Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

A Better Day

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

  Well, I promised if I wrote a blog about my next World Series event it would be cheerier - and it is!

  My next event was WSOP number 53, the $1500 No Limit Holdem. For Day One I was drawn on table “Silver 22” in the Brasilia room, which was exactly the same table I’d been knocked out from in the Ladies’ Event the night before, soon after we’d been joined by a.. er.. non-lady.

  I hoped the draw wasn’t a bad omen but the table had no such controversies on it this time round. In fact, amongst the usual World Series mix of international visitors, brilliant young pros and chatty recreational players, was this surprising character in the 1 seat:


  Do you know who that is? I didn’t - indeed, when he told me his name, I said, “Oh stop winding me up!” Here’s your second clue: the other people at the table, none of whom was British (apart from one who claimed to be, but was quite obviously Dutch) were unable to confirm or deny the identity, since they didn’t know the name. But it’s a big name to us. I refused to believe him for about an hour, until I texted Neil Channing who replied, “Oh yes, he plays poker”, and then I realised… oh… it really is!

  I hadn’t believed / recognised him at first because, familiar though I was with the name, I don’t (and here’s your third clue) generally watch the kind of thing he does for a living.

  There’s a more obvious photo of him coming up in a minute, after a little Day One summary, so pause here if you want to try and guess….


  I don’t remember much about the play on Day One, just that I had a very enjoyable day and was pleased to make it to through to the end with only 350 others from the initial field of 3,166 players. It was a hard, fast day. My new friend, unfortunately, was knocked out near the end - and he’s not a guy who expects to be knocked out… (that’s clue four).

  But I was back for Day Two, and the bubble burst about two hours in, with 324 of us making the money. After that I think I played very well, made some strong calls and well-timed bets, got lucky once, and finished Day Two with a big stack and only 27 opponents left: my first ever Day Three in world series history!

  Have you got it yet? This was the 1 seat on Table Silver 22, day one:


  Do you know him now? Disarmingly cute face on a terrifyingly huge frame… surprisingly unblemished ears and nose… sweet little dimples but you wouldn’t want to get the wrong side of him…

  ... yes, it’s British heavyweight boxer Audley Harrison! And what a nice fellow he was. Taking a bit of time off because his next fight isn’t til November. I’d like to see him try to sneak into the Ladies’ Event without anyone noticing.

  Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Day Three. I won’t go into too much detail because anyone who’s interested was probably following online anyway, but the gist is: 28 players came back and I was fourth in chips, I picked up a few small pots uncontested, lost a decent-sized pot when I had to fold (but it was a good fold - my opponent was kind enough to show me his two queens); we went down to three tables, then two tables…

  ... and then, with 17 players left, I found AK of hearts. With blinds at 10k-20k and a running ante of 3000, I raised to 50k from middle position and got two callers, the cut-off and the small blind. The flop came Kd 8h 9c. The small blind checked and I bet 150k into a pot of nearly 200k. The cut-off raised to 425k and the small blind folded.

  I had about 820k when I started the hand, and my opponent had a bit more. If I was going to play on, it had to be for all my chips (I couldn’t put in 425k and then fold). Could I be losing? Of course I could. We’d only recently gone to two tables and I didn’t know much about my opponent, but he could have a better hand than mine. He could have aces - that might explain the pre-flop cold call at these pricy amounts (when most people, with a bit of a hand in position, would probably raise). He could have flopped two pair, if he’d made a sneaky call with 89 or even K9. He probably didn’t have a set, because he wouldn’t need to raise on the flop (makes more sense to flat call and hope to lure the third player into making a mistake). He COULD have a totally missed hand (like AQ or a pair of threes) and just be trying to take me off it with a bluff - though my relatively large continuation bet insured against that. He was unlikely to have absolutely nothing, though it wasn’t impossible.

  And he could also have KQ, KJ, KT, JT, maybe a cheeky little 67 suited, or even - depending on what kind of guy he was - JJ or TT. Plenty of hands I was beating, far more than were beating me. (I say all this because a guy in the hallway afterwards told me I could have folded. But put it more simply: I’d raised with AK, it came a K-high flop which I bet, I only had 40 big blinds and I don’t think I was ever folding. It wouldn’t have been right.)

  So, in went the money, he called my all-in and rolled over three eights. I was surprised; I’m not sure I’d have raised the flop with that myself. But it wouldn’t have made any difference if he just called, because the turn was another heart and we’d have got it all in anyway.

