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Poker fans might be surprised to learn that a member of the European Parliament played in the $111,111 buy-in One Drop High Roller this week.
They’d probably be a little less surprised to learn that person is Tony G.
Tony G had a larger-than-life presence in the poker world, primarily as one of the most bombastic TV pros to ever hit the tables, but also as an astute businessman who started some of the biggest poker companies in the world.
In recent years, however, Tony G has transitioned from poker to politics and was elected to represent Lithuania in the European Parliament in 2014.
PokerListings caught up with a decidedly more-thoughtful Tony G and got his opinions on political life, the poker industry and whether he’ll play more tournaments in the future.
PokerListings: We don’t see you much at the WSOP these days. Are you enjoying yourself out there?
Tony G: Yeah, I’m having fun. I got crippled early in this one but I’m on the comeback now. You know how it is. You always have more fun when you win.
I won a tournament at the Aria. That was nice. I’m happy just to have a few days to play. This is a great charity event. It’s just fun to be here.
PL: How different is this than your day-to-day life these days?
It’s very different. I don’t get very many opportunities to play so it’s nice to come back and see all the people that I played with for many years.
It’s nice to have a little break because this is probably my last tournament for a very long time. I hope to enjoy it.
PL: Did you feel like you needed a bit of a break from poker? You obviously played quite a bit back in the day.
Yeah for sure. I was burnt out. The tour is kind of demanding. I needed more purpose in life so I went and did quite a few different things including politics, which I’m still in.
I guess I’m the only politician to have ever played in this kind of tournament. Especially considering I’m still active in politics.
PL: Are there any similarities between poker and politics?
Well, there’s a lot of bluffing. Politics aren’t as much fun, I can tell you that much.
It’s a lot slower. I’m probably a lot more patient these days. Politics actually helps teach you patience for some of these deep structured tournaments.
There’s a lot of frustration in politics. At least in poker you can get a result and win. In politics it’s very difficult to get a result. I think that’s the worst thing about politics and that’s probably what people don’t enjoy about politics.
There is a lot of negative stuff related to politics. Poker is a lot more fun.
PL: In the long run do you find politics more rewarding than poker?
It’s difficult to say. Time will tell. I think it’s normal for people who are in politics to also play poker.
I think we just need to have normal people in politics. We don’t need pure politicians who grow up in politics and then rely on their party to be secure.
We just need to shake things up a bit and make some progress. Especially in Europe where things are stuck pretty heavily.
PL: As a politician do you have any thoughts on President Trump’s recent decision to pull the USA out of Paris Accords?
He wants to make America dirty. I would like to make America clean. I think it’s insane that a president would want his country to be dirty and not lead the world into the future.
The future is a clean environment. Safe and secure energy. Solar energy, wind energy.
We should be putting much more money into research and development of clean energy technologies.
I hope that Europe takes a step forward and invests in the future. We don’t want to go back to coal like Trump does.
I don’t think the young people of the world want that and I don’t think the old people want it either, because they want a future for the next generation.
I’m pretty emotional about Trump’s ideas of going backwards. We need to think ahead and move forwards.
PL: What do you think about the current state of poker? Is the game in a healthy place?
There are obviously a lot of challenges with computers playing and being very good now. That’s going to be a big challenge for online poker but I think the live tour is still very strong. Especially places like King’s Casino in Rozvadov, which is just booming and expanding.
The live tour will always be strong because there will always be poker players that come back and play a few tournaments here and there.
But the online poker industry will struggle with smarter and smarter machines and artificial intelligence.
PL: So is this the last poker event you’ll play this year?
Yeah this is the last event. I go back to the European parliament next week and do my thing. I still have a lot of businesses that I’m involved in.
I always keep busy. I do think I’ll play the WSOPE One Drop event in November at King’s Casino.
After that I’m not sure if I’ll ever play again. Or at least awhile. It depends what happens in politics. It’s been really fun to be back though…
[Phil Hellmuth interjects into the interview]
Phil Hellmuth: It’s nice to have Tony back! He’s good for the game. The game needs Tony G…
PokerListings: He’s talking about never playing again though…
Tony G: For awhile! I mean you never know though, everyone has to play their last tournament at some point. It depends what happens in politics. There are probably some positions where you wouldn’t be able to play.
I’d like to have a top position that would allow me to play a tournament every now and then.
Hellmuth: If he has fun he’ll play.
Tony G: Maybe.
Hellmuth: I’ll go on the record: If Tony G plays PartyPoker Premier League I’ll probably play.
Tony G: There you go.
PokerListings: Thanks Tony.
Tony G: Thank you.