Malta Poker Festival: Dave Lappin on Brexit, Trump and Mrs Brown’s Boys

Malta Poker Festival: Dave Lappin on Brexit, Trump and Mrs Brown’s Boys

Lee Davy sits down with the wonderfully articulate and well-groomed Unibet Ambassador, Dave Lappin, to talk about politics, Twitter violence and a whole lot more.

Dave Lappin is a man who comes prepared.

Ever listened to The Chip Race?

The spit?

The polish?

That’s all Dave.

Malta Poker Festival: Dave Lappin on Brexit, Trump and Mrs Brown’s Boys“Thanks for the questions,” says Unibet’s hairiest ambassador. “I’ve made some notes.

I always feel bad when an intended interviewee ‘makes some notes’, as I know as soon as this thing has teeth marks we will dart here and there like two flies trying to find the way out of my kitchen.

But the first question always gets asked and answered.

So here it is.

What does Dave Lappin think of the Malta Poker Festival?

“I think Yvonne {Montealegre} has done an amazing job,” says Lappin. “She’s a formidable businesswoman, and I know she’s worked tirelessly on the event, so I’m glad it’s been such a huge success. I hope that there is more collaboration than competition between the organisers and casinos next year to make the Malta Poker Festival and Battle of Malta even bigger and better. I know Kat {Arnsby} at Redbet has done a lot of work bringing people here. She’s the best! I also think Yvonne is especially clued into the opportunities, synergies and crossovers. Although I’m not sure if it always works out. Yesterday a guy playing next to me won a pedicure! Hats off though, the opening ceremony each day is a work of art. She had put a lot of hard work into it, and I hope it pays off.

“There are a lot of women running what is a male-dominated game so it would be great to see some real growth in women’s participation. I know you interviewed Daiva {Byrne} this weekend and I have to say there are very few players doing more for that side of the game than she is. I think it’s an obvious demographic to attack from a commercial point of view, but I know that’s not the reason Daiva does it. She does it because she believes in addressing the imbalance between men and women in poker.”

I agree that Daiva is doing a lot of great work at Unibet as far as encouraging more females to play poker, and there does seem to be more women in positions of poker power than ever before.

However, all is not well in the world between men and women.

Will it ever be?

I doubt it.


Cathy Newman v Jordan Peterson.

I mention the last name to Lappin, and it ignites some errant gas that’s laid dormant in the part of his mind where he keeps tyrants and tarantulas from harm’s way.

People like Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro make my skin crawl to be honest,” says Lappin. “Peterson is riding the anti-PC train that speaks to a lot of people, and I think they both put a facade of intellectualism on what are pretty angry, racist, misogynistic views. They debate and speak well. They can even make a liberal person think ‘oh there might be something there’ and therein lies the danger. It’s akin to the Trump movement – the exact demographic that are the victors in the world – white men – screaming victim, fear-mongering and manufacturing anger.

“If you look at Brexit, Trump and Mrs Brown Boys – and I am nervous to put those three things together because Brendan O’Carroll and his daughter Fiona are good friends of mine – but what I am saying is demographically they might not be that different. I believe that, over the last few decades, many people in England, America and Ireland came to feel disenfranchised. They felt like many facets of society no longer offered them anything – politics, economics, entertainment. Then suddenly there was this reversal where politicians started speaking to them in a language they understand, making disingenuous promises that offered them solutions and a comedic sensibility that was a return to the old club format of the 1960s.

“The problem is their socially immobile positions, their inability to get work, that deprivation of opportunity has been falsely blamed on ‘others’ by these political forces – the lie that ‘foreigners coming here, taking your jobs’ is why you’re poor rather than the truth that systemic crony capitalism and trickle-down economics have actually caused it.”

Ah, the magical Mrs Brown’s Boys, the only show that my Dad gets out of bed to watch. A Dad that has worked hard all of his life for peanuts and sits in front of the TV complaining about those ‘foreigners who are taking all of our jobs.’ Sitting next to him is my Mum, another Mrs Brown’s Boys fan, who sits in front of the TV 24/7, doing her Sun crossword, also lamenting those same bloody foreigners.

And there I am, married to a ‘foreigner’.

“Ah, but she’s different.”

“No, Mum, she’s not.”

Despite both of them voting to leave the European Union (EU), neither of them have ever discussed politics with their children. The most ‘political’ I ever became was sitting next to them as they complained about the price of cigarettes and alcohol rising again.

