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When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

by Lucy Rokach |  Published: Aug 01, 2005


It's very hard to win at poker. Not only do you have to beat your opponents, you have to beat yourself, as well. It's no use being a fabulous winner when the deck hits you in the face, you also need to be able to control your losing streaks. When Lady Luck abandons you, as she surely will, sooner or later, that is the time you will find out if you have the makings of a truly successful player.

During the 18 years that I've been playing poker, I've known only three players who've managed to overcome difficulties that, at the time, seemed insurmountable. While I wouldn't want to dismiss the successes of other players, these three players – Paul Maxfield, David Moseley, and John Shipley – all had their own Mount Everest to climb.

Fifteen years ago, David Moseley arrived on the scene in Birmingham. He took to pot-limit Omaha like a duck to water, and within 15 months was taking on the big boys in the Midlands, world-class winners such as Derek Baxter, Surinder Sunar, Derek Webb, and Mickey Wernick. David ran over the game. It was so easy that he moved down to London to play against the likes of Donnacha O'Dea, Tom Gibson, and Ali Sarkeshik. David was on a roll, and he couldn't stop winning, so he went to Vegas and captured a Hall of Fame bracelet. Within three years of starting to play poker, he had amassed at least half a million pounds, not bad when you consider how much quieter the poker scene was then. But, all good things must come to an end, and as is often the case, his downfall was more meteoric than his rise. David suffered a catastrophic loss in a private game one night, in which he parted with at least half of his tank. He went on tilt, and proceeded to murder the rest of his money. Within a month, he was broke. David could have stayed where he was, as, indeed, so many do, but not this boy. He moved to Dublin, where he played in the smallest game he could find. Over two or three years, he managed to put together a modest bankroll, enough to allow him to return to London to start playing in bigger games. This time around, he was not going to let ego get in the way of winning, and holding on to his money. He worked hard and was suitably rewarded. Equipped with a bigger bankroll, he moved to Paris, where the game was not as big and therefore not as volatile. There was no way that he was ever going to play in a game in which he could get seriously hurt again. He stayed in Paris for about five years, cleaned up, and is now semiretired in Marbella.

He'd made his fortune but was too inexperienced to hang on to it, a painful lesson, indeed.

John Shipley's struggle was similar in many ways. Three years ago, John made it to the final of the World Series with half the tournament chips in front of him. By his own admission, though, he "screwed up" and finished seventh. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had been lost. John was devastated, and he withdrew from the poker scene almost completely, until 18 months later, when he was persuaded to attend the EPT event in London last year, which netted him nearly half a million dollars. That boosted his confidence and restored his self-belief. If anyone can win the World Series, it's John Shipley.

Last but not least is Paul Maxfield. Paul has just come second in the Bellagio $25,000 event, winning $1.7 million. Most people don't realise what a struggle Paul has had to get there. First of all, he has been seen as a steamer and a chaser. How hard must it have been to hold himself together for seven days, in the toughest tournament with the hardest field, to shrug off bad beats and not to panic when the cards went dead? Not only is this his Achilles' heel, but the last seven years have been horrendous for him. He's faced challenges in both his personal and his working life that would have driven most of us to the edge. So, it's against this backdrop that Paul has had to get his head together, batten down the hatches, and play winning poker. He has started to play golf a lot more and poker a lot less. Last year, he told me he was going to concentrate on just four or five big competitions in America and just a couple of European main events. He stuck to that plan and was well rewarded, making two finals in last year's World Series, and getting into the money in the "big one." He was very unlucky in Tunica this January, where, in the main event, he finished just out of the money, losing a three-way pot when he had aces and was up against queens and, of course, the winner – Q-9!

Paul was a chaser and conquered himself, Shipley found the courage to face his self-inflicted defeat, and Moseley learnt his lesson by taking almost 10 years to undo one night's mistake. Tough men, and great players.

Lucy "Golden Ovaries" Rokach has long been one of the most successful tournament players in Europe, with 14 major European titles to her name in the last five years alone. She hails from the Midlands in the UK, but can usually be found on the European tournament trail.