After a number of close-but-no-cigar moments, Hendon Mobber Barny Boatman enjoyed his most lucrative year to date in 2011, pulling out a string of cashes that culminated in a fourth place finish at EPT San Remo for €225,000. Meanwhile, his involvement with Duplicate Poker and Genting shone light on a previously dim year in which Black Friday cast its unwanted shadow and Vegas failed to provide fruits for his labour.
So, bit of a roller coaster year…
I think that would be a fair comment, although the roller coaster had a big, long trough and one huge whoop in the air - it wasn't up and down continuously. Poker-wise, it was a good year. I wasn't actually playing nearly as much for various reasons and I hardly played at all in the run-up to Vegas.
I had a very frustrating World Series, and then took quite a long period off before playing the EPT Main Event in London. I then played four consecutive Main Events, and went deep in all of them, which was quite exciting. It's a buzz when you're getting there or there abouts the whole time, so I played events I wouldn't normally play simply because I was running well.
Outside of the World Series, I don't actually play that many events, but I rediscovered my love of tournament poker a bit last year, because there's nothing like being rewarded to make you think it's worthwhile. I've never been someone who plays hours and hours every day: I tend to go to a festival to play a Main Event, then maybe a bit of cash and do a few other things, perhaps leave early even. For most people who have been involved in the game for as long as I have, it isn't just about playing, and it's sometimes hard to build up the enthusiasm and energy some of these young guys have to go from one event to another.
When I first started, there simply wasn't the international circuit you see now, and obviously there wasn't online poker. If I were to hit the ground running, who knows? If I was one of these guys who'd nicked the first million-dollar tournament I'd played, then quite possibly you wouldn't have seen the last of me and I would have been at everything. It hasn't been my experience that it's fantastically easy to hit a big score, so I balance it with other things. But I love it as much as ever. I've always enjoyed it, and I still feel like I'm learning, and as long as it remains a challenge, I'll do as much as I can so it reasonably fits in with my life.
You've been involved in a lot of projects recently. What's the Nations Cup?
The Duplicate Poker Nations Cup was the brainchild of the International Federation of Poker, who have been working hard over recent years to standardise rules, set up national poker federations and improve the image of the game. Possibly their greatest achievement has been getting poker accepted as a mind sport by the International Mind Sports Association, and that's a fantastic thing because it opens up an enormous amount of doors. Duplicate Poker is the perfect way of putting the point across, and they've gone to a lot of trouble in organising a format that highlights and demonstrates all the skilful elements of the game
I was very fortunate, and very honoured, and actually dumfounded almost, to be invited to be the captain of the UK team for the inaugural Duplicate Poker Nations Cup on the London Eye. Jake Cody compared me to Bobby Robson, although I'm not sure he meant that as a compliment [laughs].
I'm disappointed I didn't manage to produce a winning team if you think of all the great players I had to choose from, but I was very happy with the lineup I selected in the end. I picked a team that I knew would take some chances and push their edges, and what a fantastic team it was with Sam Trickett, Jake Cody, James Akenhead, Liv Boeree, Sam Holden, JP Kelly - there's a lot of youth, but also an enormous amount of experience, and some cool heads who have played under pressure and on TV before. But in the end, it wasn't to be.
It was a work in progress, and because of time constraints of how many hands you can play on the London Eye and other complications, there ended up being some compromises, but given that, it was a hugely successful event. I don't know what's going to happen now in terms of my involvement, but certainly the Federation are talking about being involved in the Mind Sports Olympics, and they're also looking to host another Duplicate Poker Event. I think by this time next year everyone's going to be talking about Tony Holden's organisation and the great things it's done for poker, so that's something to watch out for.
How did the Genting deal come about?
Obviously, when things changed, and we were in a position where we needed to look at something that was going to help us keep the website [thehendonmob.com] going, we got approached by different people, but it became obvious very quickly that the way Genting were thinking was perfect for us, and they were the right kind of people who we would be comfortable to represent and recommend for a number of reasons.
People don't realise how big Genting are; they're actually huge and their financial resources are absolutely massive - they own more casinos in the UK than anyone else, but also, internationally, they're a 40 billion company. They're also very careful about how they operate, and the territories they operate in, and about having no ambiguity in anything they do. We’re therefore very confident in saying to those who have a relationship with us that this is a really strong business and very above board. With all the things that have been going on in poker, that was a very important consideration.
