With the Haye vs Harrison World Title Fight tonight, we thought we would look back at our exclusive interview with Full Tilt Pro Audley Harrison.
You may recall earlier this year that UK PokerNews brought you the exclusive story that World Heavyweight Title Contender Audley Harrison got his shot at David Haye following a chance meeting at the World Series of Poker with Eddie Hearn. Amongst other things we revealed that the former Olympic champion is a serious student of the game and already has an impressive record, having chopped a Bellagio Cup event in 2007 for $76,895 and coming 3rd in a Venetian Deep Stack event this year for $90,298.
Today we have another exclusive for you as Harrison has just signed a big deal with Full Tilt Poker to become one of their Red Pros. Not only will you see him represent them at the live and online felt, you will see him wear their branding at the upcoming World Title fight in Manchester.
We caught up with Audley who is in the middle of training for his World Title fight vs David Haye on November 13 in Manchester:
PokerNews: You already have a pretty impressive tournament record but you have stayed under the radar, why have you kept your poker quiet?
Audley Harrison: Anything I do I want to be the best and poker is a long road, you can’t be an overnight success. I was living in America and found it good that I could just play and learn the game and nobody knew who I was. I could develop as a player, get competent and not have the pressure of people in England knowing I played. As far as I was concerned I got enough bad stick as it was and if they heard I was at the poker tables they would give me more and say I wasn’t serious about boxing. Obviously my career is a pro boxer but I classify myself as a semi pro poker player. I didn’t want to get it mixed up in the media and the public eye, so I thought I would keep it quiet until the time was right.
PN: So did you start off at low stakes or jump straight into the bigger games?
AH: People say you should start at $1/$2, my learning ground was $5/$10 and $10/$20 in the Bellagio, which was an expensive education. Cash games and tournaments are completely different games, I was really just getting spanked by full time professional cash game players. Now I live in California I play at the Commerce & the Bike and again I am playing with the best, full time pros who know how to take your money.
I played the World Series of Poker in 2007, paid my 10 G’s and got totally spanked by Allen Cunningham, he had position on me and he really gave me a lesson in poker. I’ve played with Daniel Negreanu, Roland De Wolfe, Hoyt Corkins, Marcel Luske, Steve Dannemen, James MacKey – all pros and I have picked something up from all of them. When I went back to Vegas this year I knew I was gonna do something special, I thought it would be in the World Series but it happened in the Venetian Cup, 600 players, all good players, $2100 buyin and I was happy to come in 3rd, my bench mark is top 3 and I hit it. I’m ready to play with any of the pros, I know most of their styles and I believe I can hold my own. I have a varied game, a mixed style, I’m very hard to read, I know how to read my opponents, I understand the statistics, implied odds, pot odds etc- the whole game, so I’m ready.
PN: We presume that poker is banned right now while you are preparing for a big fight?
AH: No poker, poker is banned, by me. It requires my attention and boxing is my life, it’s my passion and boxing is where I have to achieve my goals. I know that I will get there in poker, I know 100%, so after the World Series this summer I said no more poker and completely locked down. The previous year I said the same thing and had to really force myself to avoid watching poker on TV or reading magazines or websites. Last year when I fought in Prizefighter I didn’t even know that Phil Ivey made the main event final table, that’s how much I knocked off from poker.
PN: Recently there have been some high profile cases of boxers going off the rails when they retire, it seems like poker is the ideal thing to turn to when you eventually do hang up the gloves?
AH: I used to get a lot of stick early on for being a celebrity boxer and going to film premieres, being a bit of a play boy but the thing about me was my life was never gonna be a rehearsal, I have one life to live, I make no apologies and I’ve learnt my lesson as I’ve gone along. I was locked up when I was 16-18, I dabbled in drugs, I drank, I smoked, I was a playboy – I’ve got the t-shirt in every facet of life, so there is nothing I need to do when I retire. I’m a happily married man now with a beautiful daughter and a beautiful wife, I have no regrets. When I retire I will be happy and there will be nothing where I say “shit I missed out”. That is the difference between me and other fighters who made lots of early sacrifices and feel like they missed out on something when they retire.
PN: You’ve waited a very long time before signing a deal with a poker room, were you at all tempted to wait till after your fight with Haye because potentially having a World Title could get you a better deal?
AH: Obviously Full Tilt are one of the biggest names out there and I do play on Full Tilt. For them to come knocking and offer me a deal obviously I’m gonna jump at it. It’s a great deal for me now and when I win the title it’s gonna be an even better deal.
PN: How much do you play online?
AH: I don’t have much time to play online but when the big events come up like FTOPS I treat them just like I do the World Series. The best result I’ve had was coming 13th in the Full Tilt $1 Million Guaranteed and should have made the final as I was the chip leader for so long but I got overconfident and got too aggressive, so I’ve even had a good result online. Another one of my goals is to take down either the Full Tilt $1 Million or the $750,000 Guaranteed in the next 12 months.
PN: Is your screen name something boxing related or something that is obviously you?
AH: You would never know it’s me from my screen name but now I’ve done this deal with Full Tilt you will be able to come and play with me, so if u wanna play Audley Harrison come and look for my bright red avatar.
PN: Onto the big fight, you’ve taken a lot of criticism in your career but are you starting to find the British public getting behind you?
AH: David is coming across like a little egotistical prat and is rubbing people up the wrong way, I may talk the talk but nobody can say Audley Harrison is a bad guy. He knows he is gonna be in the fight of his life, I guarantee it’s gonna be man against boy, master against student.
When I finish the journey it’s going to be the greatest comeback in British sport, it’s gonna be a movie, you couldn’t write this story. A guy who was written off, playing poker in Vegas, bumps into Eddie Hearn, does prize fighter, wins it, wins the European title with one arm vs Michael Sprott a guy who knocked him out before, now fighting David Haye a guy who I mentored and who looked up to me, for the World Title. This is the greatest comeback in British sport bar none.
Audley Harrison vs David Haye takes place on November 13 live on Sky Box Office.
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