Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

4am in Vegas

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

  In For Richer, For Poorer, there’s a whole chapter about things that have happened to me at 4am. If I were writing it now, I could include the fact that I just broke up a catfight between two prostitutes. It’s 4am in Vegas, noon at home, and it’s been a strange day.

  I woke up at 7am, in a jet lag sort of way, and had a calm morning of emails and reading. At midday, I went to play my first event of the 2012 World Series of Poker: the $2500 No Limit Holdem. It started well, but soon enough I had my aces cracked and thus my first WSOP exit of the season. I was sorry, as I always am - but I didn’t really mind because my great friend Neil Channing was on the final table of Event 43 ($1500 No Limit Holdem) and I really wanted to watch him play.

  It was a long night, throughout which Neil played brilliantly to get heads-up for the bracelet. It was a sign of the power of jet lag that at some point, with only one opponent left between Neil and World Series victory, a security guard had to shake me awake and tell me I wasn’t allowed to sleep on the rail. I though this was a bit rich, since a few days ago JP Kelly was on a final table and the British supporters were told to be less noisy. So: not too noisy, but not asleep either. A middle ground of awake, quiet support is clearly the rule…

  When Neil finished 2nd, I felt gutted for him. That will sound strange to non-players, because 2nd place is an incredible result out here and came with a $400,000 prize. But Neil isn’t a dilettante like me; he’s been a serious professional poker player for many years, usually comes out for the whole series to play a lot of events, and (with an amazing 32 previous cashes in WSOP events) is close to the record for number of cashes without a bracelet. A bracelet means so much. It’s a stamp of historic poker success, and they can never take it away from you. This could so easily have been his moment.

  Then again, what the hell, he finished second for $400,000! We went off for a celebratory / consolation drink with Neil’s girlfriend Anne and a group of UK faces.

  God, the Rio is a depressing place. It’s low-rent and cheap, but pretends to be grand and expensive. The rooms are “suites”. The prices are relatively high. Yet it has neither the elegance of an expensive all-suite hotel, nor the charm of an honest low-rent dive (like, say, The Gold Coast, where The Sweep and I stayed the first year the Series moved uptown).

  Our first well-done-and-unlucky-Neil drink was at a bar in the casino, among the roulette tables, where the waitresses dance. In a poignant sort of way. It’s not a cheery, everyone-dancing sort of vibe. It’s a bar surrounded by a lot of gloomy people playing desperate roulette. Every so often, one of the waitresses puts down her tray, hauls out a set of wooden steps, climbs up them, and wiggles around in a see-through skirt on a small square podium - ignored by everyone around her, slightly out of time to the music. They take it in turns to do it. When they’ve finished, they climb down and put the steps away again, so that drunks and losing gamblers don’t bang their knees. One of the girls tried to make the tidying-away-of-the-steps sexy by pushing them back with her bum. At that point, I asked if we could go for a drink somewhere else.

  So we went across the casino to another bar, where the waitresses don’t dance. We were all having a nice drink and a chat. Suddenly, there was a lot of screaming. I looked across and two women were grappling in the middle of the bar, pulling each other’s hair and spitting and swearing. They weren’t definitely prostitutes, but when rough-looking women are alone in a casino bar at night, wearing glittery dresses and nursing cocktails… well, they usually are.

  The women were clearly causing each other proper physical pain. One was much bigger than the other. The big one had a great clump of the little one’s hair in her fist. They were kicking each other. Nobody did anything. You can’t just ignore this kind of thing; I was worried that one of them was going to smash her cocktail glass in the other’s face. So I did my best to pull them apart, and pin one to the bar - at which point, luckily, a man stepped in to hold back the other one. Then security came.

  I left the Rio then, and came back to my hotel with my friend Kirsty. We had a chat with the cab driver about Anne Boleyn. I lost a bit of money playing blackjack. I’m back in my room now. I’ve got a huge window in here, floor-to-ceiling, with all the lights of Las Vegas glittering outside it and stretching out into the desert. I’ve got a cup of tea. I’ve got a book to finish. I’ve got a bruise coming up on my face, where the big one punched me while I was holding them apart. I’m quite proud that I didn’t let go. And I didn’t hit her back, either.

  Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing in this town. I like gardening and crosswords and Radio 4.

  Then again, what can you do? I love it here too.


Facebook Google Digg Reddit Yahoo! StembleUpon Newsbine LiveJournal BlinkList

Add Comment


Jack T' Lad at 12:04 pm on June 26th, 2012

Well done you. Bravery being another disguised form of stupidity.
Hope the bruise is not too bad, you can maybe hide it under some make up or a hat. Least wise you trip seems anything but boring

jay at 12:13 pm on June 26th, 2012

The rio has become even more depressing when the series leaves town, after november 9 it felt like a dank cavern last year. Ahh at least it isnt trying to be hip like the palms.

Oh and well done on breaking up the fight, hope your bruise gives you an advantage at the tables.

Rob King at 12:17 pm on June 26th, 2012

You missed out the bit about doing some live commentary, but “Cool Story Bro!”
Wear the bruise with pride, and tell the story to any that will listen. Then go on and win a bracelet, then everyone will want to break up hooker fights…
You could consider it a public service.

