Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Mr Manners Is Not At Home

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Do you ever have that thing where someone is so rude to you that you don’t quite register, and it doesn’t sink in til later? So it was this week in Premier League Poker.

Phil Hellmuth is having a bad run. Low on chips in his first heat, he raises with A7. I reraise with (funnily enough) A7. He passes angrily, but just before doing so he remarks - and not even to me, to the table in general - “Soon I may have to rely on a hand standing up against Vicky, of all people.”

Stacking the chips, I ask good-naturedly, “When you say ‘Vicky of all people...’ what exactly does that mean?”

He waves his hand and replies, “Believe me, you don’t want to know.”

Since I’m aware (which he isn’t yet) that I’ve just reraised him off a pot with a marginal hand, I’m in a good enough mood and don’t make anything of it. But thinking about it later… Wow! I know Phil doesn’t think I’m a great player (not sure why, I’ve come off perfectly fine in all the encounters I’ve ever had with him) and that’s ok. Before the tournament, he published a comment about each player in the series - of each one, Phil said “He’s a brilliant player” or “He has superb tactics” or “He has great reads”, and of me he said “She’s a sophisticated person, and a commentator”. I laughed at that. It was funny. And hey, I took it as a compliment. I like the idea of being sophisticated. (And I’ve always rather liked Phil, of course I admire him enormously as a player, and I’ve defended him when people took the mickey.)

But “Believe me, you don’t want to know”, on camera, with people watching? How bad a player does he think I am, how bad a player does he think the others think I am, that he makes this remark assuming they’ll all laugh and nod? I mean, sure I started as the long price to win this tournament, and sure I’m against a line-up of people who play 100 tournaments a year, and sure I’ve only won a couple of million dollars playing poker while some of them have won, I dunno, $10 million. I wouldn’t have made myself the favourite either. But what am I, some kind of goddamn novelty act?! Making that kind of joke, about me rather than to me… Jeez, Phil must be amazed that I can even manage to put my shoes on in the morning.

Is it my fault? My natural mode, in the interviews, in conversation, at the table, is a very English and self-deprecating one. I laugh a lot and say I hope to get lucky. If I walked round, like some of them do, shouting “I’m a genius!”, would they be any more respectful? The amazing thing is, I think they actually might. Between you and me, because I assume Phil Hellmuth doesn’t check my blog out on a regular basis, I do have some idea how to play poker. I don’t take myself incredibly seriously, and I don’t mind playing the role of the underdog / mascot / whatever in this line-up, but that level of dismissiveness from the older players (the younger ones don’t do it so much) can get kind of exhausting after a while. And puzzling. Even my friend Neil Channing, who’s played with me a lot, who knows I win in the cash games and who’s done pretty well financially out of having shares in my tournament action, made me 7/1 to win today’s 6-player heat. (If my KK had stood up against JC Tran’s A6 then I would’ve been a great bet; as it was, I only managed second.)
  I dunno. Maybe I’m just tired. A good night’s sleep, and tomorrow I’ll bounce back into the studio chuckling out loud about how lucky I am to be there, fingers crossed, anything can happen etc etc. I hope so. If I ever turn into one of those people who really care how they are seen, take themselves very seriously and describe themselves publicly as brilliant, then I hope some of you will post comments on here reminding me to STOP IT AT ONCE. It’s all good fun, and if disparaging comments bothered me long-term then I’d have gone mad years ago. No doubt I’ll get unlucky later in the tournament, or cock something up, and finish in the relegation zone, and they’ll all say it’s because I can’t play, and I’ll just shrug it off because it’s the only thing to do. But right now, just this exact immediate second, I’d like to point out that I currently have 10 points and Phil Hellmuth has 3. More than three times his points, Vicky of all people!

Does this make me a terrible person? I guess I should probably delete this post tomorrow.

  Night night x



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Andrew at 3:41 am on November 26th, 2008

What I’ve noticed about the Americans (maybe not all of them, just some of them) is that they seem to be very gracious in victory (praising their opponents and generally going on about God etc.). However, in defeat it seems to be a different story.

I like to think of myself as well mannered, but nowadays it’s rarely appreciated. The reaction to a display of good manners ranges from sheer surprise to utter contempt. But I shall soldier on (occasionally muttering under my breath ‘don’t mention it’ when someone doesn’t thank me for opening a door for them).

Maybe I’m just overreacting to a bad day with regards to ‘good manners reciprocation’, as I’ve now decided to call it, and today will be a better day.

Anyway, don’t worry about Phil Hellmuth, he clearly lacks class.

Dave P at 10:03 am on November 26th, 2008

I think Hellmuth is a boor and a bully and deserving of very little respect, no matter how talented a player he is.
But this case just makes him look pathetic. You outplay him pre-flop and he makes one of his standard loutish comments.
When you call him on it, he doesn’t know what to say, so he resorts to the old “Believe me, you don’t want to know.” 
To my eternal shame I used the same line on the girl who sat beside me in primary school when she called me on some of my more dubious comments. It’s just a stock phrase bullies use when someone is getting the better of them. (Thankfully I grew out of it at 11)
Really, the least of your worries is what some guy says when you’ve just outplayed him.

Jim at 10:17 am on November 26th, 2008

Good on you V—I’m no hater of Phil’s, but on a personal level I find anything beyond a bit of table banter quite unpleasant, and that goes way beyond.

It’s just table image to a degree isn’t it? “Teacup’ is a mild mannered, very English girl, who will apologise for bb’s and smile graciously when she wins a hand. This lets her creep up on 90% of players who don’t know her and slam them into walls ... those who do may take this grace and civility and treat it as weakness (not a good thing at a poker table) regardless of how you’re actually playing—just the flip side of the coin. Like assuming Ulliot is reraising, again, with 72 offsuit and bunging it in with JQ and cracking the aces he actually had.

