Long before launching his YouTube channel, Brian Davis–a.k.a. the True Geordie–was working on boats offshore and looking for ways to pass the time with his colleagues. Occasionally, they’d sit down for a game of poker. “It really helped kill the boredom and I could wind up a few of the boys for my own entertainment,” he says.
Little did he know that one day he’d have his very own poker show–The Showdown, which returns for a new season tonight (January 27, 7 pm GMT)–on which he gets to wind up his friends and co-hosts for a living while entertaining a legion of fans across the UK and around the world.
But poker has become more than just a pastime for Davis. It’s a tool he now uses to sharpen his mind and improve his daily life, from content creation to fitness and mental health. We spoke to him on the eve of The Showdown’s comeback to find out why he chose to pursue poker, how it helps him connect with fans, and how he’s going to take it even further in 2022.
The True Geordie has always pursued his passions with gusto. Back in 2013, Davis decided to hit record on his smartphone camera and detonated a five-minute tirade about how Newcastle United striker Nile Ranger was insulting the fans of his beloved football club. He uploaded it to YouTube, it became a viral sensation, and the True Geordie channel was born, which today boasts just shy of two million subscribers on YouTube.
While it was football talk that birthed the True Geordie YouTube channel and podcast, it has never been afraid to challenge itself and its audience. From professional fighters to conspiracy theorists, comedians to England’s Wolf of Wall Street, Davis and co-host Laurence McKenna have interviewed a myriad of guests over the years, and he’s picked up plenty of new passions from them too.
“I have a habit of picking new skills up and just becoming a bit obsessed until I feel like I’ve got the hang of it,” says Davis, who’s since taken up boxing, live commentary, and dabbled in documentary filmmaking. In 2020, he was reminded of his love of poker when a high-stakes pro appeared on his podcast, so he began streaming his play from big buy-in PokerStars tournaments on the True Geordie Twitch channel.
“The beauty of poker is that whenever I get that feeling I’ve got the hang of it, I seem to lose and realise there’s so much more to learn,” he says. Still, Davis put up some big runs and enjoyed some large scores which have now been watched by millions of fans. “It fully inspired me to realise my potential in the game, whatever that might be. It reminds me so much of the feeling I get in boxing as hitting without being hit gives that same skilful, rewarding buzz. Luckily there are fewer injuries in poker.”
The next step for True Geordie in realising his poker potential was to team up with PokerStars and put together his own poker show. “The guys behind the scenes of our shows are massive fans of poker so we’d often play after our podcast shoots,” he says. “We’d always say how much we’d love to have our games broadcasted.”
Thanks to a custom-built, card-reading poker table that now sits proudly amid the True Geordie studios in London, that dream became a reality. But when The Showdown first aired in August 2021, Davis was unsure how his poker streams would go down with loyal fans used to seeing him cover mainstream sports like football and fighting.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see thousands of my audience were already familiar with the game and played regularly themselves,” he says. “The ones who didn’t know the game seemed to warm to it really quickly and I think in part that’s down to us not being too serious in our style. The way we explain the game is much easier to understand as none of us are top pros.”
The Showdown with @pokerstarsuk is BACK! ♠️
Join us Tomorrow at 7pm GMT
— True Geordie (@TrueGeordieTG) January 26, 2022
When picking guests for The Showdown, Davis tries to strike the right balance between experience and chemistry with the True Geordie crew (which also includes Rory Jennings, Adam McKola, Will Lenney, and Stephen Tries). But most importantly, he simply asks himself who he thinks would make it a fun show. “We’ve had so many people contact us asking to come on who I had no idea were huge poker fans,” he says.
It would soon become clear just how many of True Geordie’s fans were also huge poker fans, too. In November 2021, the team organised the first True Geordie poker meet-up game at the Hippodrome Casino in London. It was a huge success.
“Honestly that was one of the best nights I’ve ever had,” says Davis. “A moment to reflect on the community we’ve been building in poker and how much the show and the game means to all these people who spend time with us every week. I remember a guy who had flown to London just for that night and just to see how much everyone loved it blew me away. I’m so grateful to PokerStars for that event.”
There’s an element of chance in many of Davis’ hobbies, whether that be video games, boxing or poker. In his opinion, to remove chance is to remove the fun.
“There’s a good reason why a beginner boxer doesn’t get in the ring with Mike Tyson,” he says. “For me, I just enjoy the process of learning and growing as a person. The feeling of achievement and reward I get from poker is directly helpful to my everyday mental health.”
When he was a younger man, Davis concedes he was prone to misplaced anger. “It was usually just passion expressed in the wrong way,” he says. “But when controlled, it can be fuel for productivity. Often we aren’t angry about something which actually justifies the anger. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned how to do what I can to help a situation rather than do what feels easy at the time.
“Nobody ever did anything dumb by staying calm.”
Davis believes that the skills he’s learned from poker (patience, making decisions under pressure, coping with bad beats, reading and understanding people) now have a direct impact on his day-to-day life away from the tables.
“Poker is great for your mind and helps you apply those skills across other things you do,” he says. “I think poker should be given more respect as a tool for sharpening the mind and as something that brings people together. That’s why all the True Geordie lads like making The Showdown the most of all my live shows.”
If 2021 was one of the best years of Davis’ life (“I interviewed some really great people, raised £100K for charity, and of course launched our poker show,”) then 2022 is set to be even greater.
“The first year of The Showdown was really just about getting the shows together and finding my feet with all this technology, what makes a poker production tick,” he says. “Now we’ve achieved that I’m excited to put my own vision down for what poker shows should be.
“I want to keep the authenticity of what people love about poker, but also pull the game into 2022 with a new look, sound and feel.”
The Showdown returns for a new season tonight – January 27 at 7pm GMT. You can watch live on the True Geordie Twitch channel.