KL: You've had some struggles with your own demons over the years, yet they are demons that affect everyone in all walks of life. Would you care to talk about any of your experiences in that area, steps you've taken to heal yourself, and perhaps have some insight and thought to help others as they stumble on the road?
Layne: As for my demons, if there is one thing that I have learned about living the high life and the fast road and not expecting anything when you don't know what's going on, is everyone is going to cross them and face them and not everybody can help you. You have to be ready and I probably lived through such a fast paced life it took me five years before I slowed down. Now that I slowed down and recovered, I see there wasn't anybody there for me then. I mean, Danny Negreanu helped me through rehab. It worked and then it failed and then it worked and then - now the only one beating the battle is me and I've separated everybody out of my life and I've just done it single handedly on my own. The reason behind it is you are ready when you're ready and I was ready so I'm now beating it. That's the only way you are going to beat it - when you are ready.
KL: If you had it all to do over again, would you choose the same path, a life in poker?
Layne: Poker is one of the hardest jobs in the world but it comes with a lot of reward, a lot of testosterone, a lot of media, a lot of everything. But, for every reward there are a hundred failures. For people that aren't very strong, you have to be able to take all these losses and failures, and a lot of people have too much pride, a lot of people might not be able to make it through that. It's nice for the guys who win a lot, but that doesn't happen all the time. To fight that road is probably tougher than a lot of the roads I have traveled down.
KL: Would you recommend it for other people? If so, do you have any advice for them?
Layne: To each their own. I can't recommend it to one person as opposed to the next person, I don't know what they have going in their life. I could have been a professional bowler before I did this and I just got lucky. I came out and I won right away. I've always said they put bars around the city when I first got here and they just won't let me out. I feel trapped sometimes. It is all just whatever you want. I recommend it to everyone if they can win and that's what they want. There are a lot of people that can't handle the fame, can't handle the wealth and it's hard.
KL: Do you think you can?
Layne: I won probably four million straight when I first came here and I probably lost four million straight. So did I handle it? No. I will now. There is an old adage; maybe you're not ready to have money right now. There are a lot of adages that go to life and you have to apply them, you have to be strong. Even if you are down you have to be strong and if you are up you have to be strong, that's for certain.
KL: You have children - would you like to see your children involved in poker and have you taken any steps to help them if they wanted to follow your path?
Layne: My daughter is twelve. Two days ago she actually won a $1 tournament on PokerStars. It scares the hell out of me. When she was about seven she went to my mom's office and spent the day with her. By the end of the day she had a twelve page book written on poker and her father. She drew the pictures and all that and that scares me! Hopefully, in my daughters life, she will get educated and find a nice guy or whatever and finances won't be a situation where she has to play poker for sure. I mean those are my hopes!
KL: Can you give us any thoughts on relationships and poker? Do they work since poker is so all consuming, it leaves little time for a significant other when the games are good or there is a big tournament going on.
Layne: I went through a recent breakup a few months ago and it ripped my heart out, it tore me apart, and it probably cost me most of my money in the last several years. I was so intoned to that, I thought I wanted that path as opposed to the path of making money and fame and all that because I grew up old fashioned and I thought that was the right thing to do and it did nothing but destroy me. In the last month alone I have been to more meetings, talking more deals and I am ten times happier because I don't have that significant other I have to worry about right now. I mean, yeah, I go home alone at night and I wake up alone but my days are fulfilled as opposed to worried. I don't know, the grass is not greener on the other side, believe me.
KL: Do you ever just kick back and drop out of poker for any given amount of time? If so, why?
Layne: Yeah I did to do drugs at times which I regret. I think people should take at least one vacation a year, away from poker. Which I haven't done and I regret; especially when I was with my girlfriend, because that's all she ever wanted. If the vacation would entail gambling of some sort you try to tie the two in together and it just didn't work. You can look back now and say oops messed up, but nobody knows.
KL: Can you give us an idea of what it's like to travel all the time, obviously with the tournaments being hosted everywhere in the world, you must be on the move a lot?
Layne: I've gotten lucky, and not all the players are as lucky as me where I don't have to go to as many anymore. It used to be back in 1999, 2000 where you go to every one of them, start to finish so it would be like a month in LA, a month in Mississippi, a month wherever. Now I just fly in for the main events, and that makes it a lot easier, but still even that gets hectic. Living out of hotels, and airports, yeah it's tiring. Playing poker alone is not a physical ability, it's a mental stress. Which they say is twice as hard on a person as physical is. I don't think many people realize what we go through as far as mental stress.
KL: How do you see yourself in the poker landscape down the road? Do you believe you'll always be an active voice/player in big tournaments and ring?
Layne: I think I will be an active player but mostly because people make me an active player. If I play in four tournaments out of the year they are going to consider me an active player. My goals are to bring light to a room and fear to a table but I think I will always love poker. Even if I quit poker and did something else I would still want to go play it because it would be a past time and an enjoyment as opposed to the daily grind.
KL: What do you feel is your best game? Do you prefer live or tournament?
Layne: Undecided. My best game, I always said, was the one I was in. Do I like live or tournaments? If I am playing it, I like it. If I am in a tournament it is because I want to be in a tournament, if I am in live it's because I want to be in live, it must be what I like at that time.
KL: Do you feel like you do better specifically in one or the other?
Layne: I think I go through spurts. If I get into the tournaments and start out a little bit slow and then get back in the groove again. If not, I start playing live and it takes a little bit to get back in the groove and you do well again. Then a big tournament comes up so you have to shift back over. It's a tough sway.
KL: What is your biggest cash in a live game (if you don't mind sharing that info), and your biggest prize pool in a tournament?
Layne: A half a million is my biggest prize in a tournament and in a live game I believe it was $280,000 probably.
KL: What were you playing?
Layne: I used to play in a private game, Larry Flint's, and those swings were $100,000 a day and night pretty much. I played that game pretty conservative, I think. Also I've had $300,000 to $400,000 swings in Chinese poker.
Continued in Part II