Dave Lappin.

There’s a guy who likes his politics.

Scroll down Lappin’s Twitter feed, and you will find three things: Unibet, The Chip Race and views on good old Donald.

I heard somewhere that you shouldn’t mix poker with politics.


History was my favourite subject in school,” says Lappin when I ask him where his interest in politics comes from. “I studied philosophy for six years in college. I lived in the States for four years in my mid-twenties. I studied screenwriting, and I love stories. I guess these four things combine to make this Trumpian era fascinating.

“It’s hard to know where to start with Trump. I think there is an incredibly evil machine operating behind the reality show that this carnival barker puts on on a daily basis. Just look at the Mercer family‘s enormous investment in polling data and people like Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon who were the architects of his campaign down the homestretch. They are the reason he would travel to one town and say one thing, and then move to another and say the complete opposite just hours later. He knew what each town wanted to hear and he correctly gambled that even if the media picked up on this blatant hypocrisy, the majority of the electorate wouldn’t. Then combine that with his campaign being in cahoots with Cambridge Analytica who fed off Facebook data, figuring out America’s likes, dislikes, hopes and fears. It’s so utterly sinister. 

“Also, if you think about what Trump did; he used his celebrity to carve out 5% of the Republican Party. Through birtherism, he attached himself to another 5% of America – a horrible racist part. Then, he gobbled up the Tea Party. The fact that it was a 17-runner field massively helped and bought him time to acquire each of these pieces, to form what ultimately became a bizarre coalition. He got the evangelicals and eventually the GOP. Then when it came to the election itself, he benefited from how weak a candidate Clinton was and how the DNC fucked their own process, entirely tipping the scales for her over Bernie.

“I genuinely think it would have been a fascinating election between Trump and Bernie because it would have been two populist movements, one left, one right fighting it out and I think Bernie would have won. I think that’s the real tragedy, the huge loss for America. To think you could have had 4-8 years of Bernie Sanders. It would be so diametrically opposite to what is happening right now. Instead, Trump managed to win the election without winning the popular vote and maybe, in a sense, America is now getting what it deserves. They have spent 50-years voting for neo-conservatives, eradicating the left wing so that now they have a centre-right party and another party that advocates entirely for corporations. Bernie Sanders as an independent is considered the left wing fringe. It’s laughable. If he were in Britain, he would be in the Conservative Party or maybe a Blairite Labour Party. I mean look at what qualifies for the left wing in America? Free healthcare. Free education. Nobody is arguing about those things in Britain or anywhere in Europe. America is so right wing that I heard Charlie Carrell say recently that CNN is a left wing news organisation. I mean c’mon! In what world is CNN anything other than centre. You have to judge left and right on the issues, not on the spectrum of political beliefs in America.

“The good thing is that, even without him as President, the Bernie Sanders revolution is taking place. That’s hopeful. You’ve got inspiring women like Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Ohmar. Young people are activated. Women are activated. America might have fucked themselves in the short term, but maybe that had to happen. In 5-10 years from now if you have an Elizabeth Warren, a Kamala Harris, a Kirsten Gillibrand or an Ocasio-Cortez in the White House, I think you have the potential for some actual change.”

As Lappin pollinated each sentence like a bumblebee on Banshee Dust, my lights were on, but there was nobody home. Each time he mentioned the left wing, Ryan Giggs came into view, and Andrei Kanchelskis when he said the right wing. In the middle of Giggs and Kanchelskis was a monkey crashing cymbals.

I ask Lappin where his political passion comes from?

I don’t know if it’s passion,” says Lappin. “For me, it’s fascinating to watch the rise of Trump, particularly as a sort of a white lash against eight years of Obama who ostensibly did a far better job than most, although wow what a low bar. I guess I can speak articulately on the subject of politics, but I don’t know if that equates to passion. Trump, Brexit, they are interesting stories, and I am a storyteller, at least that’s what I’d like to be in an ideal world. It’s dramatic, and for better or worse it’s engaging.”

I have never seen ‘politics’ as close to the fringes of people who don’t give a fuck about politics as it is today. People are buying olives so they can throw the stones at each other; substituting plastic straws for paper ones so they can’t drink their smoothies – the whole world is going to rat shit.

So how does one stop this anarchy reaching the poker table?

