New Year Interview #10: Sam Razavi
20 January 2012
Pulled from the gutter into a life of money, ladyboys and wine: Sam Razavi relives the journey of his ascent to stardum.
Sam Razavi

Super Sam Razavi was Black Belt Poker's man of the year in 2011. His first dance with the spotlight came in the Aussie Millions - a package which he won via the 2010 Grading - where he finished sixth in the Main Event to earn not only A€225,000, but also instant promotion to Black Belt. As the newest face of the brand, Sam went on to become UKIPT Cork Champion for €71,000, UKIPT Leaderboard Winner, and globetrotting extraordinaire, all the while tearing it up online in the heads-up cash games. As he and a fellow comedy thesp would say: "Much love. Fank you. G'nite."

What was the highlight of 2011?

Probably the Aussie Millions as it was the biggest cash I've had, and it was what got me to Black Belt. That was the Crown-ing achievement, if you'll excuse the pun. But to win an actual title, especially after coming really close in other UKIPTs, that's almost on par even though I won less.

I really want to go back to Melbourne but I've been running really bad over the last couple of months, and am not massively motivated at the moment. If I can make between five or seven grand over the next couple of weeks to cover the expenses, then I'll go, as it's a really expensive trip. If the rest of the final table were there, and the Black Belt crew from last year, then I'd be more inclined as I would love to relive those memories, although Neil got gout so I doubt he'd want to relive them with me.

If I do go, it'll just be for the Main Event, and in the back of my mind I'm thinking that if I spend a grand flying over and get knocked out on the first day, I'll be really dejected. It'd be like what happened in the ANZPT in Perth: I took a plane over there, busted the first day, and then couldn't be arsed to stay, so just flew back. That's the beauty of playing in Bolton and Thanet; you can just hop on a train.

The Main Event is definitely great value, although I was a bit unlucky in that I came up against quite a few decent players along the way. This time I'd go in feeling a lot more confident. I'd always had the logic that you were either a cash game player or a tournament player, so I was apprehensive last year, but after making the final and playing a few other events, I started to get a knack for them. When you go back to a place where you've won, you have a natural confidence.

Which parts of the globe do you intend to trot in 2012?

If I go to the Aussie Millions, then I might fly to Macau on the way back. A few friends just spent three days over there and must have made at least two thousand English each per day, so I was sorely tempted to go. But I'm determined to get in shape without the interruption of live poker; I even had my flights booked at one stage, but then cancelled the lot - I never thought I'd cancel a trip to Macau, especially when it's only a two-hour flight away.

I'm hoping to go to the Asian Poker Tour in the Philippines. They've got quite a few events there including a High-Roller for £1,400, which is usually good value. Manny Pacquiao is going to be there and he's absolutely useless at poker, although I wouldn't say that to his face. If you can afford to sit down with him in the cash games, then you're laughing. He rolls out $100,000 at a time, and I've seen days when the whole table's just sat out waiting for him to reload.

I'm planning to play all of the UKIPT events of the new season. I was keen to prove myself as a tournament player last time, so was really proud of topping the leaderboard, especially as I missed a couple of the events. I'm determined to win it for a second consecutive year. The prize is obviously a nice bonus; the buy-ins don't break the bank, but you can do your bollocks on the hotels, but now I have the luxury to arrive in good time, unwind and have a whole day free before playing Day 1B.

Whatever happens, I'll definitely be going to Vegas again. The place is always demoralising whether you win or lose, and as soon as we get on the plane back from Vegas, Ben and I always say we're not going back. But before the plane has barely hit the ground, we're looking for flights to get back out there again. That's the lure of Vegas: you feel unhealthy and depressed by the end, but you still go back for more.

What happened in the WSOP Main Event?

I was doing okay until midway through Day 3. It was so annoying because there was a guy to my left who always squeezed every time someone raised and someone else flat-called, so when I picked up queens and someone raised, I just called from the small blind. Bang on queue, the guy put in another raise. Lovely.

The kid passed and I shoved all in, but he had kings. Oh my god, I'd picked up the perfect spot, and he'd found a monster - but there was nothing I could do. That was it. I was so shocked, and couldn't believe I'd got involved in the coup. It was a big pot, but you just have to walk away from it and take it as another tournament.

Although I've been going to Vegas for the last four or five years straight, this was my first time playing the World Series, and it didn't go well. I know they're huge donkey fests, but I don't go out with that much hope and expect to win a bracelet; I just pray that I walk in one time and it's my day of run-good. I'd like to just get a cash on the Hendon Mob database to be honest.

Before Vegas, there was the Phil Mildon heads-up. Any pressure?

[Philip Mildon won a freeroll on Black Belt Poker to go to Vegas, and had a chance to supplement his prize with WSOP buy-ins by competing in a heads-up gauntlet against the Black Belts. He'd already defeated Richard Ashby and Neil Channing for $6,500 worth of entries, but couldn't quite topple Sam for a Main Event seat].

It was funny because I didn't know whether I'd been put as the last opponent because Black Belt Poker management thought I was the best at heads-up if he got that far, or if I was the worst and they didn't want him to get past stage one.
I was playing UKIPT Cork that day, and would have missed the start of Day 1 if I'd lost the first match with Philip as the second one wasn't scheduled to start for another hour. Who knows - maybe I wouldn't have won the Main Event!

