Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Postcards from Vegas 2011

Sunday, 26 June 2011

  I’ve been in Las Vegas for five days now, but don’t have any exciting news. I’ve played two tournaments and didn’t win either of them (exiting the second one in an impressively efficient ten minutes). But that’s okay. You can’t expect to win these tournaments, or even cash in them. I’ve got friends who have been out here for three weeks already, playing tournaments every day, and not making a single cash - in some cases, not even making a day two. It’s hard. The fields are huge. The betting can be random. If you do cash (or, obviously win) then the rewards are proportionately large - so it’s just a shot, really. Just a shot.

  Anyway, here are my holiday snaps. They represent occasions when (a) I’ve remembered to take my camera out with me, (b) I’ve remembered that I’ve got my camera with me, and (c) something’s struck me as interesting. Note: it may not strike you as interesting.

  I laughed at the welcoming face of Frank Kassela, last year’s “Player Of The Year”, in the hallway of the Rio.


  I was amused (though not surprised) by the vastness of the sandwiches in the Rio “poker kitchen”. I could gain eight stone eating that kind of thing for lunch every day. I asked the woman at the till if they had any smaller sandwiches. She said “No, but if you buy one of our regular sandwiches, you get this for free.”

  Mmm, healthy. And so natural! Do you ever wish you were eating cardboard that tastes slightly of chemicals that taste slightly of cheese? I did, as I ate these less pleasant snacks.

  On the dinner break of the $5000 6-handed event, I went with Neil, Ram and Barny to eat in the coffee shop of the Gold Coast over the road, where The Sweep and I stayed the first year the WSOP moved here. I loved that coffee shop. It was a real classic Vegas-style place, garish colours and Old School deli menu. Sadly, it turns out to have been transformed into a TGI Friday. I spent a while thinking about its slogan.


  Now, you see, that doesn’t work in Vegas. “It’s always Friday” is presumably supposed to suggest a rather festive feel: work’s over for the week, so kick back, enjoy some ribs and a milkshake. But in Vegas, it’s always Saturday. Hookers, gambling and cocaine. A Friday feel seems a little humdrum in comparison. Perhaps the owners of the restaurant are trying to suggest that this place is an escape from the relentless party atmosphere of the rest of the town. “At TGI’s”, they may be encouraging the nervous visitor, “everything is a little tempered by the idea that we might once have been at work. We’re not licentious here. The vibe is calm, tired and a bit depressed. Rules apply.”

  The possibility that they are NOT trying to say (like every other branch in its worldwide chain) “It’s party-party-party, where anything goes!” is borne out by reading the notices on the wall just next to this cheery slogan.

  Ah, Fridays - the day you can’t smoke, solicit or have more than 458 people in a room.

  Back at the Rio, my $5000 6-handed tournament ran into trouble when I re-raised a guy all in with KJ and he turned out to have aces. Aces! There were only five of us at the table! Where do they find these hands?

  I went outside for a cigarette. Others who had been knocked out milled around, or sat and stared into space. I felt kinship with them. Poker has such a sitcom trajectory. Each new day, the players start with huge ambitions. Every day (except for maybe a handful of occasions in a lifetime, and even those not for everybody) the hopes are dashed. Each new day, they start again, ambitions re-polished and determination fresh.

  Disappointment and dreams, that’s all it is. Disappointment and dreams.

  Vegas 2011.

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psychofant at 9:35 am on June 26th, 2011

victoria, Las Vegas is too hot, the food is awful, you can’t smoke, you can’t solicit, you can’t invite more than 458 men back to your room, you are losing money. Why are you there when you could be at wimbledon, getting wet, eating strawberries at only £5 each, and shouting “come on andy”?
  are you a masochist?

Paul Smith at 10:36 am on June 26th, 2011

Hi Victoria.
Good luck for your stay. We all need some when playing thats for sure!
Bit of a thread jack here. When you advertise a home game on Twitter, how do I asked to be on the invite? Do I have to click your name and reply? Only ever ‘done’ 1 tweet, that was trying to get into your last game. And I’m a modernphobe.
All the best.

Ken Singtone at 11:09 am on June 26th, 2011

What a lovely evening view of Vegas!  It’s a shame that, for you, seeing it probably means that you have lost (again).

Vegas is probably the sort of place where you’ve got no idea what day of the week it is.  I love your implied assertion that at the same time as offering reassurance to the confused, TGI also manages to suggest the wrong day anyway, thus raising the confusion from the personal to the corporate level.

JazBenz at 12:33 pm on June 26th, 2011

I have to say, a blog from you is just as good as a column. Wait, actually it’s better because you write about poker and in this case (Vegas!) nothing sounds more exciting to me. I like the misery, I mean the nostalgic and dramatic perception of your relationship with poker :)

So I have enjoyed this blog and its pictures very much, but I would have liked to see at least one picture that reflects you. I miss those video blogs from the PCA.

Mike Smith at 2:26 pm on June 26th, 2011

Good luck with the rest of your tournaments.
Hopefully Mr Fry will help!

