How did The Hendon Mob first get together?
BB: Ross and I got a little more serious than some of the other people we regularly played with and we wanted to play in bigger, regular games. We didn’t always want to be responsible for running the game either. So we became regulars at a game in Hendon that Joe Beevers and Ram Vaswani were running, became mates and it was around about this time that we were becoming aware of tournament poker. From here we started travelling together to other parts of the country and even to places like Paris for games.
Ram Vaswani has a reputation for being a crazy gambler on the road. Is that reputation deserved?
BB: No, it’s not really… it’s completely understated! He’s absolutely insane! But he’s such a talented player and he loves it. If Ram has the patience he can still turn up at a tournament and just smash it. Between 2002 and 2004 European poker was just Ram Vaswani and everybody else. If he turned up to a tournament he was probably going to win it. He has incredible talent but he doesn’t have the patience. If you could just parachute him in on Day 3 when it starts to get interesting, he’d still win every tournament. There needs to be quite a few noughts on the prizepool for him to turn up and play his best game.
Was it a big support having the Mob around when you were travelling on the tournament circuit?
RB: It was nice, there was a sense of camaraderie and friendship. We really were a tight little group. You didn’t have endless DVDs or things you could use to study the game like now. We had to sit in a little room in some dodgy Paris hotel and talk about the hands that had been played that evening in the Aviation club. I think it’s brilliant now that players talk endlessly about poker and really challenge each other to learn more about the game.
What is the state of the Mob today?
BB: We are like family but families evolve. Sometimes you see people more than you do at other times and sometimes people come off the road and don’t travel. Right now we are in a phase where Ross and I are playing more. We are the continuity as we have been on a journey together since day one as brothers. But we’re all friends. We will always be The Hendon Mob.
How did your landmark $1m sponsorship deal with Prima Poker come about in 2003?
BB: We were properly under it at the time. Ross and I had just gone over to Paris but couldn’t even scrape up the money to play in the tournament there. We had been running TheHendonMob.com as a carrying call to try and get some sponsorship, but the timing was never right. Then I got a call from this guy at Prima Poker. He said they saw our site, really liked it and they had been told that we were the guys. I met this guy in Paddington station. He had an hour between trains. He offered us $150k to play in a bunch of tournaments – I wanted to bite his hand off – but instead I said, ‘yeah, we could do that, but if you really want to make a big splash and get a lot of press then how about doing the first million dollar deal!’ We shook hands on a million dollar deal just like that.
Ross, do you remember where you were when you heard the news?
RB: At that time I was going into the Vic every afternoon to play in the £5/£10 PLO game. We had seen that poker could be as big as snooker or darts in terms of sponsorship but everybody at the Vic would rib me about the sponsorship we were chasing. ‘Got any deal yet Ross? Got anything sorted out yet?’ So I walked in one afternoon and [regular] Ramin was sat there with his cup of tea, reading The Guardian at the table. He lifted his cup up to his lips and said, ‘any news on this sponsorship deal?’ I told him we’d just signed for a million dollars and he spat his tea all over the table!
Was it as easy as that or did negotiations go on for a long time after the initial meeting?
BB: There were lots of meetings after that. After the final one I came out of there with Joe [Beevers] and he said, ‘are we as big as they think they are?’ I told him we weren’t but that they are going to make us as big as they think we are. I remember standing by the photocopier waiting for the signed deal to come back. When it came through we were dancing around the room! Joe is not exactly known for his rhythm but if anything is going to motivate him to move his feet it’s $1m!
RB: It was the most amazing thing ever. We were instant celebrities when we turned up in Vegas. All these legends we had read about – Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan – all of a sudden they were talking about us.