When Dave Shallow first answers the phone on a Monday lunchtime, his voice is drowned out by that of his daughter, engaged in a titanic battle against her father in some sort of Harry Potter-themed card game. For the man who made his name playing in some of the biggest games during poker’s boom era, it represents a fairly dramatic reduction in stakes.
But Shallow, who is still probably best known as “Dubai” in British gaming circles, is something of a reformed character from the rumbunctious hellraiser of his youth.
Shallow came of age in poker’s brilliant boom era – a period in the game’s history that can never be repeated. In the years immediately following Chris Moneymaker’s landmark WSOP win, millions of people suddenly flocked to the tables of the nascent online sites, while live tours sprang up across the world, offering huge promotions and huge paydays to the players who developed elite skills most quickly.
If you were a talented poker player back then, you could travel the world, live like a king, party like a superstar, and still come home with approximately double your net worth. Shallow was a top-grade player, winning plenty online, and quickly learned to embrace the lifestyle.
Along with a number of other highly-skilled young pros, Shallow toured the world ostensibly to play poker, but focused at least as much time on making the most of these good times. And if the coffers ran dry, it was back to the online tables to grind up the bankroll once more.
The poker world hasn’t seen that much of Shallow over the past decade, but we noticed a familiar name lurking on the list of early Platinum Pass winners to the PSPC. “CrabMaki” was the PokerStars name under which Shallow did most of his best work, including winning two WCOOP titles. And CrabMaki binked a Platinum Pass in the Platinum Madness promotion in February 2019, promising a return to the big stage for Shallow – at least after he figured out what a Platinum Pass actually was.
PokerStars Blog talked to Shallow back in January 2020, when we were still preparing for the PSPC that summer in Barcelona. Obviously that didn’t happen, but Shallow will be among those heading to the Bahamas early 2023 to finally play this $25,000 buy-in tournament.
In the meantime, enjoy the wit and wisdom of one of UK poker’s legendary characters. (The conversation has been edited for length and clarity).
ON WINNING THE PLATINUM PASS
I was literally just messing around on my phone, late one night, watching boxing, after the kids had gone to bed. I thought I’d play for a bit. I must have just run really good. I don’t play very often anymore, so my goals are low compared to people that actually play. It was the Snakes and Ladders thing. [The Platinum Madness promotion.] I just raced through in not a lot of time. I got a chest and I thought it was $50 or some freeroll thing. You always get these little freerolls and I don’t usually look at them. I didn’t even know what it was. I didn’t check my email. It was an old email address. But then a week later I got a text.
ON HIS PLAYING HABITS
I hardly ever play now. I play a private cash game in London, sporadically. Quite high stakes cash. I just mess around on my phone really. Just Spin & Gos because it’s quick. Once the kids are in bed, if the missus has fallen asleep, I’ll just play on my phone. Couple of hours a week max.
ON HIS EARLY PLAYING DAYS
I’ve played every form of poker. I think I started off playing sit and goes in 2004, switched to tournaments, then switched to cash. I played online cash for four or five years, then switched to PLO. Then I only played live tournaments. Then I didn’t play for a bit.
In 2005 or 2006 I took a bit of a run at it, but I didn’t cash in anything. I played a few EPTs. We went to the Bellagio $15K in 05 I think. I went from St Kitts straight to Vegas. Then played the Dublin EPT, Baden EPT, London EPT, five or six EPTs in one year, but no great success. Then sort of sacked live off really.
The last time I played the WSOP Main Event was 10 or 12 years ago. Barely played live. Played a little bit, won the WPT, won the UKIPT high roller, then blew the chip lead in the next one. I would have gone back-to-back.
I probably should have got better results than I have done. We didn’t take the live stuff too seriously. Online was so easy. You could make a lot of money online and the live stuff we treated like a holiday. I played a Goa tournament and I got called from the swimming pool because I was on the TV table. I was in my shorts. I was drying off at the table, and Surinder Sunar was just shaking his head.