“Poker is funny though,” says Lappin. “I don’t think people get into politics much at the table. For the most part, poker is a harmonious space with people from every walk of life. Maybe it’s because it’s a fringe activity, to begin with. Maybe playing poker makes you deviant and you are just happy to be united with other deviants.”

Deviants like Loren Klein, perhaps? The man who won his third World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet in a row, all the while wearing a bright red make America Great Again baseball cap, that seemed to bring the anti-Trump brigade to Twitter throwing sticks and stones.

It bugs me – not the cap – but this passive-aggressive, road rage, style attitude that has seeped into society, and I find very prevalent in poker. I wonder how many people who spoke up on Twitter would confront Klein to his face?

Or is the poker table like a church to Connor MacLeod and the rest of the immortals seeking to be the only one?

Twitter is a sort of safe space,” says Lappin. “Don’t get me wrong – it can be a very aggressive angry space, but the entire app-ification of our lives serves to distance us. If I am upset about something because it hurt my feelings, I could express that in anger by lashing out, I could internalise it by sulking, or I could indulge a therapeutic process by talking it out. The thing is you have to realise that talking about feelings isn’t feeling feelings. It‘s intellectualising feelings and that’s another way of distancing yourself from them.

“People in Japan don’t have sex anymore because they are on their devices all the time and the government are bribing them to go on dates just so there’s some hope for the next generation. They have distanced themselves from the mucky business of finding a mate. Similarly, in the past people would have argued in the bar and then gone outside for a punch-up. Now they tap away on their phones because doing that has become their default way to vent. I’m not sure this is an improvement. It feels like we have abandoned physicality for fear of getting physically or emotionally hurt. But we have replaced it by becoming avatars, and the new threat is devastating loneliness.”

So I can blame the Japanese on my lack of sex, great!

I quickly move from one tyrant with plans to terrorise the world to a tyrant who once terrorised the World Series of Poker.

A few months ago, Dave Lappin wrote a blog post where he shared his views on the Will Kassouf roulette theft thing. I ask Lappin what it was about Kassouf’s actions that prompted him to visit a typewriter that had nothing to say for several months?

Honestly, because in the day or two after the incident broke I was horrified by so many people’s responses, ” says Lappin before sharing some of them. “I am sure it’s not a big deal”. “I am sure it’s being misreported”. “Who hasn’t done something stupid when drunk?” “It’s not like he raped a child”. Like wow, what a straw man! I know he hasn’t molested anyone, but robbing someone is pretty fucking bad. And it’s pretty low to take a hundred quid out of your mates’ wallet and then pretend you didn’t do it, and then bare face say you didn’t do it, and only because the CCTV cameras caught you do you admit it. That’s really low.

“Given the responses, I knew that there would be a backlash to what I wanted to write, but I still felt like I had to give my honest opinion. That might be seen as risky as an ambassador, but in fairness, Unibet has always understood that I’m someone who voices his opinions. The guy who hired me, David Pomroy, and now my new boss Kristoffer Bergvall both have the view that it’s good to have ambassadors who speak their minds. Dara [O’Kearney] is very similar. He is very articulate and never shies away from saying what he believes. For both of us, this extends to times when we might contradict the company. For example, Unibet doesn’t like re-entry tournaments but a few stops back they decided to compromise with a turbo Day 1C that can only be entered if you bust 1A or 1B. Literally the week they announced that Dara and I did a piece on ‘The Chip Race’ about how bad re-entries are for the eco-system. We were initially a little worried about what Unibet’s response might be. I messaged David to say I hope he wasn’t annoyed but we felt we had to put out a piece that reflected our true beliefs. His answer? ‘I’m glad you did. We understand that your views won’t be the same as ours on every issue and when they aren’t it shows that there is an internal dialogue going on within the company.'”

Recently, on The Chip Race, Tom Hall had a pop at something Jonathan Little had said, and in the following episode, Dave and Dara dealt with it by offering an apology of sorts, and for me, it all seemed unnecessary and over the top.

I ask Dave about it.

Well firstly I want to be clear that it was not an apology,” says Lappin. “Dara and I just wanted to be fair and acknowledge Jonathan’s feelings, so maybe we were too nice. He felt like we took him out of context so we wanted to address that, give as much context as we could and explain how perhaps a semantic problem around the use of the word ‘reg’ was the crux of the problem. In the same piece, we also defended the strategy of clickbait marketing. The thing is, putting out clickbaity clips is not something we do very often, but it can be a useful Trojan horse, drawing people to the show.”


