Headhunter turned card shark Nick Slade speaks exclusively to PokerPlayer: “I don’t think any poker player has got that healthy a respect”

Nick Slade, the former headhunter from Preston has the potential to go very far in 2007

There was no one more deserving of pickking up the UK Newcomer of the Year award in 2006 after racking up six final table appearances in major events. In his first year as a professional, 34-year old Nick Slade also registered solid back-to-back EPM and EPT performances.

Congratulations on winning the Newcomer of the Year. Unfortunately you can’t win again – so who’s your tip for 2007?

One person to watch next year will be Zahir ‘Zippy’ Aslam. He’s done very well on the local circuit. He won the Grosvenor Grand Prix in Walsall, but needs to get into some of the major events. I’m sure he’ll win some of them because he’s such a quality player.

What are your own plans for the upcoming year?

I want to improve on 2006. I don’t want to be seen as having a freak first year in poker. I want to utilise what experience I’ve gained and increase my small reputation. There are a lot of weak areas in my game and I do make some very naïve moves. But if I can actually temper that, then my aim is to be European No.1 next year. I’ll certainly be looking to take down an EPT and WPT event in 2007.

When exactly did you take up poker seriously?

November 2005. A friend of mine said he was going to Blackpool to play poker. I went up not knowing what the hell it was. It was a £150 rebuy and the guy next to me had 14 rebuys in the first hour. I lasted about four hours. Then I went down to Luton and made a final table three weeks later.

So you found you had a knack for it pretty quickly

I just found reading people pretty natural. That’s what I’ve done all my life: negotiating deals, buying and selling companies for people. I found the psychology of it was exactly the same. Understanding when people were weak and when they were strong.

From the pros, who does live up to their reputation?

Ram Vaswani. You only have to walk past his table to feel the tension. He’s got excellent table presence. Marc Goodwin as well. We get on well and always play the game hard.

Both you and Marc are renowned for being a pair of sharks on the golf course. Who have you hustled recently?

I’m actually waiting for an invitation off Mr Goodwin. I was promised we would be taking on Phil Ivey and Barry Greenstein, but it never materialised. Somebody recently challenged me to £500 a hole at the Belfry. He didn’t turn up. I probably wouldn’t want to get too involved at this stage – it’s dangerous ground. It’s okay if you’ve got deep enough pockets to lose £50,000 on a golf course. I think I would get divorced if I lost that much!

You still have a healthy respect for money, then?

I don’t think any poker player has got that healthy a respect. It’s no coincidence that the people who have the major success are the ones who are the major gamblers. Look at Roland [de Wolfe]. He will aggressively gamble in a lot of circumstances, but he tempers it with a fine game. It’s about having the balls to take a punt at the right time.

Did you wish you’d discovered poker earlier?

Not really, no. I think there are very few people around the age of 18 who are making a living from poker. A lot of people are fooling themselves. You hear all sorts about everyone making money online. That’s rubbish! You can’t make money at the game unless you either have consistent final tables or have that one big win, which allows you the comfort to play in bigger tournaments. There are not many people in Europe who have had the kind of success that Roland [de Wolfe] has had. Yet, he’s probably likely to spend over $250,000 in buy-ins over the next ten months.

Are you confident when playing against the famous pros?

I think the ‘famous pros’ could be seen as weaker players on the tournament circuit now. In the last 18 months, the tournament circuit has changed massively. They may be famous for a few appearances on Late Night Poker, but they’re some of the worst players I’ve played against. They’re just people who could afford the buy-ins.

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