By Graham Walker
SNOOKER legend Steve Davis today admitted he would be shocked to ever win another top tournament and revealed: "I've got used to losing".
But Davis has no intention of hanging up his snooker cue and quitting, he told The Star, in an exclusive interview.
The 51-year-old, who won six World Championships at Sheffield 's Crucible, is still ranked in snooker's top 25 and says he won't stop trying to win at the top level as long as he can.
"It's harder to stop than you think," said Davis, ahead of his return to the city next week as the after dinner speaker a Cavendish Cancer Care fundraising dinner at Bramall Lane, on Thursday, June 11, 7pm for 8pm.
"I've got used to losing. As long as you can take it, you're not doing any harm. Anybody who says 'it's sad to see a champion going down the pan' has missed the point to some degree. I still enjoy snooker and get a thrill from turning up at the World Championship, even if I fall flat on my face.
"I'm not too sure that it's all about winning. I treat it more as a hobby now.
"The only reason to retire would be to do something else, if you needed the free time or got fed up with it totally. But neither of these two are happening.
"If I had to be honest and say, 'am I going to win another tournament?', I'd probably say no. I would be shocked if I did. I would be delighted. But I'm not going to stop trying."
Davis, an unbeatable winning machine in the 1980s, hasn't won a major tournament for 12-years. He enjoys TV pundit work but he hasn't found anything to replace snooker as a career.
He is in awe of modern players who he says are producing the best ever standard of snooker, "close to the ceiling of human ability", though he rates seven times world champ Stephen Hendry as the best he ever faced.
Davis believes the World Championship will stay in Sheffield after its current five year deal – because it is an established home to the game, with great fan support.
Snooker's first millionaire was the first sports celebrity to be lampooned with a Spitting Image puppet of himself, portraying him as "interesting-boring". Sports promoter Barry Hearne bought the doll and gave it to him for his 40th birthday. It's now falling to pieces in a black bin liner at home.
Davis, who loved the show, said: "I was able to use it to my advantage. It is quite an interesting thing. Walking into a room and people not expecting much of you is easier than if they expect the world.
"I would hate to be a comedian, living with those pressures of always being funny. So my after dinner speaking has quite the shock value - of actually something funny being said."
* An Evening With Steve Davis, promoted by Kev Duffy and sponsored by Pyramid Carpets, features a three course meal, comedian, auction, raffle, plus the opportunity for instant photographs to take home signed on the night.
Sally Eustace, Corporate Partnerships Manager for Cavendish Cancer Care, said:"Nothing is more important to us than providing help to those people who are affected by cancer. As we receive very little NHS funding it is important that we continue raising funds in these difficult times, that's why evenings like this are so important to us, not only to raise vital funds but also increase awareness of the centre.
"A big thank you to Steve Davies and KD Events for organising an evening which promises some excellent entertainment."
Barry Carter and Mel Lofthouse
Snooker legend Steve Davis took an hour of his time to speak to Mel Lofthouse and Barry Carter before he goes to the World Series of Poker 2008 for the Main Event. Here's what we asked the legend:-
BC: Do you ever wager money on your own snooker matches with your opponent. Like you might in a poker game?
SD: I've never done it in tournament play but obviously we sometimes have a small bet in practice to sharpen the senses
BC : Are you still a big PLO fan? What is it about PLO you like?
SD: Yes I'm a big PLO fan - I'm not exactly sure what I like about it compared to NLH but I seem to feel more at home playing PLO and seem to have more idea where I am in a hand
BC: Who is the snooker player you wouldn't want to play heads up? And which one would you really want to sit with lots of money in front of them?
SD: Not: Matthew Stevens or Mark Williams
Would: Dennis Taylor or Ken Doherty - not really sure why except I think the first two are a bit sneakier
BC: Who is the best poker player you have sat with?
SD: My first live TV event had Devilfish, Bruno Fitoussi, and Roy Brindley - I also sat next to Nickolas (Little Nicky) Frangos who came 2nd $65k in 2007 $2k Seven Card Stud WSOP event. He apparently owns a pool hall and is a larger than life character. People kept coming up to him and asking him about the pool world. I just kept my head down! Fortunately he didn't have a clue who I was
BC: Do you ever get any big games going during the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield?
SD: No - we don't really play anything other than affordable fun poker
BC: Does your snooker playing style resemble your poker game?
