Stephen Hendry is the greatest snooker player of all time but he also loves poker: “Instead of practise snooker tables we have poker tables. Steve Davis was the first to start”

Pocket aces suck. Just ask Stephen Hendry. We did…

It’s your first WSOP. You’re playing tight because you want to see out the first day. Then you get pocket Aces and 30 seconds later it’s all over. Shee-it. You’re probably not going to be in the best of moods but then you’re not Crucible legend and seven-time snooker champ Stephen Hendry.

The Scottish legend might look dour with a cue stuck in his hand but despite taking a bad beat in the biggest tournament of his life he took some time out to talk to us. Charming isn’t a big enough word…

What happened?

I was playing okay, I lasted about three hours, folding my low Aces, not getting carried away with small pairs – all the things you do when the blinds are low. I was prepared to lay down pretty much any hand but then the Aces came… They’re just so hard to throw away. Especially when the flop came a rainbow Q-3-2, which looked perfect. One guy bet $400, I raised him $1000 and he came back over the top for $2000 at which point the alarm bells should have gone off. They didn’t. I pushed him all-in and he hit a set on the flop. To make matters worse he hit his fourth Two on the turn. I was gutted but you learn from your mistakes.

And you were bricking it, right?

No. People kept telling me I was going to be shitting myself at the WSOP with 2000 players and I was like ‘not at all’. I’ve always played best in the big occasions and this was a massive buzz. I was out of my depth and I always knew I’d need the cards. Obviously I was gutted to go out but think about the guy who goes out on the bubble – to play for a week and then go. Better to fall early I reckon.

You’ve got to be pretty tough to stay the course…

Absolutely. It’s like the snooker World Championship, where you’re playing a 35-frame match. That’s where it’s easier for someone like me – you need the same temperament for both sports. I don’t find it a problem to keep my emotions intact, so it’s an easy transition to the poker table.

So you don’t think you’ve got any tells?

I’m sure I have. Early in the day the flop came up 7-5-2 and I had Q-Q. I checked, he bet $500, I flat-called; next round went check-check, he checked again on the river, I bet $500 and he folded 10-10. It still amazes me how they can read you on big hands.

It’s all about experience…

Absolutely. And next time I have pocket Aces and someone comes over the top post-flop I’m laying them down.

Good man. Do you have any other gambling vices?

No, just poker. And I don’t play cash games, only tournaments. I’m not a gambling person.

We’ve heard it’s big on the snooker circuit?

Massive. Instead of practise snooker tables we have poker tables. Steve Davis was the first to start. Mark Williams and I started watching him and got into it as well, started playing on the Internet first and then some tournaments with the other players and it took off from there. It’s a great way to spend time between matches.

What are your favourite hands?

Well certainly not Aces anymore. I like playing the connectors, 9-10, 10-J, if you can get in cheap and see a flop.

And your favourite player?

I admire them all – they’re all stars in my eyes. I love watching Hellmuth though. He’s a fantastic player but it’s the way he goes on, he gets everyone else at it.

What’s been your favourite poker moment?

Just being there at the WSOP, hearing ‘Shuffle up and deal’. It’s a dream come true. I’ll definitely be back next year and I want to get here earlier and get involvedin a few games leading up to it.

We think we know what’s coming, but play along… What’s your worst?

Yep… Going out today. I got the best and worst all in one hit.

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