Full Tilt Poker was a tricky one for you…
The Hendon Mob website takes an enormous amount of resources. We're very proud of it, and we've built it up since 2000, and it's a massive, popular, free resource which everyone in the poker community uses, and we want to keep it that way. But it costs money. Over the summer, it became clear that whatever the resolution at Full Tilt Poker, it wasn't going to be quick, and because we've got a business to run, we didn't have the luxury of just sitting on our hands and waiting to see what happened.
This doesn't mean that we don't wish everyone at Full Tilt the best, and hope their problems get resolved. I certainly want poker to be legalised in the States, and become properly regulated. Whatever happened, and the mistakes that were made, it all stems from the ridiculous position that poker was put in by the legal situation. Hopefully this deal that's going to take place means that people are going to be able to play again and get their money back.
Views on Lederer/Ferguson?
I will say that on a personal note, I had a lot of dealings in the early days particularly with Howard Lederer - who we negotiated our deal with and dealt with over certain issues which arose - and my feeling about him was always that he was a straight-dealing and honourable man. He honoured the absolute letter of anything we shook hands on, and so some of the things I hear said don't sit easily with my own sense of what kind of a person he is. This isn't to say anything against anybody else; it's simply that I felt like I knew Howard better than some of the other major players involved.
Obviously, there's an enormous amount that's gone on that I don't know about, and a lot of things don't look good, but I just don't know enough about the internal structure of the company or have any special insight to start pointing fingers and issuing blame. I know some people have become real armchair experts in all that stuff. It's clear, at the very least, that some major mistakes were made along the way, and some bad decisions that have been very costly to a lot of people. Obviously, right from the start, our thoughts were with the players who lost money, those who lost jobs, and pros who lost their sponsorship. I just hope it gets resolved.
Tell me about San Remo...
The great thing about San Remo, which is often the case with these things, is that I was very almost not there. I went deep in EPT London and min-cashed after getting coolered. I then decided to go to Cannes for the Main Event and pretty much the same thing happened: I got into the money then suffered a tough beat in a big three-way pot with kings against ace-queen and ace-queen. I was with John Duthie, and we'd been planning to go to San Remo, but I was so gutted that I just jumped in a taxi, got on a plane and came home.
It was freezing cold at home and I was lying on the couch reading a book when I suddenly thought, 'What am I doing? I've abandoned my best mate down on the Riviera where it's nice and sunny. Okay, I didn't have a big score, but I have some Euros in my pocket and I can use the money I won in Cannes to go to San Remo and play the Main Event.’ So, I jumped on the plane the next day and arrived just in time to buy into Day 1B.
I actually had a nightmare on the first day. I had a tough table, and then lost a load of chips with 7-8 versus 8-8 on a 7-7-8 flop. I managed to get lucky and double up, and somehow finished the day with my starting stack. I wondered if I was just putting myself through more unnecessary punishment, but then it all turned around on Day 2 and I started to hit some big hands.
I was feeling confident again, and one of the great things for an old codger like me was that the days were short. These young guys take it in their stride, but I wake up at 7am whatever time I go to bed, so I'm absolutely shattered at midnight and tend to struggle for the last couple of hours. This time, though, I didn’t lose my focus once. I have an attention span problem at the best of times, so to play my best game for six days, for me at least, is not easy.
How did you feel at the end?
On balance, I was pretty happy because I never really took off in the final and didn’t get any big coups. I wasn't trying to ladder, but I did want to stay in there for the rush, and when it got down to four players, I played one hand against the Russian guy [Andrey Pateychuk] in a way that I didn't have to. That put me under pressure, and I started to shove. I needed to win a flip the first time hands went on their backs, but it just so happened that I had threes and your man had queens, and that was the end of it. It wasn't like I blew some huge winning position though.
Of course, when you're that close, it only takes a couple of things to happen. I didn't walk away thinking it was an opportunity missed, more that I could have gone out a lot sooner and not had a big score. By my standards, that was a huge result, and fourth is still very chunky, although the money's only just arrived in my bank. The Euro has gone down so much since it's arrived, that's it's considerably less chunky [laughs], but it's still a large amount of money.
I'm pleased for Genting as well, and The Hendon Mob's relationship with Genting, because they put a lot of faith in us, and the fact that I was able to go out almost from the day we signed with them and make a bit of a splash, was hopefully a positive thing that won't do us any harm.
How are the rest of the Mob?
Great, really good. Ross [Boatman] is having a bit of a renaissance in his acting career but also enjoying his poker as well. We went to Dublin together where he had a great Main Event, and we've been playing down the Palm Beach, as has Joe [Beevers]. Joe's spending more time on the business than I am now, and enjoying it a great deal.
