Before they were famous....

Before they were famous....

Monday, 2 September 2013

Ivey, Hellmuth, Negreanu, Devilfish, Laak...

Some people are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them and others have to grind their way up from nothing while doing crap jobs to make ends meet. Let’s take a look at how some of our favourite poker players began their careers.

Daniel Negreanu: Subway Sandwich Technician

Daniel Negreanu spent a month sculpting sandwiches in his native Toronto, having returned from Vegas, broke, his dreams of poker superstardom in tatters. Here, amongst the Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melts® and Meatball Marinaras®, he simmered bitterly, and plotted his comeback. One day he would be a champion; one day he would earn millions; one day he would have an incendiary blog in which he would talk endlessly about golf and the world would have to listen, he told himself, as he stuffed another Chicken Temptation® with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and red onion with a dash of honey mustard sauce.

BTWF Negreanu

Phil Hellmuth: Monkey-shit Shoveller

Before he became the poker mega-lord we know and love, Phil Hellmuth was employed by the Primate Center in Madison, Wisconsin, to clean the monkey cages. We didn’t make this up, we promise. “These monkeys would actually throw faeces at each other all night long!” confided Phil, shuddering at the recollection. We know Phil can dodge bullets, but can he dodge airborne faecal matter? Let’s hope so.

BTWF Hellmuth

Phil Laak: Repo Man

In his youth, Phil Laak watched Alex Cox’s eighties cult punk classic Repo Man which led him to believe that repossessing cars on the mean streets of LA would be “the coolest job in the world”. Soon he had fulfilled his dream, although in reality it proved to be “really interesting and really seedy” – until, that is, it became really, really scary. “I remember a couple of weeks in, some guy really didn’t want his car repossessed, and came out brandishing a shotgun as we were trying to drive off,” he told us. “He smashed the window in and started screaming at us. I’ve never been so scared in my life.” Phil eventually realised that professional poker was way more up his street

Bertrand ™ElkY? Grospellier: Computer Games Player Man

We didn’t even know this was a thing. Apparently you can play computer games for a living and become famous in Korea. Before poker, ElkY was one of the top Starcraft players in the world, having placed second in the World Cyber Games in 2001. Starcraft is a military science-fiction real-time strategy video game, in which three species – the Terrans, the Zerg and the Protos – battle for dominance in a distant part of the Milky Way. ElkY proved himself to be the best French military commander since Napoleon, although admittedly Napoleon didn’t have energy fields and warp capabilities at his disposal. Thank God.


Devilfish: Pawn star
While doing time at Her Majesty’s pleasure following a spat in a nightclub, Dave Ulliott met a man named John with whom he conspired to rob a bank on his release. However, on the appointed date, “John” was nabbed by the regional crime squad, and Dave, having just met his wife and realising he’d had a lucky escape, decided to put a life of petty villainy behind him. He bought a little cobbler’s shop which he fitted with alarms and grilles and a couple of safes – the latter a subject on which Dave had become something of an expert – and re-opened it as a pawnbroker’s. As an inveterate gambler, Devilfish had made many trips to pawnbrokers’ shops but now the boot was on the other foot, and it felt good. Thank God he went straight and became one of the world’s most entertaining poker players rather than sticking it out as a jailbird recidivist.

BTWF Devilfish

Ziigmund: Finnish Waterslide Champion
OK, this one is a bit of a cheat because when Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies became a waterslide champion he was already a famous poker player, but we had to mention it because it’s so random and funny. Yes, in 2010 Ziiggy donned his trusty Speedos and, reaching speeds upwards of 50 MPH, careered down a watery chute to glory. “By the way, I have won waterslide competition in Kokkola [city in Finland],” said the Great One on his blog. “Had to mention so no one forget it. It’s good life!” It sure is, champ. It sure is…

BTWF Ziigmund

Phil Ivey: Telesales person

This one stuns us with its sheer mundanity. The idea of the world’s greatest poker player doing telesales is up there with Madonna working at Dunkin’ Donuts or Johnny Depp selling ballpoint pens over the phone, both also true. Phil was cold-calling direct from the boiler room, raising money for a police trade union, apparently, and we can only assume that this particular trade union experienced a massive financial upswing in the late nineties. While he was there he was involved in a poker game with colleagues. Say goodbye to your commission, guys.

BTWF Ivey 1

Tags: Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Bertrand Grospellier, ElkY, Dave Ulliott, Devilfish, Phil Laak, Ziigmund, Ilari Sahamies