Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Postcard From Nassau

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Bahamas aren’t as hot as they were last year. The place hasn’t ground to a halt under a blanket of snow, as Britain apparently has, but there is a coolness in the air and, in the evenings at least, Phil Collins’ diktat on jackets would not be advisable. Is it cold all over the world? Is this the dawn of a NEW ICE AGE? I do hope not, I hate the cold. I’d be rubbish in a new ice age. I’d just have to spend it in bed.

  Nevertheless, this is a great place to be in January. The PCA is so much better than the new WSOP. (For non-poker players, that’s the “PokerStars Caribbean Adventure” vs. the “World Series of Poker”). This year there are 50 side events - hi-lo, badugi, mixed games and Omaha as well as Holdem - so it has that festival feel. The weather in the Bahamas at New Year (at best warm, sunny and beachy; at worst cool, sunny, light-jacket weather) is much easier to take than the searing desert heat of Las Vegas in July. Everyone is staying at the Atlantis resort, so it feels villagey, like the World Series did before 2005, when everyone stayed somewhere on Fremont Street and you bumped into friends all the time, before Harrahs took over and everyone fled screaming from the Rio to disperse all over town. Plus, as much as I love Las Vegas, none of it looks like this:

Oh. Damn. The server won’t upload the picture. That’s one of the down sides: with 3000 devoted poker players in one hotel, all determined to get room service and play online however many dolphins are swimming in the pools outside, the internet can be a little glitchy. The other down side is that everything in the hotel is pretty expensive. Those things aside, a couple of weeks here beats a month at the World Series into a cocked hat. You’ll just have to imagine the picture (it featured palm trees, a blue lagoon and a twinkly ocean behind it); in fact, if you’re trapped shivering in some grey and slushy part of the UK, imagining it is probably preferable to looking at it. Sorry if it sounds like I’m boasting. I didn’t come here to brag about being near palm trees, I came to brag about cashing in this tournament for the second year running. Last year I managed 30th place for $40,000; this year, only 174th for $17,500 but I’m very happy anyway. It was proper hard work to make the money; in three days’ play, I only found four pairs: KK, JJ, 99 and 44. And I folded the jacks, rightly or wrongly, after a suspicious raise and reraise. There were 1530 runners and it’s a super-tough field. The big names are all here (everywhere you look there’s a Phil Ivey, a Mike Matusow, a Daniel Negreanu or a Roland de Wolfe), plus all the names you don’t know, the secret online pros who are, these days, probably harder to beat than the big TV faces.

  What’s interesting is that, in this community, the TV poker players are the only ones who everyone recognizes as being celebrities. There are “real” celebrities here, but their fame is regionally specific. I met a man in the hall way called Orel something, Orel something, Hershberger? Hellscheiser? Herschenbergscheise? Meant nothing to me, but to the Americans he’s a huge football hero. The Brits had a laugh when the announcer was calling names for a $1000 tournament and struggled with “Teddy… is it Shring-Ham ? Shearing-Hame ?” And then, when a completely anonymous blonde woman walked past my table in the main event, a Dutchman in the two-seat nearly fainted. Apparently she’s massive over there. But, here, only Ivey and Negreanu are famous to all.

  Speaking of recognizable, readers of my book might be interested to hear that yesterday, just by the pizza stand in the tournament area, I met Huck Seed again, for the first time since our fateful encounter thirteen years ago. I wrote a whole chapter about that formative day, and referred back to it throughout the rest of the story. Roland de Wolfe told Huck, “Vicky wrote pages and pages about meeting you.” Huck looked me up and down, shook his head and said, “I have no memory of that at all.”

  Story of my life. (Quite literally, it’s the story of my life, now just £6.80 on Amazon ;-) )

  I know I’m rambling. Hard to concentrate when the sun’s out and I’ve got a $5000 Heads Up match at lunchtime. Sorry, it sounds like I’m chirping again. There’s only another few days; by the weekend I’ll be freezing my arse off in Cardiff, don’t worry about that.

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Andy W at 4:17 pm on January 9th, 2010

Normally I would turn the internet blue with *&^% type abuse but fortunately I’m off to La Manga on Tuesday.  If you can’t beat them, as I said on Facebook.

Enjoy the rest of your stay ! 


PS After your recent blog I’ve been watching Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipes on YouTube and I have to say your history of corners really made me laugh.

Alan Glaum at 5:14 pm on January 9th, 2010


Orel Hershiser - baseball pitcher. Set the major league record for most consecutive innings not allowing a run back in 1988 and helped the Dodgers win the World Series (you know,  the one between the American and National champions which has never been sponsored by a newspaper called the World).

Ssm at 7:59 pm on January 9th, 2010

Is Mr Big still going strong?  I’m rooting for him or Praz to bring home the bacon!

How would you describe the play in the field this year?  I was reading Negreanu’s blog, and it sounds like a lot of people are making fairly questionable moves preflop.  Lots of overplaying marginal hands.  Do you think a lot of the online tourney players are perhaps a little unfamiliar when it comes to playing deep stack poker?

Anyway, not the least bit jealous about the weather.  I actually managed to go skiing on a hill near my flat today.  Skiing in England!  Imagine!

Knock em dead in the heads up!

stephen at 8:56 pm on January 9th, 2010

Wow, you’re in the Bahamas, good luck. If you’re still there, why not pop into Compass Point recording studios, where my favourite band recorded several of their albums back in the day, and tell us what it’s like? Have a safe journey back home when you’ve finished the poker.

