When I first learned that I would have the opportunity to interview Bruce Buffer at the PokerStars Players Championship in the Bahamas, I almost balked. Believe it or not, I’ve never watched a UFC fight. While I am of course aware of MMA’s massive popularity and am familiar with all of the sport’s biggest names via pop culture, I felt at a loss of what I could ask the brand’s preeminent ring announcer. After just a bit of Googling, however, I realized that getting to speak with Bruce Buffer would be a real treat because he’s not “just here because the UFC inked a huge partnership deal with PokerStars,” rather he LOVES poker!
I spent quite a while researching to try and learn the ins and outs of Buffer’s involvement in the poker world, including some of the successes he’s seen at the felt. We had a very enjoyable chat together, and I especially appreciated that despite his packed schedule and litany of commitments while on-site here, Bruce made me feel as if he had all the time in the world to answer my questions.
I hope you enjoy checking out our conversation, plus there’s a full transcript of the interview just below.
Hey everybody, Robbie Strazynski here for CardplayerLifestyle.com, and joining me here at the PSPC in the Bahamas, none other than UFC’s legendary announcer Bruce Buffer. How are you today?
Thank you for the kind words.
It’s the truth. And also it says it right here, so.
Thank you very much.
Did my mom write that?
Um, no. But we have a question about your dad. We’ll go right into it. Your dad taught you to play poker when you were nine years old.
What specifically turned you on to the game when you were a kid, and what elements of poker were exciting to you?
I always liked math when I was a kid, and I saw, even without being taught properly about poker, that there was a math aspect to it. But I just love winning. I love competition, and I love looking into somebody’s eyes and just, playing across from somebody playing cards; I just find it fun. You know, you talk, you’re with your friends, you have a good time. But my dad taught me how to play blackjack and how to play poker, and I became very good at both. And I started playing poker at 14, I started playing cash games.
My first tournament was 2005 at the Borgata. I bubbled the final table, and then I went into the World Poker Tour, and then I made the final table on TV, and I was sold. That was it.
Oh, THAT was when you were sold? Not beforehand?
Oh, I was sold before, but you know, after watching the World Poker Tour for a year or more on TV and then finally being at that table? It’s when I realized, I want to do this. It was a taste. And I’m very passionate; when I’m passionate about something I want to taste it again. I want to get back to that final table.
For sure. I looked at your tournament results on the Hendon Mob.
Yeah, I can’t lie about my poker past, here.
That’s fine, that’s fine. But you’ve got over $350,000 in cashes, dating all the way back to 2005. Your biggest score was for $75,000 back in 2010. Money aside, though, what does a deep run in a poker tournament mean to you?
It fuels my competitive warrior spirit. When I walk in here and people ask me the question, “how do you think you’re going to do?” Well, I’m going to make the final table. Why else would I enter this thing? You know what I mean? I’m not here just to cash, I’m not here just to go do interviews. I’m here to do all of that, right? But I’m here to win. And I played most every popular pro, I think. I don’t think Phil Ivey and I played.
He’s scared of you.
I love that about Phil.
He’s got the stare but you’ve got the voice.
I like Phil, he’s cool. But you know, when I look at a poker player — when I look at Phil Ivey, I look at Daniel Negreanu, I look at Phil Hellmuth when I’m sitting across from him. It’s like when I stand across from somebody before I’m going to spar, or get going, right. They’re flesh and blood. They bleed like I do, they have a heart like I do.
They put their pants on the same way.
Exactly. And the beauty of — here’s the beauty of poker for a lot of people who are not on the professional level playing it daily like they do, making the huge amounts of money they do. The beauty of it is that the common man can look at that on TV and look at the World Series, like the man I know who won the World Series this year; I play cash games with him occasionally.
Yeah, I knew him before. With that being said, I realized, and the common man can realize, anybody can win. Anybody can win on any given Sunday in football, and anyone can win on any given night in the Octagon, and anybody can win this if you run well. You do your bases, you play your game. And if you don’t think that’s true, then you shouldn’t be entering these tournaments.
Well, you’ve been playing for a while and I know that you’ve talked before about your daily routine, when you prepare, you have your bowl of cereal and that sort of the relaxation.
You’ve done your research.
I certainly try, and there’s something to be said for that sort of a routine. The game has gotten tougher, though. Do you study? Do you watch and take notes and that sort of thing? Or are you sort of like, “well, I’ll just give it my best shot”?
I feel it’s kind of like when I was in school. I’ve been in this class for however many months, right. Now the big test is coming. I’m not a studier; I was lousy at it. What I would do is I would just study the night before, and I figured that if I didn’t already learn it by then, I’m not going to get it. So I’ve been playing this game now for many, many many years. And heavily since 2005.
Mike Sexton said it: five minutes to learn, and a lifetime to master. And I’m still in the mastering stage. And I learn by my experiences and I’ll analyze it and I’ll get better. I have a theory of life. It’s called “BSC: Balls, skill, and confidence.” And if I’m lacking one of those three qualities, then I shouldn’t sit down at the table. But we still have that 20% luck factor.
Yes, that’s for sure!
The poker gods have got to be on your side, there’s no question.
Well, every one of the tournament cashes you’ve recorded has been in no-limit Hold’em, but you do know seven-card stud and stud high-low. Do you play the other poker variants often, and which one’s your favorite one?
Given a chance, I’d like to, and honestly, seven-card stud high-low is one of my favorite games. I love that game.
Sweet. The high or the low?
I want both, high-low.
A scoop, yeah.
Which one do I want to win with?
The lows are always fun. Give me the wheel.
Do you have any poker goals when you come to events like these? Like, “I have to win or it’s a failure?” Or do you play just to have fun?
I’m a very passionate person, I want to have fun, and if you can do something you’re passionate about and have fun and make money at it, man, that’s the alpha and omega right there.
That’s brilliant. And just to end off, the big news everyone’s obviously talking about the huge deal between PokerStars and UFC. Anyone who reads the press releases; it’s obviously good for the UFC, it’s obviously good for PokerStars. How is it good for MMA fans, and how is it good for poker fans?
Well, one of the prime demographics of each sport — and ESPN does call poker a sport — and if you’re here for five days playing a five-day tournament—
It’s endurance! Absolutely!
It’s a sport, it’s no question. When I went to my fifth day at the World Series, and I placed like 468th, won like $28,000 that year. I went out with a dead man’s hand, aces and eights. The guy flopped four eights on me. But two weeks later I won that big tournament you mentioned earlier. So it was a good month. But again, I’m losing track of what I was saying.
How is it good for the fans?
It’s great for the fans because the demographic is the 18 to 34 demographic, which is a very popular demographic in both sports. Not counting the fact that we have older people who love the UFC, men and women both, and we have all the people that we know love poker.
So right now, PokerStars’ timing is so perfect because this month we are on ESPN. Fox has been great to us, but ESPN is a huge deal that’s going to bring a tremendous amount of new eyeballs to the UFC, and now PokerStars! OK, there are times when this is going to be very advantageous to both. So it’s a great, growing field. There’s a lot going to happen over the next year. PokerStars is going to be in the Octagon and I’m going to be saying PokerStars. I love it.
It’s a great answer from a great human being, and Bruce, thank you very much for joining me here. Robbie Strazynski for CardplayerLifestyle.com. Thank you guys so much for watching.