Saturday, 20th July 2024 12:20
Home / Interviews / Mike “ImYourBluff” Harb brings the banter to EPT London

Some people come to European Poker Tour (EPT) events to play a particular tournament. Others make the trip entirely for social reasons. But for Mike Harb, better known on Twitch and PokerStars as “ImYourBluff”, it was straight-up fear that inspired his visit.

“I got a bit of FOMO, to be honest,” Harb tells us during some downtime at EPT London when asked why he decided to make the trip back to his home town all the way from New Zealand, where he lives with his wife and six-year-old daughter. 

It’s the popular Twitch streamer’s maiden EPT experience, and he had high hopes.

A trip he couldn’t miss

“As soon as it was announced I knew it would be amazing to go,” he says. “It’s been great, man. Seeing some of the big-name players who you’ve idolised or looked up to has been really cool. I’m really impressed by the field sizes too. It’s insane.”

Plus, he’s got to spend time with his friends and family and watch his beloved Queens Park Rangers twice. “They won both games,” he says. “I’m buzzing about that.”

If you’re yet to catch an ImYourBluff stream, you’re missing out on some great mid-stakes tournament action, some damn fine graphics work, and some box-fresh banter.

Meeting his audience

Harb has been streaming for around a year, first firing up the ImYourBluffPoker channel for the 2021 Dare2Stream competition. Since then he’s built a loyal community of viewers and has a lot of well-known supporters in the streamer world, many of whom he’s met for the first time here in London.

“I’ve been part of the Twitch community for around three or four years,” he says. “It’s nice to meet the people I’ve never met but have talked to loads. You feel like you know them but you’ve never actually met.”

“I’ve been part of the Twitch community for around three or four years,” he says. “It’s nice to meet the people I’ve never met but have talked to loads. You feel like you know them but you’ve never actually met.”

While in London, he’s played some poker, some 5-a-side football alongside many fellow streamers, and attended the PokerStars Players Party (“I’m still feeling ropey,” he says. “It was mad.”)

A big Fintan fan

But one streamer he’s yet to meet is PokerStars Team Pro Fintan “easywithaces” Hand, who has stayed at home to spend time with his baby daughter. “We’ve been good friends for about five years, ever since he started streaming,” says Harb. “I’ve always been a fan of what he does. 

“We’ve talked a lot away from streaming, and we both share a massive passion for football so we have some banter about that. We kind of get each other and he’s helped me get a leg up in the world of streaming. Without his help, I probably couldn’t have got my name out there as quickly as I’ve been able to. I said to him we’ll catch up next time and show off our terrible dance moves at the Players Party.”

Starting with home games

Harb has been playing poker for around 10-12 years, recreationally for the first seven or eight. He played home games to begin with, picked up the game, and really enjoyed it. “Like many of us, I probably got lucky the first few times I played and that gave me the impetus to keep playing,” he says.

He then started to grind online poker and after a few years, he was making good money from it. “I really enjoyed it, so I decided to take it more seriously,” he says. “I wanted it to be more than just a hobby, so I put some more work in.”

He was doing all of this while working in a corporate manager role and eventually, he reached a point where he felt he could potentially do it as a career.

“My wife is very clued up about poker and what it means to be a winning player, so we thought we’d give it a go,” he says. “One year. Give it a try. The worse thing would be I fail and then I just go get a job again. So we did it, that was around three and a half years ago.”

Not long into his professional poker career, Covid hit. According to Harb, that meant lots of soft games online. “Purely in terms of my poker results, it was a great time,” he says. 

The downside of playing full time

But he started to feel burned out playing five or six days a week, 12 hours a day. 

“I was thinking about what else I could do, then I thought let’s give streaming a go. I was missing the social aspect of working a corporate job, where you go into the office and there are people you know well. You talk about football. You talk about music. Whatever. You have some banter, and I thought streaming might fill that void. And it did.”

These days you’ll find him grinding the evening schedule in Europe, which is great for fans in that time zone. It’s not always easy for Harb, however.

He moved to Christchurch around a decade ago. His wife, a New Zealand native, was living with him in the UK but her visa was about to expire. “We had to decide whether we wanted to stay or go to New Zealand,” he says. “I’d never been, I’d barely been out of Europe before.” 

They opted for New Zealand, starting out in Auckland before moving to the quieter, less-populated city of Christchurch.

Culture shock

“I think it would have been a bit of a culture shock to go straight from London to Christchurch,” says Harb. “It’s so much smaller and more rural. There are 400,000 people in Christchurch compared to 10 million in London. But now I love living there.”

The only issue? The time zone.

“The time zone in New Zealand can be harsh,” he says. “If you’re a typical professional poker player in your mid-twenties with no responsibilities, it would suck. You’d be finishing your sessions at the time you’d want to be waking up.”

But as a dad and a husband, Harb quite enjoys the early starts.

“It’s great because the only time I really miss with my family is that hour or two in the mornings when they’re getting ready to go to school and work.

“But when my sessions end I get to go pick up my daughter from school which is just up the road, walk back, and then spend the afternoon with her. Then when my wife gets home I’m able to spend time with her. It actually works out really well. It’s tough to get used to though, getting up at that time. 

“When my sessions end I get to go pick up my daughter from school which is just up the road, walk back, and then spend the afternoon with her. Then when my wife gets home I’m able to spend time with her. It actually works out really well.”

“At the moment it’s great because I can get up at 4 – 5 am, which is a lie-in for me. But a couple of months ago during WCOOP, I was getting up around 1:30 – 2 am. That really restricts what you can do the night before. If someone wants to go out for dinner, you’re like great, but can we do it at six? Because I’ve got to be in bed by eight or nine! 

“But the flexibility of being an online poker player means you don’t do it all year round. You pick and choose the busy parts of your year and try to focus on doing other stuff around it. It’s worked out pretty well and after three and a half years I’ve got a good schedule.”

Here’s hoping an annual trip to EPT London can become a regular fixture on it.

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