SD: Probably, I think my style at both is "student" but I think in any game you have to be able to adapt. So regardless of how I have ever been perceived as a snooker player I have always had more gears than the layman would give me credit for
BC: Would you rather win the WSOP main event or one last snooker world title?
SD: Considering the disparity in the prize money this question really answers itself. Obviously snooker is my life's work in progress and it would be great to win it again but seeing as the sum total of your life is the different experiences that you have encountered then I'm sure winning the WSOP would be a more "unbelievable" experience
BC: What do you think of the 'online pool' games that people play for money?
SD: Great idea and I'm involved with the Pool Stars site that Tony G has masterminded
BC: Do you remember signing an autograph for me in 1988? in a Pizza Hut in Sheffield during the world championships. You were with Barry Hearn and I was 8!
SD: Were you the one with the pepperami face?
ML: What games/tournaments are you playing in the WSOP?
SD: Just the main event but I might go to the Bellagio or Venetian for a warm up
ML: Are you sponsored?
SD: I'm not exactly sponsored but because of Barry Hearn's / Poker Million's close ties and friendship with Ladbrokes, since the early 2000's, Ladbrokes take pity on me and invite me out to the WSOP and make me team captain to massage my ego and try and cover up the fact that I'm rubbish! We have a great time and the Ladbrokes team really does push the boat out to make it a special trip for all the qualifiers.
ML: When did you develop an interest in poker?
SD: After qualifying through my heat as a novice celebrity (beating Devilfish, Fitoussi, Brindley without knowing what I was doing) and then waiting 2 months for the live final to be played on Sky and then going online to practice and learn a bit more about the game.
ML: What do you do in your spare time (if you get any)?
SD: Online poker and a little bit more of online poker. Occasionally, if I have a complete day off, I'll log on and play a little bit of poker. If I'm away from home I'll take my laptop and data card with me and I'll play some poker online. Other than that it's just the odd bit of poker when I can fit it in when I'm not playing some live poker in a casino. If I have a spare moment I like reading mainly poker books or poker magazines. (Ed Note: - Steve loves the PokerNews magazine, naturally!)
ML: Do you feel that snooker or poker requires more skill?
SD: This is an impossible question to answer or even to qualify. What parameters are you assigning to the word "Skill"? If you are talking about Dexterity then obviously snooker is more skilful, If you are talking about situation complexities then obviously it's poker. This argument always crops up between Snooker and Golf. Even with two very similar games it is impossible to determine which is the most skilful because what are you using as a yardstick of accomplishment? I find that most people assign a skill factor in direct disproportion to how bad they personally are at the game or in proportion to which game they favour!
ML: Do you feel that luck features heavily in both games?
SD: Yes, luck rears its ugly head in most games but the longer you play any game the less luck will play its part. The only lucky part about the luck factor is when you actually get the luck!! Are you a WSOP player or pub poker, suck out merchant or is it The Crucible or Club Handicap wobble along the top cushion and into the opposite pocket?
ML: What would you like to tell our readers of the magazine and viewers of our website... any interesting stories?
SD: You shouldn't play poker unless you can take a joke! I was in a TV event a couple of years ago. I woke up early to get down to the TV studios in Maidstone and about 1hr 15mins drive away. I chose my clothes tootled down with enough time to have a leisurely breakfast at the studios. A girl gave me a form to fill out (CV of poker related stuff) then it was down to make-up, then into studio for sound bites interview and the finally the big walk on through the never ending dry ice smoke into seat 4. 1st hand I stare at pocket cowboys. 1st to act in seat two (wearing a WSOP bracelet for 7 card stud) raises. I reraise, he moves all in, I call, he turns over the rockets, I don't improve and I jump back in my car, drove home and was tucked up in bed by 12 noon for a 2 hour sulk!
BC and ML: Thank you for your time and fingers crossed for the WSOP.
When playing snooker you have been likened to a robot - completely in control and calm. On the pool circuit you are animated - punching the air and geeing up the crowd. Why the difference? - Josh Smith By email
S. D - As I've got older I've cared less about how I'm perceived. I was self-conscious when I was younger and if I wasn't in control of my facial expressions and emotions I felt I wasn't in control of the balls. Of course, that was complete nonsense. I'm more relaxed when I play pool because I have no track record to protect. One of the events, the Mosconi Cup, is also a team game and that is a more emotional experience, similar to the Ryder Cup.
