In Part 1 of this fascinating interview with the Hendon Mobster, Barny Boatman talked of the Mob’s association with the fledgling Showdown Poker Tour, and their new sponsorship deal with Full Tilt Poker. In this Part 2, Barny airs his views on the future direction of poker, the impact of No Limit Hold’em on other disciplines, and the ethos of the Hendon Mob
UKPN: At the World Series of Poker this year, Harrah’s are introducing a big buy-in H.O.R.S.E. tournament[/B] (Ed note: H.O.R.S.E. is a mixed discipline tournament comprising Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud and Stud Eight or Better).[B] Do you think that this will save world poker from its headlong rush into No Limit Hold’em domination and do you see a H.O.R.S.E tournament ever becoming The Main Event as a proper test of true poker skill?
BB: Will it hold back the tide of No Limit Hold’em? I doubt it. That is firmly established as the people's game. The greatest tests of tournament poker skill right now are undoubtedly the two major Bellagio tournaments in December and April - No Limit Hold’em with a deep stack and a slow clock. I don't see that changing unless they increase the buy-in for the WSOP Main Event. But the H.O.R.S.E. event is an interesting development. I certainly like the idea of testing players' range of poker skills.
UKPN: Are any of the Hendon Mob thinking of entering the H.O.R.S.E. event this year? What are the Mob members’ respective strengths and weaknesses out of Omaha, Razz, Stud and Stud Hi/Lo? We are taking it is as read that No Limit Hold’em is not a weakness!
BB: If it's poker, we play it. We started playing well before No Limit Holdem became so dominant. In fact it hardly existed in Europe. I was originally a seven card stud specialist. I'm of the view that any tournament game has more in common with any other tournament game than with the same game played for cash. Having said that, we don't play a lot of limit poker, and hardly any Razz, so we wouldn't start amongst the favourites in the H.O.R.S.E. event. It is unlikely that any of us will play it unless they are having a sensationally good WSOP. Fifty lumps is a lot of money, even in dollars!
UKPN: We had some fascinating views in a UK Poker News interview with John Gale a few weeks ago about the F-Bomb Rule at the WSOP and about putting up with unpleasant behaviour and such like at the tables. So, we now like to see what other professionals think. What is your view about the rules, their enforcement and their consistency?
BB: I wrote an article called 'F is for Farce' which can be found on thehendonmob.com which tells a very funny story about the time I fell foul of the absurd 'F Bomb' rule. I'm all for the protection of dealers and players from threatening and abusive behaviour, but this silly rule has nothing to do with that.
UKPN: We often read that John “Large” Kabbaj is regarded as the fifth Hendon Mob member. For the benefit of people new to poker, what is the history here and why did John not ultimately become an actual member of the Hendon Mob?
BB: John is one of the sharpest people in poker. I'm not sure if he knows that I gave him that nickname (Large Kabbaj), when we were entering names in our original Hendon Mob player database (which pre-dates the famously comprehensive one we have now). John is a good mate of all of us, particularly Ross who he used to travel with in the old days, but the idea of him being in the Mob never came up. It was always the four of us. In any case, John is essentially a loner and I don't think it would have suited him. We call him the fifth Mobster in recognition of the fact that he is an old friend and a great player. And we like the sound of it. Like the 'fifth Beatle'.
UKPN: Going back even further, how did the four of you first learn to play poker and what were the circumstances that finally lead to the creation of the Hendon Mob?
BB: We get asked that so much that I'm sometimes tempted to make up a new answer, like we all answered an ad in the paper or something, but the truth is we weren't 'created'; we just were. We were four good friends who travelled around playing poker tournaments and having a laugh. Funnily enough I think it was John who first referred to us as The Hendon Mob because we all played in a home game in Hendon. What we did create was thehendonmob.com. Originally, it was designed to get our names out there and help attract sponsorship – which we knew was coming years before it arrived – but it became Europe's premier poker portal. I got into poker to avoid working, now I work harder than I ever did!
UKPN: All four members of the Hendon Mob have been posting some handy tournament results in recent months. Do you feel you are all playing well in the spirit of “all-for-one and one-for-all” or is it just that you are each capable as individuals and being Mob members has no impact? Do you each play with a “percentage” interest in each other in every tournament as representatives of the Mob or do you retain independence as far as prizes are concerned?
BB: Well I'm glad you asked me that. We support each other in many ways and it's no small thing in poker, which can be seen as a blood sport were everyone is both the fox and the hound, to have friends you can rely on, not to mention a close family member. But poker is not a team game and we play as individuals. Ram has knocked me out of more tournaments than any other player – I don't think I've ever won an evens shot against him! We do swap a small percentage of our winnings, but not enough to risk influencing the way we play.
UKPN: What are your thoughts on the current poker “craze” and, ignoring your own progress, how do you see it all panning out in the longer term as the stronger take out the weaker?
BB: I don't know anyone who has stopped playing poker once they got into it. It is a great game and I can only see it growing over the next few years, particularly on the net. Having said that, it will not always be as “rock'n’roll” as it is now. Hollywood and the rest of the media will move on to something else. TV's interest in poker has probably already peaked.
UKPN: With so many new players joining the poker bandwagon and playing online, what would be your advice to any player looking to try out live poker at a casino for the first time?
BB: Be cool. They can see you and they can hear you! Seriously, don't be intimidated by the rituals and the unfamiliar physical manifestations of the game. It is still poker. Take your time, consider your moves, state your intentions clearly and play your own game.
UKPN: Barny, it has been good to talk and we at UK Poker News wish the Hendon Mob a fun time with Full Tilt. We especially look forward to your next heads-up battle with Mike “The Mouth” Matusow!
BB: He'll never get a word in!
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