Where are you currently?
“I am in a house in one of the last Israeli cities on the Mediterranean side called Ashkelon. I have about 11 aunts and uncles here, and even more cousins, so I am hanging with them.”
What is it about Israel that is so great?
“Everything…the food, the people, and if you are coming for the first time you can go to Jerusalem to see the Holy City. Even if you aren’t religious you will still feel the energy going to see where Jesus was, and the old markets. There are Arab and Jewish markets here. They are called Shook’s, and they really do look like something out of Aladdin. Then there’s the Dead Sea. There is nowhere else like it on earth. You can’t sink. There are so many things to see here. The women out here are amazing also.”
What is your view on God?
“I’m Jewish. I have a lot of family that are super-religious, but I didn’t grow up religious. I believe there is one God, a creator. I think religion is a little screwed up, presently, with all of the conflicts. I believe you can pray wherever you are. The church is a place where you can pray with other people so there is a stronger feeling and a greater sense of focus. I don’t knock anybody’s religion. Everyone has the right to choose his or her own path. I believe we are all one.”
How does it feel to be Jewish?
“I was the only Jew in my neighborhood growing up. There aren’t too many of us. For every 1,000 Muslims there is one Jew. There are only 15 million Jews in the whole world and 1.5 billion Muslims. There are 5 million in Israel, 5 million in the States and another 5 million dotted around the place.
“I have never thought about marrying a Jewish girl when I was younger. But I want my children to be Jewish, so I need to marry a Jewish girl. It feels good to be part of the Jewish tribe and I am proud of it.”
Did people ever pick on you when you were younger for being Jewish?
“Sure. They called me Jesus Killer, Dirty Jew and Sand Ni**r. And those were my friends! They would say they were joking about it, but when we had heated arguments all of this shit would come out. You have a soft center when you’re young. When you are in their company you act like it doesn’t hurt, but when you are on your own you get emotional and cry in the corner.
“I never had any real Jewish friends until I entered the poker world. Usually Jews move to areas that predominantly contain other Jews, but my parents didn’t do that because we didn’t have the money to live in their areas. We ended up living in Brocton, New York, where there are people of all races besides Jews. When I come to Israel I see people who look like me all of the time. That makes me feel comfortable. When I was growing up I had to blend in. I was alone all of the time.”
I notice you don’t drink a lot of alcohol, why is that?
“Growing up everyone around me was drinking. But within my own culture my parents never drank alcohol. I was drinking because I needed to fit in. They could take it, and I couldn’t. I am probably still suffering some health problems from all the drinking and smoking I did back in those days.
“It doesn’t suit me. My body doesn’t like it. I have evolved. 6-7 years ago I started to slow down. I realized if I wanted to make my 70-80s, and live a healthy life, I had to cut that stuff out.”
I noticed you did some coaching on Marsha Walk’s online poker training site for women: Femme Fatale Poker, and you interact a lot with women within the poker industry. Why is that?
“I am comfortable talking to girls, and they seem to be comfortable talking to be me. I am friends with the likes of Marsha Wolak, Melanie Weisner, Natasha Barbour, Ebony Kenny and Jamie Kerstetter. A lot of guys don’t know how to talk to women, and how to treat them. There are a lot of fake Twitter accounts where men try to belittle female poker players, and that’s out of order.”
But why so many female friends?
“I wish I knew. My Mam wasn’t around much when I was a kid. I was always around my Dad and my little sister. My Mam left twice. She left when I was six months old, and came back when I was two and a half and she left again when I was 13.
“I have dated a lot of women. I have only loved a few of them but cared about all of them. I don’t have any issues with men. I have a lot of male friends, but I do prefer the company of women. I love the opposite sex. I find beauty in all women. It doesn’t matter what they look like. I will find something beautiful about them.
“A few girls have told me that I am Metrosexual. I have pedicures, I do my eyebrows, I always cut my own hair, I try to dress neat, I floss, I brush my teeth three times a day, I try to exercise and keep in good shape. I trim the hair on my chest. I don’t shave my legs like Will the Thrill though. I guess I am a metro. I like to get grimy. I can go camping, sleep in tents and catch snakes, but I do like to take care of myself and have pride in the way I look.”
Where does poker sit in your life in terms of importance?
“Right now it’s the only sole income that I have. I have invested some money but nothing huge. I don’t play as much as these other kids. I watch on Twitter and the volume that these tournament grinders put in is amazing. It’s not for me. I feel like I am still searching for something missing in life. Perhaps, it’s a family, a woman…I don’t know?
“I like spending the money that poker provides, on my family. I try to make it fun when I play poker. When I sit down I am always talking, laughing and joking around. I take months off throughout the year. I have thought about trying one full year of grinding, but I haven’t gone through with it yet.
“I like meeting people in all different walks of life. I like to see what they are doing and how their life works for them. I like to put myself in their body and try and feel what they feel. I do the same in poker. When I am traveling and hanging with people I ask myself, ‘What does life feel for that person?’ I am interested to know if their life is attractive to me, and whether I can live like that?”
What are you currently working on?
“I like the simplicity of things. I am always worrying about what I am going to do, where I am going to be? I am worrying so much that I am missing the present moment. I am trying to work on that. I want to be living; I don’t want to miss the moment. I tell myself to calm down and enjoy the moment. It doesn’t happen until after the event. I am in Israel now, but I won’t grasp how much fun it was until I leave. I always look back at relationships, poker tournaments, and think wow that was fun, or that was bad for me, I don’t see this until I am out of it, and I am trying to realize these things in the present.”