Upon meeting Henry at the Cash Game Festival in Bulgaria for the first time, we knew that he was the special one. Special in a good way. There was something about his attitude and posture that surely made him stand out among other young poker players. And there’s a good reason for it. For about one and a half years, he has traveled thousands of miles on his exciting poker travel. But not only that. His inner journey towards improving his game and “living the dream” is even more impressive. By his early twenties, his life choices have matured him into a young man who knows what he wants from life.
We know that at least for the past year and a half, you have been traveling around the world with poker. Where are you now and how you are getting ready for Christmas? Any special traditions?
I’m currently based in Reading completing a bankroll challenge I set myself at the beginning of December. I decided to come back to the UK to spend some time with my family for a few months, because my mother was always complaining that she never gets to see me hahaha. No special traditions, just the standard Christmas dinner and opening presents with the family, then on the 27th I’m flying to Rotterdam in Holland to spend a week there (no poker whatsoever).
Which countries have you visited on your poker journey? Which has been the most exciting destination so far and why?
I’ve visited a lot of countries over the last 2 years, not always with the intention of playing poker, but I usually end up finding a game too good to not sit down and play.
Scotland, Wales, Holland, France, Sweden, Spain, Bulgaria, Italy, United States, India just to name a few. It’s pretty difficult to choose one destination but if I had to choose it would be New York, just the whole atmosphere in the illegal poker rooms, the security guards etc. really reminded me of the movie “Rounders”. It’s one of my favorite movies and one of the main reasons I started playing poker in the first place.
What are the most pleasant and most difficult aspects in your poker travel?
The most pleasant aspect of traveling and playing is always the destination. I love exploring new places and meeting new people, experiencing their culture, way of life etc. is just eye opening, broadens the mind. I’m always the first person my friends come to in regards of visiting a new place because I’m seen as a “veteran traveler” among my friends. So, poker gives me that opportunity and I’m really fortunate to be able to do so.
The most difficult aspect is carrying money. I always try to be as safe as possible when carrying large amounts of money and so far, I’ve been fortunate but I have heard some horrible stories from some of my poker buddies in some of the top poker hot-spots in Europe. If my hotel or Airbnb is far away, I’ll always book an Uber, or I’ll stay in the casino until it’s light outside and there are plenty of people. You can never be too safe in my opinion. Poker players are easy targets in foreign cities for theft.
Any super exciting travel stories? Please share.
Jumping from 15,000 ft over Lake Michigan in the United States! Definitely one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced whilst traveling. A friend of mine suggested it and next thing I knew I was in the air looking down and hearing a 3,2,1 countdown hahaha. I also went on a road trip which covered over 3000 miles of the East Coast of America and then once I returned to Europe I had a mini road trip around Bulgaria with a few buddies of mine. It really was a summer to remember.
Are you planning for some more adventures?
The plans for 2018 are really up there in terms of pushing myself. Once I get the bankroll challenge out of the way with (hopefully end of January), I’m going to be choosing a place to live permanently for 6-12 months. So far, I’ve shortlisted a few places (Sofia, Malta, London, Rotterdam) so that I can focus solely on poker. The problem with traveling whilst playing is that it interferes with productivity such as studying and working on your games. So, now that I’ve got the traveling over with, I want a year of studying game theory and becoming a better all-round player. Just being as optimal as possible in what I do at the table and away from the table. I really want to divulge into the tournament aspects of poker and that is something I’ll be working on in 2018 for sure.
We understand that you are traveling playing cash games? Any tournaments on the side?
Just cash, I don’t play tournaments, but like I previously mentioned, it is something I will be exploring next year. I have a few friends who crush live and online tournaments, who are more than willing to help me with coaching, so I’ve got the study side of it covered. It’s just finding the right balance and time to work on both cash and tournaments. I think I’ve played like 7-8 tournaments this year and won 3 so I must be doing something right hahaha.
What made you “quit” your normal life and go on a poker journey? Would you recommend other young players do the same and why?
I don’t think I ever had a normal life to begin with; it was always going to be something like this. I left school when I was 15 and had been moving homes from a young age. I was constantly looking for ways to avoid the “norm”. I was running an illegal casino in my apartment in Bulgaria at the age of 16, buying and selling things to make money. So, I’ve always had that entrepreneurship characteristic about me.
