Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Postcard From Berlin

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Yes, there I am at the Berlin EPT poker tournament, sitting comfortably in seat 10. But who’s that fellow in seat 1? Why, it’s the international tennis wunderkind, Boris Becker! Boris is now a member of PokerStars Team Pro Germany, a regular face at many tournaments.

  945 people played this biggest-ever EPT. When 484 went back for day two, I was delighted to discover I’d be sharing the blinds with Boris. That was partly because he was lower in chips than me, and partly because I’m a big fan - I have been ever since I was a kid, but all the more so since meeting Boris outside the tournament room at the PCA where he sat in the sunshine, a vision of perfect physical fitness, smoking a cigarette and eating a doughnut. Hurray for Boom Boom Becker!

  Unfortunately, he knocked me out of the tournament. It was all a bit unlucky… I moved all in with a rag ace against a serial raiser, knowing I’d be miles in front… and so I was, until Boris woke up in the big blind with AK of spades. Ah well. If anybody was going to get my chips, it might as well be him. Much better that than having to tap the table and say “Nice hand” to somebody horrible. Boris is a lovely man; we’d been chatting about his new baby, who I saw on the cover of a magazine here. A super-cute little fellow and, needless to say, the SPITTING IMAGE of Boris Becker.

  “It is a shame”, sighed Boris. “His mother is much prettier than I am.”

  Very gallant; nevertheless, the baby is gorgeous and everyone knows that Boris Becker has the strongest genes in the western world. He kissed me goodbye when he knocked me out, and I’m secretly hoping I might now be pregnant.

  Meanwhile, this exit gave me some time to discover the beautiful city of Berlin. I went to Alexanderplatz and got an elevator to the top of the Fernsehrturm:

  Isn’t that great? So Commie, so Sixties. I love that retro-futuristic look. It reminds me of those old TV shows which predicted that come the Millennium we’d all be consuming our meals in pill form and travelling by flying car. They must have imagined that every building would look like that, full of citizens dressed from head to foot in bacofoil.

  I wandered back down the famous boulevard Under Den Linden to check out the Brandenburg Gate, and queued up for a while at this tourist attraction -

  I liked the idea of getting my passport stamped; they never do it at airports any more. It’s a shame. After all this poker, I’d have a very cool stampy passport if it were still customary. So I queued up to do it, but then, just as I got to the front, I thought, “What am I actually doing? I’m queuing up voluntarily, eagerly, to have my documents inspected by a uniformed German official. As a holiday treat! Too soon, too soon…”

  Is that terrible? It’s what I thought. This is a vibrant, artistic, fresh and optimistic city, full of friendly and charming people, but in that moment a goose walked over my grave. Wes Craven to Disney in two short generations; rightly or wrongly, I moved away without the stamp.

  But I’ve loved this chance to visit Berlin and it’s been a great tournament. Okay, I was knocked out before the money, but at least I was knocked out by a national hero. And speaking of ‘national’: I’m not saying that German lady masseuses are any sterner or tougher than masseuses anywhere else in the world. I’m sure the massages in the tournament room are as gentle and relaxing as anyone would want while enjoying a game of cards. Nevertheless, if I were the proprietor of a company offering massage to players at the Berlin EPT, hoping to tempt customers with visions of a soothing rub at the table, I don’t think I would give it this name.

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Tim Clague at 8:18 pm on March 4th, 2010

I was in Berlin a few years for the film festival. Good times. I went to same typical locations as you did. What was interesting though was how the old Eastern half now seems more of a tourist attraction than the Western precisely because it wasn’t invested in so heavily. In short - people like old stuff with charm - like Boris! ha ha

The Tim at 1:09 am on March 5th, 2010

Yes it’s rather a strange view from the top of that tower as they stilll have the window tinted so that you can’t see into the old West.

So, did you visit the Jewish museum and do that eery walk along those tiles with faces on? Fröliche Reise, Vicky! Haben Sie Ihr Schuldeutsch wieder gelernt?

oldbloke at 1:21 am on March 5th, 2010

“He kissed me goodbye when he knocked me out, and I’m secretly hoping I might now be pregnant.”


“dressed from head to foot in bacofoil. “

YSTHM Spandex

Brit at 11:27 am on March 5th, 2010

Check out Cafe Anita Wronski, if it’s still there, in Prenzlauer Berg. Nice fruhstucks.

A paen to your good self and your excellent programme Only Connect is here.

Trust you’ll approve.

Ginger Pogue at 12:06 pm on March 5th, 2010

Went to Berlin a couple of years ago.  Really fascinating city, and my Grandfather’s final resting place, bless him.  Definitely agree with your comment on the 60’s cool of some of the buildings, almost expected to see Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer walking around some of the places there.  Well cool!!!!  Always found it interesting that the only building untouched by the RAF bombing was the Luftwaffe HQ!  Hmmmmm, A Gentlemen’s agreement maybe???