My (actual) money is on you (though of course Phil’s odds were rubbish ;-)

Andy the Dealer at 5:05 pm on November 26th, 2008

I know of Phil Hellmuth’s good works etc. etc. , but honestly he’s still a tosser.

I’ll never forget his attempt to ***** in Late Night Poker on Channel 4 against Robert ‘Le Dangereaux’...nope, can’t remember his surname.  Thomas Kremser, to his eternal credit, pulled him up very gently and Helmuth eventually got the message and put his chips in.

He presumably doesn’t care that he’s on T.V. because he makes an ass of himself on a regular basis.

I think his strategy is based on driving as many people away from poker as he can in order that his record as the winner of the most WSOP bracelets will remain intact.

Rrrrrrrrrrr at 5:54 pm on November 26th, 2008

Poor Phillip!

He is clearly afraid of so many people “from northern Europe” at the tables.

He, being a Central European Eleven-Star General.

Solid performance, Vicky. Our money is in safe hands!

Fitch at 7:21 pm on November 26th, 2008

Hi Vicky,
Don’t let the bastards get to you! Class is what counts,which you have by the bucket full.  Love to see Hellmuth on “Only Connect” trying to get four in a row. By the way, great job keeping your face straight when pronouncing Fuchs!

Omeed at 12:09 am on November 27th, 2008

2nd place isn’t so bad in your first round, get that every time and you’ll be at the final table.

I guess we might see the hand you refer to on the telly because of that comment he made. Do you think that’s the reason he likes to rub people up the wrong way just for the tv time?

have you met the new world champ yet? any thoughts?

Victoria Coren at 1:44 am on November 27th, 2008

Yes, have been playing with the new champ, Peter Eastgate. He’s certainly an active player, and very smart. In my opinion, he (like some of the others) doesn’t play optimum strategy for this particular format. I won’t go into more detail because we still have matches to play, coaches in the car park and all that, but there’s a few of them who I think are clearly very good players but maybe not adjusting perfectly to the fast 6-handed SNG structure. But he’s won a heat and I haven’t, so maybe they’re all right and I’m wrong!
  Aside from the poker, Peter is an incredibly nice guy. Just really sweet and friendly and likable, with no discernible arrogance to him at all. I was reflecting today: I’ve actually never met a Dane I didn’t like. I always loved the Danish team in the Poker Nations Cup. Of course you can’t stereotype by nation, and there must be some horrible Danes out there, but all the ones I’ve met have been very nice, kind, smily, warm people. Hurray for Denmark!

Max at 11:50 am on November 27th, 2008

I know nothing about Poker but riling other players would seem to be a sensible tactic to me, is this what he is doing?

Craig in the USA at 10:18 am on November 28th, 2008

Hi Victoria,  was pop’in around and seen your site here.  this run in with Phil doesn’t surprise me at all. I think he comes across as rude and arrogant to most astute US poker players as well.  and he’s not even very good at the game imo :P i’m not even a pro and i could probably school him a bit. 

there’s a lot more to poker than what the quote “odds are” pfff i laugh at that.

what i loved to see was in the WSOP a guy had like a pair of tens and pushed Philly boy with his high and mighty AQ off the hand .. hahaha oh man did @#$  hit the fan, calling the guy an idiot .. wow.  no class. like how bout saying “man you’re bold with that nice one”.  no no not Phil.  He’s a distraction imo thats about all.

Dickie D at 11:04 am on November 28th, 2008

What we have to remember here is that in his world is all about Phil H.
Did you see his “apology” in the WSOP ME when he escaped a penalty, have you read his blog on The man is all about himself and nothing else matters.
Nuff said, now get over it you drama queen ;-).

Victoria Coren at 1:32 pm on November 28th, 2008

Ok ok, I’m getting over it… I confronted Phil about it yesterday and he took it ok, so that made me feel better. He said that it was just me being “included in the banter” - although I said to him, it’s not quite that; I can take anything you want to say directly to my face, this was just disturbing because it’s was *about* me not to me, and it was just a vague airy sense that he thinks I’m rubbish, rather than anything specific I could reply to. But he did the commentary on my heat yesterday and people claim he was quite nice, so maybe all’s forgiven… Nb. I don’t think you can say he isn’t a great player, his record speaks for itself, but this format is very specific. If I had to get someone else to play for me, with my money, then I’d make it Andy Ward before any of these big international MTT pros. But this is not to take away from Phil’s poker accomplishments which are, of course, remarkable.

John at 5:40 pm on December 1st, 2008

Continuing your thoughts on the Danes… I was in Denmark several years ago and found the people to be, as you say, very friendly and lovely.  But when I encountered The Tollund Man in a glass case, mummified, with a noose around his neck I remember thinking maybe it hadn’t always been so.  That’s poker for you!  John.

Andy W at 6:08 pm on December 1st, 2008

I think you’re just softening me up before tomorrow’s standard Pips and Flushes donate-fest.

But thank you anyway :-)

Andy x

Dass at 11:06 am on December 5th, 2008

Regardless of what “the brat” may or may not think about you, I and many others think you are a superb player and the class act at any table. I do admire PH but his verbal antics can start to bore at times (maybe his intention?). Mr Hellmuth has many fans but his biggest one is Mr Hellmuth!
Hope you did well in the premier league ?(I’m resisting to read the spoiler).
Any idea when it will be aired?

Dass. xx

Victoria Coren at 5:33 pm on December 5th, 2008

Thanks Dass, I really appreciate your kind words. I think the series will start on Channel 4 some time in January or February….

Victoria Coren

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