Paul Newey Interview

Paul Newey Interview

Monday, 8 December 2014

Macau, One Drop & that PCA hand.

Is poker something you have always been into?

Not really. I was more of a casino player to begin with. I played a few tiny games in Vegas to begin with, just to understand the game a little bit, and it really just clicked. Then when I sold the business [Newey founded debt consolidation firm Ocean Finance, selling the business in 2006 and standing down as CEO three years later] and had a lot more free time on my hands I'd decided it was a new hobby that I wanted to take up.
I probably started playing seriously around 2009 or 2010, but that was more cash games than tournaments - I didn't get into tournaments until the first [Big One For] One Drop started.

So when you started to properly get into poker were you playing for relatively high stakes?

Actually the first serious games were in Ivey's Room over at the Aria. I remember there being a great big train of people outside wanting to play me because obviously I played differently to how I do nowadays. I guess it's a quicker way to learn, playing at high stakes, so I was playing relatively high back then. In those days it was something like $100/$200 with a $400 straddle - that type of game.

When you started playing super high rollers did you feel you had a bit of an edge in the sense that you knew other players' games better than they knew yours, to a degree?

I didn't know anybody's game to start with, and I think that was one of the problems! I was running quite deep in my first year but without any significant cashes, and I think that first 12 months really was a learning curve. I've played with most of the players on the circuit by now but I had to start from scratch. I suppose they also had to start from scratch with me too, but I've got a lot more knowledge about the players now and that helps.

When you have one tournament that's so much bigger, like the Big One for One Drop, are your preparations different to something like the EPT in Monaco? Are you more nervous, or do you feel like you have more of an edge because other people are nervous?

My preparations are about the same really, but when I'm sitting down and playing it does seem more special. I don't feel overly nervous, though perhaps I did when I made the final table this year as I hadn't expected to get there. Until that point I just took it hand by hand as always and just played the game. I think it plays pretty similar to any other tournament. My gut feeling is that people might not try to make as many moves without a made hand as perhaps they would in a tournament with a lower buy-in, as if they're being staked they don't want to crash out after being caught making a move.

If you went down to something like $10/$20, do you feel like maybe there wouldn't be enough money for you to get excited about?

Not at all. I still play now when I'm back in the Midlands, and the biggest game they usually have in Birmingham is £1/£2! I split my time now between the UK and Jersey in the Channel Islands, and there's a Jersey Poker Club here too. I normally head down about once a week and the biggest game they have is usually £2/£4, so I'll just play whatever's going. If I've got a choice I will often play the bigger game, but I'm just as happy to socialise and have a laugh with the boys and play whatever game's available.

Do you play online at all, or just live?

I do play online, but it's more the turbo and hyper turbo Sit'n'Gos than the cash games. I don't play that much online - it's just when I've got some free time. I don't make a habit of it. I do prefer the live game by far, mostly just for the dynamics of the game. You know who you're playing against and you can see the whites of people's eyes.

You can probably deal with the hits a bit more than the 20-year-old kid who's sold pieces of his action - do you feel you can offset any skill disadvantage by the fact that you're cooler and calmer about the situation?

I guess so. I don't play big cash games that often any more, purely because they're getting harder to find. With the tournaments I don't notice that too much, with the exception of the One Drop. I think with that being such a big tournament at least 10 times bigger than any other tournament that's normally played - I do think some of the seasoned pros do feel the pressure a little bit more. Especially if they've got any explaining to do to backers, et cetera. They might be a bit more reluctant to make some of the moves that somebody with 100% of themselves can do, when you've only got to explain to yourself at the end of the day.

Now you're starting to get a name for yourself within poker, have you seen a notable change in the way people play against you? Are you getting a lot more credit from your opponents?

I still think I've got an image as a pretty tight player, and that's something I think has come out over the last 12 months or so. It's difficult to say whether people are playing differently.

In terms of learning the game, are you at a comfortable level now where you're enjoying it and want to keep doing what you do? You come from a successful background, so do you want to apply the same rigorous attitude to poker to become the best player you can?

I'm certainly applying a rigorous attitude. I think in cash games I'm very comfortable now and pretty good at holding my own in pretty much any game I sit down in. it's a bit different in tournaments - I think I've made some improvements but can still make more. 2012 was my first real year of playing tournaments, albeit just the One Drop and Cannes [for the WSOPE]. Then last year I only had the one cash, but this year I've had about 7 or 8 already. I think that shows I have made a vast improvement in my tournament game, but I do accept that there are still some things I need to learn and quite a few players who still have an edge on me. But that takes time - you can't learn all the players and learn all the moves in two years of playing tournament poker. I want to improve my tournament game, and I want to get to as many EPTs and other tournaments as possible in order to do that. I know a lot of these guys do travel the circuit, but I do have other commitments so physically can't play as many tournaments as a lot of the others.

With that in mind, are there any 'must-play' tournaments for you (aside from the One Drop, obviously)?

The ones we'd never really miss would be the PCA in January. We've also booked in Australia for February next year, and then we also like to do Monaco in April. Vegas, obviously, Barcelona and I'm actually going to take in Prague this year as well - I've never been before. I probably always want to be at Monaco, Vegas, Barcelona and the PCA, and I'll fit in whatever else I can. We usually head out to Macau too, and Senh [Ung] - one of my travel companions - actually won the high roller out there last year, which was nice.

Paul Newey

We spoke to Mike McDonald about the PCA High Roller bubble [Newey and McDonald were both eliminated on the same hand, with Newey bubbling], and he said he's never seen someone enjoy poker as much as you on that bubble - is that fair?

