... and I’ll be wearing a concrete bra…
Saturday, 25 April 2009
The EPT Grand Final comes round again and I can’t deny, much as I love the tournament, I’m pretty nervous about going back to Monte Carlo after last year. It was certainly the first time I’d ever sent my mother a postcard saying: “I’ve caught the sun, eaten some fish and been sexually assaulted by an Italian billionaire.” (The terrible thing is, I now feel guilty that I got her hopes up.)
Funny town, Monte Carlo. I love it during the EPT, when “normal people” flood in and the Monegasque super-rich have to grit their teeth while visitors walk round in t-shirts complaining about the price of sandwiches. I liked it better a few years ago when the tournament was right in the central plaza; then the normal people were infiltrating everything, the designer boutiques, the Café de Paris, the bar at the Hermitage. Truly horrific for all the squeamish billionaires and tax-dodging Formula One drivers. Now the EPT has moved down to the Bay there’s more room for the players, but I hate knowing how delighted the locals must be to have us sloughed off into a safe corner.
Not that you see much of the locals anywhere. The streets are usually deserted, the residents lurking inside their fortified castles, beaches carved up for private use. You never see any poor people at all. I imagine that a giant truck pulls into town at 5am every day and releases an army of them to sweep, clean, paint, empty the bins and get out again before the billionaires wake up. When they see us poker players having a drink outside, they must assume their watches are wrong and they’ve got up at dawn by mistake, then write furious letters to Prince Albert asking why the road-sweepers are being allowed to use the facilities.
Last year I went uptown to have a spin in the Casino de Monte Carlo and (not for the first time in my life) needed to get some emergency cash off my credit card. To do that, you have to go into a small private credit office at the back. Ahead of me was an Italian midget, dressed like he’d just walked through an explosion in a Versace factory while the trapdoor in a Tiffany’s cargo plane opened over his head, collecting €700,000 in cash. I needed €300. This is the Monte Carlo equivalent of queuing in Safeway behind a woman who’s doing the annual household shop when all you want is a pint of milk.
He leaned across and ran his chubby fingers along my PokerStars logo. That’s the one that goes across the front of my chest. It’s supposed to get attention but ideally not that sort. I stepped back, at which point the Italian reached forward and grabbed my tits with both hands.
And here’s the freaky thing. We weren’t alone. The guy had a giant minder; well, I wouldn’t expect him to say anything. But there were also two cashiers from the casino, standing behind the desk. Problem was, they were so excited about counting out his €700,000, they were practically licking his face. They certainly weren’t about to criticize him, never mind warn him that you can get barred for groping the other customers.
Once I had shoved the guy away, with as much force as you’re likely to use when a man has a giant minder, he took his cash and walked out.
Then, oh then, the cashiers expressed ‘ow deezgersting it was, must ‘ave been ‘orrible for me, one of them actually saying, “Zees reech people sink zey can be’ave ‘owever zey like.” He seemed unable to make the connection between people thinking they can behave however they like, and his own silence when he saw something completely inappropriate.
I’m not saying I’m not looking forward to going, course I am. It’s an amazing tournament, and there’s a decent chance of warm sunny weather in what is a beautiful place, in its way. It’s completely the right location for the final of the major European poker series. But, this year, I might hole up in the Bay and give the Casino de Monte Carlo a bit of a swerve.