Although, knowing football as I do, it won’t stop anyone signing him once his ban is lifted.
The FA, and Hull, had to act in order to protect their industry. In poker we don’t. Football is a professional sport. It is managed professionally. Poker is also a professional sport. In some quarters it is managed professionally. But when it comes to the management of drugs it is not.
I’m not advocating random drug testing. I’m not even sharing my view on drugs in poker. I am merely pointing out the fact that I am damaging poker’s image by conducting these types of interviews, and at the same time I think they are amongst the best in the business.
We hear of these tales in football, but they are often told once a player has retired. In this way the sport, and the act, can be disassociated from one another. In poker, there are no boundaries. Unless you are sponsored your lips remain loose. The need for a personal brand is not as important as it once was. Hence the willingness to be so open, free and express personal views with sincerity.
I love it. I really do. I bag the interview and am delighted with the emotion that it contains. It’s only a few days later that I start to think about the consequences for the industry on a wider level. I guess there is also a part of this that is uniquely about me. If I stop tugging at heartstrings, then my symphony softens. I become nothing, or even worse, I become like everyone else. A robot programmed to spew forth the same standard spiel. I don’t want that. I need to be who I am. So I guess I am not that different from the younger version of myself that I alluded to at the start of this rant.
Or am I?
I’m not sure.
What’s your opinion on all of this?