Interview: Dusty ‘Leatherass’ Schmidt

Interview: Dusty ‘Leatherass’ Schmidt

Thursday, 30 June 2011

With over 10 million hands in the bag, who better to talk to about Black Friday than one of history’s most successful online poker players?

Were you prepared at all for the events of Black Friday?

No, it caught me as off guard as anyone. I was actually pretty excited because I took close to a month off at the end of 2010 as I had a sense that my game had slipped a little and I wanted to improve it. I wouldn’t have bothered taking all that time off now; I would have just tried to play as much as possible.

Having said that, I planned on this outcome, assuming that this could happen one day, and that's the reason why I played so many hands: to make as much as I could while I could. I looked at every day that poker was here as something I was grateful for. I used to make like three grand a month at my job before, and this was an opportunity to make more than that every single day, so I was going to work as hard as I could at it and assume that I only had a small window in which to make this kind of money.

What's the general reaction like in America? Are people panicking?

Yeah, certainly, people are panicking about it and for a lot of the Americans, rightly so. I heard a report that there were 50,000 people whose sole source of income was poker in the United States. That's obviously a lot of people, and that's a lot of people instantly out of work right there, and that's really tough, so, I understand. I guess I'm one of the few lucky ones as I'm in a situation where – I'm obviously not happy about it – but it really isn't the worst thing for me as I was starting to get a little burnt out anyway, having played 10 million hands in the last five years. Also, bankroll-wise, I don't have any worries there.

How do you think the younger players will deal with the news?

I've never really had money until recently, but I've always grown up around people with a lot of money because I play golf. One thing that I noticed was that people would go bankrupt. It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges that any human being can face is to have been rich, and then for money to be hard to come by. I think people really struggle with that, almost like it's a death in the family. It shouldn't be that extreme for people, but I've noticed that they take that stuff really hard and I just hope that these young players who thought the good times would be around forever are OK.

How do you think the numbers will be affected at the World Series?

I can only imagine that it's going to be a really sad turnout. Before, people could buy into these events and not worry too much because they could just go and win it back online reliably, but now the US players don't have that option. I'm going to just go over and play the cash games, when, previously, I was planning to play the tournaments, but I don’t want to lose 20 or 30 grand and then not be able to grind it back online.

Do you think poker will be legalised in the United States?

Yes, I do. One advantage I have from Treating Your Poker Like a Business is that, because I wrote a book that appealed to a lot of business type people, I've been able to make a lot of connections in the business world and they’re basically looking at this as a great opportunity to invest and capitalise on the potential poker boom. With the flow of money in the game, they think it’s inevitable and don’t even consider that it won’t be legalised. I don't expect it to become law immediately, so I'm guessing January 1, 2013.

Do you think legalisation will come accompanied by a single governing body?

I would hope that we could have a governing body like any other sport that has to operate under US law. What I don't want is for a politician to get too involved and start putting limits on various things to appease the special interest groups that are against gambling. I believe very much in a free market, but a somewhat regulated free market. I think a company is going to be in a good position to lead the way, and as long as they are following standard US business laws, then we will be just fine, but if politicians start trying to tax the shit out of it, then that's obviously something that we don't want.

How important is the image of poker going forward?

I think it's huge, and maybe I share a different view of poker than some other people, but coming from a golf background, I often look at golf as what poker can become, and I think it is more realistic than people give it credit for that we could someday have a tour with a mainstream sponsor that is willing to put up millions of dollars in added money. I think this is possible, but the thing that is killing us the most right now is the way poker is presented on TV as gambling. We're not being presented like the chess players that we are really are.

So I'm guessing you're not the biggest Phil Hellmuth fan?

He’s great in the sense that he creates awareness of poker, but the awareness he's creating is not necessarily what we want. It would be like John Daly, who is known for his drinking and smoking and his seven wives, representing golf. We actually have some good ambassadors, like Tom Dwan and Phil Galfond, who are really articulate, likable people and good to watch. They could represent us well and attract a big sponsor like an American Express or something like that, but these sorts of companies are never, in a million years, going to associate themselves with Phil Hellmuth.

Tags: Dusty Schmidt, Leatherass, Black Friday, Interviews