EPT10 London: Poker's cult of youth and why it never rains in the poker world
The years catch up with us all eventually. Even Dave Ulliot. But until that time we strive to avoid the inevitable aging process, both in appearance and in mind set. Both of which are often on view on the world poker circuit.
If the cult of youth has a spiritual home, it is no doubt the entertainment business, which casts aside those above a certain age, but rarely below. But that cult spends the occasion weekend away on the world poker circuit, which has in recent years opened its doors to wrinkle free living.
The number of players tweeting their progress in the gym, or drinking protein cocktails the colour and consistency of mushroom soup in between hands, is on the rise. In these rooms there is no place for the responsibility that comes with age. It must be fought off on all fronts.
Whereas decades ago this was the manor of the older male, each having paid a hefty price for their apprenticeship at their local card room, now the game has become the domain of the youngster, the college kids and the math freaks, who saved time on their poker education by skipping elements of the real world -- like death and taxes - that older folk saw as unavoidable.
Then again it's this youthful exuberance that keeps the European Poker Tour in bloom. Poker has undoubtedly become a young man's game (women included), but its participants were never the type to plan for a rainy day. It's why the game thrived in the desert, in buildings with no windows. It never rains in the poker world.
Few are the players who put money away in the off chance that their success might only be fleeting, although there are one or two.
One of them is Julian Thew, an EPT champion (actually the reigning EPT Baden champion), who now rarely travels beyond the British poker circuit, where he wins regularly. Thew marked himself out as different when he won in Baden. On winning he said that every penny of the €670,000 he won that day would be taken out of the poker economy. Rather than up the stakes and start dabbling in high rollers (which admittedly hadn't been invented yet), he was more pragmatic in his wish list.
"I was sponsored at the time so I didn't really need a bankroll," said Thew, who plays the Main Event today. "From a professional point of view I probably didn't have great bankroll management - we used it to pay off the mortgage, build an extension, and have some savings. Having worked nine-to-five for ten or 15 years before that, I knew how hard it was to get any savings together."
Perhaps that was the key point. Experience of life, out there, in the real world, can put some perspective on a big poker win. The young college graduate on the other hand, freed of obligation, naturally sees the world through a different brand of rose tinted spectacles. It was a point not lost on Thew.
"I think when you're young and you win, you think 'yeah, this is going to happen again quite soon'," he said. "'I'm in the groove, I know what I'm doing'. You have that expectation. I was guilty of it myself, of extrapolating earnings. It doesn't work like that. But when you're young you can afford to go broke a lot."
That world is some way away for him now. Thew makes a rare appearance here on the tour, preferring to stay closer to home and his family.
"The only reason I'm here is because, combining UKIPT and EPT, I was able to play a satellite. No way was it on my radar to pull up £5k. I'm just not rolled for that. In the real world £5k is a huge amount. My wife would kill me!"
It's true. Wives are a good safety catch to impulse spending five grand on a poker tournament. But as Thew pointed out, youth is a great motivator in the poker world which, when combined with optimism, can be inspirational, or fatal, depending on where you're looking from.
No one would suggest Jeffery Hakim was a rash, hot-headed player - more a talented young pro making a good living. But Thew's point was one he echoed, albeit from the other side of the fence. To him, banking his wins would be contrary to his plans. To him, and his contemporaries, it's more about getting the best out of yourself and succeeding, rather than worrying about what tomorrow has in store.
"It all depends on the player and their personality, right?" said Hakim. "And their hunger. Some will be satisfied by the way things are. Some will get more hungry - the competitive type. They'll look to achieve more."
It's an astute point from Hakim, who himself has totted up more than $600,000 in live tournament winnings. As for him, he places himself firmly in the hungry category.
"I'm definitely on the competitive side," he said. "We only get one chance, right? So you want to make the most of it. If you do win something big you want to aim higher and look to your next goal."
It was more than that. If you're in this game seriously the idea is to win, and to be the best player you can possibly be. It's not to make a big score and then drop out, it's not about some hit and run raid. So if that's your principle goal, to be the best you can be, then of course the mortgage, the savings, and all that other stuff are going to wait.
"You always want to give yourself some extra motivation," said Hakim. "Usually that comes from playing higher and aiming bigger. I think that's the way it should be for the successful guys, going everything in their power to keep on rising up, right?"
Right. But is there a third way? A breed of player that will do both, securing a future for themselves while devoting all their efforts to maximizing their poker careers. Thew pointed towards Jake Cody, another EPT winner, who has invested some of his winnings. But then, as we reported yesterday, Cody will soon have a family to think about, which rightly changes a man's priorities.
For now poker players will carry on in the same way, 'carpe-ing' the 'diems' while they can in a world that only ever gets more competitive. The young men and women have the time and energy to develop their game and increase their chances.
"You can immerse yourself in things at that age," said Thew. "When you're older you can only devote so much time to your game."
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.