Victoria Coren at 5:46 pm on June 26th, 2011

Hi Paul. When I have a home game on Stars, you don’t sign up through Twitter but through PokerStars itself. In the lobby at Stars (which you’d need to have downloaded on your computer) there is a home game tab which you click to go to the home games lobby.

  To join any particular home game, you need its name and password: you type those in, your name then appears in a request list for the ‘club manager’ who presses ‘accept’ to let you into the club. If you’re accepted into the club, you then have to click ‘register’ for any specific cash game or tournament in that club which you want to play.
  What I tend to do when I’m having them is start a new club, announce its name and password on Twitter, and then ‘accept’ the first 20 or 50 or 100 (depending on the tournament) people who go through this process on the PokerStars site.

  But I won’t be doing it for a while now, as we’re not allowed to play online poker in America. The land of the free….

seven2off at 8:03 pm on June 26th, 2011

Nice pictures, really wish I was there. By all means enjoy the coke and hookers, I would too, but for God’s sake go easy on the Chex Mix, that stuff looks really unhealthy.

Good luck, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself.

Sparkly at 8:37 pm on June 26th, 2011

On Thursday, I’ll be making my first trip to the WSOP (and Gold Coast). I’m so glad I’ve read you blog, now I can plan in advance, start smoking and bring a comfy cushion for those steps that I’ll be sitting on just after midday next Saturday. Yup, it’s really inspired me. On the plus side, looks like I’ll get to the Pawn Stars shop to meet Chumlee & Big Huss (If you’ve never seen Pawn Stars, I highly recommend). As you’re the main reason, along with Anthony Holden, that I’m flying 5000 miles to play a card game, would you mind signing my copy of “For Richer For Poorer” if I happen to bump into you? Thanks.

palladian at 8:46 pm on June 26th, 2011

“Oh my God Mike, Daniel’s raised all-in with top pair and an inside straight draw. Can she possibly make the call!”

“A monster decision Dave. After eight days’ play do you risk 90% of your chips on just a flush draw knowing that if you catch the title is yours, but if you don’t then Negreanu will have an unassailable lead?”

“This young lady is tough Mike, now’s the time to find out how tough.”

“She’s made the call Dave! This is showdown time! Both players are on their feet. The dealer burns and turns….it’s a dud for either player. Just the river now. Only a heart will do it, and…...the Queen of hearts comes down! Vicky ‘The Vic’ Coren is the WSOP Main Event Champion for 2011. What a lady! What a player!”

...a girl should always dream. You never know what could happen.

Paul Smith at 8:46 pm on June 26th, 2011

Thank you Victoria.
Sorry about the thread jack, cheers for the reply.
I saw an invite on Twitter and I am registered on Poker Stars but never saw any codes so hence the question. Will the codes appear on Twitter along with your normal messages, not in some other spooky unseen by me place?
Thank you.
I get the impression you are not that fond of Vegas. Say it isnt so, I love Vegas. Only wish it was closer!
Good luck for the rest of your stay and ta again for the reply. I didnt really expect you to read them! Its nice to see you do.

JazBenz at 12:40 pm on June 27th, 2011

In regards to the PokerNews video. Better than any snapshot. AND - this is exactly why I love you, your common sense and sense for justice. And the brilliant sarcasm to expose it all. <3

Andy Sinclair at 1:58 pm on June 28th, 2011

Great picture of Frank, I guess they don’t understand 2 fingers in the good ol, USA!!

mary hinge at 4:24 pm on June 28th, 2011

victoria, is there any chance we will see your Hay festival interview with geoff boycott on Sky Arts 1? if not could you possibly get it onto your blog?

Hidi at 2:15 am on June 29th, 2011

Nice to hear that you’re in Vegas! Are you visiting LA on this trip? I read your book Once More With Feeling and can’t help wondering if you’re tempted to revisit those fascinating characters in the book…X years on!

P.S. I am a huge fan and really delighted to discover I can quasi-communicate with you on your blog :)

Ian S at 10:04 am on June 29th, 2011

As someone who often multi-tables sngs while listening to Rowan Williams or reading Thomas Merton, I wonder if your last two blogs might bring out the woodwork those of us caught in the Venn diagram “poker players/god botherers”?
Good luck, and try not to let that TFI Friday atmosphere sweep you away.

AndytheDealer at 7:49 pm on June 30th, 2011

All the best in the main event Vicky!

Francis Chu at 11:00 am on July 3rd, 2011

At least Vicky by reaching a day 2 in one event you have done better than Liv Boeree has done.
What do you think of her as a player?

Victoria Coren at 5:41 pm on July 3rd, 2011

I think Liv is a great player: very smart, calculating and selectively aggressive, a deadly combination. You’d be amazed how easy it is to play loads of events and not make a day 2. These are huge fields! And to give yourself the chance of accruing a winning chip stack you have to take the risk of being knocked out. That’s just how it goes.

Victoria Coren

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