Why do players get bigger breaks, and more consistently these days? - Alan Ford in Leicester
S.D - Willie Thorne has a theory that the thinner cloth offers less friction, allowing the pack of reds to spread more for easier clear-ups. But the bottom line is the players are better and they are looking to win the frame in one visit. The pockets are tighter than before but the standard has still improved.
Should the world championship move from the Crucible to a bigger venue? - Peter Turville in Sheffield
S.D. - If the game was popular worldwide, you'd maybe consider moving the tournament but snooker has not grown much over the years. It would also throw away all the history that comes with the Crucible. It's a great auditorium to play in and there is such intimacy with fewer than 900 people crammed in. You would lose that tight-knit crowd around one table.
Who's your hot tip for a young player who'll be a future star? - Ed Billings in Chelmsford
S.D. - Everyone's aware of what 16-year-old Judd Trump has achieved on the junior scene. This is his first professional season and he's on track to be a contender in the next few years.
How did you come to have your own soul music radio show in the 80s? - Marie Mears By email
S.D. - I became known as a collector of soul records. The DJ, John Leach, was going on holiday and decided to get me in as a celebrity presenter for a week. The best moment was filling in for Robbie Vincent. But I soon ran out of things to say and just ended up repeating "Here's another of my favourites . . ."
The most famous snooker match of all time (v Dennis Taylor in 1985) involves you losing. How do you feel about that? - Joe Cross in Dorset
S.D. - I'm proud to be involved in an event that people remember where they watched it. It's difficult to get your head around 18 million people watching. Dennis told me that crime in Ireland was non-existent during the final, so it was nice to do some good elsewhere, too.
Does having a drink, like Bill Werbeniuk used to, really help a player's game? - E Hutchison By email
S.D. - Bill was drinking vast amounts but it was less professional back then. I tried it a couple of times to alleviate the panic before a match. I had a whisky but didn't enjoy it and it didn't affect my game.
The six-time world snooker champion on Chas 'n' Dave, 'Hurricane' Higgins and why it pays to be interesting
Interview by Lee Honeyball
Sunday April 1, 2007
1. Would the Steve Davis of the Eighties be winning tournaments now?
Probably not. The standard of play was nowhere near what it is today. I never really had difficult matches until the semi-final or final of most tournaments so I had a breathing space for mistakes that I wouldn't have now. It was a great era because it was all so new and we were the first players to discover what was possible on a snooker table. I was cutting edge for a while.
2. How did you deal with the fame back then?
The first time I had an idea that people were interested in me was when a television crew filmed me going to the dry cleaners. That was strange. I was quickly made aware of the downside when some bloke came up to me in a nightclub and punched me for no reason. I still sign autographs for grannies if I go to the supermarket.
3. Are you sick of seeing clips of Dennis Taylor beating you in 1985?
If I hadn't been there I would honestly think I only played one shot [the missed black] in the entire match. I watched the deciding frame with Dennis a couple of years ago and couldn't remember much else beyond that black. I was shocked by some of the shots I missed, though I can laugh about it now.
4. What was it like to play against Alex Higgins?
He was very intimidating. I never used to like being around him socially because you never knew when the wheels were going to come off. We played exhibitions, which is how we made money away from tournaments, and the atmosphere would always be volatile and could turn sour quite quickly. The crowd always wanted him to win but I would stay behind to do trick shots, which often won them over.
5. Do you still listen to your top-10 single, 'Snooker Loopy'?
It wasn't a bad idea at the time, but anyone that still listens to it obviously needs to get out more. It is very trainspotter-like to know the words to it nowadays, but unfortunately I still do. I don't think even Chas 'n' Dave, who wrote it, can say that. The 12-inch version was never ending! My kids were amazed that I had made a record and one of them took it to school. The next thing I knew I had to print the words out for the entire class to learn. There is a whole section of a school in Brentwood that knows 'Snooker Loopy' off by heart.
6. You are 49 now. Has your attitude to snooker changed?
I don't really set myself goals because I am enjoying myself more now than 10 years ago, when I was feeling the heat just trying to justify my existence. I see players under pressure and suffering because they are trying too hard. Somewhere down the line they will be in the situation I am in now and will be better players for it.
7. How is the online poker career going?
I'm still addicted. If I had to make a living from it, however, I would probably be selling the Big Issue
8. You like Seventies soul and we once put Glastonbury in touch with you to see if you would DJ there. Did you do it?
I didn't feel as though I had the right to, so I turned it down. There are other people who should be higher up the pecking order than me.
