David Williams interview: ‘People don’t want to play with sharks and kids that just stare at them and make them uncomfortable’

Last week we caught up with PokerStars Pro David Williams on his 2013, newly married life and his desire to win a major tournament again in the future. In part two of our exclusive interview he talks about his PokerStars sponsorship, the problems with poker and his controversial views on the young poker pros of today…

PokerPlayer: Being signed with PokerStars must be a huge help to your career, what’s it like to be a Team Pro?

David Williams: The best part about it was it culminated with the WPT Championship. The timing was perfect because as I won that, Bodog and I were finishing our relationship and I won that event on literally the last day of the contract. We had been negotiating with PokerStars and that kind of sealed the deal because it was almost like they were getting a champion served up.

When I got to sign up it was truly the ultimate reward and a dream come true. Not a shot at Bodog but PokerStars is the industry leader. I mean, when you think of online poker that’s who you think of. Bodog treated me great but I felt like I wanted to represent the best because I was one of the best. I felt like it was weird if I thought of myself as one of the best but I was with this sort of ‘second tier’ site. Something didn’t fit, so the fact that I was able to connect with PokerStars was amazing.

It was cool to be part of the family and it’s only over time that I’ve realised how much more it has turned out to be than I ever imagined. The closeness of the pros and the staff, everybody just treats everybody so well. It’s really about more than poker and to be a part of it is a huge blessing. I’m proud to be part of the team and I hope to always be part of it. If they ever get tired of me or I ever get tired of poker and we part ways it’s going to be a sad day for me.

Obviously you’re not really one of the young kids in poker anymore, would you rather be 21 again and starting out?

I definitely think I’m comfortable where I am. Having the knowledge is important, I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger and I wouldn’t want to make those mistakes again. I’ve had some great moments and they’ve helped form who I am today.

If you look at who the most successful tournament players are now then they are not necessarily so young. Daniel Negreanu is almost 40. Phil Hellmuth, over 40. Phil Ivey is 37. I mean, they say it’s a young man’s game but I think too much focus is put on that. The game is evolving and a lot of old school players haven’t evolved and that’s their fault. You have to stay up to date but it’s got nothing to do with age, these guys just happen to be applying the right skill sets that you need right now.

Those skill sets are always changing and evolving but it seems that some ‘old school’ tendencies have become more popular again…

That’s something me, Daniel [Negreanu] and Eric [Lindgren] used to talk about. People don’t know how to play flops. We all excel at post-flop poker and that was a skill you had to have back in the day. Since then players have been going nuts pre-flop, but I had no reason to do that, I wanted to play flops. Now people are learning a lot more to play post-flop poker. I love it when less experienced players min-raise and I’m in the big blind because I’m ready to see a flop. When they raise small and give you a great price they are asking for trouble.

Speaking of trouble, what areas of the modern game would you like to see gone?

My biggest pet peeve is stalling. Not like stalling near the bubble but just people who take a long time. I’m known to act fast and I actually think I was one of the fastest players ever when I finalled the World Series. Now I’ve sort of slowed my game down to a reasonable pace. I’m not slow by any means but I actually take my time and think through my decisions.

There are players that take it too far and you hear cries on twitter sometimes like ‘oh we need a shot clock in poker.’ I don’t know how you could implement it, ideally you’d need every seat to have a little timer and you’d hit a button when you fold and that might change the game. But I wish people just took it upon themselves and there were never these stare tanks that take forever with the mouth open. It’s just like c’mon man act on your hand, let’s just play poker.

Do you think calling the clock should be a more accepted part of poker?

It’s a thin line, it’s hard. I do call the clock if someone is habitual in slowing down play. Every now and again you have to but it’s like, you don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to be the asshole calling the clock all the time on people. It would just be cool if everybody policed themselves. If everybody just took it upon themselves to just not be like that then it would be a better experience.

The other thing I really want to change is to make it more friendly at the table. There’s been plenty of articles on this. I think Neil Channing wrote one recently about how poker is just not fun anymore with the type of players that are around and I’ve noticed it too. I mean, you go to the World Series and everybody has got sunglasses, headphones and a hoodie on. If people are talking it’s only about ranges and equity. I remember back in the day when everyone was laughing, somebody would lose a hand and people would giggle. Players would talk about their jobs and everybody was relaxed and having fun.

How important do you think having fun at the tables is?

Hugely because it brought people into poker. Even though they lost they still loved it, they shook your hand and they walked away with a smile. It used to be like that at the World Series, you’d knock a guy out of a $1,500 event and he’d want a picture with you and he’d walk away smiling. Even though he’d just lost $1,500 he had a good experience, a good time gambling and he talked to people and learned something. Now you knock someone out and they just look miserable. These guys don’t want to come back and play with all these sharks and kids that just stare at them and make them uncomfortable. There’s so much of that in poker right now and it’s sad and I don’t know how we can fix it.

Who do you think is to blame?

I think a lot of younger players are just like that. Not to talk bad about the general ‘serious poker player population’ but a lot of them come from the computer age and a lot of them are quite socially inept. They don’t have those social skills that you develop from an early age to make you comfortable. A lot of them are from that age where they spend a lot of time on the computer and a lot of time at home. So it’s hard to ask somebody to go outside their comfort zone. That’s just how they are and it’s unfortunate but I can’t fault them.

They’re not extroverts and they don’t know how to engage in friendly banter without playing serious poker. You have to find that balance where you can engage and still play sharp. That’s a skill in itself and it’s difficult to master. I’m able to engage and laugh and joke but at the same time inside my head I’m being a shark. I’m paying attention to what everyone is doing and I’m manipulating them in the right way. That’s something that Daniel [Negreanu] is very good at. He can engage with you but he’s still manipulating you and he’s playing poker. He’s fleecing you and taking your chips, but he makes you feel ok about it.

What kind of advice do you have for younger players?

I just feel that if you are that type of person where you’re not very engaging then at least try and be friendly. Don’t talk about poker strategy and make people uncomfortable. Don’t question someone’s decision after a hand. It’s fine to wear headphones, sometimes I wear headphones because I just have a headache or I’m at a table where players aren’t very engaging. It would just be nice if everyone could just be a little more friendly while at the same time looking out for themselves and giving themselves the best chance to win.

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