Tony Bloom is a high stakes poker player and highly successful sports bettor and businessman: “I think a lot of people make the mistake of having a few good weeks and trying to go pro. I think those people tend to go broke fairly quickly”

Tony Bloom started playing fruit machines when he was a kid and as a professional gambler he was so successful the bookies asked him to switch sides

Capitalising on the football boom he launched (and has since sold) the highly successful Premierbet outfit, and he’s no slouch on the poker table, despite playing the game for fun. You’ll find him playing in big tournaments, but he doesn’t play online – ‘I don’t have the time’ – or get involved in cash games.

How long have you been playing poker?

A long time. I’ve always been into gambling and cards. I used to play tournaments when I was at university in the late 80s and the first one I played in I split four ways. I didn’t know what I was doing but I had enough feel for the cards to get myself in the money. We were playing Hold’em back then, way before it took off, and a bit of 7-Card Stud.

What’s your favourite tournament win?

The Aussie Millions in Melbourne two years ago. The tournament’s run very well and the people are great. The VC cup was great for me, too. I felt I played extremely well – I used to work for VC and that made it even sweeter.

What about the future? Are you going to play more poker?

I’ll just carry on playing a few tournaments and hopefully win the odd one here and there. I think people consider me a good player, but being considered one of the greatest ever players is not a primary motivation. It would be nice to win a WSOP bracelet – hopefully it won’t be too long. I’ve accepted that winning the Big One is pretty unlikely, but the more times you play it, the more chance you have. The way I see it, if there are 6,000 players in this year’s WSOP, the best players – the Phil Iveys – might be a legitimate 500/1, quite a few players should be at 5000/1 and the bottom two or three percent could be as big as 20,000/1. It’s a big spread.

So Ivey’s the best player you’ve played against?

He’s just got – maybe similar to Stu Ungar – a sixth sense. He’s hugely aggressive, he knows how to use it and he seems to get away with a lot. He’s got a great temperament at the table and looks on top of his game at all times. That’s when he really wants to play – I’ve seen him at some of the smaller tournaments where he obviously either wants to get a lot of chips or move to the big cash games.

What about the pesky Scandinavians?

The Scandinavians as a group – for whatever reason genetically perhaps, are very good gamblers. The average Scandinavian poker player is w above the average UK or US player. The best players know when to be aggressive, which isn’t something you can write about or do an article on. They know when to tone down and be passive. You can’t be ultra-aggressive the whole time. Unless you’re Phil Ivey…

Who would you most like to play heads-up?

I guess Stu Ungar. Sadly, he died before I ever had the chance to play him. Certainly at his peak, from what I hear, he had an incredible feel for the game and a photogenic memory. I would have been the underdog, but I’ve got my own way of playing heads-up and I’d have learnt from it – it would have been a really great experience.

Can you remember the best hand you ever played?

It was in the VC Cup. I raised with two Jacks – sixhanded. This is fairly early in the semi-final. The Norwegian guy was a bit of an amateur and reraised on the button so I was convinced he was strong. I put him on pocket Queens and I knew if I played aggressively and went all-in without hesitation that he wouldn’t be able to call. He thought about it for a long time and passed – he had Queens!

Would you recommend poker as a career path?

You need the right temperament – you’ve got to be very strong mentally and psychologically. I think a lot of people make the mistake of having a few good weeks and trying to go pro. I think those people tend to go broke fairly quickly. I also think cash games are the only way to make money. I don’t believe many people are pro tournament players – you can be the best player in the world and go a long time without getting a decent finish. Myself, I wouldn’t like to play it for a living. It would take away a lot of the fun I get out of the game.

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