If I were to pick out one enduring feature of Max Silver, it would be his smile.
At 24 years of age he has managed to carve out a career playing cards. There have been highs, and there have been crushing lows.
Talking to him what becomes apparent is that behind that wonderful smile lies a very powerful young man.
It’s so easy to quit. To just say no. It’s a lot tougher to turn that shower all the way to the right and stand your ground.
He’s made of strong stuff. You don’t see it. The ribs hide it. But it’s there, a part of his beating heart.
Strength, determination and unwavering faith in his ability to make the right choice at exactly the right time.
Now he has a wife. The most amazing support system. His back is well and truly covered.
Max Silver has had a great career in poker so far, but one suspects it’s about to move up a level.
Lee Davy: Oct 2010 and there is a shot of you in the winner photo as Nick Abou Risk takes down a UKIPT title. How as your life changed since then?
"I've learned a lot of life lessons."
Max Silver: It’s changed in a lot of ways, and in a lot of ways I am the same person.
I’m still playing poker and have become pretty successful. I have created a very nice career, met a beautiful woman, bought a house and got married.
I am playing higher stakes than I used to. The early success really helped create a foundation that led to where I stand today.
I have also matured. I have learned a lot of life lessons. Learning from mistakes has been a crucial part of my development.
LD: Describe maturity.
MS: I am more self aware, especially regarding how my actions affect others. I always try to be the best person I can be in any particular moment.
I don’t want to hurt anyone - which was always the case - but I am more aware of that need today.
Having a wife is also a big deal. It used to be all about me, and now it’s a joint effort. I am learning to take other people’s thoughts and feelings into consideration.
That’s been a learning curve, but one that I thoroughly enjoy.
LD: Are you the type of person who would hurt people unintentionally through your actions?
MS: For sure I have. I still think I occasionally speak without thinking, but it’s never come with malicious intent.
I am pretty self aware and this helps me to apologize quickly, learn from my mistakes and move on.
LD: How does feedback come your way?
MS: The best thing about having a wife is they can usually tell you when you step out of line. I mean that in the most respectful way.
There are times when you are going to mess up, and aren’t aware because you don’t get any feedback, and you lose the opportunity to learn from those lessons.
LD: Do you dwell on mistakes?
MS: I’m not a shallow thinker. I really try hard not to upset people. If I do I think it’s really important to put yourself in their shoes.
It’s the same in poker. You need to recognize that each person is different. The way they view life is different.
"Life did change for me."
You have to learn to respect that, and be aware of that.
LD: How do you approach marriage?
MS: It’s definitely a partnership. My wife has a very successful career, and in some ways a lot more successful than mine.
Life did change for me. Before, when I was playing poker, the money was never that important.
It was always nice, and it was the main reason I played poker, but it was just a way of keeping score. If I lost $50k, it stung, but I knew I could make it back.
When I asked my wife if she would marry me I went on the biggest downswing of my life. We are talking mid six figures.
Suddenly, when I lost $10k in a day, it wasn’t just $10k - it was $10k of my future gone. For a while I found it very difficult to adjust mentally.
I have also spoken to a few others players who have gotten married, or had kids, and they have found the same thing.
You have to have a certain level of attachment to the money, to make the right decisions, and don’t let your judgments affect your emotions too much.
LD: That must have been tough?
MS: I came very close to leaving poker. I had one of the sickest runs of bad luck, and then that created mental game issues - you start to doubt your ability.
Fortunately, it turned around pretty quickly; otherwise I might not be in the game today.
"I came very close to leaving poker."
Mentally it was tough to adjust to the different value of money, but my wife was incredibly important to me at that time. She works in the poker industry and knows the business.
To have her there helping me was amazing. She was always supportive. Even when I lost faith in myself she was there to remind me that I was awesome - both in person and at the tables.
LD: Your downswing would have affected her as well.
MS: Oh yeah, I was less fun to be around. The swings of poker can affect me in life. When I am having a good run I am more fun to be around.
LD: How can gamblers make adjustments to make life easier for their partners?
MS: I’m lucky because my wife understands poker. I’m sure there are other people who don’t and losing $10k in a day would be an insane amount of money, but my partner gets it.
So you need to take the time to help your partner understand the business. If you are playing poker for large amounts of money, you can’t avoid losing. It’s part of the game.
LD: What would you have done if you had stopped playing?
