The Unabridged Story of The Hendon Mob (Part One: Formation)
Table Of Contents
Twenty years ago, four men appeared in the British newspaper The Evening Standard in which they were described as poker’s next big thing. The author of the piece was later to be two-time EPT winner Vicky Coren.
Hailing from North London, The Hendon Mob was a poker Rat Pack to be feared and admired in equal measure. They had nicknames, they had swagger and they had a knack for winning.
Two decades later, the three words "The Hendon Mob" are synonymous with poker. From the poker database that would be their legacy to the WSOP bracelets and new endeavors that form their checkered history, the time is right to take a deep dive into The Hendon Mob — then and now.
We spoke to all four members of the group to piece together the past and find out what the future holds for founding members Joe Beevers, Barny Boatman, Ross Boatman and Ram Vaswani.
The Hendon Mob Beginnings
We start, naturally, at the beginning. It’s the mid-1990’s. Britpop is in the air and the boys are about to get the band together.
“Someone gave me a tip for a dog,” says Vaswani, the former professional snooker player who went from hanging out in snooker halls as a teenager to picking up a deck of cards. He loved to gamble too, and the story of the first Hendon Mob meeting would arise from this particular gambling tale. This particular day, that would bring about the first Hendon Mob meeting.
Ross Boatman: "When I left that program, nothing touched it as far as TV success was concerned, but my interest in poker was very strong and, bit by bit, it gave me something else."
“I was friends with a guy called Jeff who told me that we needed to back a dog,” says Beevers, the other man in the start of the story. “He stops outside the betting shop. He says ‘Here’s £200. Go and stand in that red telephone box by the betting shop and wait for it to ring.’ I stood in the phone box and after four or five minutes it rang. I picked up the phone and the voice said ‘2.30 at Romford, back Trap 6.’
Armed with this information, Beevers backed the dog to win and even had a cheeky £30 on it himself. The dog in question had started at odds of 7/4 and went off at 4/6 as the odds-on favorite. It lost.
“Five or six weeks later, I was playing in a private poker game in Mill Hill and the doorbell went," Beevers recalled. "I couldn’t see because we were playing but I could hear a voice. It was ‘Romford 2.30, back trap six. And as he walked into the room. He was Ram Vaswani. I said, ‘You’re the guy in the phone box’ and he laughed.”
Private Games Bring the Mob Together
“That was the first time I spoke to [Beevers]," Vaswani said. "I came to a game that he was running with another friend of ours. I started playing in his private game and that led to us having the game in Hendon.”
Barny Boatman: "It was my fault — I got him into poker. I was always into games."
Vaswani and Beevers became friends, and when Beevers started his own game, Vaswani helped out. The two men already played private games two or three times a week. Vaswani had started out playing five card stud in the snooker halls, but it was dealer’s choice at Beevers’ flat. If you could name it and deal it, you could play it, and for money.
“We played a lot of people in Luton five or six days a week, and it was before the 2005 Gaming Act,” explains Beevers. “There was no online poker and casinos closed at 4 p.m. - they’d announce 'last three hands.' Throughout London, different people had private games.”
Eventually, the Boatmans found their way to Beevers' game. “Ross became a regular," said Beevers. "After a while, Ross brought Barny along."
Ross Boatman was the most well-known name of the four men at the time, but not for his prowess at the poker table. He was an actor in the hit TV show London’s Burning, which centered around a capital city fire brigade. You can watch some of the show on YouTube.
“London’s Burning was a massive show for me when I was younger, largely because there was only four TV channels," said Beevers. "It was on at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night and it peaked at 20 million viewers. It was massive.”
Eventually, Ross left the show and took to poker.
“When I left that program, nothing touched it as far as TV success was concerned, but my interest in poker was very strong and, bit by bit, it gave me something else," Ross Boatman recalled. "I’m not sure exactly what, but the excitement, independence and not having to be reliant on someone to get jobs for me was great.”
