Cricket legend and poker fan Shane Warne talks to us about his poker education and why he plays poker

Steve Hill spins a few questions at Australian cricket legend Shane Warne

How long have you been playing poker, Shane?

I’ve played my whole life. I probably started as a 12 or 13-year-old with matchsticks. But I’ve only really been playing tournaments in the last three years, and I’ve been trying to understand them and move my game to the next level. I’ve been pretty happy with some of my results so far. I just missed the money in the World Series this year. I was 702nd I think, nine hours into Day 3, which I was quite happy with. I’ve played the last three years in the Aussie Millions and I’ve really developed a passion for it. I’ve got a very good teacher in Joe Hachem who’s mentoring me about tournament play – what to look for and strategies and stuff.

Is it hard going from a sport where you’re at the top of your game, to poker where you’re considered an underdog?

I suppose I’m an unknown quantity for people. They think I’m just a sportsman who’s got no idea, so that can work to my advantage. For me, the way I think and my confidence going into these tournaments, it’s like when you start your test career. You make your debut, you know the game of cricket and you’ve done some yards, but you’ve got to realise there’s a lot more to learn about yourself and about the game. So the more you play, obviously the better you get, if you learn and you listen and you watch. I’m a pretty good listener and I learn quickly. I definitely came back from the World Series a better player. I think it was 37 hours of play, so it really tested my concentration.

Did a lot of people know who you were out there?

No, but every now and then there’d be an Australian, South African or Englishman on the table, and they’d go ‘Jeez, what are you doing here?’ And then the rest of the table would all go, ‘Who’s this guy?’ It was quite good actually to have a bit of anonymity and just play.

Did you feel out of your depth in the World Series or did you take it in your stride?

Obviously you feel a little bit anxious and a bit nervous, the first pot you bluff, the first hand you win. Once you sort of settle into it you’re okay – it’s just that initial first 15 or 20 minutes.

Do you have the same passion for poker as you did for cricket, or is this just a way to keep yourself in the spotlight?

It’s not about the spotlight for me, it’s about just playing and trying to become the best player I possibly can. I suppose I’m a bit of a ‘work in progress’ and is supporting me in that by sponsoring me in tournaments. My goal is to try and make one final table if I can. It’s a tough goal.

How do the pro players react to you? Is there any animosity because you get a lot of attention?

They’ve been very helpful. Tony G’s been fantastic – he’s helped me hugely. A lot of the Australian players who’ve been around for a while, or the English players and South African players, will say, ‘You played that hand really well,’ and ask what my thought processes were. They’ve just been fantastic.

In general how would you describe your game? Are you fairly tight or do you mix it up a bit?

Obviously you have to mix your play up a fair bit. I play position mainly. I generally raise every time on the button, unless I’ve got absolute shit. I’m pretty aggressive if I feel comfortable at the table and I get a few chips. If I feel a bit out of my depth then I’ll play super-tight.

In cricket, the Aussies are renowned for their sledging. Have you ever tried dropping a few choice insults at the table?

Well, a few of the Yanks [in the WSOP] all thought they were ‘Eddie the Expert’ – they thought they knew exactly everything about every hand. There were too many post-mortems for my liking, so occasionally there was a bit of sledging going on, but most of the time it was all pretty relaxed and I’d just go about my business and keep my mouth shut. I don’t really say much. Give me another year or so…

In longer tournaments like the World Series do you get bored? Does it compare to standing in a cricket field for hours on end?

I watch every hand and when I’m not in a hand I watch all the players – how they pick up their chips, how they play, how they bet, what they’ve got. In cricket one of my strengths was summing up players really quickly. That’s how I’m renowned in cricket circles – how quickly I could work a player out, his grip, the way he went forward or back, things that I could talk to the other bowlers about. So I think that holds me in good stead for poker.

What would you rather win, the Ashes or the World Series of Poker Main Event?

Well, I’m not involved in the Ashes anymore so I’ll take the World Series.

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