MS: I wasn’t sure, which is why I hung around a little bit longer. If I had a clearer picture I might have gotten out of the game.
I could have gone into social media, gone to university, or just had some time off and enjoyed life. I don’t really know.
LD: What would you have missed about the poker world?
MS: It’s a huge part of who I am and I really enjoy the intellectual side of it. There is a lot to learn and focus on.
The social side is also amazing. I have made so many awesome friends.
I used to work in the video game industry and when I left I realized that a lot of my friendships weren’t as strong as I thought they were, so I think leaving poker would be tough because I would lose so many friends.
LD: What drives you?
MS: Money is an important factor. Enjoyment and freedom are also important factors.
LD: What would you do if you won a large sum of money?
MS: Not much would change really. I have a lovely house, wonderful wife, and travel the world.
"I am a big believer in life, and poker, that you need to use all the information you have at your disposal when making your decision."
I guess I would just get ready for my future and become more secure.
LD: Are you just enjoying yourself?
MS: I am a big believer in life, and poker, that you need to use all the information you have at your disposal when making your decision, and I don’t think I have that information at the moment.
I have no idea what life will be like in 10 years time so I don’t spend time worrying about it.
LD: What are the biggest opportunities for poker players today?
MS: There is still a lot of money to be made if you are willing to work hard.
It’s tougher, especially online cash games. It’s very competitive. If someone came to me now and said they wanted to play poker for a living I would tell them not to.
I have a lot of experience - a six-year head start on anyone else. To come in now and try and work your way up is going to be tough.
LD: What are the biggest misconceptions about Max Silver?
MS: I don’t think there are any misconceptions about Max Silver. Do you know any?
Seriously, there are some misconceptions about poker players in general.
I recently had a meal with the neighbors - who were lovely - one of the questions they ask me was: ‘are you just sitting down in your tuxedo sipping on a Martini?’
I had to explain that it wasn’t always a James Bond lifestyle.
LD: Is it difficult talking about the financial side of poker?
"it’s important to have an eye on the real world."
MS: Whilst being ok winning and losing large amounts of money, it’s important to have an eye on the real world.
For example, if I am playing a £1k UKIPT and I bust, that’s ok for me, but for someone else that could be his or her big moment of the year.
They could have been saving for months, and you have to respect that.
LD: Do you have an ego?
MS: I would say it’s pretty close to zero. I like to win, but that’s because it’s my job.
If I didn’t like to win then I would have to find a different career. But my ego is pretty small.
LD: If you were to leave a set of principles for your children, what would those principles be?
MS: Be kind to others and believe in yourself.
LD: What are the principles that guide you?
MS: Be a good person, and try not to be a dick.
LD: Do you worry about how people perceive you?
MS: I am more worried about how my actions impact others. I have had people before who don’t like me, and that’s fine.
I can choose not to be around those people. But with those I love I make a conscious effort to be good.
LD: Best memories?
MS: It’s such a cliché but my wedding day was such a state of euphoria. It was the most memorable experience of my life.
Previously, my first big win in the UKIPT was pretty satisfying.
LD: Are you a reader?
MS: I am. I read a lot more online than physical books. I am reading a cookbook right now. It’s from Joel Robuchon.
LD: How is your search for the perfect steak?
MS: It’s less steak and more chicken and fish these days, but my perfect steak was self cooked.
I placed it into a water bath, and then pan-seared it in some very hot oil.
"There is still a lot of money to be made if you are willing to work hard."
LD: Jimmy Fricke has started a food blog. If you were to start a blog what would your topic be?
MS: I would also write about food. It’s a life passion of mine. Today, I received a Vitamix blender so I am getting ready to making some smoothies.
LD: What would you change about the world right now?
MS: I would like to see less poverty and hardship. I am very fortunate to live in a nice country and have a nice life and I wish that was the same for everyone.
LD: The Global Poker Masters - what does that mean to you?
MS: It’s a great concept. I wanted to get into it but didn’t.
They have a wildcard system so who knows? I may still get involved. It will be fun for sure.
LD: What would have to happen for you to bust a gut to get into that team?
MS: There would have to have the money behind it. I believe the value of it is very low at the moment, so it’s not that worthwhile yet.
But if the money was bigger it would be more attractive. But this is Year 1 and hopefully in three of four years the money will increase. Everything has to start somewhere.