Former Heavyweight Champ David Haye Takes on His Toughest Opponent Yet in David vs Goliath Poker Documentary

7 months ago
Former Heavyweight Champ David Haye Takes on His Toughest Opponent Yet in David vs Goliath Poker Documentary
24 Apr

Former world heavyweight champ David Haye is the subject of a new documentary, David vs Goliath, that charts his move from the boxing ring to the poker table – Haye soon realising “poker is not something you can pick up in five minutes.”

Haye’s Goliath challenge was exactly that – the GUKPT £125 buy-in Goliath event in Coventry last year that attracted 9300 entries. Going from complete beginner to competing with several thousand experienced players, though, was no simple task.

For the man who toppled Russian giant Nikolai Valuev to grab the WBA heavyweight title a decade ago, the plan seemed simple enough on paper.

Haye reveals in the film:

“They said to me, if they gave me a year of training with the best poker players in the world, the best coaches in the world, how well do I believe I could do?”

Haye’s answer was the first sign that he hadn’t quite grasped how poker works in reality.

“With my confidence in my own abilities, I thought I’d win it easily. Genuinely. I thought if I was doing it for a year, figuring it all out, understanding it, as long as I’ve got the best teachers, I’d win it."

However, despite lessons with the likes of Hendon Mobster Joe Beevers and Grosvenor Poker ambassador Katie Swift, it quickly dawned on ‘The Hayemaker’ that poker was a different game entirely.

The man who also wore the unified World Cruiserweight crown after wins over Jean Marc-Mormeck and fellow Brit Enzo Maccarinelli admits as much.

“It soon became apparent poker is not something you can pick up in five minutes,” says Haye, adding of his lessons: “I felt like I was back at school. I’m a very visual person. I learn things on the fly. I learn from making mistakes. I can’t be sat down in a classroom and walked through it. Nothing sinks in. I just need to get out there and play.”

Play he did, but only after enlisting one-time opponent Audley Harrison as a poker coach – the man he retained his WBA heavyweight title against with a 3rd round TKO in 2010.

“We didn’t think about anything but poker,” Haye said of his poker retreat in a luxury resort, building up an Asian Poker Tour outing in the Philippines capital of Manila. “We lived and breathed it for 48 hours. From the moment I woke up every day I thought about poker. When I went to sleep, I dreamt about poker.”

His poker play wasn’t quite the Thriller in Manila of his heavyweight boxing heroes Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, but a 28th-place finish from 211 entrants gave him hope.

A few months later and Haye was back in the arena, the Grosvenor G Casino in Coventry, England for the Goliath showdown.

It didn’t quite have the hope of his battles in the ring with John Ruiz or the double-header against Tony Bellew that ended his incredible career, but he was in there with more than a puncher’s chance.

In fact, Haye was among the top 5 chip counts at one stage, and was only four hands away from making the final day’s play when an untimely flush-over-flush encounter sealed his fate.

“It was the toss of a coin but the more you play, the more the chances that coin will land on your side,” Haye said of his exit, and the 40th place finish and a £2085 cash were clear signs that he had gone from a beginner to a genuine poker player.

A standing ovation from fellow players was also testament to his David vs Goliath efforts, and as Haye explains in the documentary:

“To have achieved as much as I did makes me think the way I learned was definitely right for me.”

‘David vs Goliath’ was released on Amazon Prime on April 17th and is available to stream or download.

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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