Jason Somerville on Coming Out, Poker and Happiness

Published on 11 July 2012 by Pokerlistings 8550

Earlier this year Jason Somerville came out to the poker community as the first openly gay man in the game. Now, for the first time Somerville talks about the experience, how it's brought him closer to the people in poker and his personal life and how his happiness has increased enormously as a result of being able to be honest.

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Jason: The last year has been pretty interesting, to say the least. I've had a bunch of struggles in my life with my sexuality and understanding where that put me in the world. As I talked about on my blog, it was something that I never really bothered to figure out. I just put it aside, didn't talk about it, didn't think it was important to my happiness to fulfill that part of my life. It took until really about a year ago. At the end of the World Series I kind of went home and said, "you know what? I'm not going to focus on making money. I'm going to focus on being happy and start making actual changes." For a while I was miserable, I was just unhappy. Not like all the time, but I would be lonely and upset and I would just do whatever I could do at that moment to feel better. Then I would just move on. With online poker, I just buried myself in work like many people do when they have issues like that. I just accepted that I was unhappy. About a year ago I changed my mind on that and just said, "Okay, I've had enough. I'm going to just take the steps to make myself actually happy." As I started telling more people, coming out to more people . . . A year ago only, maybe, 15 people knew. It was pretty much a secret and nobody in poker pretty much knew.

As I kept telling people and I started dating, I started gaining confidence and being more comfortable with who I am. It was such an awesome process because I felt myself growing in confidence and happiness as I started taking those steps. In December of last year, I met my current boyfriend who is an amazing person, very strong in who he is. When he talks like rainbows come out of his mouth. He really can't hide who he is and having someone around that was like that was really good for me, because he is who he is and I was very proud to be with him. I didn't want to put it aside, I didn't want to say, "Oh this is my friend." I never wanted to disrespect our relationship. With that being the case, all of a sudden he goes, "I want to come to PCA". I'm like, first of all, "Duh," and second of all, "What am I going to do about this?" I went to Bahamas with Vincent and we talked to Daniel Negreanu, and he was like "Ding Dong." And I was like, " He's not going to know what this is going to be about". He opens the door and Vincent's like " Hey." Daniel's like "Oh, my God!" It was a pretty fun little day. I told Daniel and he was really good with telling me . . . Because I talked to him and I was like, "Look, I want to do this the right way." Daniel is very media savvy and really gets it. He was the one I wanted advice from, of course.

He told me to write a blog in my own voice. "Don't let anybody edit it. Don't let anybody really read it. Just write it and keep it true to yourself." I spent about a month writing this blog and I posted it on Valentine's Day of this year and the response was overwhelming. I posted it and expected a lukewarm response, from the poker world only. And instead I got an overwhelmingly positive response from the entire world. The gay world and the poker world, everyone was so nice. It was one of the best days of my life, for sure. I got like a thousand messages in 48 hours after I came out. Everyone was so happy and supportive. It was a great milestone for me in my life, because, literally, eight months ago, six months ago I was still afraid to even say it. I was afraid to give voice to any of those feelings, at least publicly. To go from there to where I am now it's really been a very important, transformative year for me.

I never want to say I did it for other people. My decisions were for me, because I knew it was best for me. That being said, if anything that I did in my whole coming out process and being open about it and talking about it helps other people with their own growth and their own path to happiness, I'm honored. Poker is such a taking game. If you and I sit down, only one of us walks away a winner. So to have a route to be able to help out other people is something awesome. It's something that I really appreciate. Before this, I played poker and played video games and that was pretty much it. To have a path that I can really connect with people . . . And I've gotten so many really heart-warming stories. It's been awesome. I'm truly honored. It's a great thing as a poker player to have that kind of impact. I was never more proud in my life, of being a poker player, more so than the day I came out. What a diverse community that we have. Everyone from the super extremes -- you can name them and they contacted me, or I talked to them and they said something really sweet. I was never expecting it. It was just overwhelmingly awesome. I think it's really good for poker. Poker gets a lot of negative press, as like a backroom game, everyone's scummy. That's not how it is. Everyone in poker is really warm and accepting and tolerant. It's very competitive but we're a really open community. You look around here at the Rio, you see all types of people here. We're really welcoming. I'm really glad to be a part of that fabric.

Being happy and having your off table stuff all sorted is great. It's something that people don't give enough credit to. Having things go on outside the table, off the table, it really can hurt your play. Just thinking about it and always having anxiety and not being happy, not wanting to play. All those things are gone for me now. I'm in a very supportive relationship where Vincent is the one who's like, "Let's go to parks in Pennsylvania, let's run around and go to all these places." I needed that and not only to be pushed, but to be pushed and be happy and to do it with someone that you care about. It's awesome. I don't want to forget too much about how hard it was for me to tell Jason Mercier, who was a really good friend of mine. We trust each other hugely in poker and debt carrying, let me tell you. We've done a lot of business together and we've had a very friendly but also a very big business relationship. Telling him, I was really anxious. He was the last person that I told before I wrote the blog. Even then I was still like, "I don't know how he is going to react to this. We might not be friends anymore." I was prepared for that. For that to be completely opposite, where we're closer now and he can talk to me more about other things, it's awesome. I just can't really acknowledge how nice that is. I wasn't like a quiet guy ether. A year ago I still was pretty talkative. It was just never with the complete open honesty. It's like a weight off my shoulders and more so it's beyond just being a weight. It's such a great, positive thing for me and I think it reflects really well on poker as well.