Sam Grafton is wearing a Phoenix Suns shirt as he sits outside the tournament area of the PokerStars No Limit Hold’em Players Championship on a sweltering day in the Bahamas (PSPC). The British poker pro is not necessarily a fan of the squad and does not even pretend to be an NBA fan. He just likes collecting jerseys, regardless of the sport or rarity.
He states, “I know nothing about the Phoenix Suns.” Nonetheless, it is a wonderful shirt. While I’m in Las Vegas, I purchase vintage sportswear and similar items.
His fascination in American sports equipment sometimes results in amusing exchanges.
“I have a letterman blazer for the Pittsburgh Steelers with all their titles on it,” he adds. Sometimes while I’m going down the street, someone will yell “Steelers!” Then I turn around and exclaim, “Oh yeah, go Steelers!” Because to me, it’s similar to great apparel, but I don’t know anything about it.”
The Stars ambassador may not know the ins and outs of the NFL and NBA, but he knows his way around the poker table. He recently chatted with PokerScout at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, where he found a deep run in the PSPC. He has won $13.2 million in live tournaments.
Grafton spoke about his life in the game, which included learning the ropes at a pool hall and cash games after working late nights in a London bar.
Competitiveness and success in the PokerStars PSPC
Grafton’s fascination with sports shirts may have hidden intentions. When he wears basketball or football gear, he feels a little more competitive spirit for poker events.
It seems to be successful in the Bahamas. He finished 12th in the PSPC with $238,700, but after such a large 2022 and getting so close to another major final table performance, he had mixed feelings. Moreover, he finished 52nd in the PCA Main Event earning $29,400.
“In one way, it’s great to make it to day three, because it makes you feel like you’re farther along in the tournament,” he explains. “You feel like you have a shot at winning this thing.” Certainly, coming in 12th out of 1,000 competitors is a very, very respectable showing.
“That gives me the impression that I’m playing well and that I’m quite pleased of my performance. On the other hand, it’s a bit of a crossbar moment, not quite getting there and not concluding matters.”
Notwithstanding these reservations, Grafton enjoyed his time in the Bahamas.
“The environment is great,” he told PokerScout. “Because individuals bring their families, girlfriends, lovers, and spouses. So it’s great to be able to spend the morning on the beach and feel the sand between your toes before playing poker.
“Around the tables, there is just a wonderfully sociable feeling. Not to toot our own horn, but I believe we’ve done an excellent job of making this a fantastic event. I really believe that we have set the benchmark for how live events should be organized.”
A big tournament record for 2022
The previous year was monumental for Grafton. In November, he earned $465,852 as the runner-up in the €50,000 Diamond High Roller event at the World Series of Poker Europe.
September was marked with a victory in the $200,000 Triton Poker Coin Rivet Invitational, for a total of $5.55 million. In the same series, Grafton finished second in a $50,000 tournament earning an additional $994,500.
In May, he finished sixth in a €100,000 Triton tournament earning $756,631. In March, the winner and runner-up of European Poker Tour Prague tournaments earned a total of $300,000. Grafton consistently had deep tournament runs during the most of the year.
Successful pool hall poker games
After studying the game in his late twenties, he acquired several of these poker talents. After graduating from college, Grafton returned home for some time. His brothers often played cards and snooker at the neighborhood pool club. Grafton quickly followed.
“I used to play there with the little amount of money I had earned,” he explains. And I was constantly motivated to win because I could not afford to lose. I wanted it to be a kind of self-sustaining pastime where I could at least break even, so from away I was interested in the strategy of things.”
Grafton is the latest player to discover poker at a pool hall. It includes luminaries like Bobby Baldwin, Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston, and Daniel Negreanu.
In his memoirs The Godfather of Poker, Doyle Brunson even remembered playing at the back of a billiards hall when someone was shot. He fled across a brook behind the building. The games of Grafton were rather more subdued than that narrative.
Drunk man at the poker table.
After arriving to London, Grafton obtained a job at a nightclub earning roughly £80 a night. During these late-night hours, he would enter a poker room. Working the front of the club instead of being a patron comes with a benefit.
“It was certainly a fantastic moment to play since I was stone cold, sober having ended my shift and everyone else was drunk,” he explains.
In the end of the night, Grafton generally came out ahead. During an unpaid internship at a non-profit organization, poker looked like a good way to pay the rent. Up to five evenings a week, he would play and he simply kept winning.
“I grew to appreciate it,” he adds. “After my work ended, I would take the train from south London to east London, then play and catch the final tube home. During the day, all I could think about were poker hands, and I was so eager to continue playing. After the internship ended, I just continued on.”
With millions of dollars in victories and now representing PokerStars, it seems to have been a great option.