Star of the hit TV series ‘The Real Hustle’, Alexis Conran talks to me about his love of poker and how he uses his hustling skills to gain advantage at the poker table. Alexis was born in Paris and raised in Greece, he came to London at the age of 16 and is now well known as Alex from ‘The Real Hustle’. Here I talk to him about, playing poker, hustling and his episode of The Real Hustle where they took down the Hendon Mob.
Emma Wilson: How did you first get into poker?
Alexis Conran: I think it was in my blood really, my father was a big gambler I grew up in Greece and he was quite a big card player and then I sort of got into it in my teens, I started playing with some friends and I’ve sort of been an addict ever since.
EW: Are you banned from casinos?
AC: Ha-ha, I’m not welcome but I’m not banned. I will always get a chat from a manager who will approach me and say, I just wanna make sure that you’re not working or y’know doing something illegal or you’re filming and please could you respect the privacy of the other players. They always let me know that they know that I’m there but I’ve never had anyone bar me from sitting at a table and playing. They sometimes don’t let me touch the cards though, which is a bit annoying.
EW: How has hustling helped your own game?
AC: I think I’ve got a lot more experience now of dealing with people and being able to read people so that part of my game has definitely improved because poker is all about making decisions based on the information that you have, it’s trying to second guess people. I think having done all these scams (we’ve done over 400 scams now) I’ve become quite good at gauging people. I always keep learning stuff about my game all the time, I talk to people about it, read books, I play online, I always try and play with better people than myself so I can learn and pick up some moves that they use.
EW: What sort of games do you play?
AC: I have to say I was a very very big cash player, I love cash games but I’m now recently getting into tournaments and I find them two completely separate games. Cash games I like because they appeal to my gambling instincts. Even though I don’t think poker is gambling but you know what I mean. I’ll play a lot more gutshots in cash game whereas in a tournament game I think it’s a lot easier to progress and you do need to keep your wits about you and make the right decisions.
EW: You’ve already shown that you could con the Hendon Mob are there any other famous poker players you’d like to hustle?
AC: You know what, yeah! I’d love to sit down with Daniel Negreanu and try and hustle him and Gus Hansen but these guys are good. I mean I’ve seen Daniel Negreanu on TV lay down some amazing hands make amazing reads. So yeah these guys are very very good at what they do. The only reason we could beat the Hendon Mob is because we cheated, there is no way we could beat them as man to man poker players back then, 4 years ago. It doesn’t really matter who you cheat you though, you still get the same rush and the same nerves and the same satisfaction out of it.
EW: Do you prefer online or live poker?
AC: I prefer live poker, I much prefer live poker. I’ve got into online now just to get my poker fix when we haven’t been able to organise a game for awhile. So I much prefer playing live games, either in casinos or friends houses or anything like that. But I think online is good for keeping your skills sharp and I think online is very disciplined as well.
EW: Yes because in online play it’s obviously much harder to get tells....
AC: Yes you’re totally playing by the book and the only tells that you can get is just by the way people are betting, you know, are they raising, how quickly are they raising – but that can be due to lag on their broadband speeds, there are little things you can read into how people are playing but its a good exercise it’s almost like playing poker blind, you’re just playing the rules and the numbers.
EW: So do you use anything to get an edge online?
AC: Do you mean other machinery? (EW – no not really unless you’ve got any other machinery? Ha-ha). No not really, sometimes I’ll chat to people, try and get them into a conversation I don’t know why I make generalisations. I think that generalisations are what they are because they’re generally true I guess. I always check out where people are from and y’know if you get say an American guy sort of afternoon our time which is middle of the night their time maybe try and be a bit more aggressive with him. I try and sort of picture who I’m playing against I guess and sometimes that’s wrong but I think it’s better to have a picture of who you think you’re playing against rather than no picture at all.
EW: Do you use your hustler image at the table and does it affect your style?
AC: Yeah! What do you think I am stupid? ha-ha. It intimidates people, I always have a little bit of a laugh, and people think I’m always cheating. Like the saying says if you sit at the table and you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour then you ARE the sucker. If you sit at the table with no persona, you’ll just get taken over. So yeah, if people know me from Real Hustle then I’ll use it. I’m not an unfriendly player, I don’t believe in that but yeah I’ve used the fact that people know me, I’ve used that fact that people assume that I’m exceptional at reading other people and bluffing, it’s great to get caught on a bluff every now and then.
I always make sure I get caught on a semi bluff because they feel like ‘oh yeah I’ve got one over on the hustler guy’ and I’m thinking ‘yeah but I’m waiting for you now, I’m going to make you think that I’m bluffing when I’m holding the nuts’. I remember playing at the Vic one night and people were really out for me they were like “That hustler guy, I’ll teach him a lesson” but that’s great for me that means that I get desperate calls left right and centre, people will just call me just on the off chance that they might bust me.
EW: Who would you like to face heads up and why?
AC: Ross Boatman because, he is a friend of mine and we faced heads up when we were doing a job together, because we are both actors I was acting before I was doing the real hustle and Ross was still acting and we did a job together out in Portugal but it came to a heads up situation and I beat him and I want to do it again just to see if I can. He’s a great guy to play against and I’ve got timeless amount of respect for him as a player and as a mate. They’re all great guys actually.
EW: You have shown your acting skills help you in your hustles but does it help you at the tables as well?
AC: Yeah absolutely I love playing all those acting games, some other players get a bit upset about it. I did it once in Vegas and the table got a bit upset with me but I sort of took awhile to call and I sort of knew I had the guy beaten I kind of feigned a bit of weakness there because I wanted him to raise and he did raise. So people were like ‘ohoh how could you take two minutes to decide whether you wanna call when you’re holding the nuts’ and I was like well yeah but that’s part of the game, so I thought that was sort of fair enough. Some people didn’t like it but since when has poker been a fair game, do you know what I mean. But yes I definitely use my acting skills to feign weakness, feign strength because people are always watching that sort of stuff, so absolutely I’d use it.
EW: Acting, hustling and magic are talents you’re already well known for. Do you see poker as another talent that you can develop and become a really big name poker player?
AC: Oh I hope so, I really do I hope so. I also have been asked to commentate on games before and I really enjoy that because I sort of see everything from a hustler’s edge rather than game play and it kind of offers a different view into what’s going on in the game. So yeah I do hope that poker is going to become part of what I do.
EW: You’ve got your new show coming up...when can we expect to see that on our screens and what’s it all about?
AC: Well there’s two new shows coming up, we’ve just done a special which is called ‘Hustling Around The World’ which is a 60 minute special on BBC3. Since the Real Hustle has become such a big success its on in about 30 countries around the world and 7 other countries have made their own versions of it using the material that I’ve written along with Paul Wilson and we made a 60 minute special where we look at all the different versions and we kind of take the piss out of them a little bit because some of them are not very good, so that a really fun show because you get to see what we did and how people interpreted it and did it in Russia and Israel and Germany, Belgium, America.
Then there’s this next series that we have which is a proper series of The Real Hustle which is another ten episodes series 9 that should be coming along later in the year, I don’t know when I wish I could tell you that but it’s going to be coming later in the year. I have to say I think it’s our best one yet and I’m not saying that because we need people to watch it, I genuinely think this is the best one because we’ve really gone to town, we’re robbing jewellery stores, we’re fixing boxing matches, we’re doing all sorts of very very big things and we’ve got celebrities helping us in big scams, we’ve got Lisa Snowdon, Rob Kasinsky from Eastenders, we’ve had Matt Willis from busted and they’re all helping us doing these scams and they’re fantastic they’re really really really good.
Find out more about Alexis Conran at CheckRaiseManagement.