Kenna James is known as The Cowboy, and with good reason: the American pro is rarely seen at the tables without his trademark Stetson and cowboy boots. But real cowboys aren't defined by their outfits (or even their $3 million in total tournament earnings) but rather their inner character, and James has that in spades.
PokerListings.com talked to James at the end of a gruelling Day 2 of the 2008 Aussie Millions and found The Cowboy happy to talk about his day at the tables, his thoughts on the tournament and the charities that benefit from his time away from the felt.
An Interview with Kenna James, Poker Pro
So how was your day today, Kenna?
It was emotionally draining, physically draining; it was a roller-coaster all day, much [of] my own doing. I started the day with around $90,000 and my peak was $240,000 and then I woke up with kings. I was playing a lot of hands and I got a guy to stick like $60,000 in with ace-queen, so that was fortunate.
And then different things happened; my timing was off. I just had some really bad timing in picking my spots and running into certain hands. A bevy of problems and things that developed. So anyway, I finished my day with more than I started and we're that much closer to the top, so that's a positive thing.
You had Erik Seidel on your left for most of the day. Did that compound the problems?
It's like having Hannibal Lecter on your left all day. When he came to my table I had him out-chipped, but once he had momentum and he had chips he was unstoppable. I played maybe six or eight hands against him small blind versus big blind and I think he went seven and one.
For example, I had two black tens and I made it $8,000 out of the small blind. He flat-called me out of the big blind and the flop came three spades. I led out for $10,000; he makes it $30,000. That's just typical of what I was facing. It was pretty tough.
Erik's one of the best No-Limit players in the world, so for me to survive all day with him on my left not giving any blinds up and fighting for every scrap that's out there I should be happy, but I'm disappointed to be finishing the day under chip average.
How were the rest of the players at your table?
It was a tough table, and the few weak players that were there were short-stacked, and when they were gone we replaced them with a bunch of big stacks. One of the players at our table has over half a million in chips right now.
So it was a tough spot. I don't like to play passive poker and I was out-chipped and out-played today so I feel kind of down. But tomorrow's another day.
What's been your assessment of the tournament on the whole?
This is the top tournament of the year. I mean, the structure is the best and it's just run so well, and that makes it even more difficult, because you know it's once a year, this special event. And you travel 15 hours, halfway around the world to get here, and you know it raises the stakes.
I've got a third place here and a ninth-place finish. I've always done well here and I've got my hopes up, so hopefully it will start to fall into place for me tomorrow.
Changing tacks a bit, I noticed you're wearing the Screaming Eagles/Wounded Warrior gear. Can you talk about your involvement with those organizations?
You know, these guys - we talk about poker - these guys put their lives on the line every day. Whether you agree with it politically or not, it's a fact that these men and women are out there sacrificing arms and legs, and the Wounded Warrior Project is a project where these soldiers who now have to return to civilian life and only get limited government funding, this project supports those who need prosthetics and helps their families adjust to civilian life. So I'm proud to be a supporter of them.
What sorts of things do you do in conjunction with the Project?
I work with a group called the Screaming Eagles, who not only fight on the front lines but they play poker, Sunday tournaments. So hopefully I'll be going over to visit them this year.
That would be amazing.
Yeah, and Mike Sexton is having a fundraiser in Washington in February. I'll be going to that with a lot of the people from Congress to try and shed some light and just show some appreciation for the men and women who are not battling out on the felt but battling in the foxholes.
Right or wrong, they're doing the job that they're told to do and I really respect that.
It's definitely a worthy cause and certainly one that benefits from your involvement. Good luck with the Project and at the table tomorrow.
Thanks - hopefully I'll see you at the end of the line!
In addition to contributing his image and his time to the Wounded Warrior Project, James donates 1% of his tournament winnings to the organization and has hosted charity poker tournaments to raise more money for wounded veterans in need of assistance. Regardless of one's political leanings, it's an issue of humanity, and James' continued dedication to the cause speaks volumes to his standing as a true cowboy.
More information on the Wounded Warrior Project can be found here.