It also gives me the freedom to travel and I think, because of my background in moving homes so many times from a young age, that lifestyle really suits me because I’m an unsettled person in general. I would definitely recommend it to everyone but only if you’re willing to put in the hours away from the table such as studying. I love coaching and I’m always willing to help young players out if they’re willing to study and put the hard work in. The piece of advice I would give is to treat it like you would treat any profession, don’t do it half halfheartedly. If you put the time and effort in, the results will follow.
Does your family support your decisions or have you been confronted because of your decisions?
Hahaha! That’s a really good question. My family was against me playing for a long long time. I had to hide poker from them for a few years, make up fake jobs etc. It’s only been the last 2-3 months that they’ve really started supporting it and since they’ve supported it, my game has improved 10x. I think the reason their minds have changed is not necessarily because of the results I’ve been having but because they can see how passionate about it I am. They know nothing’s going to get in my way. They see what I do away from the poker table, how productive I am, how I work out, how focused I am. They see that everything I do is to better myself as a poker player.
One of my very close friends who you’ll get to meet at the CGF in London, said to me “either support the dream or GTFO” and I think my family realizes that now. I have no time for negativity in poker or away from poker and they’re finally on board with that philosophy.
How did you first get into the game?
I first got into the game on Facebook. I found an app called Zynga poker and then a few friends from school got into it too. Eventually, we started getting together at a friend’s house almost every night playing for like $2 each and the rest is history.
My favorite poker variant has to be Heads Up No Limit Hold’em. It’s just the purest game out there in my opinion. You’re basically sitting down at a table vs one other opponent and saying “I’m better than you”. It’s so much more dynamic, you have to know a lot about ranges, balancing your ranges, body language, betting tendencies, speech play. Literally everything. You can’t be good at only one aspect of poker to succeed in Heads Up play. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no specialist but I love the idea of Heads Up play as a whole. I’m open to any form of poker in general.
We know that the poker scene has become more health and fitness conscious over the years. Your Instagram posts have mentioned meditation. Any other health routines that you follow to improve your game?
I love how the poker community has become more health and fitness conscious. It was a massive game changer for me. I discovered an app called Primed Mind which was created by a hypnotherapist Elliot Roe and one of the best players in the world, Fedor Holz. After discovering the app, my game changed dramatically. I was always mentally prepared, I handled the variance better. I recovered better. My sleeping regime improved. Overall, I felt a lot healthier at the table and I started making a conscious effort away from the table to be healthier too. I’m not a fan of going to the gym, it’s just not my style. But I do a little home workout routine and I’ve started yoga too. As you guys know, poker can be really stressful sometimes and yoga and meditation really helps to take all that away so you can be focused, composed and relaxed and really give yourself an edge at the table. Always looking for that EDGE!
Do you have any “non-poker” friends left? 😉 If yes, what is their view on your life-style?
Hahaha, I do have a few extremely close non-poker friends; they’ve been there since day one. I think if I’m completely honest, they’re one of the main reasons I’m trying to achieve what I’m trying to achieve. They’re all really supportive and interested in what I do. They’re always there to listen to my stories and they’re the first people to congratulate me on any milestone I hit. I’ve done really well in terms of surrounding myself with influential people outside of poker and we’re always trying to help each other in bettering ourselves and what we do. As you can imagine, that helps my game a lot when I’ve got the support of some great people. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. They do question my life-style choices sometimes, hahaha. I get the odd message of “What country are you in now you lucky f****r?” but a good 95% of the time they support me regardless and give me advice when it’s needed.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Oh wow… I haven’t really planned that far ahead. I used to plan far ahead and it didn’t work out, so I’ve stopped doing that now haha. Dream scenario would be retired or playing poker part-time whilst traveling the world with someone. I’ve always said I don’t think of pursuing poker as a life-long career. I have a very business-oriented mind-set and would ideally like to start my own company someday. Still involved in the poker industry but just not relying on poker as my only income source.
Let’s talk about the Cash Game Festival a little. We know that you found the festival via a Facebook poker group and then you happened to be in Bulgaria while the festival was there in August. What is the exact story of your journey to the Cash Game Festival?
