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A Poker Life -- Bruce Buffer

Buffer combines his Talent for Business and Killer Instinct from the World of Ultimate Fighting at the Felt

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Bruce BufferPoker is just a part of life for modern Renaissance man Bruce Buffer, but that in no way reflects a lack of passion for the game. Buffer simply has many interests competing for his time. He is President and CEO of the “The Buffer Partnership” with his half-brother and boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer. Both are the grandsons of former world champion boxer Johnny Buff, so a background of competitiveness inspires the family even today. In addition to his business interests Bruce is best known as the official voice of the Octagon at Ultimate Fighting Championship events. He travels the world promoting and announcing for the UFC, which leaves little time for his new-found pursuit of poker.

Buffer has racked up $221,793 in prize money on the felt and he has also appeared on Poker After Dark. The Bruce Buffer Poker Room was also named in his honor at the Luxor in Las Vegas, so his accolades in the poker world have been adding up since his breakout tournament performance where he made the final table at the 2005 World Poker Tour Celebrity Invitational.

Buffer is also a sponsored Friend of Full Tilt Poker and he promotes the brand on his weekly radio show that readers can listen to at www.bufferzone.net. Poker professionals like Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Laak, and Norman Chad make guest appearances along with movie stars and UFC stars on the show.

Another upcoming project for Buffer is that he will be the voice of, and one of the poker personalities who give lessons at the Poker Player Academy, which will launch this year. Random House just purchased his memoirs and they will be publishing his autobiography, which is set for a Christmas 2012 release. Buffer said that those pages will be filled with poker stories in addition to his business and UFC pursuits.

Despite his busy schedule Buffer tries to play as much poker as he can. During the interview below he was playing a satellite on Full Tilt Poker. “It’s going well I have 2,000 in chips,” riffed Buffer between questions. Without further ado here is a slice of Buffer’s Poker Life, and when someone is called the “Veteran Voice of the Octagon” it is best to get out of the way and let him tell the story in his own words.

Ryan Lucchesi: When did you first start playing poker?

Bruce Buffer: I actually started playing poker at the age of eight years old when my father taught me how to play. With poker I was playing cash games from the age of 14 with my brother Brian. In those days we played five-card stud, seven-card stud and jacks-or-better draw. I constantly played those games and then in later years I used to put on collectible gun shows over at the Hollywood Park casino here in Los Angeles. When the show would calm down I would head down to the casino to play and I fell in love with $20-$40 seven-card stud high-low. I played that for years and then hold’em started taking over.

The first tournament I ever played was at the Borgata when I was doing a UFC over there and I actually bubbled the final table in my first tournament. The second tournament I ever played was the World Poker Tour Invitational in 2005 and I made the final table in the second one I ever played. I was hooked at that point. I really enjoyed watching it on TV but it really took off for me when I got a taste of the potential of going for the bracelet and going for the gold being the competitor that I am.

RL: Is that competitiveness a reflection of your grandfather’s background as a world champion boxer?

BB: That competitiveness was in the family blood for years. Obviously it runs in my blood. I have been involved in fighting since I was a kid. My dad was a drill sergeant in the Marines and he served in both World War II and Korea. He was teaching me street-fighting techniques when I was literally around five or six years old. And then you have my grandfather, who I never got a chance to meet, who was the champion of the world in
1921.

Genetically it gets really crazy when you consider the fact that I did not grow up with my half brother, the famous boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer. I met him when I was in my early thirties after I saw him on TV when he got really popular in the eighties, and then basically found out that he was my long-lost half brother, and that’s how we met. I started managing his career literally three years after we met. I sold two companies and I had a dream of making him more famous than he ever dreamed by properly trade marking that phrase [Let’s get ready to rumble!]. To date I have developed and sold over $400 million in products with the brand, so I have been in the fighting world a long time before I was involved with the UFC.

RL: How does it feel to come over to the poker world from the world of UFC, where you are already well established? What are the similarities between the two worlds?

BB: It’s a lot of fun. My work in the UFC is based on one thing and one thing mainly — my belief that the sport would be huge some day. I have been an announcer for over 15 years and the passion of the great fighters in the sport and the incredible fan base we have internationally has made it the fastest growing sport in the world. You can now see the UFC on 500 million TV sets throughout the world.

That competitive spirit is why fighting and poker are very similar mentally. Knowing when to go in for the knockout but realizing that you could get knocked out. When to be defensive, when to be offensive, reading people in the way that you read a fighter and the way he moves. I find the mental similarities very strong. Being involved in martial arts and actually having fought myself I apply those same mental strategies on the green felt battlefield.

If you’re playing poker and you get knocked down on a bad beat, where you had the best hand but you lost and now you have a short stack, that’s like getting knocked down on the canvas as a fighter. That’s when you have to say to yourself, ‘I’m going to get back out there and kick that guys butt.’ That’s when you have to start all over again and do it right. That kind of strength comes from within. I know some fighters who would make very good poker players, as witnessed by when Danny Anderson was on Poker After Dark. He was playing poker like he fights. It wasn’t until I saw a weak opening that I was able to take him down, and I’m sure Howard Lederer would say the same thing about him if you were to ask him.

RL: How much does your business acumen help you at the poker tables?

BB: It’s huge. My ability to read people, which again I don’t pretend to be anywhere close to someone like Daniel Negreanu, but I have a great ability to read people and then I leave it up to the cards. I love winning with the worst hand, it’s all about playing the opponents. The two best terms in poker are ‘Five minutes to learn and a lifetime to master’ and ‘Don’t play the cards, play the player.’

RL: What is your proudest poker achievement?

I’m lucky to say that I have had a number of them but the most recent and proudest achievement would be that I made the money in the 2010 World Series of Poker main event, and that I was in the top 12 percent for four of the five days that I played. That was quite an achievement for me. I went out hard with pocket aces getting beat by flopped quad eights. It was only about a week and a half later that I took first at the Hustler Grand Slam Championship in Southern California and won $75,000. Even though that $75,000 was almost three times as much as the $27,500 that I won at the World Series the feeling and the adrenaline rush that I got at the World Series just can’t be compared.

If I can add on to that, the fact that I’m honored with my own poker room in Las Vegas when only four other people have had poker rooms named after them, that it the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me in poker. I’m in awe of that, and when I appeared on Poker After Dark that was a real highlight in my poker career, a sincere highlight.

RL: What are some of your future plans and goals with poker?

BB: Obviously my goal is to win a WSOP bracelet and I was thinking the other day that my biggest problem is my schedule. I’m constantly on the road all over the world announcing the UFC so I’m timing out the World Series right now. I would like to play a seven-card stud high-low tournament, I think I would do well in one of those tournaments, but mainly I’m going to concentrate on hold’em because I think that is where my first bracelet will come from when I have the honor of winning it. I’m really taking a serious approach as I do to everything that I do to this year’s WSOP. Every waking moment I can play I will be there.