Professional poker player, podcast producer & host. Screenwriter & Blogger, David Lappin talked with Somuchpoker’s Gaelle Jaudon in this interview.
This interview is by Gaelle Jaudon.
Somuchpoker: You kind of have a different background than most of the poker players we interviewed. You come from a family of film makers. You studied screenwriting and have a master degree in modern philosophy. And you started working actually as a TV showrunner in Dublin. Do you think it gave you a different approach and vision of the poker world?
David Lappin: I suppose the way that it overlapped initially was the story telling. Even in the minutiae of the poker hand I always felt there was an attempt of telling stories to people and I guess that’s the overlap. And I think my philosophy background was also a very good foundation and basic education and also at best a very good bullshit detector. I think when you study philosophy for that long part of it is going to be logic and I think that gives you the grammar of maybe sniffing when somebody is bluffing or telling a bad story. There are probably some little elements of that as well.
SMP: You’ve been having a blog for like 10 years now, but your last post was exactly 2 years ago, at the beginning of the covid crisis. Why did you stop writing after so many years?
DL: I have continued to write but I wrote for a couple of poker media sites like VSO news, strategy articles for UpswingPoker, and a little bit last year for gambleonline.com. Those sites were paying me effectively to write articles that were not really different from my blog so I continued to do it but for them instead.
SMP: You racked up over almost $4.5 million in online and live MTT cashes during your career. It must be pretty difficult to find a balance between your work writing and hosting a podcast, which is already time consuming, and also working as a professional poker player.
DL: It is not actually impossible. Most of my earnings came in the first 10 years when I was mostly an online player. So about those figures you mentioned, I have to be honest, there can be a lot of untruth in statistics like that. I played a lot of sit n go so the edges in that format are very skinny. Despite that cool number of 4,5 millions of winnings, in reality I wasn’t making that much money like you can make in MTTs. But I used to play a lot online and do a little bit of writing on the side and I guess that started to change when I joined Unibet. I began to work with the podcast the Chip Race, and also the Lock-In, and we worked much more professionally on that the last few years which has been nice. I think the main difference has been having a family. My son was born five years ago and as soon as that happened I realized I just couldn’t put in enough family hours if I kept playing all the time. I immediately cut back to probably playing 2 to 3 days a week. I’m still going to some live events, like Las Vegas for the WSOP and doing some 5/10 d ays festivals and when I’m home I’m playing on Sundays and maybe 2 other days during the week. That has given me a better life balance at home. So doing that and being in a routine of waking up earlier is more suitable with doing a little bit of writing and podcasts on the side, and not sleeping in the afternoon like I used to do!
SMP: When we look at you Hendon Mob it’s quite original. We can see a lot of different flags, and some not really common poker destinations. What would be your funniest poker trip location and on the opposite the weirdest?
DL: Definitely my most successful result was a long time ago in Barcelona, when I was very new to live poker. I guess it was the most life-changing one because the amount of money I won that day very much changed the game I could play moving forward. It quadrupled my bankroll that day and I was able to play bigger after that. That score launched my career in a big way. Sadly that’s still the biggest result I ever had! But mostly my memories are from traveling with people. I have quite a big group of Irish friends and we would often travel and share places together. So much of the memories with those trips are bound up with friendship and the relationship with those guys, and making new friends along the way too. I don’t really have memories that are super unusual. Maybe the trip I made to a very small greek island with my friend Daragh Davey, because I had the Greek flag on my Hendon Mob at that point and I managed to catch one. It was a very quaint small casino in the middle of nowhere, right next to the airport. That was an unusual spot but it was a good fun. I’m sort of a europhile. I go to america maybe once or twice a year but really the eastern european countries are my favorite in general. Tzech Republic and Romania might be my two favorite poker destinations. They’re just beautiful cities to visit and I had some good fortune in those towns too.
SMP: About your podcast, that you host with Dara Okearney, there is a lot to say! It’s the 8 season now if I’m not wrong. You won a GPI award for the chip race in 2018 and was nominated again on 2021 Thats a lot of work, on top of your career as a player and representing unibet. What motivates you after all those years and what is the main goal of that podcast?
