James Akenhead has had a very successful poker career that’s seen him earn over $3.3 million in live tournaments. But by the time he reached 30, Akenhead had grown tired of the daily grind of poker. So he quit the game for two years to start a pub/restaurant. And as the London native recently explained, this failed venture made him really appreciate what poker has to offer.
“I figured I would try to do something more responsible and stable in my life,” Akenhead told WorldPokerTour.com. “It was the complete opposite.”
If Akenhead thought he was working hard in poker, it was nothing compared to the gastro-pub he started called “The Reach.” He put in 90-100 hours a week to ensure that the business maintained its reputation for offering excellent food and drinks.
“I went from having the easiest job in the world to having the hardest job in the world,” Akenhead explained. “I guess I didn’t appreciate the kind of life I had before. So many good things have come though, from having that business, even though I lost a lot of money. I learned so much about life; I had to take my first staff meeting, I had to hire and fire people, I had to deal with customers, complaints, supplies, haggling, all that kind of stuff. This involved life skills that I’d never had to use before, as I’d been playing poker since the age of 21.”
While Akenhead didn’t get a lot out of the restaurant from a financial/health perspective, he did learn some valuable life lessons that carried over to his recent poker return.
“That break from poker – learning about life and growing up a bit – has made me more responsible with money. Learning the value of money, what a pound note really means,” Akenhead said. “Compare that to a young 21-year old who had hundreds of thousands and wanted to buy big cars and go for fancy dinners. That’s all great and a kids’ dream, but at some point you have to realize that a pound note does have a value. You have to respect money, because otherwise you end up screwing yourself over.”
Since returning to poker in the middle of 2015, Akenhead has collected several big scores, including €65,000 for winning a 2016 WPT Vienna side event.
These days, it seems like more and more poker pros talk about how unfulfilling the profession can be. So it’s refreshing to hear somebody come back to poker after another pursuit and see the good that it has to offer.