Oh, it was definitely exciting. The story was, just as we were about to go onto the final table I picked up pocket kings and Mike spiked an ace to double up - if I'd won that hand then I would have been second in chips behind Vanessa [Selbst] going into the final table. As it happened, that hand crippled me and I went to the final table with a very short stack. Because there were so many short stacks, and I've had very little by way of prize money, I was trying to get to a first mincash in a super high roller, which would have massively inflated my existing figures. From my point of view a lot of players were short, and I actually remember getting pocket eights early on at the final table and folding them. There were actually something like seven all-ins with me just sitting there, and I think five times the all-in player was behind. When that kept happening it felt like I was destined to be the bubble boy, and of course I was in the end.

I think you being in such good spirits at that final table really endeared you to people - I imagine most people would have been in knots in that kind of situation.

You've got to remember that this was my first final table, and all the other players had been to quite a few before then. I suppose, even though I did bubble, it was a new experience for me and that might be why I enjoyed it so much.

Having played a lot more now with the super high roller regulars, what is your relationship with these pros - does it worry you as an outsider that some of them seem to be in their own little cliques?

It doesn't bother me at all. As a whole, everyone seems to be very friendly and I get on well with the Germans - the likes of Phil Gruissem and Max Altergott. In fact in Vegas we played a lot of cash games between ourselves when there wasn't that much else going on. It's a good crowd and pretty much everybody seems very honourable to me.

Who have you learned from the most and who do you respect the most?

We're talking about fine margins with a lot of these players, but I think Vanessa Selbst and Scott Seiver are two who are up there amongst the best from what I've seen so far.

Have you played high stakes with many British players?

Not really. I do meet up with Sam Trickett now and again in Nottingham in Trickett's Room [the high roller room at Dusk Till Dawn] - we normally play £5/£10 with a £20 and £40 straddle which for the midlands is a big game. Other than that the games in London have really dried up, so the times I play the biggest cash games are when I'm in Macau or on the EPT stops. But even then you'll have a €50/€100 game at the biggest.

Away from poker, your Twitter followers all enjoy you recapping them on your slots activities, but we were wondering what kind of volume and stakes you put in?

It all depends on the situation - in England the maximum bet on slots in a casino is very low and you're not going to make millions playing them. I find that online, as long as you're using a reputable casino, because they have such low overheads the payout percentages are much higher. I used to go to Vegas five or six times a year but now, because of the proliferation of casinos all across America, Vegas isn't quite the same. The machines don't get anywhere the turnover they used to as people can play locally. Macau's got some decent machines but we only go there once a year for the APPT, so a lot of the action now for me is online.

What is it that excites you about slots?

It's obviously beating the casino or the individual machine. I've actually been playing machines since I was a teenager so I've got about 40 years experience of slots and a lot of knowledge. I've also got a few other things up my sleeve that I'd rather not go into - a bit like tells in poker, I suppose.

So you think you have an edge?

Definitely, yes. A lot of people don't understand how slots actually work. It's not like playing roulette where it's pure luck - slot machines aren't randomised, they're computerised and fiddled so at some point they will be paying more than 100% so you have to catch them at the right time.

You've still got your commercial life going on and are the face of your company, but if I was to Google you I'd find poker front and centre. Have you found any negative aspects from having a high-profile gambling side to yourself?

Not at all - we operate as a venture capital business anyway so people are approaching us looking for funding. If people are looking for funding and you're prepared to give it to them, then I don't think they're overly concerned about what one's hobbies might be. I'm more of an investor within the business anyway - my partner [Tim Bullock] runs the business and I just keep an eye on things from time to time.

Would your colleagues in the venture capital world see you as a good investment if you tried to sell them action for super high rollers?

I don't think I'm a good investment yet because I'm not making money from tournaments yet. Until that point no.

Have you invested in any other players?

I have done in the past but it's something I've been looking to move away from. I don't really understand all these mark-ups as especially in high roller fields the margins are so tight that when people are looking for a mark-up of 1.1 or 1.15 I don’t really see how that financially makes sense. Unless you've got a significant edge on the field the mark-up isn't worth its while, and from what I've seen from playing these super high rollers we're talking about pretty tight margins between most of the players. Typically you'll get about 50 players in a super high roller and how many weak spots will there be there? Probably none.

If one of our readers was to have a huge windfall and end up with a £2m bankroll, where would be the best place for them to cut their teeth playing live poker?

The best place is probably Macau, I would suggest. I've always fared well over there - I'm not saying it's easy but the games are of a decent size and if one was to choose where to play I'd probably choose Macau.

Last time I went I couldn't get into the big game, even though I have played several times before. I was told they have a rule - one white boy only - so they wouldn't let me in.

What are the highest games you hear of in the Big Game at Star World (in Macau)?

I'm not sure what's going on out there at the moment, but often I hear of HKD10,000/20,000 or even HKD20,000/40,000 (about £1,600/£3,200). They usually like to straddle too, so you'll need to buy in for about half a million at least to sit in that game.

What's the environment like in these big games, where most of the players are Asian and you might be the only European at the table?

It's not intimidating at all, in fact it's quite exciting. You'll sometimes get into a hand with one of these guys and they'll be standing on a chair, talking in a language you don't understand and you'll have no idea whether they're going to call or fold, and it's a quarter of a million pound pot! It's exciting but it's not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination - these guys are capable of making a lot of moves, and that's what makes the game exciting.

Tags: Paul Newey, Macau, Big One for One Drop, Super High Roller