Brothers in Arms

In the wake of Barny’s sensational WSOP victory, Ross Jarvis meets the Boatman brothers to hear their remarkable tale…

There have been a host of memorable moments in 2013 so far – the most stacked final table of all time at EPT Monte Carlo, JC Tran’s mesmeric charge to the November Nine chip lead and even the arrest of Greg Raymer for hooking up with a prostitute.
Yet for anyone with an ounce of British blood one poker memory stands head and shoulders above the rest: Barny Boatman’s WSOP win this summer. Along with his brother Ross, the Boatmans have been two of the most beloved and important figures in UK poker since they started playing in the 1990s. Together with Ram Vaswani and Joe Beevers they formed The Hendon Mob and signed poker’s first-ever $1 million sponsorship deal with Prima Poker, paving the way for today’s UK superstars like Cody, Moorman and Trickett.
Despite successes along the way, it has been a hard road for Ross and Barny. Both have continually come close to that big tournament win only for bad fortune to foil them at the final hurdle. So when older brother Barny finally won the big one in a $1,500 WSOP event the outpouring of emotion from the UK poker community was huge. Neil Channing shed a tear, Matt Perrins did a shoe-bomb and, fittingly, it was Ross who was the first to jump the rail and give his brother, ‘my hero’ the biggest hug of all. I caught up with both Boatman brothers to retell the story of their unforgettable careers in British poker…

He’s on fire

The poker scene in the early 1990s was very different to how it is now. When did you both start playing seriously? 
Barny Boatman: I was the first of our little group that played to join the Vic in 1992. We all used to go in and play, and they were dusting the seats off for us when we walked in. I remember being told I was a star and thinking it was a compliment! Ross was better than me back then but we were just having fun and making it up as we went along. Ross always had a presence that he still has at the table. When it was on him to act he would sit quietly, peer over his shades and the whole room would go quiet wondering what he was going to do next. We’ve both developed as players since but he has always had a real character at the table.
Ross, as an actor in London’s Burning you were very famous at the time. Can you put into context just how big the show was?
Ross Boatman: It was huge. People of the younger generation wouldn’t remember that back then there were only four channels and London’s Burning was on a Sunday night at 9pm, the peak viewing slot of the week. It got 20 million viewers.
How was life for you at the time? How did you handle the fame?
RB: I am always amazed by how powerful a medium TV is – I still get recognised today! It was a fantastic time for me, I can never understand people who complain about being famous. I loved it. I was getting the absolute lot, women were throwing themselves at me, and I was out every night burning the candle at both ends.
BB: Ross wasn’t precious at all about being recognised. I remember he phoned me up one night to tell me that he’d been mugged in the street and got smashed over the head with a bottle. I went along to casualty to pick him up. The first thing I saw was this queue of people. I went along to the front and Ross was sitting there with blood streaming down one side of his head, all bandaged up and signing autographs! Everyone in the family knew he was a great actor, I was very proud of him in the show and I still am.
With your acting career going so well, what role was poker playing in your life at this point?
RB: I’d been playing for years. I introduced it to the rest of the cast and I used to have them locked up in a little trailer fleecing them before we had to do our scenes. People used to think poker was quite glamorous and mysterious back then. I think [with hindsight] that my acting career might have suffered slightly because I am always away at poker tournaments when things come up. But I don’t have any regrets – poker has given me a great life.
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