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Ike Haxton: From Go Fish to million euro pots

When I joined Team Online, around this time last year, one of my very first responsibilities was to participate in the filming of a short documentary about my life and poker career. As I sit down to write this blog, having just watched a near-final edit of the film, I find myself reflecting on my poker career and especially on my first year as a member of the PokerStars team. It's been a bigger change than I had anticipated.

Like a lot of online poker players, I am a born introvert. My natural inclination is always to shy away from attention. Having responsibilities and obligations to other people always stresses me out. For my first nine years or so as a professional poker player, it had been a career that really allowed me to indulge those tendencies. I would often tell people that my favorite thing about my job was "no boss, no co-workers, no schedule." I knew that joining Team Online would change that, but it was such a great opportunity and so obviously the right choice for my career that I knew I had to embrace the new challenges it would bring. And I honestly had very little idea of the extent to which I would be tested.

Filming this documentary was a rather intensive introduction to my new responsibilities as a member of Team Online. The prospect of allowing four strangers into my home to follow my wife and me around with cameras and sitting down for hours upon hours of interviews about our personal lives was not exactly my idea of a good time. I don't think she was particularly thrilled about it either. I was so stressed about it leading up their scheduled arrival that I was having trouble sleeping.

My fears were mostly put to rest when Ryan Firpo and his crew actually arrived. They were all really nice, easy-going guys and it was clear they had quite a lot of experience with poker and poker players, having shot a number of Team Online documentaries already in addition to Ryan's work on Bet, Raise, Fold. It was certainly a long couple of days and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that talking about myself on camera made me uncomfortable. By now, I've grown fairly accustomed to the sorts of interviews I am frequently asked to give at live poker tournaments, where the subject matter is poker and poker only. But speaking candidly on camera about my personal life, my emotions, my childhood... that's an entirely different proposition. To his credit, despite my discomfort, Ryan did a great job coaxing some good material out of me. And in the end, I'm happy to have done it. I think they've put together a great little film. I hope you'll take the time to watch it and I hope you enjoy it.

That documentary was certainly a large challenge for me and I can't deny that I was incredibly relieved when my role in its production was complete. But in terms of my new obligations, that shoot was only the beginning. There have been long, involved photo shoots at the PCA and in Monte Carlo. I've given countless interviews for all sorts of international media. I have really been forced to spend a lot of time developing a much more complete public persona.

And I'm happy to report that it's getting easier and more fun. The televised cash game I played in Monte Carlo was definitely a highlight, not least of all because I won a pot worth over one million Euro. And I've had the opportunity to do many hours of EPTLive commentary, which I absolutely love, and each time I step into the booth my confidence grows. I even spent more than an hour doing EPTLive commentary for the Russian stream. Yep. In Russian. Not that I speak a word of Russian. And seriously, it was a blast.

ike_haxton_close shave.JPG

Enjoying a close shave on set

And I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on all these amazing experiences, including taking the time to write blog posts like this. Like right now, for instance, I am writing this from my hotel room in Barcelona, where I've spent the past week filming the next PokerStars TV ad campaign with a dozen or so other PokerStars pros. These are poker players I've looked up to for years, and it is such an honor to be in their company and to be included among them for something like this. And it's been a totally overwhelming experience seeing everything that goes into producing something on this scale. This is a seriously huge production. Upwards of a hundred people have been working 12 hour days all week and I can only guess how much work goes into pre and post production. It must literally take thousands of man-hours to put together the several minutes of footage that will eventually be aired all over the world. It's impressive.
And it's also been a ton of fun.

When we've not been needed on set, we've been making the best of our time in one of my favorite European cities, eating, drinking, and sight-seeing. This has been such a great opportunity to get to know the other Stars pros, particularly folks like George Danzer, Andre Akkari, Leo Margets, and Ivan Demidov, all really great people with whom I've had very little previous interaction.


Guess the combined poker winnings?

Tomorrow, most of us will head to the Isle of Man to play the UKIPT and visit the PokerStars headquarters, which may sound a touch less glamorous than a commercial shoot in Barcelona, but I'm sure it's going to be a great experience, full of the sorts of unexpected pleasures and wonderful opportunities that I'm only starting to grow accustomed to. And it always feels good to get back to the business of playing poker after so much time spent on my new non-poker-playing responsibilities.

It is such a unique privilege to be a member of PokerStars Team Online, but, you know, that's really not surprising. I knew when I signed my contract what sorts of doors it could open for me. The surprising part is the way in which I've been forced to grow and change, not just as a poker player, but as a person. Every day I feel a little more confident, a little more comfortable with these new sets of obligations, a little less nervous about what they're going to throw at me next. Honestly, I can't wait.

Ike Haxton is a member of Team PokerStars Online and is recognised as one of the best cash game players in the world.

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