Paul Dettman at 12:34 pm on June 26th, 2012

It sounds like it was quite a night. I had my stag ‘do’ in there. The only other attendee was my wife to be. We say Penn & Teller. Don’t forget that side of the Rio. The cat fight could have happened anywhere in Vegas, or London. No need to feel glum about that. Just remember you are in the minority who knows the real Vegas and be smug. Vegas mirrors life and not just the good or the bad, but really true life and it is all the more honest because of that!

Dale at 12:51 pm on June 26th, 2012

Your articles are always a delight to read Victoria. Since you’re in Vegas and can seemingly handle yourself a bit, maybe you can try your hand at Ultimate Fighting.

Lynn at 1:00 pm on June 26th, 2012

Why does that not surprise me from you - hope the bruise is gloriously prominent and you get the chance to show it off to the full #womanpower ahem sorry . . . .

Sue MacLaine at 1:22 pm on June 26th, 2012

Throat lumped reading this…the particular of lights and views and do I belong here? You are a great writer

Ulla Jessen at 2:15 pm on June 26th, 2012

Respect for getting involved. My grown up son once got really mad when I told him that I, in no uncertain terms, told a man off for peeing up a wall outside a night club.

GeoffH at 3:24 pm on June 26th, 2012

I remember on Question Time a few weeks back when the subject was a massacre in Syria and should we intervene ? made the point that if a fight was going on across the street it would be hard to ignore…and here you are putting words into action.
If Karma works you should get a few good results now in return for the good Samaritan action.

Ken Singtone at 5:18 pm on June 26th, 2012

What an amazing person you are, breaking up a fight!  ( amazing that I’ve just topped up my teacup with coffee.)
It seems I was wrong when I thought that your blog would be a bit quieter while you are in Vegas.  Is this a farewell fling before settling down to married life, or the beginning of a new era of greater moral authority?
Good luck with the poker, in any case.  Some good hands should ease the pain of the bruising.

Adam at 6:58 pm on June 26th, 2012

“Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing in this town. I like gardening and crosswords and Radio 4.”

Haha, ironically that is such a Mark Corrigan thing to say!

Butler at 9:17 pm on June 26th, 2012

Brilliant. (Not the bit about being struck by a prostitute. Obviously)

Andy Shaddick at 9:55 pm on June 26th, 2012

Great blog, I love the way you write.

Mike W at 2:41 am on June 27th, 2012

So it seems as though little has changed in the 25 years since I last went to Vegas. I remember walking through acres of slot machines, divided into rows that were being jealously guarded by sour looking people clutching large plastic cups filled with quarters and dimes.

I’ve rarelyy seen a more depressing scene.

Still, I enjoyed your final table commentary on the Interwebs last night, Vicky. I’m old enough to remember your father in his heyday, and you are chip off the old block (in a good way!). Good luck with your up-coming tournaments—women seem to be scoring some good results this year, so you never know!

seven2off at 12:29 pm on June 27th, 2012

Can we see a photo of your bruise please…?

If you’re ever in a similar situation in the future I would suggest just settling for a bet on the outcome rather than getting in the middle of it.

Still, it was very noble of you.

Good luck in all those high stakes freerolls, you’re so lucky.

AndytheDealer at 5:55 pm on June 27th, 2012

When you write you’re finishing a book, do you mean finishing reading or do you mean finishing writing?

On a chivalrous note, I would have tackled the little one for you, had I been there…

Victoria Coren at 6:29 pm on June 27th, 2012

Oh no, just finishing reading one! My brother’s new one, actually - “How To Eat Out” - it’s really good.

There wasn’t much of a bruise in the end, it turned out. It was all sore on the night, but not much visual sign in the morning. I was a bit disappointed really.

Jean-Pierre Laconte at 7:30 pm on June 27th, 2012

Dear Victoria,

Love your blogging and columns, and of course your TV panel show appearances.

My friend and I have been working on a satirical news blog, I hope it may cheer you up following your terrifying ordeal in Vegas:

Hope you enjoy, we are looking for followers.



colin young at 1:38 am on June 28th, 2012

n1 again vicky, luv reading your stuff. GL in Vegas & hope you bring a bracelet back ;0) see you on the circuit soon.

Annette Alter at 1:34 pm on June 28th, 2012

Loved your blog above, but having read your comment below your blog about your brother’s book, I just read the extract on Amazon.  Loved it!

Jelliphiish at 5:53 pm on June 29th, 2012

lovely piece. (yes i know I’m late to the table, welcome to my own personal informational wavefront). How’s the tournee going at the mo?

palladian at 10:18 pm on June 29th, 2012

“It’s four in the morning
The middle of summer,
I’m writing you now
To tell of a bummer.

Vegas is hot
And I hate where I’m living
There’s music at the Rio
All through the evening.

I hear that you’re building your little stack deep in the desert.
You’re living for Aces now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of handle…

If you ever come by here
For Neil or for me,
Your opponent’s on tilt
And his game is for free…

...sincerely V Coren.”

- Vicky Coren sings Leonard Cohen.

Anne at 9:25 pm on June 30th, 2012

If I had David at home, I wouldn’t be in Vegas… *sigh*

Victoria Coren

News: September 2017

September 7th is a big day!

Click here to read more »

Switch Theme

Click here to change colour scheme

RSS Feed

Subscribe to the RSS feed here