Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Playing Away

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

(Warning: this is a poker-themed blog, just to baffle the thousands of people who have stopped by since The Bubble, had never heard of me last Thursday, read the previews on Friday morning and discovered that I was a comedian, watched the show on Friday and discovered that I was a celebrity, realized immediately that I wasn’t the latter, came here to discover that I wasn’t the former, are just beginning to grasp that I’m a sort of writer, and might crawl away howling if I try to explain that most of the time I actually just play cards. Sorry. Please don’t. It’s complicated.)

So. Poker.

I had forgotten what it was like to be a woman.

  In interviews, people always ask a million questions about “the female experience” in the game, but it’s irrelevant to me these days. I play either big tournaments where nobody cares, or regular cash games with such long-standing opponents that they’ve all forgotten my gender anyway.

  But the other night, I went to a different card room. As always, I felt the shifty guilt of playing away from my regular haunt, the Vic in Marble Arch,  but the **** ****** has a lot to offer. It’s a beautiful casino (though the card room is small), with nice food and a good sense of ‘hustle’: I arrived with three other players and a new game was started at once. That’s the one thing a poker player really wants, immediate action.

  But here’s what I’d forgotten. Within ten minutes, three people had tried to pick me up. Of course! Poker players! They love meeting women, as long as those women deliver themselves to the card table and nobody stops dealing. One guy chatted me up while I was still taking my seat. Another offered dinner. A third, during a cigarette break, insisted I came to his party the following night. (Sorry Ahmed. It totally slipped my mind. But, by the following night, it had probably slipped yours too.)

  I worry that new female players might be intimidated by the attention; even today, you need confidence and a thick skin for the live environment. Conversely, they might think it’s a great way to meet men. Poker-obsessed, unreliable, innately secretive men…

  As for me, very comfortable in card rooms these days, far too eager for poker action to get distracted by any flirtatious nonsense, I just took it as a great compliment. Get me, the belle of the ball! Oh yeah, I still got it.

Then a fourth guy asked if I had a daughter called Laura.

  “How old would she be?”, I asked.

  “About nineteen”, he said.

  Marvellous. I’m going back to the Vic.

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MDW at 11:04 am on February 24th, 2010

I know nothing of poker or poker players other than there’s something called a flop or the flop, or is that another card game, or is it the high jump.

But I do know that if you’re a good looking intelligent woman in a room of men you are going to getting chatted up at some point. It’s a good thing, start to worry when they don’t try and pick you up.

J Lam at 2:24 pm on February 24th, 2010

i’m trying to figure out which casino you went to. I would say the empire but I didnt see you there last night.

seven2off at 5:16 pm on February 24th, 2010


i hope you sent fourth guy home broke…
cheeky sod.

YankeeWilliam at 12:14 am on February 25th, 2010

Since when is every poker playing male in a card room obsessed, unreliable and innately secretive?

David at 12:56 am on February 25th, 2010

Empire? Nah, my guess would be the Maida Vale Taxi rank tea hut - quite lively (allegedly)

RomanticRecluse at 1:12 am on February 25th, 2010

These guys in the **** ****** sound so…so…what’s the word?


shane phelan at 6:01 am on February 25th, 2010

lol vicky not all the males who play live are like that. Yeah they might try chat you up but that aint such a bad thing….isnt it worse if no one takes any notice of you ....also i’d love it if you turned up to play in huddersfield grosvenor one night would be awesome…the tourneys are pretty lame but around 30 percent of our locals are female there ....but if you do plan to play there let me know as i dont go down every night lol….and the 4th guy who asked if you had a 19 year old daughter….was he looking for a slap lol ...x

Phil at 1:08 pm on February 25th, 2010

I guess anything that separates an individual from the pack or causes people to pre-judge you can be used to a person’s advantage in poker though. Being a woman, though potentially intimidating, could probably fall into this category.
Still, even with that in mind, I wouldn’t reccomend you allow “Laura” to start playing yet, 19 is awfully young!

Lego at 10:44 pm on February 25th, 2010

I like to think of you as BBC4’s answer to Bamber Gascoigne. Flummoxing sensible middle class types with your mildly unfathomable quiz questions. You’ve got better legs than Bamber ever had, of course.

Men who love poker are innately secretive!? Pffft! Nonsense! Oh, and I’ll have you know, my real name is Lego, and as far as the Guardian/Observer website is concerned, I am from rural Albania - it’s very nice this time of year you know, people don’t tend to try and shoot each other these days, much.

Men who love poker like meeting attractive women and chatting them up?! Silly! They only have love for the cards…By the way, did I mention you have very beautiful eyes?

...Actually yeah, you’re probably right.

colin at 4:05 am on February 26th, 2010

hope you won every hand you played against them.

CranberrySilo at 4:57 am on February 26th, 2010

Please be on more in the summer. I’m hoping for a good sunny lovely summer, which will include more of yourself on the television. Or spending the time with me - you could come over and be all clever about words and letters.. and ting and funny. alan was a wicked team captain - showed up what we’d been missing from the tv at that time

Lewis at 10:20 am on February 26th, 2010

Hi Vicky, I had never heard of you before watching the Bubble the other day (which I thoroughly enjoyed btw). You’re right - at first I did think you were the kind of celebrity that appears in the glossy magazines and reality TV shows every other week but I soon realised that wasn’t the case..

