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Liv Boeree: "Making Money is Fine, but It’s Time to Give It Back"
A trip to Burning Man. A strong relationship.
A passion to fight climate change. A new perspective on poker.
The Liv Boeree you've come to know on the poker circuit over the last few years is not exactly the same one you see today.
Thanks to a budding relationship with Igor Kurganov and a summer of transformative self-discovery, Boeree has found herself with a new outlook on poker, a passion for making a difference and the inspiration to move forward with the belief poker can make the world a better place.
PokerListings Germany's Dirk Oetzmann and Christian Henkel caught up with her at the recent EPT London for more.
PokerListings: Are you a Londoner like Vicky Coren?
Liv Boeree: No, I am a country girl and come from a town 15 miles away from London. But I live in London now and love it.
PL: Let’s start with a poker question. There was a hand shortly before you got busted at the feature table. You were sitting in the big blind with about 5 or 6 big blinds and Benny Spindler raised from the small blind. You defended but check-folded on the flop.
LB: As you know I am pretty close to the German high roller guys like Igor Kurganov, Philipp Gruissem and Max Altergott.
And I’ve been doing some work with them. They might be a little bit pissed about this, because I'm giving away a little bit more information than I should, but I played the hand as advised.
I leave it now up to peoples' opinions.
PL: Not exactly textbook poker, though.
LB: But then, what is textbook? If I fold I have four big blinds and I am still in the small blind.
Benny Spindler is an aggressive player. I find Q-4 offsuit, which is definitely not in the bottom 10% of starting hands which I would have to fold.
So, it is definitely a playable hand. Of course, I could just jam ...
PL: Why didn’t you?
LB: Because I don’t have any fold equity. Benny is never, ever folding. And there a lot of flops that I can check-call.
If I find some equity on the flop I can still jam and he would have to fold some hands. So there is a little bit of fold equity after the flop but 0% before the flop.
And if I hate the board, like I did ith 8-8-7, I can fold. I have seen a really cheap flop, regarding also the big antes in the pot. So that is my interpretation.
And if Phil Ivey would have made it, the guys in the 2+2 forum would have found it brilliant. But I am only a girl (laughs), so they think it’s terrible.
PL: How did you find your way into the inner circle of Philipp Gruissem, Igor Kurganov and the likes?
LB: I've known them for a long time. Igor and I have been dating now for seven or eight months, and I am very much in love.
All of that team Germany, they are great people and such fantastic minds in the game. I am a lucky girl to know them (laughs).
PL: You travelled with them to the Burning Man festival and published an interesting blog entry about it. How did you end up there?
LB: Antonio Esfandiari, who is another really good friend of mine, has been going there for several years and invited me.
PL: But you are rather known as the guitar-playing, cigar-smoking hard rock girl. Isn't that more a hippie thing?
LB: Yes, absolutely. There are people from a really wide spectrum. They come from all levels of society.
And the festival idea is overcoming social barriers which normally hold you back from getting to know somebody.
To be honest I never felt more safe, more loved, more welcome. It was like a warm breeze of pure generosity and giving.
There is no money. If you need something, you have to go and ask someone. And it’s not that you get something and have to give something back. It's all about giving and sharing.
Igor and I consider ourselves modern hippies. We are very much into green energy. For example, we used solar panels for electricity at the festival.
PL: What is the meaning of burning down a big statue?
LB: The idea is not becoming attached to anything. Nothing lasts forever and the burning man is a symbol for the temporary nature of all material things.
We know that very much in poker. You have a huge win and then a hard downswing. How can you accept that? People live and die. Accept it.
PL: Was this trip about self-discovery for you?
LB: Yeah! The most important thing was selfless acting. I was part of a community.
Our camp was like about 60 people. We were living together in quite uncomfortable conditions. After five or six days you get very close to everybody.
It’s completely different than poker, where everybody fights for himself. And it was definitely a thing that I needed to learn.
PL: A lot of European pros left team PokerStars or lost their contract. Are you afraid you could be next?
LB: Markets change, and the ownership of PokerStars changed. So there are a lot of dynamics in the process now.
I have a lot of confidence in the new PokerStars management. But contracts are uncertain and there is not much you can do against this uncertainty.
But whatever happens I’m not going anywhere else. I love PokerStars and I was always happy with them.
PL: You are one of a few players who have an academic background. What could be an alternative career for you?
LB: I am not going back into astrophysics. I’ve been out of it for too long. And I am really thinking that my talents would be misplaced in any academic profession.
I’ve learnt a lot of other stuff through poker. And the thing is by far my biggest passion is the impending climate change that is coming.
The mismanagement of resources, the mismanagement of ourselves, the current economic model that requires constant growth and will eventually implode. So this is where my professional interests would lie.
There's a similar thing to this in poker. I mean look at the whole Dan Bilzerian thing. I was a little bit the same after I won in San Remo. I also thought a little bit "Hey, I am the hot shit now.“ (laughs).
But then you go through a certain progress. Dan Bilzerian maybe not. And that is the bad thing about it.
All this lifestyle that he shows is plastic and decadent and the videos are all fabricated. But this guy is an idol for young poker players.
I mean he shows his new huge boat and a car and the girls. Obviously, if everybody would think like that we would have been screwed a long time ago.
Making money is fine, but it’s time to give it back for something good.
PL: One of the greatest philanthropists in the poker world is Talal Shakerchi. Did he influence the REG project?
LB: Yes. Very much. He is a very mathematical, logical guy and also a philanthropist. Igor and Philipp spoke a lot with him about the idea of effective altruism.
For example: We came up with a project against cancer and he advised us on the question what we can do to reduce the amount of suffering as much as possible.
Things like this have of course an emotional background, but it is best to look at them with a rational mind.
PL: Is there a specific project coming up?
LB: Yes. There is a a charity tournament in Vegas in December. People give a percentage of their winnings to charity. And that brings me to my personal poker dream.
Let’s go to the major tournaments and ask the winner after his victory if he wants to donate for effective giving.
Few winners would say no if there was just a little tick box on the document they fill in after the tournament.
This could change the public opinion on poker completely. If there is anybody saying 'poker is bad,' then we all can say 'But look how much money for altruistic projects it generates.'