Either way, there was definitely pressure. Although it was coming out of my pocket, you don't want to do $10K, especially after they'd already dusted off $6,500. I haven't seen my bonus for it so far, but never mind. I'm expecting the cheque in the post at some point...

Did you enjoy Nottingham Live?

Yeah, I had a great time. Even though it's only a $140 buy-in, I still went in trying my best, and it was so frustrating not being able to pick up hands. I normally play an event like this to get drunk and throw chips around, but I wanted to run deep again for some reason. It did allow me to get on the Jäger train with Dan Elder though, who you probably know - he never normally drinks at all. It was such a good atmosphere up there, and it would be great if they held it at Dusk Till Dawn again.

The Karps were so funny, and I had such a laugh with them. It was really nice of the giant chicken to give away all his winnings to Cancer Research. It was a shame that Batman didn't turn up - rumour has it that he was engaged in other business in Gotham City - but they were good sports, and I'd love to do it again along as I'm not broke, preferably with a different twist. Maybe I could get people to come dressed as Neil Channing so we have a room full of Neil Channings. That would be marvellous.

How was your appearance on Sky Poker?

I've been on there three times now, and I love doing it. Basically, they replay hands from the tournaments and you analyse them to the best of your ability. I wasn't nervous the first time, but I obviously don't quite possess that fundamental training of where to look, how to project your voice and so on, but I felt a lot more comfortable on the third time and it's such good fun. It's like going there and having a load of banter for a few hours.

At first, I thought I might make a tit of myself, because you want to keep talking and talking, and you do stumble and say a few things that, when you look back, sound a bit stupid, but I think I did okay and have hopefully got a feel for it now. When you're sat there, and you can see what sort of hands are coming up, you're listening to tikay but also thinking a couple of minutes in advance of what you're going to say. It a fun challenge, and I would love to do it as much as I can.

What's the standard like at the moment?

There hasn’t been too much action recently, which is part of the reason why I haven’t been playing quite so much. There were times when I’d sit there and not make a bean, simply because there weren’t many players around, which is obviously frustrating. Every now and then someone would sit down, and you could run like shit against them and then you'd have to stay there for hours to have any chance of getting your money back.

But recently, I've logged on and the action seems to have returned in full force, and it's just as bad as ever. People talk about how the standard's getting better, and I’m sure that's true to a degree, but on the whole, it's pretty much as poor as it’s always been.

Live, I’ve noticed that speech-play can still be effective. There was this one key hand in Cork where I managed to get a guy to five-bet jam pocket sevens against me when I had aces. He seemed like a decent player, but I must have talked to him for about five minutes before finally convincing him to push his stack across the line. And this was in the early stages of the tournament - he must have had 100 big blinds!

Have you kept to your Resolutions?

[12 months ago, Sam declared his intention to lessen expenditure and improve his physical fitness]

I started not spending as much, but then went through phases where I was making quite a lot of money, and then it went out of the window.

With regards to getting fit, I definitely made an effort throughout the year, but I kept fluctuating like I usually do. It’s hard when you’re traveling around and playing long sessions of poker as it interrupts what you’re trying to achieve. But now I’m a million percent focused, which is why I skipped Macau as I didn’t want to break the training pattern.

At the moment, there's a sick guy out here [in Thailand] called Karl who does strength and conditioning classes in the afternoon, for one hour, and he absolutely destroys you. We do that five times a week, with weight exercises in the morning for three times a week. We’re also throwing in some Muay Thai in the evenings. The martial art, that is, not the alcoholic beverage.

I'd like to get back into acting if I can. I did a production of Jekyll and Hyde in Germany years ago and have always kept in touch with the actress, and I saw the other actor recently, so I'm going try and get the original cast back together and fly the director over from Germany because it would a nice way to start off again as that was my first professional job. I really want to do some Shakespeare too.

I have a lot of plans, but I don't want to lay them out in case I fail. It's whether I can, firstly, financially string them together, and secondly, find the time to do it. You can't take these predictions lightly with Nostradamus and the like, so I'll try and do as much as I can, and if the world hasn't ended on December 31, I'm going to lament having done all my bankroll because I thought the world was going to end, and then start again next year.

One word: Ladyboys!…

My brother could tell you a lot more; he loves them! [Sam quickly retracts his statement with a sly chuckle.] Personally, I make a point of keeping away from the ladyboys – they’re definitely not my cup of coffee, never mind my cup of tea.

On a serious note, everyone should get out here. Forget about the seedy element of it; the weather, the food, the lifestyle - everything's just so different, and life moves at a much slower pace than in England, which is quite important for me. As long as you don't end up in a prison cell, you’ll be fine, and even if you do, there are ways to get out of trouble before the officer writes his report…

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
#8 - Barny Boatman
#9 - Jake Cody

think this is
the nuts!
Posting trophy - more info coming soon ...
Bob (myteamouse) Bulman posted on 20 Jan, 8:36pm
'a room full of Neil Channings'.........scary!
Posting trophy - more info coming soon ...
Barry (JosseWales) Styles posted on 21 Jan, 8:33pm
lol great fun and nice read..
Oh Sam, I think you'll find the world will end on the 21st Dec not the 31st ~ ( '',)

Well so the Mayans tell me !! :))
Posting trophy - more info coming soon ...
Neil Channing posted on 14 Feb, 3:56pm
We've had a lot of fun with Sam over the year. I miss him when he isn't around.