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An introspective interview with 3-time WSOP Champion Dutch Boyd

Despite his fifteen years of presence on the circuit and his three WSOP bracelets, Dutch Boyd hasn’t enjoyed the same fame as other pros. Gaëlle Jaudon took her chance during the WSOP Europe to get to know the American pro better. A rather introspective interview, in the presence of his girlfriend Michelle.

Dutch Boyd – Photo King’s Casino

Somuchpoker: It was your first time here at King’s Casino in Rozvadov. What do you think of those WSOPE?

Dutch Boyd: The casino is pretty cool; I don’t know about the town itself. It feels a little weird I guess, but I think it was a good venue. The players are good, the prize pools were good too; I just wish they had more bracelet events. They tried to do a HORSE event, but there were only four players. I think they could have expanded how many bracelets events they actually had. In general, I’m not a big fan of multiple flights, but overall, I think it was a good experience. It would just have been better if I was walking over with one of those bracelets!

SMP: You’ve been in poker along time, and you’ve won three bracelets. What is your best memory overall?

Dutch Boyd: I guess it’s hard to top the very first bracelet. It was kind of living the dream. I was heads up against Joe Hachem; he was the reigning champion of the Main Event at that point. To get to the final table. I had to knock out Daniel Negreanu in 7th place. A lot of people watching ESPN and those players had that specific dream, and that was kind of surreal to live that. It felt really special. In all of poker, I don’t know if there is a high quite like that peak of winning your first bracelet. That’s what keeps so many of us coming back, to get that taste of pure bliss. And I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced anything like it in life. I talked to a lot of bracelet winners and asked if there is anything compared to that first bracelet, and there’s never been anything like it. It’s really the pinnacle of what you can feel as a human. I talked to a lot of people about that, like what about the birth of your first child or whatever it might be, and the answer is no. That’s why we keep playing this game, even if it can be torture, like I feel so bad right now. When you get knocked out of the Main Event, it really makes you feel horrible, and it’s balanced maybe by the good feelings when they come.

SMP: You’ve played poker for more than 16 years now and had a lot of ups and downs through your career. Do you ever get used to those feelings?

Dutch Boyd: You never actually get used to it. In a lot of ways, it’s even harder. Earlier in my career, my first big disappointment in poker was finishing 12th in the 2003 WSOP Main Event when Chris Moneymaker won. In a lot of ways, that wasn’t as disappointing as other times when I had close results. When you’re kind of new, you don’t realize how those opportunities are really once in a lifetime; you don’t take the gravity as you do now. Realistically, I might have 70 of these in my life, 10K main events that could be life changing money on top, so when I lose one it hurts. When you’re new to the game, you feel like you’re going to be here forever, play forever and have an infinity of those opportunities. But there is no long run to these things. That’s the hard reality of poker, especially tournaments and live tournaments. Every single shot that you have is special, and it hurts so much when it doesn’t happen.

SMP: You’ve been with your partner, Michelle, for many years and being a live poker player is a very particular way of living, like a rollercoaster. How do you handle your personal life and find a balance?

Dutch Boyd: It’s funny because when you have a partner, in a lot of ways I feel it has to be harder for them. They have to experience the same highs and lows that you have and the same chaotic journey on this weird bus, but they are the ones in the passenger seat so… she gets to feel the disappointment that I feel, but she doesn’t have any control over it. How do I handle it? I try to shake it off as quickly as I can. It’s really easy to go home and be in a bad mood for days and days. Earlier in my relationship, I felt that I would hold on to the beats pretty long until one time, she looked at me and said, you know I’m pretty disappointed too, and it kind of struck me. It’s selfish to hold onto your personal pain.

SMP: You also wrote a book, Poker Tilt. What is the message you could give to a new generation of players?

Dutch Boyd: Poker Tilt is a weird book; it was really written for a very small audience. It was kind of the things that I would have known when I first started. I don’t know if I could pick one specific thing to tell to newcomers; there are so many things… maybe buy the book! (laughing).

SMP: Today, what are you the most proud about?

Dutch Boyd: Oh I don’t know… what do you think Michelle?

Michelle: quitting smoking?! There are a lot of people that do drugs and smoke pot. Dutch used to smoke a lot, and he doesn’t do it anymore. Lots of players keep smoking pot while they play, or take Adderall and stuff Last year, for example, it was a surprise to hear so many people saying how they’re playing better with Adderall, but it’s just in their mind.