Ian at 12:29 pm on March 5th, 2010

Great city, Berlin.

I’m envious about you getting a lift up to what was the radio tower as the queues when I’ve been there have been too big.

Was the Hi-flyer not going? The view from that is amazing (as it is at every other city where they have one as well).

A tremendous city though, if you enjoyed it then I would recommend you give it a try for New Years Eve where it is simply magnificent. They pedestrianise the Tiergarden from the Brandenburg Gate and have loads of bands, food and drinks stalls. Bloody cold but an excellent night.

Dole Scrounger at 1:27 pm on March 5th, 2010

I once saved a newspaper article from when I was a kid in the 80s, which said in the future (apart from the sunday roast in pill form and the aerial traffic congestion) we would all be up to our eyeballs with leisure time and there would be no work. I write this while idling at a PC on which I will probably play a game or two for a few hours once I’m done here. Then I will take a trip to the Job Centre to sign on. Of those 1983 predictions, one out of three coming true ain’t bad I suppose;.

DH. at 2:21 pm on March 5th, 2010

Unter den Linden

Keremza at 8:53 pm on March 5th, 2010

Glad you’ve had such a great time in Berlin! I was there in the summer and I loved it. Next time you should go to Friedrichstadtpalace - 20th Century Vaudeville. Three words that shouldn’t go together… but it works.
I just sent you a Facebook message; I know you rarely ever use it but if you could check it and let me know, I’d be really grateful !!

Thanks x

Rog at 10:27 am on March 6th, 2010

Hey, so you play poker then! Sorry, your new photos have rather distracted me to the point I have forgotten what todays blog is about.

You really should have a competition… ‘What is Vicky thinking about in this picture’ etc etc!

DH at 11:51 am on March 6th, 2010

Currently reading Fatherland, the Berlin thriller by Robert Harris

ps. my humble genes send their regards ))

Colin at 4:06 pm on March 6th, 2010

The company’s name would make you think more than once about getting a massage.

Suzanne at 1:13 am on March 7th, 2010

Just read this…
You ok Vicky?

jamesB at 1:48 am on March 7th, 2010

Perhaps this was one time that being knocked out early might have been a good thing… hope everyone’s ok!

Kevin at 2:30 am on March 7th, 2010

Hi Vicky, at the risk of sounding something like a neanderthal, the only thing I would like to explore on this sight is you, Victoria Coren.
Once again, my apologies.

Rain at 3:00 am on March 7th, 2010

Nice heist, Vic. Tell us how you did it in your next book. Chuh, give someone a sniff of balaclava. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em…..

danny maris at 5:05 am on March 7th, 2010

It’s but a short step from “knocked me out” to “knocked me up”.

Yes, let’s face it, Herr Becker would have been perfect for you if not already booked.

So…who else?  OK that comedian who plays Ollie in that poltico comedy with Capaldi in the lead…

Invite him to dinner!

Glenn at 10:48 am on March 7th, 2010

Looks like your early exit from the tournament may have been a blessing in disguise, Victoria:

NomadUK at 11:03 am on March 7th, 2010

Wow! So how about that robbery?

I trust you’re okay, and went back to playing poker after it was all over?

Victoria Coren at 12:50 pm on March 7th, 2010

Thanks all for expressing concern - thanks to Boris Becker, I had left Berlin before the armed robbery at the tournament. I’ve spoken to a couple of people there and it was obviously very traumatic, but no serious injuries (thank God) and I was very impressed that the main event resumed a couple of hours later. Made me feel proud to be a poker player.

adam at 5:57 pm on March 7th, 2010

hmm…. that’s not a very strong alibi

seven2off at 7:39 pm on March 7th, 2010


A little taste of the old school for all those bland modern day players…
No offence intended, just a fan of the old days of poker here, sorry.

MDW at 1:35 pm on March 8th, 2010

I was thinking about all those poker players assessing the odds when the robbers came in

I bet his gun is not even loaded, he’s bluffing

If he shoots towards me the odds are he’ll miss

That’s not a gun in his pocket he is just pleased to see us

Brian at 1:49 am on March 10th, 2010

So that is what tapping on the table means. I have always wondered about that.

shane phelan at 10:21 am on March 10th, 2010

He kissed me goodbye when he knocked me out, and I’m secretly hoping I might now be pregnant.

haha awesome….and yes i hope everyone is ok after the robbery must have been a harsh reality occasion to experience ....

and yeah ive always thought the stamps were pretty cool in my passport =) ....

...good luck in your next tourney vicky xx

Brit at 9:04 pm on April 12th, 2010

Dear Victoria

On a recent episode of Only Connect you quipped that a little round-of-applause made you feel like the host of an ITV Saturday night clapathon. Since I praised OC precisely for not being that in my recent paen, I flatter myself that this was no coincidence. Can you confirm?

On the other hand it might well be that the show was recorded months ago and coincidence it was, in which case kindly do not shatter my illusion.

Victoria Coren

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