Craigy at 11:18 pm on January 9th, 2010

I’m very pleased to hear you’re not following that, or any other, Phil Collins diktat. By which I mean you absolutely can hurry love, there really is nothing in the air tonight and if anyone thinks they can succeed against all odds, they’re probably wrong.

YankeeWilliam at 12:01 am on January 10th, 2010

Perhaps you’re being witty, but Orel was a quite successful baseball pitcher in the USA.

Congrats on your cash. Enjoy the weather and the resort. I live in central Florida and drove home from the casino last night through sleet. That’s a very rare occurrence in the “sunshine state”.

Steve Brecher at 12:12 am on January 10th, 2010

Heh.  Orel Hershiser—a former baseball star now taking poker tournaments rather seriously.  Baseball is a ball-and-bat game like ... oh, I don’t know ... cricket.  For more about Orel, see  I don’t usually promote ‘Stars, but in this case…

Craigy at 12:41 am on January 10th, 2010

Sorry -  me again, but I have a quick question. You know that pinching-chips-from-you thing girls always do when you order chips in a restaurant and your food arrives….is it similarly OK for ladies to pinch chips from blokes in poker tournaments?

danny marris at 4:05 am on January 10th, 2010

Good luck with the game. My only experience of the Caribbean is Antigua - v. nice but one dimensional I guess.

The Bahamas I’d like to visit, to see where Columbus is though to have made land in the New World. It’s an incredible story, how he crossed the Atlantic and first met the Taino people. No many of them left. A few on Cuba I think.

Good luck with your game. Am I allowed to say that? Or is it like the theatre and that’s bad luck?

Sam at 10:42 pm on January 10th, 2010

God I just saw Duthie’s bustout hand.  Horrible beat.  Whoever won that pot probably gets over $1million easy.

John at 1:37 pm on January 11th, 2010

Phil Collins’ Kit Kat… an image most horrid.

Andy at 9:40 pm on January 13th, 2010

why are you coming to Cardiff? 
Loads of references to Cardiff in your book too - is there some amazing poker scene in Cardiff that I don’t know about?!!

Victoria Coren at 1:47 am on January 14th, 2010

There are lots of references in my book because Cardiff is where televised poker was born! The first ever proper poker TV show, Late Night Poker, was (and still is) filmed there. The concept spread across the world from the glamorous Portmanmoor Road Industrial Estate in Splott.
  Cardiff is big for all TV these days (Doctor Who, for a start) and I’m coming there at the weekend to film episodes of Only Connect for BBC Four. Hurray for Cardiff, my home from home.

X at 10:59 am on January 14th, 2010

Gratz on your ME cash.

Come back to the Hendon Mob forum soon!!


Andy at 5:28 pm on January 14th, 2010

Thanks Vicky,
When is Late Night Poker filmed?  Is it still in a TV studio, or in a Casino now?  Are the general public allowed in to watch?

Playing any poker when you’re there at the weekend?  I’d suggest that you check out the Friday tourny at the Grosvenor, but the buyin might be a bit steep for you?... £10 !

If it’s really ‘not about the money’ I’ll see you there!!

AndytheDealer at 6:08 pm on January 14th, 2010

For anyone interested in how Vicky got on in the Heads-up tournament, here’s a link to the info:—gavin-griffin.html

The cameraman/woman was a little weird.  Why do they have to try to be artistic?  They end up convincing me that they are on a clinical trial for a new psychedelic drug.

Spanky Monkey at 11:30 pm on January 15th, 2010

OK. Have just clicked on AndyTheDealer’s link above and…what’s wrong with Dortmund?! When backpacking round Europe I once attended a nightclub there & thought it was all scarily uber-cool, till all the locals started dancing to the chicken song at around midnight, with full elbow and bandy-leg dancing movements. So, what’s not to like?!

It was a bit like this, only darker, everone was wearing black and I was just a little bit scared:

WARNING: Turns into the Hokey Pokey at 5 mins.

seven2off at 2:22 am on January 16th, 2010

wow,  what an appropriately glamorous life you lead…
rooting for you always.

danny marris at 4:00 am on January 17th, 2010

When I first encountered denizens of Cardiff I assumed they were Liverpudlian. Care-deff - was the way they said it some 35 years ago.  Not at all Welsh sounding.

Splott has got to be one of the worst place names of all time. Along with Wankie in Rhodesia (not sure it’s survived in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe).  And Shite in Uzbekistan. No , I made up the last one.

Chris Grundy at 1:22 pm on January 19th, 2010

Yeh - natives still say CARE-DEFF, except for the posh Welsh speakers who generally work in the media - BBC and ITV Wales.  Splott is a gross name, although the area is much improving, and many now call it SPLOW ( a posher version !)

Jura Love at 10:14 pm on January 20th, 2010

I recommend Swansea. Just fall asleep on the train at Cardiff (not hard) and one hour later you’re in Swansea. It’s grim as you get out at the station, but from then on it just gets better (and no chance of losing at Poker)
But this is just an excuse to make a non prof enquiry..
Vix.. Will you marry me? For winter warmth?

Jason H at 12:13 am on January 21st, 2010

Good luck Vicky… you really got me interested in Poker.  That said, I’m still far too risk averse to ever take it seriously, but I just cannot shake of the intrigue and the challenge of giving it a go…  your blog from the Bahamas doesn’t really make it seem less attractive either…

Victoria Coren

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