Ram is spending a lot of time with his family, and playing here and there, but balancing it with other activities. It's there for the taking for Ram whenever he feels like it. It's just a case of him feeling like it. I suspect that some time this year you'll see him stroll up in the EPT Main Event or WSOP or something, stick his money down, nick a quick bracelet and then go home to bed.
He's a man that likes things to be exciting, and happen fast, so these huge fields and six-day events are a big challenge for him. If he gets past the first few days and maintains his focus, then they're in his playground, where you can't pussyfoot around and need to get stuck in. He'll get there often enough, and when he does, he'll close it, because he's a closer, and he knows that end of the tournament very well.
I do feel the Genting thing has put a new spring in the Mob step, and we're spending more time together. We had gone our separate ways a little bit in the last couple of years due to the nature of our last deal, but we feel very much like a gang again now and are all looking forward to traveling round the UK together on the Genting Poker Tour which kicks off at Star City, Birmingham in February.
Do you ever recognise a generation gap between you guys and the new players?
I'm not sure I see myself in those terms, and don't consider myself to be part of a particular generation because I was pretty bloody old by the time I even started playing the game. I don't really know how much my age comes into it. It's the approach. One of the great things about guys like Jon Spinks, Jake Cody, Sam Razavi, John Eames - to name just a few - is that they're not just really good players, but they have a fantastic attitude as well.
To me, the respect I have for those people is much more to do with the kind of people they are rather than how they've done at poker, because there are some right arseholes who have been successful, and I'm not interested in them. Money didn't come quickly to a lot of the guys in my generation, and if nothing else, and we're outclassed in every way by these young players, then I feel at the very least that we have a perspective of it all, and a respect for money because we'd been without it for many years. We'd all done other things, and if one of us enjoyed a big result, it didn't mean that we thought we were the best thing since sliced bread. And I see a kind of continuity in that type of straightforwardness and humility when I look at players like Sam Trickett, James Akenhead, Praz Bansi and some of the others, and I love that. I don't claim to be the same players as them, but I do feel an affinity with them on a personal level.
Anything to improve about your game?
I think I enjoy the game a little too much and so sometimes do things to see if I can get away with them, and take a few chances here and there that perhaps aren't necessary, but by and large, I'm pretty happy with my game. I can always benefit from a little bit more focus, patience and self-discipline at times, but I'm starting to get rewarded here and there.
Everybody thinks they're the unluckiest person in the world, but I think I'm one of the luckiest in all sorts of ways and I'm very fortunate to still be out there playing. Certainly, I had enough success last year to energise me, and make me feel that it really isn't in the stars that I can never win a huge tournament. It's not even a question about being confident in your own ability, it's a question of feeling that you're allowed to have this happen to you, and I guess I was starting to feel it was my fate to always come ninth.
Of course, you look at what you do, and question, but most of the time when you get to that point in tournaments, it's not rocket science, it’s a coin flip, a cooler or whatever. The biggest thing is to keep putting yourself there, and I do feel that I will continue to get into those positions; hopefully a few more of them will translate into big results and I'll be able to get my place in Spain and you lot can all piss off [laughs].
I get the buzz because I love the game and feel it's constantly reinventing itself, and then I have to keep trying to keep up with it. I'm not a great reader on the game, but I do pay attention to what's going on, and I see how fashions are changing, and I lie awake at night thinking up responses to the things I've seen people do. Sometimes I do things a little differently, and sometimes they may not be right, but there's quite a lot more thought that goes into the way I play than some people think.
Views on the travelling...
I pick and choose based on the calendar and what else I've got on, partly where I've got friends I want to see, and places I think will be interesting to go to. I keep it fresh by not overdoing it. It's finding the time as well. I've always been someone who's happy in the company of people I know; the social aspect of it is a big thing for me so I'd never stop completely because there’d be a lot of people I'd miss if I did.
I love the fact that poker keeps opening up all these new frontiers. I wish I had more time to do this Latin American tour, for example. You can go to some of these places without playing poker, but doing what we do, it makes it that much easier to get to places you'd like to see. I like the choice, and there's always something for you to look forward to as long as you have the bankroll, but that’s a big if for most of us most of the time.
Our New Year Reviews will continue throughout January and appear every two days.
#1 - JP Kelly
#2 - Roberto Romanello
#3 - Daniel 'jungleman12' Cates
#4 - James Keys
#5 - Julian Thew
#6 - Jerome Bradpiece
#7 - Rupert Elder