Life & Culture

He won millions at poker. So why does he cry so much?

A TV appearance proved emotional for Andrew Feldman


Before he reached 19, Andrew Feldman was forced to accept that he was addicted to gambling. On his 18th birthday, he started playing on an online poker site and soon he was making in a day what he earned in a year doing his paper round. The winnings mounted up. Within nine months he had made £100,000. Then one crazy night he lost all of it. He found he was simply unable to stop playing.

It was a traumatic experience. Yet the next time he logged on, he vowed it would be different. He says: "I thought to myself, I can't make this mistake again. So this time I started to put my winnings in the bank rather than use it as stake money. My parents made sure I invested it. Without my parents, I would have been just another poker player who gambled it all away."

He kept on winning, and investing, and now at 24, he has a fortune of £6 million. Which has allowed him to become the youngest-ever participant on Channel 4's The Secret Millionaire.

In the programme, which aired this week, Feldman travelled to Bradford where he lived in a one-bedroom flat in a deprived area. He hooked up with three men, all attempting to run charities on a shoestring. It was a life-changing moment.

The makers of The Secret Millionaire must be very persuasive. After all, they need to convince some of Britain's most affluent people to swap lives of luxury for a week or two in a pokey bedsit, at the end of which time they pledge to give away at least £60,000 of their own money. Feldman donated more than double that amount to three charities.

"Poker players are the greediest people in the world," he says. "I can relate to that feeling. I never felt I made enough money. But after experiencing the real world through this show I started to wonder to myself what I was chasing."

If you did not know what Feldman did for a living you would not guess he was a poker player - he is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve. There were tears when he visited hospital to give toys to children with cancer and more when he spoke to his parents on the phone. The other major moment of distress was when he attempted to taste his own cooking. Having mistaken a bulb of garlic for an onion, and seriously overestimated the amount of spice in his curry, the results were inedible. Feldman, who recently moved back to the family home in Watford, laughs: "My cooking skills have never been great. I leave my mum to do that."

Feldman has no regrets about making his money the way he did. At a time when his friends are still taking their first steps on the career ladder, he has enough cash not to have to work again.

Yet he also feel as if he missed out on something valuable. "I had to forfeit what people say are the most important days of their lives - going to university. I found a niche and I capitalised on it. But going on that show has brought me closer to my friends and family and now I want to stay involved with charities and do some more important things. My experience is that money does not make you happy. I was caught up in the poker world which is all about making money and now I've had an insight into something different."

Feldman clearly likes to be fully involved in a project. When he started to play poker online he became completely immersed in it. "I gave it 110 per cent. I seem to have a really good intuition. But if you want to succeed as a poker player you have to give yourself to it. I'd fall asleep playing poker and I'd wake up playing poker. Other people can't do that - they get bored and want to do something else; I did nothing else for three or four years."

Now, he plays just for fun. "When I was making money it was an addiction. But the online poker industry is really a hard place to make any cash now. I don't have the same enthusiasm I had then. I'm in control of the addiction. I still love to play but I'm organising a charity poker night which I see as the best of both worlds."

His advice to aspiring poker players is to forget all notions of seeing big returns from the game. "Don't play poker online - the internet is a very dangerous place. Play with your friends and have fun. You'll be fine as long as you don't think you can make a living out of it, because you can't."

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