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John Tabatabais

Last week we caught up with Sam Grafton and coming up this week it’s John Tabatabais turn as Lee Davy returns with another “A Week in the Life of…”

John Tabatabai is a former chess wizard whose first-ever live tournament score was to finish as the runner-up to Annette Obrestad at the 2007 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event in London.

Tabatabai earned $1,148,130 to ease his bitter disappointment, and it created a bankroll that enabled him to plough the professional poker field for the next five-years. Tabatabai is a very interesting young man, who takes life by the balls and swings it around a bit. We caught up with him in Colombia to find out what he did last week.

What on earth are you doing in Colombia?

I was living in London, and to be honest I had a lot of things on my mind. I was playing a private game over there and when that came to a stop for me I thought: –

“Why am I living in the most expensive city in the world?”

So this was on my mind when I headed to the Dominican Republic to play in a tournament. I was lying on the beach and this local guy would make me this drink called Coco Loco, which were the meat, skin and juice of coconut mixed with rum. It is the tastiest, sweetest drink, and I remember thinking,

“Wow, this guy is so happy!”

All he’s concerned about is earning the minimum wage to take home to his wife. He’s not worried about the FTSE market? How the latest investments are doing? If he is going to get scammed? Or if he is going to get three-outed on the river and run so bad. No, his only concern is to feed his wife and not get killed.

If you did a survey, in third world countries, their happiness is much greater than the US for sure, London without question and the majority of the countries worldwide, because people cannot be happy simply because it is like a social finance ladder game. Who wants more? Who has earned more? Especially London, there are lots of unhappy billionaires or millionaires that have more issues than the normal people from back in school.

So this got me thinking. I have to work out what I want to do, as I haven’t really been happy in poker for the last year. This has been for a variety of reasons, obviously the games are getting harder, and I’ve transferred to PLO and when you’re learning something new it is very rocky as it’s a new game.


I decided to speak with a few friends and one of them recommended a book called “Happier” by Tal Ben-Shahar, It is incredible. As I was reading it says, “People are trained to work twelve hours a day, get a better position within the company, become a Company Partner or Director. But you would have wasted your life for years working towards something you think will make you happy.”

It also states, “True happiness for most people is doing something right now. To bring you current happiness and this will build something positive towards the future.” I thought what have I wanted to do for a long time?

It was to learn Spanish. It would give me immediate happiness, as it would enable me to communicate with an extra billion people and lets not forget the world’s sexiest women are here, and speak in the sexiest language.

It is also beneficial for the future and business, I don’t know what I am going to do with my future, but I just thought this would be useful. Then I thought where can I go that is the total opposite to London to learn this language? What could be better than a third world county? So here I am in Columbia.

What has been your most interesting moment this week?

I visited a place called Guatape and stayed in a city called Medellin. It used to be the worlds most dangerous city for eight-years in a row, but also has the world’s most beautiful women so it has it plus points too. These days it’s pretty safe.

Pablo Escobar had an island there and literally hired everyone to work for him. I took a tour of the island, saw where his nightclub was, his houses, his ten security guards houses and then they showed us where he kept his Submarine. He had one in case the Americans tried capturing him so he could disappear!

That was fascinating. He has a mixed reputation in Guatape. The people are either pro Pablo or get very upset when you mention him. You find out that he did a lot of good, but also bad things to the economy. One of the locals once told me he would lose a million dollars a day to rats because he had so much money…too much money to hold in banks, so he would stash his money in places and the rats would eat it!

Coming Up in Part 2

In Part 2 John Tabatabai talks about his Colombian poker schedule, the speed of the checkout girls and his love for Plantain.

About the Author

Lee Davy is a writer from Ogmore Vale in South Wales. You can follow his views and opinions through his blog at or on Twitter

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