9. How good is Ronnie O'Sullivan?
Higgins was fantastic, but nowhere near Ronnie. He is just breathtaking. There are moments when he is unbeatable, but the standard is so high that players can put him under pressure and he makes mistakes. He pummelled poor Ding Junhui in the Masters final in January. That was as near to perfection as I have seen.
10. Our favourite of your nicknames is 'Romford Slim'. Which one do you like?
I have to go with 'Interesting', because I've made a living from it. The whole Spitting Image thing, from which it came, was bizarre and showed what heady days they were for snooker. I ended up writing a book that gave tips on being interesting. The boring thing - it wasn't cruel, was it?
· Born in London in 1957, Davis won his first world title in 1981. The next year, he hit the first televised 147 maximum break. He is a BBC commentator.
Small Talk chews the fat with Steve Davis - and quickly discovers that if the biscuits don't kill him, the milk, steak and kidney pies or water surely will
Hello Small Talk.
Let's get the snooker questions out of the way early doors. Who's going to win the World Championship this weekend?
I honestly don't know, Small Talk. There's four left and I think it's either Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan or Matthew Stevens.
Ah, you've really stuck your neck out for us, there, Steve.
I know, but I really do not know who's going to win it. I really have not got a clue. It's nothing personal with Graham (it’s not my mistake – note of webmaster) Dott, but he's the only one I can't see winning it.
What about Rocket Ronnie's behaviour this week - swearing at pockets and so forth?
Well it seems to happen in all sports now, it's just the way the world's gone. Our Association needs to decide what should be done on a disciplinary level, so everybody knows. We need a code of conduct, which says you're either allowed to swear at the pockets and make rude signs or you're not, so everybody knows where we stand.
It's just harmless fun, no?
Well it's not for me to say one way or the other, Small Talk, I think it's something the World Snooker Association needs to decide.
Right, on to the big issues. What's your favourite biscuit?
[The line goes silent for several seconds, though a faint tapping sound can be heard]
You're struggling on the biscuit question...
I am, yeah... I'm going to have to come back to you on this one. It's just too early, I've just had breakfast and it's the last thing I fancy at the moment...
OK, we can come back to i...
I used to like Garibaldis, but I've not had one for years. Actually, I'd have one of those now if you've got any.
Alas not, Steve. Sorry.
I think biscuits have gone down hill generally though. They've got far more poisons in them than they used to have.
Like what, arsenic?
No, no, but the stuff they put in them can't be good for you. I think a lot of them have far too long a shelf life for my liking. I like a fresh biscuit with all natural ingredients in but I'm not sure you get them any more. If you can, I'm not sure where you'd get them from... [tails off, sounding genuinely troubled].
Who or what would you put into Room 101?
Erm, [tap, tap] polystyrene cups for drinking tea out of.
Well I'm sure you end up drinking a certain amount of polystyrene every time you have a cup, and that can't be good for you either, can it?
Probably not. You're sounding slightly paranoid, Steve.
Yeah, probably to some degree. But it's a worry what we're fed, isn't it? That's why I make sure I have me bacon and eggs every day [laughs].
Do you wear slippers?
Eh? Oh no. I've got a pair but they're lost in the house somewhere. They're actually a very nice pair - plain black leather. You'd probably describe them as the Rolls Royce of slippers, Small Talk.
So why don't you wear them?
Because they're more suited to a class of people that I've never associated with. They should really be worn with a really good dressing gown and a cravat, and I have neither gown nor cravat. I can't do them justice, so I don't even try.
What was the last record or CD you bought?
Ooh, I bought a soul 45 off the internet, I can't remember what that was called and it hasn't turned up yet. And I re-bought a load of Caravan albums on CD. They're as good as ever, and they were worth buying just for For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night.
You're not wrong.
You've never heard it, have you?
Well you ought to. Go and buy it, it's a f-ing brilliant record. An absolute monster.
Kylie or Britney?
Erm, erm, [tap, tap] I'll say Kylie, but I haven't got a clue why. [Tappity tap] She did a very good version of Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby. But the other one [Britney]... I'm not too sure. [Sounds stumped] I honestly don't know much about them, Small Talk [laughs].
What's your favourite TV show?
Er, Poker Million. Friday nights, runs until July.
Shameless, Steve. What's your favourite TV show that you're not in?