  SO I was out, in 17th place, for $26,000. I was very, very sad in the moment - of course I was, so close to a final table (and a first prize of $700,000!). Poker is masochistic like all sport: anything less than first place has got to cause a bit of pain, even if only to begin with. But, thank God, I’m lucky enough to be good at cheering up pretty fast after these things. I’ve only played three WSOP tournaments so far this year (and it’ll only be a total of five); some unlucky folk have been out here for weeks already with no cashes. 17th out of 3166 is surely something to be proud of? And $26,000 is a lot of money, back in the real world. And most importantly: if my big call with A high at the end of Day Two had been wrong, I’d have been out then for less. Or my gambly all-in three-bet with 8s6s (also on Day Two) might not have beaten the AQ that called it and I’d have been out then for less too. When grieving the hands where you were unlucky, you must also force yourself to remember where you were lucky too.

  AND IF ALL THAT WASN’T ENOUGH, look at the sight that greeted me in the Rio corridor when I came gloomily out of the tournament room:


  Yes, it was the great Irish players Scott Gray and Padraig Parkinson, enjoying a couple of ice lollies. With that kind of visual hit, who could stay gloomy for long?

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Nick Jay at 10:27 am on July 3rd, 2012

Nice photo with you and Audley, Vicky. I guessed it would be a boxer after clue 4 but did’t recognise him in a hoodie. :) Anyway nice cheery write-up, as promised. Thank you. :)

Nick (Manchester UK)

BaseMetal at 10:29 am on July 3rd, 2012

Well done for the decent run and I did enjoy the earlier blogs. Tbh I think of any tournie the one I would most like to play is the Ladies Event as it sounds absolutely fabulous. Alas, I don’t qualify but I am not bitter and I would only join if invited there by all the ladies. As I don’t look like Brad Pitt, or have the money of Bill Gates, or the charm of David what’isname I am unlikely to get the invite and so I am doomed to miss out. But don’t let that spoil it for you have a great time at next years one too - I’m looking forward to reading about it in the blogs.

colin glen at 10:34 am on July 3rd, 2012

yes to come 17th out of 3166 is an extremely decent result .nice play : )

neeko at 10:36 am on July 3rd, 2012

The psychic pig from Ukraine knew he had 88 but didn’t tell you as you were mean about him. #HIGNFY

Bert at 10:46 am on July 3rd, 2012

“It was a hard, fast day. My new friend, unfortunately, was knocked out near the end - and he’s not a guy who expects to be knocked out… (that’s clue four)”

You’ve never seen him ‘box’ have you? :)

Russell at 11:03 am on July 3rd, 2012

Well played. Think of it as coming in the top 0.6%. A very good result.
And on a less sporting note, I hope the boy who crashed the Ladies event sees who your new friend is ...

Francis Chu at 11:19 am on July 3rd, 2012

Well done Vicky.  To finish in the top 20 is awesome.  Pity Audley Harrison didn’t cash.

jay at 11:34 am on July 3rd, 2012

You break up a fight - then meet a boxer, timings not great ;)

Nice cash.

Jim Kiely at 11:57 am on July 3rd, 2012

Caption of the week comp: “want a suck on our lollypops little girl!”

Mark at 12:22 pm on July 3rd, 2012

In re nothing in particular…
In FR,FP you mention your Father saying ““It wooden Hoit”. It’s from “You don’t have to be Jewish” (CD) I can’t remember the track.

Sparkly at 12:59 pm on July 3rd, 2012

I’d just like to say, I’m glad you think it’s acceptable to ask celebrities to pose for a photograph, as now I won’t feel as stupid when I ask you the same. I flew into Vegas yesterday and I was on the same flight as Anthony Holden. I wasn’t quite sure for ten hours if it actually was him, but as he was holding 600 cigarettes, I thought I might be right -so I plucked courage and asked him, and it was. What an absolutely charming man, took time out to talk too me whilst walking to passport control. What a great start to my trip. Then dashed straight to the Rio to find your empty seat!!!!!!!Again!!!!!! Arrghh!!!!!!

Simon at 2:31 pm on July 3rd, 2012

Good to know Audley really is a nice guy.  He’s always come across that way.  I remember seeing him on TV talking about the Olympic team in 2000 and I was impressed with the team spirit he showed.

