Rubbing Shoulders

by snoopy
Submitted by: snoopy on Fri, 11/01/2008 - 8:25am
A combination of jet lag, mild flu and Floppy’s snoring meant that Day 1 of the PCA was a bit of a struggle for me. The days are so much longer when I’m energy sapped, but come Day 2 I was full of beans again and felt the updates were much improved.

On one of the mornings I had the chance to interview Humberto Brenes. Humberto used to annoy me with his antics, playing up to the cameras and wasting time, but he’s grown on me. He’s also one of the few genuinely nice players out there, and he has a real passion for the game. He doesn’t play for the money, just the challenge and the love of poker. If he is annoying, he doesn’t mean to be, he’s just having fun, and poker needs characters like him in the game.

Amusingly, Humberto can be pretty incompressible at times with his pigeon English and strong Spanish accent. Considering my slight Brummie accent and inability to articulate the English language, this was going to be a hoot. Most of the time we were all right, but sometimes he simply didn’t understand the question, and would often just guess what I’d said and hope he was right. I think I asked him what he would change about the game at one point, and he went off on one about how He11muth only had more WSOP cashes than him because he’d played all the events. Completely irrelevant, but bless his cotton socks, I just didn’t have it in me to say anything, so I’d just let him go off on his tangents.

Away from the limelight, Humberto actually has quite a lot to say, especially about the younger generation of poker players coming through. “They should play small. There is so much money in tournaments, that a young player can win millions just in one tournament and not really learn much about the game, it’s very dangerous. They should get an education first. Go to university and then you’re my horse. It’s all about the long run, like Chip Reese, you need to be a good player with an education. Stu Ungar was a great player, but he had problems. You need to be happy in poker.”

Also on the interview hitlist was Barry Greenstein. He went awol the first time round because he wanted more sleep, but when we eventually caught up, he had plenty to say. Barry’s an odd figure, he’s so small and quaint, yet rather intense. I felt myself treading carefully with my questions and making sure I didn’t say anything stupid. You just got the feeling that if you did, he wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that your question was illogical or didn’t make sense.

Throw a good question his way though, and, much like Greg Raymer, Barry will witter on till the cows come home. In fact, when I wrote up the interview it ran for five pages. Normally I just jot down a few good quotes, but so much of what Barry says is direct, to the point and well thought out that you end up with a whole host of interesting comments. It’s all fascinating stuff and well worth the read when I publish it.

I think I spoke to Barry for about an hour. I had a number of questions prepared, but reckon I only managed about half of them. I think he was even late for the EPT Live feed commentary because of me. I think I must have used the phrase “one last question before you go?” at least three times.

The topic that we seemed to linger on the most was High Stakes Poker. For the whole interview, he’d been adamant that being a poker celebrity had never been important to him and the real focus was always about making money at the table, which made me wonder why he played HSP when the opposition is so tough.

“I actually play High Stakes Poker because I believe there to be some weak players on the show. If you look at all the sessions I played, I actually ended up playing the good players and tended to miss out on the weak players. The producers also said that there would be more weak players than there actually were, but several businessmen who would have brought a lot of value to the table cancelled at the last minute. If they ask me if I want to play it, then I say sure, but only if I can make some money from my opposition.”

Of course, there were plenty of other familiar names at this year’s PCA. I also interviewed Bill Chen, who is an absolute hoot. I was tempted to grab a few words with Daniel Negreanu, even though I’d interviewed him at the Vic, but thought I’d leave it. I don’t know what it is about Daniel, I know it’s unfashionable to like him because everyone else does, but it’s so hard not to, he’s just such an upbeat, sociable guy. In fact, I’m pretty jealous that he can make people like him with such ease.

There are only two people in the whole of the poker industry that I am (1) nervous in the presence of and (2) unable to not suck up to. One is Doyle Brunson, the other is Negreanu, everyone else I just treat like any other random person. With Doyle, it’s obvious, he’s a legend. He’s done so much in his life that it’s nigh on impossible not to be in awe of him.

With Daniel though, it’s slightly more complex. I think it’s because I admire the way he gets so much enjoyment from poker both on and off the table and his incredible ability to remain upbeat 24/7, he just never seems depressed. His skill of prising information from people from just being friendly is unmatched by anyone else, and I really wish I was able to emulate that.

When I pass these 'name' players in the corridor, I always hesitate before saying hello. I'm never sure if they recognise me or not. "Do you remember people that interview you?" I asked Daniel. "Sure, I remember you though because you have a distinctive look," he replied. "What, hideous?" I added.

Finally, Chad Brown should keep an eye on Vanessa Rousso. I passed her in the corridor the other day and caught her looking down at my bare legs. I had my shorts on with yellow socks and fuchsia trainers, so I probably didn’t send out the hippest of fashion statements, but there’s no doubt that she took a lustful peek. It’s understandable though, the pipes have caused many a woman to bump into each other before, it’s something you just have to accept.