Meet Ed Miller—professional poker player and five-year vegan. He recently attended the first-annual Vegans in Vegas Conference, where he lives with his wife, and (you guessed it) plays poker at a professional level, writes books on the subject, and eats good vegan food. VN caught up with Miller, just after Vegans in Vegas.
VegNews: Tell us about why you decided to go vegan.
Ed Miller: It was a 10-year process. The ball started rolling in college when I became a fan of a band from Canada called Propagandhi. Those guys are relentlessly pro-animal, and listening to them was the first time I ever really thought about the problems with consuming animals. In 2002, my mom had a heart attack, and I went to the doctor and found out I was headed the same way if I didn’t make a lifestyle change. So I stopped eating meat. In 2004, I met my wife, Elaine Vigneault, who was also a vegetarian. In 2006, we moved to New York, and with all the great resources for vegans in that city, Elaine and I took the plunge and became vegan together. Five years later we’re back in Vegas, still happily married, proudly vegan, and my doctor assures me that, thanks to my diet, I’m not going to have a heart attack any time soon.
VN: That’s great! Do your poker playing and veganism go hand-in-hand, or do you tend to keep them separate in your life?
EM: Veganism is, among other things, a statement that we should not exploit those weaker than us simply because we can turn a profit from it. Poker, on the other hand, demands that you attack the weak, and relish the profit you can make from it. Of course, the weak at my Las Vegas poker tables often own multimillion-dollar bank accounts, so you can’t feel too bad for them. Having said all that, most of the other vegans I know who play poker are pretty darn good at it.
VN: That’s a really interesting way to look at the two subjects. Speaking of the game, what is your recipe for success when playing poker?
EM: Patience, restraint, open-mindedness, and the committment to learn something new every day. In poker, most things are out of your control. You don’t control what cards come. More importantly, you don’t control the other players. You can’t make them think or do something just because it would be convenient for you. You only control yourself, and the key is to do that as well as you can. If you do, if you accept that no matter how much you know, there is always something new to learn, and if you commit to learning every day, then you will succeed.
VN: Thanks for the advice, which I think goes for other areas in life as well. You currently live in Las Vegas. Do you find it to be an easy place to live as a vegan?
EM: I lived in New York for two years, and compared to the lush environment of the Big Apple, Las Vegas is a vegan desert (har har). But it’s not really fair to compare like that. Las Vegas has a thriving and active veg community. New veg-friendly restaurants are popping up, and old restaurants are becoming more veg-friendly. Elaine organizes group called Vegas Veg* that has more than 500 members, and sponsors meetups nearly every week for the veg crowd. I’d say it’s plenty easy to live as a vegan in Vegas.
VN: Where is your favorite place to dine and get vegan grub?
EM: Red Velvet Café. It’s café-type food—sandwiches, wraps, salads, pasta, and so forth. Unfortunately, they serve meat and dairy, but they are happy to veganize anything on the menu, and they do it very well. Also, they always have a wide selection of fantastic vegan desserts. The original location is a bit hard to get to for out-of-towners, but they just opened an outpost on the Strip inside the Fashion Show Mall. Definitely worth checking out. Also, Ronald’s Donuts. No explanation necessary.
VN: For vegan doughnuts? No explanation needed, indeed! You recently attended the first annual Vegans in Vegas Conference. How was it?
EM: It was great! Ryan and Jennifer Henn did a terrific job organizing it. Any excuse to come to Vegas is a good one, but meeting up with vegheads from around the country is naturally a fantastic one. Next year, it would be cool to explore more of what Vegas has to offer off the Strip. There are some hikes just outside of town that would make for great events.
VN: Any projects planned for the near future?
EM: My sixth poker book, How to Read Hands at No-Limit Hold ‘em, comes out at the end of summer. Check out my website for more info. After that’s finished, I plan to write more for Vegan Soapbox. It’s a great resource for vegans and non-vegans who want to learn more about animal issues, veganism, advocacy, and more. I’m also working on a novel. It’s a thriller, and one of the main characters is a vegan computer hacker and poker player who saves the world. It’s going to be awesome. I promise.
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