DL: For us we see it more as a variety show and it was important dor Dara and I that we could make a radio style show where we incorporate some segments. It was important to elaborate a real strategy, because Dara has a brilliant strategic mind and wrote interesting poker books. He is a fabulous poker mind so he takes the lead on the strategic segments of the show. And our lead guest also helps to sell the show because when we have a famous person that always helps to get some attention and make people click. But the other segments are very important too. We always try to deep dive at the beginning of the show into something that is topical and current in poker. Not to just superficially cover its news but to analyze it in a bit more depth. The other segment is with a secondary guest, which doesn’t mean at all that they are less important, it’s usually someone that is less famous in the poker world but has a really good story to tell, an interesting perspective. Sometimes they work in the industry or a young player coming off but hasn’t had the opportunity yet to speak to the media. We’re always looking for people who have a good story and that’s something really important. I think that’s probably what has helped the show last so long. I think when you tune in to the Chip Race you might not like every segment but maybe 3 out of 4 and you discover something different all the time and it moves.
Yes we’ve been doing the podcast for 7 years now and the popularity has been growing very gradually. It was an Irish facing podcast just for the local Irish poker scene at first. We were interviewing all the famous players in Ireland and we assumed we would have enough guests and material for maybe 20 episodes. What happened is that after 7 episodes the show was picked by Unibet, where Dara and I are ambassadors for, and they would help make the Chip Race a world facing show. We were really happy to do that and little by little the show grew because right at the start we didn’t know as many people as we do now. We weren”t as well regarded as podcasters so when you ask the big names in poker to be on your show it was more a risk then in their minds. These days we would be seen, I hope, as a safe choice. But you know we still have some people we would love to have on the show and that we’ve never been able to get.
SMP: Is there a guest that you never had yet and really wish to interview on your show?
DL: I suppose for the history of poker, someone like Doyle Brunson is unmatched. That would be a very special opportunity if this ever becomes a possibility. I heard he was filming a documentary right now but I suppose he won’t do too much media after that. Phil Ivey also, he’s a great enigma in poker, and he somehow came out of the Full Tilt situation unscathed in reputation. I think he managed to manufacture a mystic around his personality and that would be really interesting to go deeper on. I don’t think he really revealed anything but it would be interesting to see what we could get out of him. I have a weird one that maybe most people wouldn’t say but I would love to interview Chris Ferguson because what happened with Full Tilt a bit more than a decade ago is a story I don’t think anybody knows in full. We know how it affected the players and the community from the outside, we know what Howard Lederer said in that series of interviews, we know what ended up being discovered in court. Those kinds of things are in the public domain but I think Chris Ferguson has managed to stay ziplipped on his perspective of things and I strangely believe than while he does deserve criticism because he’s the person who whose Ray Bitar, who seems to be the number one villain in that situation, he came to the company because of him. I also actually believe that Ferguson has a personal story, particularly in the years when he tried to salvage the money by making the company still a viable concern, might cast him in a better light than his silence has cast him. I could be wrong but my suspicions by talking to other people around him is that while there is definitely some shame in his story and his way of doing his business there are maybe some qualities too. I would be really interested to have the opportunity to look into that at some point and maybe 10 years later he might be willing to do it.
SMP: You also got a bunch of bad publicity and criticism from Daniel Negranu after you received the award. He kind of had a twitter meltdown about it, qualifying you as trolls ect.. Did it affect you in some ways and how you deal with criticism, which always happens when you host a show and become a media figure?
DL: We had a disagreement with Daniel about a year before that particular event. We had been very critical about the way he had spoken about some players, that he refereed as a “cancer to the game” and other ways and we took issue about. I wrote about it on my blif and we talked about that with Dara. he got a little bit upset about it because some of the posts went viral. Some media had read it and it cast him in a bad way, rightly tho because he behaved wrongly as he often does these days sadly. But about a year later in 2018 our podcast was running and we won the GPI award. We weren’t there because we didn’t travel to Vegas for that event but when our name was read out I guessed he realized who we were and reacted in the audience. He quite of had of a meltdown like you said and started suggesting that the voting has been rigged and attacking us on twitter saying that he knew we had rigged the jury, which was hilarious because we didn’t had actually that much of interest in the award ceremony. Not that we didn’t care about it but we just thought that we didn’t have any chance of winning because we were the only non-American nominated. So he started to boo us in the room and went on twitter to say we were bad people and all sorts of crazy stuff but what ended up happening is that was an amazing publicity to us. “Best podcast” category at the GPI awards is definitely not the most popular and famous category but the next day, suddenly everyone was talking about the Chip Race because Negreanu had actually amplified it with his silly reaction. So in a way he made every mistake you can make in a media battle against people who are lower status than him. I think we actually ended up looking sort of dignified but all of that so that was great!