Its nice to see a naturally pretty and intelligent lady like yourself building a career on just that!

I think im going to pick up a copy of your book..

RomanticRecluse at 4:08 pm on February 26th, 2010

I don’t know who’s right on this issue as I’ve never been to a casino but it strikes me that going to a casino and complaining that the men there are poker-obsessed is like going to a football match and complaining that the men there are football-obsessed or going to the end of a platform at a busy railway station and complaining that the men there are trainspotters or going to a porn cinema and complaining that the men there are w…well you get my drift.

Victoria Coren at 12:48 am on February 27th, 2010

Who’s complaining? I’m certainly not. I LOVE it that they’re poker-obsessed! So am I! That was just a joke about women who might think a casino is a good place to meet men. Perhaps it is. Just joking, just joking.

RomanticRecluse at 2:03 am on February 27th, 2010

Perhaps it is just a joke.  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps.

<looks for tells such as avoiding eye contact, defensiveness and verbal repetition>

shane phelan at 4:02 am on February 27th, 2010

lol unless you wanna meet a guy who sods his life away on the roulette tables then not a good place to meet a fella lol unless it is solely a card room…i.e dusk till dawn…that place is the nuts

i was playing on stars today $11 rebuy..5 hours and some good play i was down to the last 240 outs 4000+ with 3 times the average stack..then came the 10 minutes of usual hell that hits me in every tournament i play in online..1st hand i flop a set and lose to runner runner straight i had him all in on flop caught him at it and it rewarded the donkey ..2nd hand kk all in pre flop my opponent has ace king..we all knew the ace gunna hit river as per usual..3rd hand i flop top set and lose to runner runner straight all in preflop..4th time i have aces on big blind..2 all ins preflop i’m up against nines and jacks .9 turn.jack river..marvellous..i get this everyday i’m considering dropping pokerstars and online poker..i watch pros a lot on stars n never see them hit these ugly beats

Andrew at 5:52 am on February 27th, 2010

It is too obvious to suggest that not ALL female poker players would get that much ‘attention’.  Just regard it as flattery and then send them home with empty pockets…

So are all male poker players either chatting you up or acting like that Canadian neanderthal - if so you really MUST love the game!

Victoria Coren at 12:42 pm on February 27th, 2010

Shane - no more bad beat stories here please! Yes of course these beats happen to pros, they happen to everyone. That’s poker. If you find the frustration too much then you might be right to consider stopping. Coping with the horror of these hands is part of the challenge of the game!

John at 1:33 pm on February 27th, 2010

Yowser… your new card room appears to have been moderated: must be a seedy joint.  I thought a motion had been carried years ago to allow the name Scunthorpe to be written with impunity.

David at 2:36 pm on February 27th, 2010

je t’ai laisse un message dans ton Facebook….tul l’as recu?

pardonne-moi, mais la curiosite me demange!

c’est en francais par discretion!

Victoria Coren at 8:18 pm on February 27th, 2010

Hi David. I very rarely check facebook messages - I get an awful lot of them, usually from people I don’t know, so I only look at it every few weeks or months and don’t manage to answer them all. Generally I hope that if people want to get in touch for professional reasons they can use the contacts page on this site, and if it’s not professional, if it’s just opinions about something or other I’ve done, then they can just post on here or send a line on Twitter (I’d generally assume that anything someone wasn’t happy to post publicly on a blog, I’m happy not to see anyway!). But I’ll try to find yours and drop you a line back.

rog at 9:01 pm on February 27th, 2010

As soon as I saw the title ‘playing away’ I assumed you were going to write a witty article relating to famous people like Cheryl Cole… or tell us your funniest text message ..

Now what an idea for your new show.. VickyPokerplayers.mob by mobile text.. For a minimum fee of 500 dollars people could sign up, get a photo and play poker via text message… havent quite thought all of this through yet!

Rainbow at 11:02 am on February 28th, 2010

Is Laura doing anything Wednesday week?

shane phelan at 2:14 pm on March 1st, 2010

hey vicky yeah i guess so, it was just a case of 4 in a row with about 4 percent against me caused me to go a bit sick lol….plus I wrote that about 2 minutes after it had happened so yeah ...sorry about that ha…oh and i like ur picture on ur main blog page so pretty…good luck on the felt

somebloke at 5:31 pm on March 1st, 2010

The number of “stop complaining, you should be flattered” type comments just shows that visiting a casino should be avoided by lone females. It’s nothing to do with flattery at all, just plain old fashioned sexism where every female that steps into a neanderthal’s vicinity is only good for one thing and is gagging for it 24/7. Safer to play online I reckon, even though this also happens at online pokerrooms where all they can see is a username, work that one out. Still it hasn’t stopped me from adopting a female name for online games, best bit of advice I was given lol.

Victoria Coren

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