Dutch Boyd: Yeah I would like to expand on that. One of my favorite quotes from Michelle is “A good friend is a good influence.” It’s easy to have a lot of friends to drink together and do drugs, but it takes a bigger friend to say that you shouldn’t do that. I think that at this point in my life and my career, I am a good influence on other players, and I’m proud of that. When I was coming up and won a bracelet, some of my poker heroes would be there and told me okay, let’s go to the club. And there it goes; you spend 6K dollars on lap dances and alcohol for somebody that I really look up to. And I feel it’s kind of easy to take that role. You can feel very lonely and isolated when you come up to the game, and it would be very easy to go to some new player and befriend them, borrow money and take advantage of them, wait until he wins a big score. I see that over and over. So, maybe what I’m most proud of is feeling that I am a good influence on the friends and players that I know. I never ripped anybody off in poker in 16 years in the game. I don’t owe anybody any money or scammed some backers. I think it’s difficult to go through the game for as long as I have without getting a little bit dirty. It’s a very hostile environment, and you have very tough times where money is just not there.It can be very easy to just scramble around and survive, and I think I did a good job staying away from those moral pits. I’ve been in so many situations where I’m facing the choice of pawning something off to pay the rent or not paying off a backer. You see that so many times and for me, it has always been the choice of not ripping somebody off. Also it’s always a good thing to keep something besides poker, ;for me, we have domain names and websites, twitch, I wrote a book, etc.

Dutch Boyd – Photo WSOP

SMP: About that, you did many other things in poker than just playing, writing, twitching, vlogs, etc. Did you ever consider not working in the poker industry?

Dutch Boyd: No… but I might. I like to do other stuff in the industry. I’ve also done some coaching before, and one time I auditioned at the Wynn to deal; you know, it’s good money. When you look at some of the most successful poker players, they all went to the other side of the box, like Bobby Baldwin or Chip Reese. I feel like I don’t want my Wikipedia to be just like Dutch Boyd: 1980 to 2030, did nothing except poker.

Michelle: You want to contribute to the poker community in a positive way, and that’s why you also did the twitch.

Dutch: Yeah but I feel it’s a real issue in the poker community. Poker players get to a point of success, and they feel they’re not contributing at all to society. It’s very difficult to rationalize that. Look at Dan Coleman who is one of the best poker players, but he never shows up because he says poker is a very dark game, and he feels he’s not helping the world. I think that a lot of players are trying to offset that feeling of being a degenerate by doing things like REG, effecting giving and saying okay, well, I’m going to do something that is kind of bad for society, but I’m going to use the pros to actually try to do something good. But I don’t really think that that works. I don’t think you can say okay, I’ll do something bad but use that money to save kids in Africa. I mean, we are not coming to Rozvadov to save people. We are here to take the money from people who want to sit down and think they can play at a level like David Peters. But obviously, there are also a lot of things about poker. I can also make the argument that poker is a social positive, but I don’t know if I believe it myself. A lot of poker players don’t, for example, when it comes to the drug problem. Many people are losing money in that poker room, and a lot of them can’t really afford to lose. And for the ones who can afford it; it still hurts. For every winner, one guy who experiences that high, that perfect day, everybody else feels bad and miserable. Besides that, there are so many smart people in the game. What could happen if we all get in a room together and try to actually do something positive for everybody instead of just throwing money away and wasting time in a card game? It feels kind of a waste of time and talent. It’s hard to come up with arguments against that. Some players will say whatever we make we’ll donate to charity, or we use our platform to do good, but I don’t know. Personally, I feel that’s not enough. A lot of people have been getting burned out of the game for that reason. They can’t really devote themselves to an activity they don’t really think has a social positive. We are losing a lot of the best players like Vanessa Selbst, or Doug Polk is saying he won’t do that anymore. Over and over, we see some of the best players retiring. They get burned out, which is another way of saying I think I’m wasting my life. So, when you ask do I do other things besides poker, I’ve been looking at the whole industry itself, and it’s kind of hard to get behind. But I’m looking at other things.

SMP: What do you think of the poker world today in comparison to when you started? Which direction do you think poker should take?

