PokerStars Festival London: Richard Evans on finding happiness with the fish
There were many memorable moments and winners on the UKIPT but one who stands out from the pack is Richard Evans and his victory in Dublin in May 2012.
Not only was the triumph remarkable for a comeback from 1.2 big blinds, but it was a win for the everyman. Evans had qualified for €15 and walked away with £61,000. It was a UKIPT Moneymaker moment.
"I invested £45,000 into my house," Evans says, describing what he did with the windfall. "I did up three rooms and the back yard. That's what I did with the money...A couple of holidays and a car and it was gone. It's amazing how sixty grand cannot even last you two years. I say last, I put it into the house. It makes it nicer to live in."
That right there is the very definition of life-changing money. A proud Welshman, Evans lives about half a mile from the town of Portmeirion in the beautiful countryside of North Wales where, according to Evans, plenty of people get by on an annual wage of around £12,000.
Portmeirion was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, was the setting for the cult TV classic The Prisoner and is a major tourist attraction. At the time of his win, Evans was working in the accounts office there.
"I had a really nice job in Portmeirion," Evans says. "I was counting cash all day, stuck in a little office. I could put my poker videos on, watch them with my headphones while I was counting the money. It allowed me to study poker. I was doing a lot of studying, reading books. I was still shit but it was around that time when I put in a lot of study that I binked Dublin."
Since then, poker has had to take a back seat as Evans found himself in the right place, at the right time about two and a half years ago. He was offered the chance to take over an existing small wholesale fishmongers business.
"It's weird, a friend was shutting the doors on an existing small profitable local business," he says. "Literally we had an off the cuff discussion and three days later I'd taken it over! He borrowed me the money to buy the business, he left me £10,000 in the bank, his credit cards and his cheque book and said go. He did then disappear three days later.
"I've seen him since, we're good mates, we go back a long way. I take it he just wasn't in a great place. After going round and talking to people, he wasn't running it well as he wasn't in a good place and I've turned the business around. I've doubled the turnover."
It's taken a lot of sweat and graft to do that and the regular hours would make most poker players wince.
Evans says, "I do two 36-hour days a week. I take orders, go to market, and then deliver. I start at 6am on a Monday and finish at 6pm on Tuesday. I do the same Thursday and Friday. I cover pretty much all of North Wales. I provide hotels, restaurants, bed and breakfasts a few shops. I buy whole fish, carve them up and deliver."
Both of Evans's sons work in the business and his wife also helps out.
"We're a real small family business," he says. "It's our livelihood. To tell you the truth, it's way better than any poker. It's a good solid little local business. Where we are we live and die with tourism, but we've got a very short summer. I do 60 percent of my business in four months of the year."
As well as winning the Dublin title Evans also took down the Champion of Champions event at the end of UKIPT Season 3. The winner of that event won entry and accommodation for every stop on Season 4 of the UKIPT. Not that Evans knew that.
"When I sat down to play it, I did not have a clue what we were there for," he says. "Or what the prizes were. I'd won Dublin, got invited to this event and given a night in a hotel. I didn't realise what we were playing for until a break or two in."
Despite his big win, there's no sense of bravado or misplaced sense of his own ability at the poker table, particularly in the years since taking the title.
"I'm a way worse player than when I won in Dublin," he says. "These last two and a half years I might play on a weekend once or twice a month. I probably play 100 tournaments a year combined online and live. I don't study the game. I just haven't got the time."
Evans won a satellite to this event in London for £11, but he was knocked out on Day 1 after a tough day at the table.
"In places today there were some really aggressive spots and there were times when I should be playing back against some of these guys and I wasn't," he says. "It was a lot easier before. I wouldn't say I was lost in hands, more a chicken. Not being 100 percent sure where I was. When you don't do all the work you can tell."
Despite all that, Evans is still very much a fan of the game.
"I really enjoy playing poker still, I'm not a good player anymore, but I don't mind," he says. "I'm never going to pay a grand to buy into an event but if I satellite in I'll play."
Despite his modest nature, Evans showed he's still got poker smarts as he deliberately tried to qualify on a weekend when he knew some of the sharks who populate the satellites were otherwise engaged.
So while Evans isn't best placed to offer advice on poker, when it comes to fish he's more than qualified. He was a chef for 25 years, working in Michelin-starred kitchens, and as poker players love their food we tapped him up for some words of wisdom.
"You've got some mega markets in London, more fish comes to London than the rest of the country combined pretty much," he says. "Fresh fish is expensive. There aren't any that are undervalued really. I like pollock, but my favourite fish is a fresh swordfish steak. Make sure it's not frozen because it loses a lot of texture. Frozen fish gets a spongey texture because the water crystallises out."
So some great advice on fish there, just not the sort you usually hear at a poker tournament.
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