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Alan "Ari" Engel: "I'm Kind of a Global Hobo Right Now"
For years Alan "Ari" Engel has been known to most of the poker world by his online moniker, "Bodog Ari."
He still is, kind of, despite the early sponsorship days that inspired the nickname now long over.
One important thing from that era decidedly lives on, though - the winning.
Owner of six career WSOP-C rings, a SCOOP title and $3.5m in combined earnings live and online, Engel is more than just a nickname.
Like many of his peers Engel hit the road shortly after Black Friday but rather than settle in one place he's just kept going, traversing the globe and playing poker wherever his buy-ins take him.
How does it all line up with his family, his faith and his future ambitions? We caught up with him at EPT Prague, where he added another deep run in the High Roller to his resume, to find out more.
PokerListings: Ari, you played a hand in the €10k High Roller where you paid three streets and risked your whole stack against local hero Martin Kabrhel with second pair and a weak kicker.
Ari Engel: It was one of these situations where you make a hero play and when you're right, it looks really good.
But if you’re wrong you look like an idiot and bust from the tournament.
PL: We've seen you here in Prague for many years now. It seems that you love this stop. Do you go to other EPTs too?
AE: It’s true. Prague is the EPT stop I’ve been to the most and every year it’s been a good trip.
I love the city, so I always come back. I've been in Prague four times. I was in Deauville once and in Barcelona, too.
PL: In 2014, you also have results in Peru, the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten. It seems that you're constantly on tour.
AE: That is actually truer than you think. I'm kind of a global hobo right now.
I lived in Las Vegas before Black Friday and I had a house there. But a few weeks after Black Friday I decided to leave the US.
So I rented the house out. I stayed in Toronto in some places first, but then decided not to spend any more winters there (laughs).
Since then I’m constantly travelling. I don’t have any home. I live in hotels and sometimes at friends’ places. My trips are pretty much determined by the satellites that I win.
PL: Two years ago you were wearing a Kippa at the table, the traditional Jewish head wear. Would you say there is a conflict between Jewish religion and gambling?
AE: I don’t have any issues with this in general. I do what I am comfortable with. But I can’t speak for other people.
PL: Would you call yourself a very religious person? Would you for example keep the Sabbath?
AE: I keep it in my own way.
PL: You probably heard about the case of Jarett Nash, a 25-year-old player from Texas, who didn’t show up for Day 5 of the WSOP main event because of religious reasons?
AE: Once I enter a tournament I’ve already decided to play it to the end. But as far as I remember, the guy and his wife were members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, not Jewish.
I have actually skipped plenty of tournaments, including three WSOP main events, because they ran through Saturdays, the day of the Sabbath.
But our religion doesn’t really tell you not to play on a Saturday. There is nothing inherently to respect or to look up.
PL: Could you tell us what the official stance of Judaism and gambling is?
AE: Playing for a living is maybe a little bit more of an issue than just going to a casino.
It is hard to say what the official stance is. When the words were written there was not such a thing like a casino or online poker.
PL: What does your family think about it?
AE: That is actually an interesting thing. My dad is a rabbi and we moved a lot while I was growing up.
I for example am born in Canada, my brother was born in South Africa and my sister in Australia.
They are very supportive, but if you’d ask them what their dream job for me is they would probably not say ‘a poker player, who’s travelling around all the time and doesn’t live in any place.'
But they follow me for example in tournaments that I play.
To be honest, with their conservative background, if I would stand in their shoes this would sound very scary: poker and gambling, with all the money what is involved.
But the reality is, I enjoy it and they support me. That’s it.