ON THE GOLDEN YEARS
We’d play loads online, we’d spend hours playing online so the live was more of a relief. We didn’t really care about the poker, it was just a bit of fun. It sounds silly, and it sounds blase, but because it was quite easy online you took it as a bit of a joke.
I proper regret not taking live poker seriously when I was younger. When I look back on some of the comps, I had stacks in a few comps, and obviously people have made names and got huge sponsorship deals on the basis of one or two results. It was a bit of a gravy train.
If you got yourself a Full Tilt deal, you then got into the next thing, and it all fell into place for people, and all because they won one comp. Most of them weren’t even winning online players. I’ve spoken to a couple of players who regret not taking it a bit more seriously.
PokerStars offered a friend of mine $5,000 to wear a hat and he said no. He wanted to wear his own clothes. That’s just ludicrous looking back.
In 2006, there was someone going round offering 20 grand to wear a cap. It’s ludicrous looking back, isn’t it. I played a TV cash game, and an agent got me $5,000 for wearing a Full Tilt patch. It was on Eurosport. Probably no one has ever watched it. I can’t imagine the value for money of that transaction. It was the only time I’ve ever sold out for sponsorship.
I regret not winning enough money to put away, but I don’t regret not having to travel and play poker, not one bit. It was fun, obviously, when you’re young but it’s not like that now anyway. It’s work. People are playing 20 comps in a week, three comps in a day. A lot of effort, that. Fair play.
They’re obviously very good at what they do and have a great mentality, but I think I always just saw the live thing as a bit of a holiday.
ON THE GOLDEN HOUSE
In 2010 we had a house in Marbella. I was 27. In that house that year, we only went for golf and a mess around, but I think SCOOP was on. That year 2010, from 12 people in the house, 10 won a big major tournament of some sort.
It was the year that Toby [Lewis] won an EPT. [James] Dempsey won a bracelet. I won the $10K online. Someone else won the $2K online. James Mitchell won the Irish Open. Pez [Matt Perrins] won. Jake [Cody] won. It was just insane. Everyone that stayed in that house, bar two people, had won a major that year.
Jack Ellwood had a massive online year. I think he had four $200K scores. He was in the house as well. We refer to it as the golden house. It was the year that everyone won.
ON THE STANDARD OF PLAY
Everyone goes nowadays: ‘Oh, I’d have won so much money.’ But I guess it’s just like football. Was George Best that good at football back then, or was everyone else just terrible? There wasn’t as much learning apparatus. Maths you had to learn yourself. There were no equity odds coming up on the screen when you were all in. People didn’t really know the maths behind it, people didn’t really understand game theory optimal approaches. People didn’t understand various stuff.
Not even joking, you’d see three three-bets in a day in 2005. And they’d always be aces. It’s just how everyone played. It sounds really silly looking back, but I’m guessing anyone who’s good now would have been good then. Anyone who doesn’t win now probably wouldn’t have won then. There were far fewer learning resources. When Card Runners came out, people started getting a tiny bit better.
ON THE BAD SIDE OF POKER – AND SOME CRAZY OLD RULES
I don’t miss poker. I don’t really like it, to be honest. I like some sides of it, but it’s a bit predatory, people sitting around casinos waiting for one person to turn up. It’s pretty grim. I’ve seen that happen in London loads of times. People sitting around pretending they’re playing. They’re not even playing, they’re just waiting for someone to walk through the door. Stuff like that is grim.
When I first started playing, it was much more fun. You never used to be able to buy-in late. Back in 2005/2006, you couldn’t buy in late for a tournament. If you missed the comp by one minute, if you were stuck in traffic in London or something, that’s it, you can’t play. You’re not in. Everyone had to be there.
One place in Sheffield had another rule. It was right next to the dog track, and if you got a 15-minute break you used to run to the dog track next door, but if you missed coming back, you’d have to put in double the big blind, and double and double and double if you were sat out. You had a four-hand leeway before you’re all in!
