Stuart Rutter is one of the many poker pros who has started to look for ways to give back to society after years of profiting from people at the tables.
Rutter is involved in a prisoner listening program in the UK where he actually works with prisoners and teaches them real-world skills.
It’s a stark contrast to the high-stakes world of poker where ego, profit and luxury sometimes play a large role.
We caught up with the Birmingham native at the WSOP APAC while on break from the $5,000 8-Game event.
PokerListings.com: Why did you decide to play WSOP APAC instead of the many tournaments, including EPT London, that are closer to you neck of the woods?
Stuart Rutter: Yeah, it is quite strange to be here when there are tons of great events that are just down the road for me in Birmingham. I’m definitely a sucker for WSOP bracelets though and they aren’t handing those out in London.
These events give you the best possible opportunity to do that.
Yes it will be a tough field, especially in this $5k Mix Game today, but we were just discussing the fact this could be the shortest ever event in the history of the WSOP.
I love the WSOP and I love mix game events as well and there have been some really great events here.
PL: Do the small fields here in Australia lesson the value of a bracelet?
I guess they have to. If I won a bracelet in one of these events I’d still be ecstatic but you would also know you only beat a field that had 40 runners or so.
I feel there is a difference between the ones handed out in Vegas and the ones given out in France or Australia.
For me though, winning a bracelet is still the ultimate. It’s something no one can take away from you.
PL: You’ve participated in the prisoner listener program in the UK where you actually go into prisons and work with the inmates. Is that something you’re still involved with?
Stuart Rutter at the 2010 WSOP
Yeah very much so. We’re actually expanding it. We go into prisons and teach the prisoners new skills if they volunteer for it.
Primarily it’s listening and actually talking about each others feelings and stuff like that. It’s probably an unlikely thing amongst most of the male population but it’s a pretty cool thing to be able to get these guys to open up.
Obviously in prison if people can spend their time doing something very constructive like that it can make such a big difference when they go back out into the real world.
For me it’s quite enjoyable to do because it seems like the polar opposite of playing poker. It’s quite nice to have some balance in life.
PL: What does the prisoner listening program provide to you life that professional poker doesn’t?
If I’m completely honest I don’t think there’s anything negative about being a professional poker player. But in terms of your spot in the real world it’s tough to say there’s that much positive as well.
I’ve definitely got no problems with it but if there’s a downside — and poker IS a fantastic job — it’s that you just don’t feel apart of the regular world on a day-to-day basis.
To go out and do something positive is really encouraging. At the same time I was thinking today that you get to come to Australia as a professional poker player. You get to play the events you love.
There are some days where being a professional poker feels like the best thing in the world.
PL: Is the prisoner listening program something you’d recommend to other poker players to gain perspective on the world?
Rutter: "It's great Dan Colman spoke out."
I think more and more poker players are doing charitable things with their lives. If I was to recommend one thing it would be the prison listening scheme in the UK. I feel like I’ve hit the nail on the head accidentally because it’s a really great thing to do.
It is an exciting challenge. As a young man I’m probably the exact demographic of the prison. It’s tough to go in and relate to these guys when ultimately they know that at the end they go back to their cells and I go back to the real world.
I mean they’ve all done something to deserve being there but it is a tough challenge to relate to them when they know, at the moment, they are at a severe disadvantage in life compared to everyone else.
It’s exciting stuff definitely.
PL: Do you teach them poker?
Ha! Funnily enough it’s the one thing that’s never come up. But they definitely do play inside actually. I’m not sure you’d want to be a part of the prison poker game but it is pretty interesting.
PL: Where do you stand on Dan Colman’s assessment of poker when he called out the dark side of the game?
I think it’s great he spoke out. It might not have been completely the right way to do it but who’s to criticize him after a million-dollar tournament when your emotions would obviously be quite high.
Obviously I think there is something to what he said but I also think poker is nothing like other forms of gambling. Other forms of gambling I think carry a greater responsibility in that a small minority of people will have problems with it.
That said, there are a lot of people at poker tournaments, professionals and amateurs alike, who are having a good time. It’s the role of the professionals add some entertainment.
I think the picture is a lot more positive than the one he painted but it wasn’t a bad thing at all to have someone make a statement like that.
In the big scheme of things though, I don’t think poker has too much to answer for, actually.