There are times in your life when every man or woman gets the same uneasy feeling in the pit of his or her stomach. It is a feeling that has the power to make tears drop from the corners of your eyes. It is a feeling of nausea. It is a feeling of dread. You have taken a course of action and it has led you to a very dark place. The place is so dark you can no longer find your way out and you reach out to the only person who can help guide you back to the light. Only you know that when you eventually find the light, it will burn you both and scar the mind of the person guiding you forever.
The date was the 8th Nov 2008 and the time was 12.45. When you are enveloped in the glitz and glamour of gambling addiction you believe that each new game will be the start of your new run; the run that will finally haul your arse out of the deep dungeon of debt that you have dug yourself into. Manchester United were heading to the Emirates to take on Arsenal and they were in fantastic form. When I deposited my final £5,000 into my Betfair account I knew it was only a temporary transfer. This was a sure thing. There was no way United would lose, and then 90-minutes later I was staring at the TV in disbelief as Samir Nasri had fired three bullets with exceeding accuracy. Two of them had pierced the back of the United net and the third had entered my left ventricle and numbed my entire body. As always happens when you are a gambling addict I just missed my run by one game. After that loss, United went on to play a record breaking 1,334 minutes without conceding a single goal in the Premier League. That run started one minute after I had done my bollocks.
Until the £5,000 loss I had always had ways of hiding my money like a fat kid hiding cake. But now I was well and truly screwed. I had no alternative but to stop gambling and tell my wife how much of a mess I had gotten myself into. I was lying in the bath, feeling more shame than I had ever felt in my life, when I told her I had something important to tell her. I told her everything and vowed to never gamble ever again. Debbie dealt with the whole thing superbly well. Although she must have been horribly disappointed and hurt she never once asked me how much money I had actually lost. That is why I always loved her so much.
So in November 2008, I decided to quit gambling and at the same time pledged to stop drinking as well. Press your finger on the clunky button of the beta-max of life and it is June 2011 and I am in the WSOP at Las Vegas for six weeks. For me, spending six weeks in Las Vegas is the same as sticking Russell Brand into a whorehouse to fix a leaking tap. I had been asked repeatedly how I would handle all of the temptation and I always replied confidently that there wouldn’t be any temptation at all!
The organiser of the trip is John “Eddie” Eames. I first started to get to know John while working at WPT Venice and it was during the Venice trip that we first talked about the WSOP. As a professional poker player, winning a bracelet means so much for John and the annual jaunt to Sin City had now become a way of life for him. To me it was a pipe dream. It was a lot of money plus I had a wife and child to consider. As the weeks moved on and WPT Venice moved to WPT Vienna and then WPT Bratislava the WSOP loomed ever closer. After Debbie and I decided to end our marriage I decided to commit myself to the Vegas trip and asked Eames to reserve me a spot in his Vegas house.
The Vegas house that Eames had reserved was not really a house at all but a $3 million mansion on the outskirts of the strip. The occupants of the house were Eames himself, Stuart Rutter, Lil David Nicholson, David Dial, Mathew Frankland, Richard Finney, Dan Carter, Jamie Sykes and our personal assistant Thomas Harris. Eames and Rutter were their chasing gold bracelets whilst the rest of the guys were there to enjoy life and play cash games. Thomas Harris was the man hired to look after us for six weeks. Harris would cook for us, clean and tidy up and drive us around town. Having a personal assistant seems like an extravagance you could do with out, but having someone to take care of all this stuff really helps the lads just concentrate on their poker.
I had originally decided to work for Poker news on a part time 3-day per week basis and then work for Party Poker during the main event. Something just didn’t feel right and I had a nagging thought gnawing away at me that I would miss something special. In the end I decided to turn down the Poker news offer and only work during the main event. This gave me between the 4th June and the 5th July and the 13th July to the 21st July to do what the hell I wanted. One of the reasons I was so desperate to take the spot in the house was to reach into the minds of these young talented players, grab their poker knowledge and insert it into my neocortex.
As it transpires I am midway through my trip and making the decision not to work was the best decision I could have made. I play poker every day and then in the evening host my daily, hands from the hot tub session, where we all dive in the hot tub while I walk the lads through some of my difficult decisions during the day. My live full ring poker game has really improved. I was initially very sceptical about sharing a house with a group of young lads. I had visions of whores hanging from the chandeliers, lines of coke in every bathroom and strange young boys hanging from the back of the door, by their belt, and an orange stuffed into their mouth. Instead the guys tend to keep those things for the strip and $500 suites in the MGM Grand whilst the house is left alone. When it comes to poker they are extremely professional and dedicated young men. Poker is their job…no…poker is their life. They dedicate their bodies and their minds to poker with just as much verve and vigour as a CEO of any company in the world.
I am having the clichéd time of my life but at the same time I have had a little scrap with a few old demons. Since abstaining from gambling and drinking I have managed to keep my distance from temptation. Standing next to a blackjack table with a scantily clad dancer waving her tight arse in my face while the lad’s hand me a glass of Cristal is not exactly keeping my distance. I have succumbed a few times and some alcohol has passed my lips and some money has been handed to the casino, but in a way I am glad that this experience has presented itself when it has.
I have learned that the changes that I have made in my life have transformed me into a different person. I don’t feel IT when the Cristal slides down my throat. I don’t feel IT when the ball bumps around the wheel or the dice crash into the side of the table. Am I cured? I doubt it works like that. There will be times when I may drink again and times when I may gamble again but the buzz that was once there has vanished into the ether like cold breath on a frosty morning and I don’t think it will ever be seen again.
This article first appeared in Poker Pro Europe magazine