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MasterChef’s Tony Price’s winning hand

Not just a whizz in the kitchen, MasterChef’s Tony Price is a man of many talents.

He blew the judges away with his innovative snapperskin fries in last week’s episode, but MasterChef’s Tony Price is pretty handy with another kind of chip – the poker chip.

Not content with his passion for cooking, Tony’s other great love is playing online poker, a hobby that can see him rake in hundreds of dollars a day, and one he had to leave behind to enter the competition.

“It’s great fun,” the multitalented Aucklander says. “It’s so different from live, where you have physical tells and reads and you can wind people up at the table. Online is far more efficient – you play five times more hands than at a table.”

Indeed, Tony (34) may be MasterChef’s most eligible bachelor. He cooks, plays guitar and has a wicked sense of humour. While his fierce determination to achieve his dreams is hidden by a quiet demeanour and a coy smile, he’s not shy to say exactly what he wants – to open his own fine-dining restaurant and to win a world championship poker tournament.

While poker’s not his primary source of income, he says on an average day, the total amount of money that will be at risk is a couple of hundred dollars. He has, however, managed to pull in a few big wins. “My biggest win in a day was a few thousand US dollars,” he says with a cheeky grin.

“Although, on that day a monkey could have won the tournament, so I got lucky!” Despite his skill at the game, Tony has only been playing for three and a half years. He decided to give it a go to see if it could become profitable.

“I really wanted to prove to myself I could do it. And also, I thought if the dummies I was playing with at home could do it, then I could!” he jokes. “It is a bit geeky, but I know people who are committed to it, and they make a lot of money – that’s all they do. They sit in the dark eating rubbish food and being hermits. I’ve got other stuff to do!”

For example, there’s his beloved guitar. The self described “guitar addict” reckons his greatest achievements in life so far is learning to play Steve Vai guitar licks. “He’s a god,” he grins. “The first thing I learned wasn’t Stairway to Heaven or anything typical. It was this insane, high-speed solo, and I didn’t try to learn anything else.

So for the first few years, I could do these amazing solos, but if anyone asked me to play an Oasis cover, I wouldn’t have a clue how.” Tony has managed to feed his addiction in the MasterChef house by playing with Dave, Brenton and Zee. “We had some great jams,” he smiles. “We could have had a MasterChef band!”

While the band fantasy might be on hold, Tony reckons his natural curiosity will help him achieve his other dreams. “There’s always been this huge curiosity. With poker, I just wanted to prove I could do it, but with guitar, I’d hear something and ask, ‘How did he do that?’ It’s the same with cooking – I’ll taste something, figure it out, replicate it and add my own little quirk,” he says.

For now though, Tony’s keeping his life simple to take advantage of any opportunities MasterChef might provide, and is letting the chips fall where they may. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says with a coy smile. “We’ll just have to wait and see!”

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