SMP: You recently wrote about the goods and bad from the last EPT Prague and how Pokerstars is trying to regain confidence from their players. You also explained how it was a good thing that GG Poker finally got rid of Dan Bilzerian. With your experience, do you think the poker industry and the rooms are going in the right direction? Are there some big changes you’ve noticed?
DL: I think different poker rooms are going in different directions to be honest. I’m always very conscious of the fact that I represent a poker site, a site that I think is pretty clean and treats their players very well, and follows all the regulations. Obviously as somebody who represents a poker site it is my responsibility to make Unibet seem good, so people need to also take my opinions with a pinch of salt. But I’m also able to give credit where it’s due, and on the contrary criticize when I really think something is wrong. To tell the truth I don’t see myself as a Unibet pro player first. It’s a very close second but I see myself as a poker ambassador first and somebody who would always say what he really thought. So there are a couple of things. Today Pokerstars and GG are certainly the two biggest sites and to look at the way they’re behaving is interesting. The past years were awful for Stars. They made so many tactical mistakes in regards to their existing poker clientele. At the end there was a lot of speculation of insider trading with David Baazov and it was sort of seen as an opportunity to flip a company and make a lot of money. I think with those in mind Pokerstars became greedy and the standards dropped in terms of how players were treated. I think since Flutter took over that company, which is basically Betfair and Paddy Power, two irish companies who have a more players centric approach, Pokerstars is in much better hands now. I also know that at Flutter a lot of the employees bonuses are attached to the players enjoyment and the feedback that the get so I think that that’s also really important in terms of going forward.
Regarding the last EPT, I wouldn’t say it was perfect, there were some problems regarding bringing back a live tournament again. For example there were some very steep rakes on the hyper turbos but overall most of it was positive. Most of it seemed like they put much more attention on the players’ experience. On the flip side I think GG Poker are just disgusting. I honestly think they just flout on every regulation. They have their room act over the law, over the way money is deposited on the site and withdrawn. I don’t know how they can get away with this stuff. I think it’s borderline criminal and scandals are going to happen but they have a very good software and people in their team who understand how to make people sticky about the game and play. They also have nice features, big name ambassadors and that is driving their growth but they are not playing with the same set of rules as any other site right now. They are bahaving much more like those dodgy poker apps regarding how they view rules and regulations worldwide and I’m very scared about how that might end up long term for poker because we had a black friday. We already had a situation where significant regulations were breached and that caused the virtual collapse of our poker economy once. I don’t want to see that happen again because it takes years to restore trust, and sometimes it’s not even possible.
SMP: What do you want to focus on now as a pro and in life in general? Do you have specific goals you’re working on?
DL: My specific goals are around playing again.I think what Dara and I have built in terms of content is wonderful, we have a big audience now and we will put a load of efforts into the next 25 shows we have signed with Unibet until the summer of 2023. So you can expect even more content of interviews, the Lock In, strategic videos and articles in the meantime. But if I have to put a finger around an ambition it’s centered around the fact that I’ve let my poker playing be less of a focus, particularly during the pandemic. I’m trying hard right now to study as much as possible. I study poker 4 to 6 hours a week, even when I’m not playing more than 10 hours in that week. I still study enough because I don’t want my game to disimprove. I want to play well and I want people to think of me as a poker player first. All the media and ambassador stuff are really important but I was a poker player first and I’ve been a winning player every single year I played, almost 15 years now. But I had less wins and less big years in the last years and I would love to fix that, have a big win or a big final table, hopefully in a Unibet open when we come back in september! I think my game is still good enough and that it’s still in me. Maybe with a little bit of good fortune this year I might have a big score as well.