Ken Doherty is a legend in Ireland.
When he came back with the Snooker World Championship Trophy in 1997 more than 20,000 people welcomed him at the airport.
Usually, only winning football teams get that form of appreciation.
Doherty has also dabbled in poker on the side over the years (he has several entries in the Hendon Mob database) but he's at the 2015 Irish Poker Open this year to play a billiards side event, not the main event.
We spoke to him about getting back to the top of the snooker rankings, the similarities between snooker and poker and why the telephone in the Dublin Central Police station didn’t ring for three hours in 1997.
PokerListings: There's a pool billiards side event here at the Irish Open. The winner will challenge you. How come you're part of this promotion?
Ken Doherty: I’ve been associated with PaddyPower a long time through the snooker, and also through playing the Irish Open and even the Winter Festival.
I’ve done the same promotion last year, and I lost when I potted the black but the white ball at the same time, so I’m back for revenge this year!
I’m taking it very, very seriously! (smirks)
PL: You obviously do. You have some poker results in the Hendon Mob, too, but the last one is from some time ago. Are you still playing?
KD: I haven’t played any live tournaments for quite a while. I did cash in the Irish Open once, and I also managed to reach the last two tables in a WPT tournament here, which is pretty good.
I don’t play as much as I used to because I simply can’t as we have so many tournaments in the snooker circuit now. I just don’t have enough time.
I just came back from China two days ago, and I’ve got qualifiers for the World Championship coming up.
I have to spend more time on the other green baize now, which is the snooker table as opposed to the poker table.
PL: You’ve dropped on the Snooker World Ranking list in the last couple of years. Is getting back to the top 16 still your main goal?
KD: Absolutely, yes! It gets more difficult every year, but it doesn’t really matter.
I’m still loving the game, I don’t like losing, I still have a competitive edge and I still try and get as much practice as I can.
I’m still in it with all my heart. Sometimes it’s not good enough, you know, as I get older, but that doesn’t stop me from loving to compete.
As long as I feel the appetite, the hunger to play, I’ll keep on playing. Once I lose that, it’ll be time to hang up the queue and maybe get into poker. (laughs)
PL: Legend has it there were no calls to the Dublin police while you were playing the Snooker World Cup final in 1997. How much of this is true?
KD: It’s actually very true.
When I came back with the trophy there was a big reception at the Mansion House, which is the Lord Mayor’s House in Dublin.
The chief of police came up to me and said, 'Can I tell you a story?'
I said yes and he says: ‘While you were playing, from 7-10 PM, there wasn’t a single phone call to the police station.
'The girl at the reception actually rang the main telecom exchange and said there must be something wrong with our phone 'cause we haven’t had a call for more than half an hour, and usually we get one every three minutes.
'And the guy said, no, are you not watching the snooker? Everybody in the country is in front of the television, Doherty is in the final, don’t you know!?’
And then the chief of police said to me, 'I wish you were on telly more often, Ken. You make my job a hell of a lot easier.' (big laugh)
So I stopped crime, can you believe that?
PL: Amazing! Are there characteristics of a good snooker player that are useful in poker, too?
KD: Definitely, yes. There are a lot of affinities – patience, concentration ... confidence as well.
Sometimes in snooker you have to be passive, but you have to be aggressive as well. These are similar traits of a poker player.
Know when to hold them, know when to fold them, they say in poker, and it’s also know when to go and take the shot, know when to play safe and try to trap your opponent in snooker.
I think that’s also why so many snooker players also love to play poker.
Both are very strategic games and it’s a one-on-one situation most of the time in poker, too. It’s fascinating.
PL: Players like Ronnie O’Sullivan, Steve Davis…
KD: … Jimmy White, Mark Williams, Stephen Hendry, Matthew Stevens, John Higgins, Stephen Maguire, they all like to play.
Sometimes when we’re on the tour we take out the cards and have a little game. It’s always good and a lot of fun.
PL: Then maybe it’s time for a snooker-poker combined event.
KD: Absolutely, yeah! That would be good fun, I’m up for it!
PL: Thank you very much, Ken Doherty.
(Editor’s note: Ken Doherty lost the pool game 2-0. After Ken almost cleared the table in the first frame, only just missing the black, the challenger came back with a total clearance.
In the second frame, Ken missed a tricky red, only for the challenger to again clear all the yellows and the black for the win and a check for €500.)