Yeah, so basically the summer in Bulgaria had been planned way in advance, before I even knew the festival would be there. Me and a buddy of mine decided to grind the summer there and then I found out about the CGF. Once I found out, I wanted to be a part of it straight away because I already knew of a few people involved with the CGF through this Facebook page. I guess I wanted to meet the faces behind the profile pictures ?
What was your first impression of the whole live event in Bulgaria? Did it meet your expectations?
You know, one of my favorite things about poker is meeting new people. So, my impression was that of the organizers and everyone involved in the making of the CGF. I met some really great people who, I think, I will be in touch with for a long time during my career. It’s a festival I want to see succeed because the people behind it are passionate about what they do. It’s grown from a small local festival to a European-scaled one and, one day, I hope to see it go global. It definitely exceeded my expectations, especially when I got to see what you guys get up to behind the scenes (you guys are crazy sometimes 😀 ) There’s a lot of hard working individuals involved and it’s only going to get better.
You were being interviewed by us in Bulgaria. Was it your first poker interview in front of the cameras and how did you like the end result?
Yes, it was hahaha. I guess you could tell right. It was really spontaneous; Inga basically asked me if I wanted to do one and 10 minutes later I was in front of a camera. I’m used to having questions thrown at me about poker from friends that don’t understand the game but in front of a camera it’s different. Now it’s different, the last 3-4 months, I’ve been trying to vlog more on my Instagram, so I’m kind of used to it. I really enjoyed the end result (credit to the editor for making it look good).
Also, how did you enjoy playing poker in front of the live cameras at our feature table?
I really enjoyed playing in front of the live cameras. I had my team watching the stream and reporting back to me about how hands were played out which was really interesting because it’s something you don’t usually have as a cash game player; you’re always relying on your own reads. Also knowing that everyone else had the same information available made the leveling aspect of poker different to what it would usually be.
Do players behave differently in front of the cameras? Did you?
It adds a really interesting dynamic to the game, especially when you play for living. I think recreational players who only treat poker as a hobby find it a lot easier. My reason being it’s just another game to them, right? Whereas for me it was like “s**t, I don’t want to get bluffed on TV” or “I don’t want to make a mistake on TV”. It was my worst session for the entire year but I only have myself to blame for that because I let my ego block my vision. That’s another thing I’ve been working on with hypnotherapy – leaving my ego at the door when I enter a poker room. Now I’m just focused on my game, regardless of the surroundings or the players at the table. If you get bluffed on TV you get bluffed on TV, it’s not like you’re the first person it’s happened to and you won’t be the last. You can have that piece of advice for free hahaha.
It is about time to stop bombarding you with questions. Still, some lighter topics left. Imagine being a dad one day. Kids and poker – at what age would you teach them to play?
Hahahaha! I’ve always joked with my friends that I’ll have my kids with me at the table when they’re 2-3 years old and that they’ll be better players than me by the time they’re 10 but that’s all it is, a joke. I don’t think it’s something I would want for my kids, especially when it’s not something I wanted for myself. I just didn’t really have a choice. I’d hope that they would find something they’re passionate about on their own and I’d support them fully in chasing those dreams.
What are the basic principles in life that you follow every day?
Don’t try fixing something that isn’t broke. This applies a lot to my poker game, especially when I’m doing after-session analysis. For example, I might get annoyed that a bluff didn’t get through in a certain spot but in reality, it works 90% of the time. I’ll try talking myself into fixing that leak in my game, but then I’ll take a step back and realize that it doesn’t need fixing. I’m also a really positive person. It may not reflect in my personality (that’s just my poker face) but any situation, regardless of what it is, I try and always see the positive sides and that just makes every day a whole lot better. That’s another thing I picked up from the Primed Mind app and it’s worked wonders for me on and off the poker table.
What is the best advice you have received about life and poker?
It’s actually a quote my Grandfather recited to me when I was really young. I had just broken my arm in a fight at school when I was around 9 years old and after going to the hospital he called me and said,
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Obviously, at the time, I was like “Yeah sure, whatever grandpa bla-bla” but it always stuck in the back of my mind.
Now, it helps me considerably with ego issues involved in poker. I get a lot of s**t at the table because of how young I am and a lot of the older guys don’t like getting beat by a youngster. If they used this advice it would help their game considerably, I know for certain it has helped mine.
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