You mean I can’t use a click-baity headline for this piece?


“At the end of the day, Dara and I know we didn’t do anything wrong by Jonathan, but it was clear that he was upset. I know he values his brand and I get that. I’m guessing that it’s especially precious to him because he has spent a decade rehabilitating it.”

When Lappin refers to rehabilitation, I assume he’s talking about Little’s Full Tilt thing.

Yeah, he’d shared his ‘red pro’ account with high volume SNG grinders to exploit his deal which was 100% rakeback plus an hourly,” confirms Lappin. “It was a bit of a scandal at the time. But look, since then, Jonathan has kept his nose clean, and I applaud him for that. When you have that instinct in you, I imagine that it’s a hard one to overcome so the fact that he has gone on to put back into the community by co-authoring some beginner’s books and making some content is praiseworthy. Bottom line, Dara and I wouldn’t have welcomed him as a guest on the show to promote his books, podcast and coaching if we thought he was a bad person. I remember when prepping for that interview we debated whether or not to bring up the Full Tilt stuff but in the end decided that it was ancient history and everyone deserves a second chance.”

I love podcasts.

I hate ads.

One of the reasons I love Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast is because he refuses to use sponsors as he doesn’t want there to be a conflict of interest, and thinking about the little Jonathan issue, I can see why.

First of all ‘The Chip Race’ existed before a Unibet Poker started sponsoring it,” says Lappin. “, but we are tremendously grateful to Unibet for their contribution. As the shows’ sponsor, we give back to them. The news piece in the middle is clearly a bit of an advertisement, but apart from that, the content is organic. I think we put out a really solid product of which we are immensely proud. It started as and still is a passion project for Dara and I. It’s something we labour over. We spend a lot of time curating the show, choosing the guests, trying to find a nice balance. We spend time scripting the segments. We do our research. Then we do a heavy edit at the end. We always want to put ours and our guest’s best feet forward.

It’s time for the quickfire round.

I get out my Gatling gun and go to work.

If you could get rid of one thing in the world what would it be and why?

Cancer,” says Lappin immediately. “When it comes down to pure unfair suffering, curing cancer would be a good step.”

If I asked you to prove you had a strong moral fibre, how would you establish it?

“I would say watch me with my boy in the morning before school getting his bag ready, feeding him breakfast,” says Lappin. “In life, whatever the circumstance we are always putting our best foot forward, projecting some sort of image to suit the situation. That’s not the case when I am with my boy. There is no performance. Nobody is looking, I’m doing my best, and hopefully, I am making good decisions.”

What makes you the angriest and why?

I was probably the angriest when my parents broke up as a kid,” says Lappin. “I don’t think anything can compete with the rawness of that and the way it’s malignant and spills into everything. I was only about two or three, but it was very unusual back then.

“Not because I was picked on because of that. I wasn’t. It was just that sad child feeling that I was a mistake, my parents didn’t want to have me, didn’t want to be together, and so the product of their affection was unintended. I realised when I became a writer and started writing tv scripts that in two of the biggest stories that I had written, there was a love triangle where clearly I was playing out the roles of mother, father and child where the character who represented the child would give up his chance with the character who represented the mother so that the character who represented the father could be with her. I realised that I was writing a kind of weird wishful thing from my childhood where I wanted to put my parents back together again.”

It would be difficult to be a good poker player if you were an angry little man.

“I would go as far to say that the act of sublimation that you learn as a teenager when you realise you can’t go around blaming people is in itself a controlling mechanism and the first steps towards a table persona,” says Lappin. ‘I can sit down at the table and become a rational creature. The challenge then is to re-set after playing and allow yourself to experience the full menu of emotions in life.

Finally, how does poker make you feel?

Lonely. Poker is a very solitary thing. That’s why most poker players create a collegial environment, a friendship group of fellow pros to help foster a sense that we’re in it together. Don’t get me wrong, these relationships are great. Many of my closest friends are poker players, and I’m confident we’d still be friends if one or other of us left the game. I just mean that really you’re on your own at the table, on your own with your decisions, you have 100% of yourself when you play online and maybe 80% of yourself when you play live. You sit at home in your pants clicking buttons. It’s you against the world at some level. You can’t get away from the fact that you’re a sole trader and the game is pure unadulterated capitalism.”

Pure unadulterated capitalism?

Is Lappin picking holes in my lack of grammatical understanding?

I’m going to have a go at the wanker on Twitter.