The Final Link
Liberated from his acting frustrations, Boatman brought his older brother along. Barny Boatman was forty and had been around the block. He’d been a journalist and had also been involved in a project in the mid-90s called Channel Cyberia — a website involving games and gambling. It had poker stories in it and a ‘Fantasy Punters League’ where real odds were used to work out the best gambler over time.
Joe Beevers: "At the time, there were 23 London casinos, and between us, we got barred from 19 of them for playing blackjack."
Barny was always close to his younger brother. He had another brother who was closer to him in age, but they had a classic sibling rivalry. There was always an element of protection in Barny’s love of Ross.
“Ross and I were playing in a poker game in Archway, where we both lived at the time. It was a combination of some of Ross’s acting mates from London’s Burning and a few friends of mine. It was very recreational, but it was starting to get big in terms of money going back and forth. Ross and I got more serious about the game.”
He continued: "Ross was my kid brother, I was always very proud of him and we always had a lot in common,” says Barny, before a pause, and an admission. “It was my fault — I got him into poker. I was always into games. Me and my mates used to play poker round the kitchen table and Ross wanted to join in. I taught him to play and he loved it. Later on, we were both playing with separate friends and our games merged.”
Barny Boatman was a journalist and Ross Boatman was an actor. It didn’t take them long to find the game in Hendon and become firm friends with Beevers and Vaswani. At times, the games would run from 7 p.m. on a Monday night until 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The games got big. The four men got to know each other.
The Hendon Game
The roots of the poker game in Hendon grew out of gambling origins that ran deep in Beevers. “My dad took me to the Golden Nugget on Shaftsbury Avenue to introduce me to blackjack. At the time, there were 23 London casinos, and between us, we got barred from 19 of them for playing blackjack.”
Ram Vaswani: "I’d gone to Vegas with Joe to play a festival at the Four Queens. But it would be a few years before the four of us went to Vegas together."
It was while playing blackjack that Beevers started playing poker, and that experience developed into a lifelong love of the game. It wasn’t long before he set up his private game: The Hendon game.
“The four of us were hardcore in that game, obviously playing against each other," Beevers said. "I had a dedicated poker room in my flat, and I had a snooker light, the large drop-down one over the baize. Everyone smoked, the room was thick with tar.”
Barny Boatman was a fan of the scene at the Hendon game. “Their game was much more of a classic mixture of people who did nothing else as far as you could tell,” says Barny. “We were playing in casinos, but we were drawn to Joe and Ram’s game.”
The crew of four ran together in the England poker scene and at the Grosvenor Victoria, they earned themselves a nickname that stuck.
Joe Beevers: “We’d walk into 'The Vic' and John Kabbaj would stick his head up from the Omaha game and say ‘Oh, here come the Hendon Mob.’ That was how we got the name.”
“We’d walk into 'The Vic' and John Kabbaj would stick his head up from the Omaha game and say ‘Oh, here come the Hendon Mob.’ That was how we got the name,” Beevers explained. They would later use that very name for the website they'd create, and it was also around the time they began traveling together to play the card game that bound them.
“I’d gone to Vegas with Joe to play a festival at the Four Queens,” says Vaswani. “But it would be a few years before the four of us went to Vegas together.”
“It was nice, though, because we had a camaraderie,” says Ross. “We could always rely on each other, learn about the game together. It was nice to have a crew.”
Hendon Dreams Start to Brew
The crew was enjoying some local notoriety but they were clearly ready for bigger things, or at least the idea of them. The four spoke about ideas for promoting the game of poker and trying to get sponsorship.
“We tried to find a way of getting filmmakers or journalists to pay for us to go to Las Vegas,” says Barny. “I was hawking around a TV idea about filming a group of British players going to play in the World Series of Poker. But nothing was ever going to come of it. We were just dreamers.”
But the dream was about to come true, and in more ways than one. The Hendon Mob was formed, and it was only the beginning of an adventure that would take them around the world. Read more in our upcoming Part 2.