If you backed a winner, you’re OK. But if you bet a loser, you’re sprinting back. You’re putting double the big blind in every hand! It was crazy.
ON LIFE BEFORE POKER
At school I worked. I actually had two jobs. I worked at a market setting a stall up before school, and then I was a waiter in a pub round the corner. On Fridays I used to get up at half six, set the stall up for an hour, go to school all day, go back to the market, take the stall down, then walk straight to the restaurant. I’ve done a tiny bit of grinding. Obviously I used to waste the money on the fruit machine or whatever.
I’ve done six months working in an insurance role, to save money for university. I did law at Essex. I missed one of my last exams because I qualified for the World Series.
All my friends went to uni and worked in the city. We’re at the age where people are doing pretty well for themselves now.I probably do wish I went a different route when I was younger. Sometimes. I do wish I went to the city.
ON SPORTS BETTING FOR A LIVING
I do mainly football betting, but it’s a small margin, large volume game. I was good at maths at school, numbers. And I used to go dog racing when I was young.
I’ve owned greyhounds recently. We’ve owned greyhounds. I had the winner of the Oaks a few years ago, and one at Towcester a few years ago. Second by a short head in the Grand National with one of my dogs as well. We thought he’d won.
But the industry is dead. If you go to Romford on an afternoon, there’s got to be less than 10 people there.
I probably should have gone to work. I should have finished uni and gone to work really. Obviously they were good times, but you have small regrets when you’re older and people doing really well at work. It would be impossible for me to get any sort of entry job in trading. I’m too old for graduate jobs, and I’ve no experience for more senior roles. That’s what loads of my friends do and, obviously, if you look back at that era it was carnage but probably quite good fun.
ON PREPARING FOR THE PSPC
I’m probably not going to play much more. I still speak to people, they’re still talking hands. I still read 2+2 occasionally. Maybe I’ll speak to someone that plays regularly, ask about what tendencies are new and things. Basically that’s all it is anyway. It just goes round in a cycle. For six months three-betting is in, for six months four betting is in, for six months flatting is in, for six months playing crazy pre is in, for six months playing really tight is in.
There are a lot of people who will be playing their first tournament and to be fair, that’s amazing. That’s great. I’m guessing PokerStars prefer that than someone like myself getting a package. They definitely want the ‘Oh my god I’ve never played before and I’ve just cashed for $200K. What a story.’
ON PLAYING POKER FOR A LIVING
Poker is hard. There are Cambridge graduates who have put in proper hours. Patrick Leonard’s probably the best example. He’s probably got the best work ethic out of anyone in the UK. He just loves the game. He devotes himself to it. And he’s earned every success he’s got.
But that never happened back when I started, no one would sit and study. There are different ways to study, I suppose, but the lengths they go to now is extraordinary. And the amount of work they put in, then fair play.
Back in the day, people who are 20 years older than me, they would win a big £1K or £2K, think they’re good at poker, and they weren’t really. There are all these people who won a comp in 2004 and then spent the next four years assuming they could win another one.
ON HIS WORK ETHIC
I think I had it in a non-obvious way. I always used to read Two Plus Two and read the hand forums, sort of studying without really studying. I’ve got a pretty good memory and I could probably tell you most of the hands I’ve ever played. That helps as well. That’s studying without studying, because all they’re doing when they’re going through hands is recounting the hand. But I can recount hands anyway. I was probably fortunate in that.
But my work ethic’s probably not as good. It wouldn’t be anywhere near. They’re just driven, they’re really motivated. You’ve got to love poker to do it, and I’ve never really loved poker.
Give me a dog race all day long. When you have a bet on a dog and it smashes out of the traps, the feeling there is way better than winning a poker tournament, even if the money is way less. When you see the white jacket fly out of the traps, oh yeah.
If you find yourself next to Shallow at a poker table or in a bar, ask him to relate a few more stories from his days as a greyhound owner – particularly the time he “bought the jackpot”. It’s too long to recount here, but is worth the time!Back to Top