If Julian Thew is oft-quoted as the nicest man in UK poker, then Barny Boatman is arguably the nicest 'bloke'. He's well-liked and respected like Thew, but he's, you know, just a little more rough round the edges. At the time you'd expect Thew to be tucking his kids into bed, probably just before settling down for a nice cup of cocoa, Boatman's likely guffawing in a boozer somewhere in the world with a beer in his hand and a story at the ready.
Boatman has been a face on the UK poker scene as far back as anyone can remember. He was (and still is) one quarter of the Hendon Mob, alongside his brother Ross, Joe Beevers and early EPT champ Ram Vaswani. While the others were racking up six-figure scores - Vaswani (11), Beevers (4) Boatman, Ross (5) - Barny was grinding the long game with no $100,000+ scores to his own name. He'd consistently come close, but something always seemed to conspire against him. Then came the EPT8 €4,400 Sanremo Main Event in April, 2011 and a big money final table: his first six-figure cash coming some 13 years after his first recorded result on the Hendon Mob website.
"You stick around long enough and you eventually figure it out, don't you," Boatman told us today, while waiting outside to meet someone for a cup of tea.
"I do feel that I've been playing quite well the last couple of years and I think there's an element of variance about it, particularly in tournament poker. I put myself in the late stages quite a lot and then funny things happen. You get it in with kings against ace-queen..... You hope that sooner or later it works out for you," he added.
Onwards and upwards
And things have been working out for him. Boatman's big cashes of late (including this summer's WSOP win, more on that later) have helped him up the all-time England money list into 15th with $2.7m, directly above double WSOP bracelet winners Praz Bansi and JP Kelly.
Last night, he raked in another decent rounder's result with a runner-up to Jens Lakemeier (£16,500) in EPT London Event #22: £1,100 PLO for £11,000. He was back today to play the PLO heads-up tournament, but that one didn't go so well. He bust out during the first round.
The renaissance of Boatman started in Sanremo, perhaps even the moment when he infamously bust EPT champion Kevin MacPhee in eighth, stopping the American from his attempt at becoming the first two-time winner. Boatman called MacPhee's six-five shove with queen-seven suited (small blind into big shove), a call which a steaming MacPhee was not happy about and made quite clear on Twitter.
Boatman reacted in his usual way, shrugging it off like water off a duck's back, and got back to the task in hand. Boatman jammed threes in Andrey Pateychuk's pocket queens and departed in 4th for a career-best €225,000 to finally break that big money hoodoo. The British rail, both in Italy and at home, were thrilled for him. When MacPhee later apologised Boatman replied with typically laidback class.
No worries @KevinMacPhee You are a great player and ran super bad at the end. I know how that feels (the run bad part.) Let's have a beer.— Barny Boatman (@barnyboatman) October 28, 2011
This summer Boatman continued his ascent amid a relatively quiet WSOP for the British Barmy Army with a long awaited WSOP bracelet. That was good for $546,080 (and marked his 25th WSOP cash).
"It meant an enormous amount to me obviously, largely because of the response. It was very moving. My brother was there, Sin Melin was there. They were the only two who were when the final started and then word started getting around there was the chance of a British bracelet. There hadn't been one up until that point so there was a bit of a buzz and people started to turn up. The more that people turned up, the more that friends turned the more touched I was that good players and busy people were taking the time and trouble to come and rail me. The response on Twitter and everywhere else was overwhelming. It made me realise, 'It has been a kind of long time, hasn't it.'" Some people were relieved on my behalf. Some people knew how often I'd put myself into these positions and that it was fair that I'd finally got one," said
Congratulations to the brilliant British rail for winning their first bracelet of the Series. I'm glad I was there to see it.— Barny Boatman (@barnyboatman) June 30, 2013
"I was wiped out but basically I let everyone else decide. They all waited very patiently while the interviews and photographs were done. There were about 50 of us and we all marched down the corridor of the Rio and went down to Palms Place and took over the bar there. We drank until it was light, people peeled off into groups and eventually I flaked out," said Boatman.
Taking a nation's expectations on your shoulders will do that to a man, but you can always trust Boatman to present a stiff upper lip when it comes to putting in the hours at the bar.
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Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.