The Rude Awakening
Jan. 3, 2012, Posted by Lee_Davy
When I first stumbled into the world of live tournament poker, I couldn't help but think, "what the fuck do all of these people do?" I had just emigrated from the land of the iron road, a land where people were scarce, and profit and redundancy were the only words uttered by company executives. Yet I had somehow ended up in a world where people were employed just to buy expensive wine for poker players, and keep them company whilst they got off their tits. It reminded of the days when a Guard was employed just to make sure the Train Driver had an endless supply of tea.
When I was in school I despised the place and left as soon as I was legally able to. I was sweet sixteen and was already consuming enough poison to make Keith Richards proud. I needed money and I needed it fast so I found myself working in a factory making kitchens for £39 per week. A few months into that job and I received a call from my Dad to tell me that British Railway's had been on the phone asking me to travel to Cardiff for an interview. I must have made a good impression because British Railways hired me with the promise of a job for life and my pay packet immediately bounced up to £79 per week.
I worked in a 15-story building called Brunel House in Cardiff, and each floor was full of people employed by the British Railways. This huge tower was the home of 15 different grades of clerical and salaried managerial/executive positions. On the iron road itself things were no different. You had signalers, signaling technicians, platform staff, drivers, guards, shunters and engineers. We even employed mailmen just to move internal mail around the 15-stories of Brunel House! We didn't care if the trains ran on time, nobody told us too work harder and everyone thought a goal was something that Gary Lineker scored every Saturday.
Then in 1993, the holiday camp had a right kick up the arse when John Major decided that the Swedish privatised rail industry was a successful model, and the journey to privatise the British Railway system was born. Railway chiefs, with about as much intelligence as a new born human baby, were running around screaming, "but I have a job for life?" Major wasn't listening and the good old British Railways was broken into a hundred little pieces resulting in the loss of jobs of thousands of people.
All of a sudden the Rail Industry had a new vocabulary. The words and acronyms profit, margin, EBITDA, OPEX, goals, bonus and redundancy were all the rage. The new companies were spearheaded by ex British Railwaymen who didn't have a clue how to run a business. It wasn't long before nearly every company except Railtrack (the only piece the government kept) was making a loss.
By the time the late 2000's had arrived I was in my 19th year on the iron road and instead of 15 different grades from top to bottom there were now four! When the world's economy collapsed, the company employing me took advantage by wiping one third of its workforce off the railway map. Instead of increasing EBIT by earning more revenue we just systematically and ruthlessly carved out huge pieces of our costs. The end product was simply a small band of loyal, tired and old looking railwaymen offering a shit service to their customers, whilst squeezing out a profit so the boys upstairs could have nice six-figure bonuses.
So what on earth has the Rail Industry got to do with Poker?
When I first joined the poker industry in late 2010 I thought I had stepped back in time. At my first ever-live tournament there were people everywhere. I remember struggling to find somewhere to sit because there were so many people. Nepotism was rife in the British Railways recruitment system and when jobs didn't exist for our family we just created them. In the poker world I didn't notice nepotism being a problem (the de Meulder brother apart) but cronyism certainly was. So here I was, seemingly back in the golden era of the British Railways employ everyone system and there was one striking similarity. Due to the vast numbers of people, nobody had to work hard but everyone complained about how hard they worked! There used to be a saying during the British Railways days...
You did not recognise hard work unless you had experienced a working life outside of the British Railways system.
When I worked in the kitchen factory we worked our arses off. In the privatised railway of the 2000s we worked our arses off. In British Rail we wore our arses away sitting on them while doing the Daily Mail crossword and staring at the tits in the Sunday Sport. The poker world I walked into was very similar.
The poker world never had to suffer the destruction that railway privatisation incurred, but it did have it's own little world crisis to deal with. It is important for senior businessmen to create buzzwords to use in union meetings to describe such terrifying events. Some top executives welcome them as a wonderful excuse to make changes that would not have otherwise got through union agreement. On the railways we coined the term Economic Crisis and we used it to sack everyone and explain to every customer why their service was crap. The poker world's big shake up was given the much more imaginative and catchy title of Black Friday.
I saw all of the signs and I braced myself for the inevitable wave of cost cutting that I was so often used to. The one thing the bullies of the railway world taught me was to see fat everywhere. Or in the words of my favourite villain - Brick Top from the Guy Ritchie movie Snatch - to be a right 'orrible cunt! I got my head down, closed my eyes and worked as hard as possible to create as much value and quality as I could; hoping the cull would pass me by. When I opened my eyes and the driftwood had come crashing to a halt on the beach, nothing much had changed. A few people had vanished, never to be seen again, but in the main everything remained as it was.
There used to be an American wrestler called Ravishing Rick Rude. Every wrestler has a unique finishing move and Rude's was to put his opponents to sleep by trying to snap their necks, and this move was called The Rude Awakening. When Rick Rude got you in that hold the lights went out! I think the poker industry is locked in that particular hold and it won't be long before the neck snaps and the lights go out for so many people.
Sooner or later some serious heavyweights are going to be employed at the top end of this food chain, and when they do, the whole industry is going to see change the like of which it has never witnessed before. You won't see fifteen bloggers all hunched over the tables writing the same old shit. You won't see five cameramen taking the same photos. You won't see the same four video guys cutting the same piece of footage. You won't see the guy on the floor hanging around picking shit out of his fingernails waiting for someone to shout, "floor!"
So how did I make it through 19-years of the railways savagery, and what advice can I give to the people on pokers death row? Firstly, it helps when you are the person employed to be Ravishing Rick Rude! But, if you are not fortunate enough to get to that end of the food chain then my next piece of advice would be to work hard and get yourself noticed by the people who matter. I work in the industry as a writer and when the neck snapping comes it won't be the best writers who keep their employment. I mean what would be the point of that? Instead cronyism will do its duty and friends will keep friends employed.
It's not what you know but whom you know!
Make sure that you find the people who matter, the cockroaches of the poker world, the ones who will survive a poker nuclear explosion. Find them and show them what you can offer. Show them that you have strong work ethics, do more than you are asked to do, are multi-talented and most of all do not moan and groan about every fucking little thing that goes on without the talent to back it up.
Ladies and gentlemen of the poker industry: Shape up or ship out because there is a Rude Awakening on the horizon and I for one am getting ready for it!