Pepe Le Pew at 6:39 pm on July 3rd, 2012

Woke up this morning with high hopes for you after following your exploits so far on the Pokernews feed. After that King dropped for you I had high hopes. But hey ho. It’s so easy to squander resistance.
(personally I have to say that given similar circumstances I really would have folded - yeah I know, I know)

All power to you though. I had more fun rooting for you than I did for the England football team recently - Cricket of course is a completely different thing. Roll on tomorrow.3 nil over the aussies?

pepe le pew at 6:55 pm on July 3rd, 2012

Can you imagine if you’d asked Audley to Tag along? That cat fight you intervened in might have become a whole lot more interesting. Imagine the headlines in the Sun.

Alan at 9:01 pm on July 3rd, 2012

An 888 jacket eh. Perfect timing.

Pepe le pew at 10:19 pm on July 3rd, 2012

Anyway. Does anything really matter?

The heads up is still going into “another day”


Hellmuth is still in with a chance in the One Drop. Captivating stuff.

Pepe le Pew at 10:58 pm on July 3rd, 2012

So. Apart from feeling a bit of a perv for stalking the great unsung heroine of British Sport whos n’er do well achievements go completely unrecognised (without a spellchecked z) Can I just say . Well bloody done. Yes.  (Boris voice off)

BenL at 8:57 am on July 4th, 2012

Vicky betting pot to ‘insure against a raise’ is pretty bad when you’ve decided you’re not folding at any stage. You might as well bet 1/3 to induce and widen his range.

As played you could probably just call the flop raise and c/f turn since people just aren’t bluffing here. (Noone tries to get people off TP) By the way you can discount all those worse value hands with your sizing, people just aren’t raising with worse given how your range is so weighted towards AK+ (which is why he raised you otf with his particular hand). Just bet half pot with your whole range unless they’re donkeys and you want to get it in over 2 streets.

‘I couldn’t put in 425k and then fold’ - yes you can

Victoria Coren at 10:11 am on July 4th, 2012

Hi Ben. Well, it wasn’t the pot (though it was more than half) - but maybe that bit of the blog was expressed badly. What I meant was, because my c-bet was so big, it was very unlikely the raiser had a hand like AQ or a small pair, he was bound to have a proper hand (or think he did). The problem was, “a proper hand” can include all kings that call pre-flop, and probably JJ and TT as well - and probably the TJ / 67 drawing hands, if he thinks he can get me to fold. You’re assuming this guy can just magically put me on AK and only raise with better, but why? Because if I c-bet, having raised pre-flop, I must love the flop? That doesn’t follow. You think he would call with, say, KQ of clubs, hit the king and then just throw it away because the raiser bet again? He really wouldn’t. And he’d be wrong to, because I’d make the same flop bet if I had TT - QQ myself (and then I guess I would have folded for the raise) - as I might well have done with AQ, underpairs and random hands. It’s not like, if I raise and bet a K-high flop it’s got to be AK!

But putting in the 425k, then simply folding if he bets again, I hate that. Calling for half my stack and then folding is… well, I’m not a fan. Quite apart from anything else, I’d have been left with 20 big blinds, so my next bet would have to be an all-in reraise at some point in the next couple of rounds; I might as well just do the same thing here, which is likely to be a better spot.

Donald at 11:09 am on July 4th, 2012

I didn’t know who the man was from the first photo and after trying to play along with the game and looking at the next photo I still didn’t know who he was. It may be a sad admission but, unlike yourself evidently, I recognise the name Audley Harrison and nothing else. Still, he looks like a nice man and I’m sure he was as happy to have his picture taken with you as you were with him.

As someone who knows as much about poker as I do about contemporary boxing I found your “summary” of play challenging to put it mildly, but I’m pleased to see your luck has turned and I hope your stay in Vegas continues to be happy and rewarding.

Not Mikhail S at 2:02 pm on July 4th, 2012

‘I couldn’t put in 425k and then fold’ No, but I think there was a chance of getting away by not calling the extra 230k of the flop 3-bet. It is very hard to drop TPTK although I did have to fold quad eights recently.
Mikhail S

Andy Ward at 10:12 pm on July 4th, 2012

I think Ben’s post is in line with my thoughts about the hand Vicky, it’s tough to get away from, but as he says there’s no point inhibiting a bluff (by c-betting large) and then going all in, because if you’re going with your hand you’d be better off encouraging a bluff.  But this is internet nerdy range-v-range talk :).


palladian at 8:26 am on July 5th, 2012

‘...because my c-bet was so large’?

