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Darts is a game that’s played heads-up, one on one.
Sound familiar? In fact there are so many parallels between darts and poker it’s surprising that not all darts professionals play it.
Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld went from “insiders know him” to popstar-like mainstream personality when he beat 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor in what is now known as “the best Darts match of all time.”
van Barneveld is currently taking a break from Premier League Darts to spend some time with the game he loves second best. Last year Barney visited EPT Dublin and now he’s come to Monaco with his manager Jaco van Bodegom to hone his card skills again.
Who knows where it might lead?
Raymond van Barneveld: I’m still new at the game and Jaco is teaching me everything. I play online sometimes but playing live is the best.
I haven’t played many live tournaments yet but I’ve been loving the game since I went to Las Vegas and the World Series two years ago. I realize it takes a lot of time to become good.
I have to learn a lot so that’s what I’m going to do. I played here in Monaco and it’s been a lot of fun while at the same time it’s a very serious game.
I’ll put more time into poker in the future to become a decent player. I don’t know if I can become a fantastic player, but we’ll see.
To me it’s so great that you can participate in a tournament and suddenly you sit there with the World Champion. In darts that’s not possible. You can’t just go and play me or Phil Taylor in the World Championship.
If I go to a Round Robin with nine players who’ve never thrown darts before, nobody will beat me. But in poker, all that is possible. You never know. You can even beat good hands with worse hands.
I must say I have massive respect for these players. When Jaco and me were in Vegas he told me that the players in the Main Event would sit there for 14 hours a day for three days straight, and they’re not even in the money!
I played from four until eleven yesterday and thought that was really long.
PL: You’re the only player who beat Michael van Gerwen in this Premier League Season but now you’ve lost the last three matches. Next Thursday you’re up against Dave Chisnall. What are your chances to make the play-offs?
RvB: I have to win the last two matches, really, then I have a chance. Dave is really in good form, and so is Peter Wright, although he’s already through.
This week is definitely really important. If I lose to Dave in Sheffield I’m probably gone. And he beat me 7-2 in the first game and is in very good form.
PL: How important is the Premier League in the Darts world?
RvB: Very. The only problem is it’s an invitational, so there are no ranking points to be won, only money.
Ok, you can win 250,000 GBP if you win it, but the PDC has too many money-only events. I think they should adjust that.
In general I’d say after the World Championship the Premier League is the second-most important thing to win because you have the most exposure.
It’s on for 15 weeks so everybody interested in darts is going to watch some of it at some time.
PL: In poker, players sometimes underestimate the psychological aspects of the game. Does that happen in darts, too?
RvB: If you want to compare darts and poker, in darts you see what your opponent does. If he hits a 140, he hits a 140.
If you play poker and a queen hits the turn, and then your opponent goes all-in, you don’t know if he has the queen.
What is similar is the pressure. In 501 you have to hit the double to finish. Now if I give you three darts and tell you you have to hit a double 16, you might or might not hit it, depending on your experience.
But if I tell you, ‘if you don’t hit you’ll have to pay me 500 Euro,’ you won’t even come close. That kind of pressure is there in poker all the time. And then you often don’t even find out what your opponent had as they rarely open their cards.
PL: The learning process never ends in poker. Only bad players think they have figured it out.
RvB: I know that if I would play poker against a professional, I wouldn’t stand a chance. Just as he wouldn’t if we played darts.
But with PokerStars giving me the chance to come here and learn, I’m hoping that I get to play a lot more in the future and then we’ll see how far I can go.
Now, I’m still making very silly mistakes (laughs). Yesterday I had two aces in my hand and I was so excited I started raising when it wasn’t even my turn. Of course, everybody folded because everybody knew why I was so enthusiastic.
So, I have a lot to learn, but I’m really enjoying the atmosphere. I just love being around this event. By the way, I still won the pot.
PL: Thank you, Raymond.
Raymond van Barneveld is going to keep on playing in Monaco. The next tournament on his schedule is the Charity event on Monday evening. We’ll keep you posted how he fares.