At this point the art director prompts our three pros to change into a choice of patriotic red, white or blue sportswear for the awaiting photographer. Moorman ponders his options before plumping for red. Grafton, now sans his trademark spectacles, is a natural extrovert who needs no invitation to play up to the camera. McCorkell and Moorman require a gentle prod to match his animated performance, although it doesn’t take them long to start posing for the patient snapper.
A sunny disposition no doubt helps with the peripatetic life of a professional poker player. Airports, hotels, poker rooms, and then more hotels and airports can soon take its toll. Our trio spent almost two months in Vegas, Grafton has just returned from UKIPT Galway, and Moorman is about to jet off for sunny Florida before playing online and chilling in Mexico until ‘about October’. Being six hours behind GMT means Moorman can play online in the afternoons and early evenings rather than living an antisocial existence as a nocturnal grinder in the UK. ‘I can’t handle these late nights anymore,’ he states with a shake of his head.
Heart and soul
Both Moorman and McCorkell caught the poker bug while at university; McCorkell was studying pharmacology while Moorman’s degree was economics. McCorkell held down a Saturday job in Marks & Spencer, although he would often struggle through his shift bleary-eyed after a Friday casino session. ‘I would play the £10 rebuy, then play cash until 4am, go to bed for two hours and then go to work from 8am to 5pm. It was ridiculous because I was making £500 from the cash game and working in M&S for £60, so I gave the job up.’ He’s never looked back. ‘Being able to survive and not having a job from 21 to 27 is testament to the fact that I am able to do this for a living.’
Similarly, Moorman endured a summer job laminating Argos catalogues before duping his parents into believing he had landed a job in Asda. Instead, he was grinding $0.25-$0.50 cash games and watching the Ashes. ‘The only person who knew was my sister and we made a deal where I would buy her a car,’ Moorman laughs. He eventually came clean to his parents who were naturally ‘quite shocked’ at his skulduggery, as well as the fact that his supermarket colleague “Andy” never existed. His dad insisted he pay off his student loans with his poker winnings and gave him six months to prove that he could support himself by playing cards.
‘For that six months I was turning down friends to go out on Friday and Saturday nights because I needed to give it 110%,’ Moorman recalls. ‘If my heart is in something I will give it everything. I didn’t want a 9-5 job. After six months I showed my dad what I had won and he said, “you need to teach me”.’ Moorman did indeed show his dad the poker ropes and even paid his entrance into GUKPT Manchester for his 52nd birthday. Incredibly, Simon Moorman defeated 298 runners to take down the £88k first prize. ‘He didn’t even give me the grand [buy-in] back,’ Moorman Jnr. quips.
It’s good to talk
Part of Moorman’s learning curve included communicating with other online players and absorbing strategy like a sponge, as well as fastidiously making notes on opponents. Nowadays, most of the Brits keep in touch by Skype and critique one another’s online sessions, says McCorkell. ‘If I’m on Skype with Chris Brammer and watching him play then that is helpful to me. Not many people get to hear his hole cards.’ Grafton, who produces coaching videos along with McCorkell at training site RunItOnce.com, serves up an example of poker cooperation: ‘I played Omaha the other day and afterwards I sent LilDave Nicholson some hands and he sent me a full response on what he thought. And that’s reciprocal. If I’ve had a sh♠t session and I’ve bust all my big tournaments I can ring someone up and it boosts my morale.’