Mais non! 3/4 pot is standard for a c-bet these days.

And. It wasn’t a c-bet at all! It was a bet with top pair and A kicker. You may have wanted it to look like a c-bet, and unfortunately you succeeded.

Both of you got sucked in by the c-bet concept. He could only raise a flopped set because he could believe you might re-raise after a bet that was only pretending to be a c-bet. You could only try and go all over him because you could think: “Ha! He thought I was c-betting!”

Scrub the thought of c-betting and it’s good old fashioned poker: you bet because you have a hand, he raises because he has a better hand, you fold your losing hand.

You’re a far better poker player than I ever was, but I loathe the false god of the c-bet and I ain’t wrong!

BenL at 8:41 am on July 5th, 2012

You’re assuming this guy can just magically put me on AK and only raise with better, but why? Because if I c-bet, having raised pre-flop, I must love the flop? That doesn’t follow. You think he would call with, say, KQ of clubs, hit the king and then just throw it away because the raiser bet again? He really wouldn’t.

He’s calling with KQ. It’s not that he’s ‘magically putting you on AK’ - he’s putting you on a range that he doesn’t want to 3bet/ get it in against . Whether he thinks he’s ahead is irrelevant in regard to raising, the important thing is if he has KQ or worse he’s crushed vs the range you’re happy to stack off with… 3betting worse than AK to get it in here, particularly with no history, in a 3way pot and 40 bb deep isn’t really something people do these days

Victoria Coren at 5:41 pm on July 5th, 2012

Ah, well, no, you see, I don’t think he *is* doing that. I see your thinking now. But it wasn’t that sort of opponent. Or it certainly didn’t seem to be, anyway. Like I said, we’d only recently gone to two tables so there wasn’t much to go on except immediate appearance and demeanour - which I of all people should be guarded against, but oh well.

  Based on that, though, I made the large bet because I thought if either of them had a king I’d get raised (it had been happening a lot with KJs and KTs on an earlier table), and maybe with certain other pairs as well if they happened to have them, so I might as well get the value out of that possibility. Of course it’ll also happen if they have a set but… I guess I wasn’t planning for that. I really didn’t think it was a situation where they’d check my stack size, consider the range, think about leverage and flat call with a king. When you say that raising with worse than AK in that spot “isn’t something people do these days”... that’s assuming everyone’s game is a 2012 game (like people who dress the sets for TV period dramas assume all the characters bought their furniture THAT YEAR). With all respect to them, some of the older players here just play their game how they always have. That’s not to say the gentlemen I was up against in this pot aren’t up watching training videos at night, cold six-betting and killing it online - how could I know? - but… it just seemed to me they probably had other stuff to do, generally. It struck me as a case of: if another king is out there, I’m going to win a big pot.

  If I had my life over again, knowing the hands, of course I’d bet smaller on the flop - but he still would’ve raised and I probably still would’ve re-raised. If he shoves over that then I can fold and still have a few hundred left - but if he just calls then it comes another heart on the turn and we’ll get it in anyway.

  See where you’re coming from now though, and of course under other circs in a different threesome i’d bet smaller for exactly that reason. 

BenL at 6:29 pm on July 5th, 2012

Palladian, c-bet means continuation bet. It refers to any flop bet…

Vicky, fair do’s. I always assume minus reads that people are playing by today’s standards. Sadly, online it seems everyone plays by these standards now (in cash games at least, but increasingly in donkaments) which is why online poker is pretty much dead.
The WSOP has the same old unspoken consensus of pros trying to engineer a happy environment for fish to be at ease (and this attitude has, by and large, been inherited by the online generation) but there really aren’t too many marks any more for it to work on. Even the donks have a pretty good understanding of where they stand in the ability scheme of things these days.
i wish it was 2004 again…

palladian at 10:26 pm on July 6th, 2012

Benl - D’oh! A c-bet is not ‘any flop bet’. That’s my precise point!

A c-bet is a specific type of post-flop bet by the raiser, for a particular purpose.  That it has come to stand for any post-flop bet, that its fell influence pervades every aspect of post-flop thinking, is why it is so baleful.

BenL at 10:17 am on July 9th, 2012

Sorry I meant any flop bet by the initial raiser.

It doesn’t have any bearing on hand strength though buddy. It just means continuation bet. If you made a raise pre and bet the flop, it’s a c-bet. Whatever you have. Not sure why you dislike the term.

Victoria Coren

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