Karl Mahrenholz: My prime candidates for a UK poker ambassador

PokerEncore.com’s Karl Mahrenholz takes issue with Joe Hachem and nominates some home-grown poker ambassadors

The poker world has been in a frenzy recently after a certain Joe Hachem interview. The Aussie said he felt recent winners of the WSOP Main Event had effectively let down the poker world by not acting in the ambassadorial way that people like he, Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer had done before them. You could certainly debate which champ has been best for poker and if in fact the ‘world champ’ has any responsibility to the poker world at all until you’re blue in the face – and many have. 

The debate has centred on the ‘new school versus the old school’ when it comes to how players conduct themselves at the table. The new breed of hooded youngster; headphones in, acting slow, and only interrupting their blank gaze to discuss strategy with online friends across the table doesn’t sit too well with the older players. Whereas younger players seem to take issue with the fact the older generation view themselves as the true stars of the game when most online regulars are probably technically superior players and more worthy of the limelight.

Whatever your take on the debate, I don’t think you can categorise everyone into ‘new school’ and ‘old school’. Some people just seem to get it. These are the guys who everyone enjoys spending time with at the table, who always conduct themselves in the right way and who inadvertently do a lot for the image of poker. In the wake of such intense debate I thought it’d be fun to look at the prime candidates for a UK poker ambassador – humbly excluding myself of course… 

Simon Deadman

Not satisfied with being one of the best players in any field, Simon is always one of the friendliest faces you will find on your table. Maybe it helps him quietly hoover up the chips but Simon seems at ease at any live setting and definitely has all the skills needed of a top quality live player. He’s been on a tear at the start of 2014 and you won’t find anyone who begrudges him his success. I think that speaks volumes.

James Akenhead

This may be a curveball pick seeing as James has all but retired from the game after setting up his own London bar/restaurant, but something tells me James will be back at the tables soon enough. James has reached the heights that all of us aspire to in the poker world. WSOP Main Event final tables in Vegas and in Europe, heads-up for a bracelet, winning the Poker Million – he’s done it all. 

So why is it admiration and aspiration that come to mind when young players think of James, rather than jealousy? James has that ‘one of us’ mentality. He grew up in the cardrooms and spielers of London. James is extremely personable and has time to talk to anyone and everyone whether it be to ask his advice or just to see what he’s been up to. A top guy whose absence on the UK scene at the moment is felt – no wonder he’s ended up a landlord!

Julian Thew

There’s a new documentary online charting Julian’s poker career – watch it now at www.tinyurl.com/thewdoc – and then come back to read the rest of my column. You’re back? Good. You don’t get the title of ‘nicest guy in poker’ without being, well, nice and in poker. Julian has carried this title for as long as I’ve known him and you won’t find a single person who doesn’t wholeheartedly agree. He’s the perfect mix of old school and new school.

Julian’s been playing the circuit for a long time now but has always kept his game bang up to date and never stops reading and trying to learn. He really is a role model for all young pros. He’s had massive scores, used the money wisely and for someone with so much success has never once shown an ounce of ego on or off the table. He is never too ‘big’ to play his local tournament and wins and loses with more grace than is humanly possible. One of the few people you would always root for and who would no doubt root for you. You could almost feel bad for knocking him out of a tournament but then perhaps that’s just part of his evil master plan for conquering the world?

Neil Channing

Neil has probably done more for UK poker than most of the rest of us put together. He, like Julian, has mastered the art of merging the old school with the new. He manages to be down with the kids while never losing any of the old school sharpness that has served him so well over the years. You only have to have attended any of the live events Neil has put on in recent years to see how much recreational players both look up to him and enjoy playing with him. His endearing personality lends itself perfectly to poker. You might struggle to get a word in edgeways but you’ll be thoroughly entertained even in failure. 

This debate is likely to rumble on for some time so I’d love to hear your views – tweet us @PokerPlayerUK and let us know your picks!

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