John Gale Interview
Tuesday, 28 July 2015
We talk to WSOP bracelet winner.
In 2012 John underwent surgery for a brain tumour and his illness threatened to keep him away from the poker table forever. While he’s now made a full recovery, doctors advised him not to fly to Vegas this summer, for his first WSOP in four years, but you can’t keep a good man down. Good to have you back, John.
Was it extra special to come back here and win a bracelet after your time in the wilderness?
It was completely unexpected. I came here with no expectations or illusions. I’ve been away from poker for so long that I was just thrilled to be back here and playing. When I won my first bracelet it was an absolutely euphoric feeling. And when I won this one – and I don’t mean this to sound wrong – but I just sat down and thought, “Did that really happen?”
It wasn’t quite the same thrill as the first, because – I don’t know – perhaps I expected more years ago. I didn’t expect anything this time. But when the dust settled and I got back to the hotel, I thought, “Oh my God!” I was absolutely over the moon! Thrilled to pieces…
Does it feel like a comeback?
I don’t know. I mean, I got very lucky. The cards fell for me. I did take a couple of bad beats in the tournament but I had enough chips to withstand them. Ultimately, I think I got very lucky. It’s a comeback, in a way, I suppose, but it wasn’t a plan. The plan was just to come over, have fun and enjoy myself.
When was your last Vegas trip?
Four years ago, 2011.
Has it changed?
The style of poker has changed. There are so manty great young players coming through. A lot of them I didn’t know at all, but they’re super players – and very aggressive, three-betting and four-betting… It’s a case of being able to adjust to their style a little bit, which was probably quite difficult in the first couple of tournaments, but I can adapt.
But the atmosphere in Vegas is still the same. The atmosphere is still electric. Playing at the Rio is juts absolutely fantastic. They’re so brilliantly organised – the floor people, the dealers, everything. It’s just a privilege to play there. I’m lucky, very lucky.
Was there a time, during your illness, that you thought you’d never come to Vegas again, or even play poker again?
Yes, there most certainly was. I was very frustrated. I played the London EPT last October, and I busted out just before the money. That was the only tournament I’d played before I came to Vegas for the World Series. The last few years have been very frustrating to me. All tournaments are very important to me. I love playing them, and I love playing them in my home country, but playing the World Series is extra special.
Which bracelet feels the sweetest?
Oh, God! That’s a bit like asking which one of your children is your favourite. They’re both so special. I mean the first one I was so happy about, especially after being so unlucky the year before [at the $5k PLO event, 2005], but in fairness I got very lucky in winning that one, in 2006. And then this one is extra special because it’s like the cream on top. But I couldn’t pick. They both mean the world to me.
Are they more important than the money?
They’re definitely more important than the money. To win a bracelet at the World Series is what every player wants. There’s such a depth of talent in Britain at the moment, especially with young players coming through, that I feel incredibly lucky to get two. There were 1,791 players in this event, and I only entered for a bit of fun. I had no illusions. There are loads of players who are a lot better than me who haven’t yet got one.
You came to poker quite late, and had a lot of success very quickly…
I’ve played poker nearly all my life, I’d just never played tournament poker. I was always a cash game player, and always loved the game. But it was only when online poker came out that I started playing the odd tournament and had a bit of success. I qualified for the PCA for the Bahamas online and – well, miracles do happen – somehow or another I actually won it. It was more luck than skill, to be honest. I’m a better player now than I was then; I made loads and loads of mistakes, and I still do and I always will. But that’s poker. But I didn’t come to poker late, I came to tournament poker late. I wish I’d discovered it years earlier.
What cash games did you play, back in the day?
I used to play in the Vic virtually all the time, years ago. Probably two or three times a week. I loved it there. I used to play Omaha, which is still one of my favourite games.
Do you feel you’re representing the UK when you go out and play the Series or is it each man for himself?
I’m incredibly patriotic. At the bracelet ceremony when they played the national anthem it was very difficult to hold the tears back. It was very emotional. I want to see Brits winning. That’s what it’s all about. Simon Deadman came so close this year, and Barny Boatman – I actually chewed my nails to pieces watching him. I really wanted him to win that second bracelet. It just makes you feel proud.
Who coined the “Gentleman” John Gale nickname? Do you remember?
I don’t know, to be honest. It kind of happened after the PCA. I like to have fun at the table; I don’t get nasty or abusive to anyone. If I get unlucky, I just say, “C’est la vie, that’s poker.” I didn’t give myself that nickname, it just sort of happened.
Some players, you know, they’re just so serious, and I kind of think “Why are you playing? It’s meant to be fun. We’re meant to have a laugh. It’s a game.”