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J.P. Kelly

(JP Kelly catching up with Gossip Girl while crushing at the WSOP Main Event. The player to his left is not a fan)

JP Kelly is one of the most respected poker players in the world. He is a two-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner and one of a small select band of brothers to have won both the Las Vegas and European versions of the event. In 2009, JP Kelly nearly accomplished back-to-back WSOP bracelet victories – in the same tournament – when he finished runner-up to Scott Shelley in the £1,000 No-Limit Hold’em event in London. A former PokerStars Team Pro and now a member of the Matchbook team that includes the likes of Sam Trickett and Roberto Romanello, JP Kelly has won nearly $2 million in live tournament earnings and a stack of cash the size of a haystack whilst playing online. We kidnapped JP Kelly during the break to talk about poker, his sex life and his famous brother R Kelly. Check it.

To have appeared on two WSOP final tables, in one series, would be deemed a success by most people, but what about JP Kelly?

It’s not a good series for me. A 10th and 8th place finish? Nobody cares about that…and I barely made a profit on the trip. The way I see it I have had three great opportunities and gotten a bit unlucky so it’s not been a success for me.

So what does a successful WSOP look like for JP Kelly?

A big score I guess, maybe a $200-300k score would be a great achievement. My two cashes were for $41,976 and $49,621 and when you come out here for two months your costs are really high. You come out here to chase the glory really. If I would have won one of those two, or at least got into the top three, that would have been a success to me.

How many events have you played?

Including the main event 13 events, so not as many as most people. I generally don’t play on the weekends out here, which again puts my costs up because the buy-ins are higher in the events I do play.

There was a lot of noise made about the noise your fans were making on the British Rail at your second final table. What is your opinion on all of the post-rail gossip?

I didn’t mind it. I told them to tone it down a bit, but they had been drinking all day because of the England football game that was played earlier. The thing is, it’s the same for me as it is for the other players. If you get to the final table and are worried about being distracted like that, you really have to ask yourself some questions really.
Is the football style chanting, and supporting, just part of WSOP final table poker nowadays?

Yeah a little bit. It’s not ideal when the 50k H.O.R.S.E tournament is being played on the outer tables, but I can’t stop them making the noise. It’s not like I am going to stop making final tables for the sake of people that I don’t really like anyway.

What did you think about the post-rail Twitter comments from Brian Hastings and Justin Bonomo?

They obviously have too much time on their hands, and are not the type of people to say anything to your face about the issue.

Is this the greatest tournament in the world?

Yes definitely, as there is so much dead money out there. Even now, my table is so soft. I am deep into Day 4 and I would choose this table as my starting table back on Day 1.

You had a great run during last years WSOP Main Event, tell us about that?

I went out in 26th place. I had dinner with Sam Holden the other day and people were asking him what his highest chip count was during his run and he said 12 million. I had 10 million, 3rd in chips, with 35 left then I blew up, maybe this year I could put it right. It was a great opportunity.

You are a two-time WSOP bracelet winner. Which one has the fondest memories for you?

The first one, because it was won out here (Vegas). The second one doesn’t really count as much. All the best players are out here so it means more to me. I didn’t even play the WSOPE this year for example.

What happened with your contract for PokerStars?

We just parted ways I guess. I am a lot happier with Matchbook, I play pretty much what I want, within reason, and they are really good with me. My contract had expired and they just decided not to renew it based on budgetary reasons. I believe the sponsorship of players is actually dying out these days. In my opinion they should just save money, get rid of most of them, and just keep a vital few. They wanted me to play a lot of smaller tournaments and I love my cash games and bigger tournaments, because that is where the better players are. Matchbook are a much better fit for me and I really enjoy it with them.

Describe a week in the life of JP Kelly?

I am not at home much these days to be honest. So when I do get a chance to be at home I chill out and do nothing. I like to watch TV and enjoy my box sets. I also like going out as well

Who is the smelliest person you have ever shared a house with?

Tom MacDonald definitely loves to skip a shower.

Name one thing you would change about your first ever-sexual experience

I would make sure that it was definitely in.

Tell us a good degen story?

I once got pissed up with Mark Vos at the WSOPE in London and woke up on a plane heading to Estonia. We ended up staying there for a week and had a great time.

Who is the funniest man in poker?

Sammy ‘Slacker’ Grafton makes me laugh all the time, he puts a smile on my face for sure.

Who is the most innovative player you have come across?

Phil Ivey is the most unpredictable player there is.

Name something really nerdy that you do

I watch Gossip Girl.

When you were younger did your parents show favoritism to you or your older brother R Kelly?


Is it true that your real name is not JP Kelly but instead KY Jelly?

No, that’s not true!

At the time of writing JP Kelly is still deep in the WSOP Main Event with 361 players remaining and 600,000 chips.


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