Dutch Boyd: It’s definitely a bigger economy. There are so many more players now that there was 15 years ago, the year of Moneymaker, when you really started seeing poker growing. The right direction I would like to see poker take is to turn into a positive game. I would like to see poker when people don’t actually lose. I’m sure it could happen. You don’t see people losing their house while they’re pursuing their dream of being a successful baseball player; it doesn’t happen. The industry has been trying to turn poker into sport for a long time, like what Alex Dreyfus is doing with the poker leagues, for example. Back in the nineties, Mike Sexton was talking about the fact that we need outside money coming in. He was trying to do the Pro Poker Tour, the PPT, or Annie Duke, who did the Epic Poker League. I think that there are some changes to make to the game to make it more viewable. Anything that can be done to increase the skill level; it’s more likely that you’re going to see the top players of the game do well,; it kind of shadow the illusion that everybody can win. I think that anything that can lower the luck factor is good for poker. And anything that can raise the viewership and the engagement to poker is good. They are trying to come up with outside money, not poker patches but product placements that are from non-poker entities. Poker Go is doing a good job with that; Alex Dreyfus trying to rank players , and that’s also a good thing. I think the future of poker is a positive sum game, and if it can’t be, I think it’s going to die. I really think eventually poker will die if we can’t come up with an idea that makes it overall positive for the most participants. Right now, it’s not, and the vast majority of players are losing ,and I don’t think that helps the economy.

Also, another thing that could help poker being a positive thing for the majority of people is stacking. Stacking sites like YouStake, TastyStakes, are good examples of a way to get money from outside the economy. People can participate and get involved in the game. It’s just so much more interesting watching a football game when you have 20 dollars into it, and it’s the same with poker. It’s boring when you don’t know anybody who’s playing, and you don’t have any interest in it. But when you can have a 1 or 2 % sweat in somebody, it gets really interesting. Those are the kind of initiatives that increase the engagement and are good for the game. Poker is now competing with other better options for entertainment. Alex Dreyfus said a couple years ago that Hearthstone was the biggest threat to poker, and he was into something; there are so many other great games, like Fortnite. And poker is greying; people are getting older. When you look around at the poker tables, I don’t see a lot of 20/21 year old kids. I don’t really see the future, but it’s so much bigger than it was 15 years ago. It’s easier to get better also, and the game is deeper.

Somuchpoker: You don’t think poker is more difficult today?

Dutch Boyd: No, a lot of people are saying this but not really. It’s much easier to make a living today than it was. The biggest games at the casino when I was 20 were the 20/40 limit. And everybody had been playing since the seventies, so it was though. Now, there is a much bigger player base, and the best players are better than they were, but the worse players are also way worse than they were. In Vegas, we still have a lot of people who come down and don’t even know the rules of some of the games they play. So, I question every time someone says that poker is much tougher than it used to be. I ask “What are you talking about?”Maybe in 2010, that was maybe the easiest it was ever, but it’s so much easier today than it was in 2002/ 2003. Poker always goes through theses phases. In the late 90s, it was dying until the movie Rounder came out, and we had the poker boom and it started dying again. I can come up with some of the things that could spark a new surge in poker. One thing is a universal basic income. When people ask why we don’t see many minorities in poker, and why is there such a gender gap, I think it has a lot to do with the basic wealth inequality. If we can eliminate that issue ,a lot of people will have a lot more time and desire to play poker, to pursue hobbies.

Somuchpoker: You live in Vegas, what does your everyday life looks like?

Dutch Boyd: I don’t really know if we have an everyday routine. We try to do the gym every day. There is a lot of free time when you’re a poker player. Besides a few series where it’s about poker every day, the rest of the year is kind of waiting.

Michelle: We read books, you write, and Vegas is such a nice city to live. You can eat wherever we want to eat, and we play quite a lot of video games!

SMP: What games do you think are the most interesting games today? With the most value.

Dutch Boyd: Fortnite! I really like that. But honestly, poker games are pretty much all the same. Baduci, or short deck poker are the same, in fact. I do like mixed games; I think they are a lot more fun and interesting to play. I think the edge you can have on your opponents is a lot higher. But I kind of feel that all the variants are all the same. I guess no limit Hold’em stays as my favorite! But I do think that the multiple players games like 6-max or 8-max are more interesting than heads-up to me. I know the whole idea that GTO is kind of cool, that you play in a way that no one play at the table can lower your expectations, but what is interesting to watch is the dynamic when you are at the table with five or six people, and you have one guy playing GTO, but two people working together can lower his EV. Seeing those kinds of improvised strategies between players and the group dynamic is really the most interesting to watch for me. I think a 6-max event is much more interesting than a HU event, even if HU might be the purest test of skills. No limit; that allows players to really make big moves without relying on cards, stays as my favorite game, and maybe deuce to seven no limit also.

Interview by Gaelle Jaudon


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