Oh, you should have said. Erm... [sounds troubled]... [umms and ahhs for an age]... well I've got all the DVDs of Coupling. Will they do?
If you like watching a poor man's Friends...
No, I think it's the other way round. Even though the Americans make some very funny comedies, I still think when you get a brilliant British one, it's appeals far more to our sense of humour.
How much does a pint of milk cost? [Answer: 40-odd-p]
Oh God, I haven't got a clue. Erm, 59p?
59p? They're squeezing you dry, Steve...
Well I get it from Marks & Spencer. They must use better cows, or something...
If a lion fought a tiger behind the bike sheds, who would win?
Er... the lion? I haven't got a clue [again sounds puzzled]. He's king of the jungle, isn't he?
Indeed he is, so that'll do. Cheese or chocolate?
Ooh that's another tough one, isn't it. [More tapping]. I like them both but I'd have to go with a very strong cheddar or some quality brie. But if you're talking chocolate, it's have to be the [tap, tap]... the erm [tap, tap]... the 85% Lindt. Two squares of that and you need at least three pints of water.
Not tap water though, that could kill you.
Thanks. What colour underpants are you wearing today?
I have a stripey pair of sort of greyey-blue boxer shorts on. They're not designer pants, no. They're just from a pack of three.
Own any lucky pants?
No, but I've got a lucky pair of shoes. I've worn them for the last 10 years but as I haven't f**king won a match for ages I'm not sure I'll continue wearing them. They don't wear out 'cos I only play in them, but one's got a big dent in the front from when I must have kicked a door or something.
What's your poiso... drink?
I like a nice Shiraz.
Ever drunk so much you've forgotten your name?
Erm, I drunk a lower grade of it on the night I got beat at this year's World Championship and although I didn't quite forget my name, I did end up shouting out of our hotel room for Ralph and Huey.
What, you were sick out the window? Rock and roll!
No, not actually out of the window, I was down on my hands and knees on the floor. Woke up the next morning with a big headache, but no rubbish wine in my system.
Phew, etc. What was the last book you read?
The Many-coloured Land by Julian May, a science fiction book. I've read it two or three times and keep going back because it's quite fascinating and I keep meaning to familiarise myself before reading the next one. There are three more in the series, and I'll tell you what, Small Talk, it knocks seven bells out of Lord Of The Rings.
Speaking of which, have you ever knocked another man out?
Yes, in the first round at the Crucible.
Yes, very good. But what about with your fists or a stick?
Oh no. I don't really have any muscles in my body capable of doing anything like that and I've certainly never used an implement.
Ever kicked another man in the groin?
No, I've avoided physical contact throughout the whole of my life.
What's your favourite pie filling?
Pie filling? [Small Talk nods, Steve appears to ignore the question in favour of more tapping before finally]... steak and kidney, I think.
You think? Surely the King Of Pies!
Yeah, but it's got to be home-made, Small Talk.
Need I ask why?
Because I think if it's home-made you can have every confidence that there's nothing dodgy in it.
You can never be sure, Small Talk. At least with my wife's pie I know what's gone in it.
Erm, tea or coffee?
Tea [tap, tap]. I usually go for Marks & Spencer's tea in the gold packet. I can't be any more specific than that, I'm afraid. [Tap] It's normal tea, though, none of that poncey rubbish.
Milk and sugar?
Just milk. Full fat, none of the poisons of skimmed that nobody knows about yet.
It's true. The process they use to skim it produces very small fat globules, which are more dangerous than proper fat. Skimmed milk is no good for you. It's far worse than full fat, which admittedly isn't good for you either, but it's less harmful.
Are you sure?
Absolutely. Give it five years and they'll probably be writing pieces in the Daily Mail health bit about it.
You've got Small Talk worried now...
Do you dunk your biscuits in your tea?
Then you're history, Small Talk. You won't make the 2009 World Championship at this rate, so you won't be around to do this same interview with Ronnie.
But what a way to go: poisoned by skimmed milk.
Well yeah, it's not a bad way to go.
Erm, where are you off to?
Back to the internet to play some more online poker.
Ah, that explains the tapping and loss of concentration then...
Oh sorry, Small Talk. I'm multi-tasking, clicking and talking. I'm very advanced. Hang on, I must have won money without realising. It says here I'm 50 cents up!
Well done. It's been an enlightening and frightening pleasure, Steve.
No problem, Small Talk, thanks very much. Just watch what you eat and drink, that's all I'm saying.