Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Tea or coffee? Coffee or tea? Ooh, or hot chocolate, or…

Monday, 9 November 2009

Ever since jury service finished, I’ve been paralyzed by indecisiveness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always pretty indecisive; I can stand in a supermarket for half an hour trying to choose between two identical brands of washing powder. (That’s why I like poker, because there’s a time limit on each decision. Being absolutely obliged to commit one way or the other, and quickly, is excellent therapy for me.)

  At the moment, though, my one hand / other hand brain has reached pathological stasis. I can’t decide ANYTHING. All I do is weigh up decisions for hours, dithering this way and that, never getting anything done. Big things, small things, I’m not doing anything; I’m just wasting time worrying. Did I use up all my remaining decisive powers on delivering legal verdicts?

  There are so many things I need to decide at the moment, and can’t, it’s just ridiculous. I feel absolutely out of control of my entire life. Here’s my most immediate one - compared to most of the others (and certainly compared to most things in the world) it’s tiny, but the deadline is looming so it’s the one causing most worry. I’ll talk you through the details and if you stay awake long enough to stick with it, you’ll see how loony I’m generally going.

  The Master Classics of Poker begins in Amsterdam on Tuesday (tomorrow). I’m not sure whether to go or not. To keep my options open, I bought a ticket for an Easyjet flight this afternoon at 2pm. But I can’t decide whether or not that’s too soon to go, so I’ve also bought a ticket for a British Airways flight tomorrow morning at 9. Don’t worry, the flights were incredibly cheap. But how nuts is it to buy TWO of them, for any price, when I don’t even know WHETHER TO GO AT ALL?

  So I’m going to throw it open to the floor. Help! Tell me what to do. This is how far I’ve got with the pros and cons.


1) Everything feels stressful and busy at home, I’d like to run away.
2) It’s a great tournament.
3) I love Amsterdam. I once lived there for a few months and I haven’t been for ages. Twinkly lights, beautiful canals, legal dope, winding streets, trams, fondue.
4) I could really do with winning some money.
5) I’ve bought two flights (although admittedly for not much money. If I’m not going to cash in the tournament, it would be about 8 million percent cheaper to swallow the flights and not go).
6) Some very nice people are going. The Boatman brothers, Mr Big, The Camel & Mrs Camel & Camel jnr and Bonified and probably some others I don’t even know about. That’s probably the biggest attraction: nice people to hang around with in Amsterdam and drink hot chocolate and furiously debate hands. It would be a properly lovely poker holiday.


1) I hate flying. I’m terrified of it. And I’m not much fonder of packing suitcases.
2) I can’t really afford it. I wouldn’t be sponsored into this tournament and it’s €6000. That will sound UTTERLY INSANE to anyone who doesn’t play serious poker, and it’s a huge amount even if you do. Before joining Team Pro, I only ever played these big tournaments if I had won the money in cash games beforehand. This time I haven’t done that - and I recently bought a new flat, the builders took much longer and cost much more than I originally planned (duh….) so I have Temporary Cash Flow Issues. Not terrible; I should be fine again next year. And I could lay my hands on the buy-in. But I’d really feel it, it would properly dent the bankroll, this is a very bad time to be spending that kind of money on something optional / unnecessary / a luxury indulgence.
3) I should be here sorting out the new flat ready to move in. I should be getting the internet & TV set up, I should be starting to pack boxes, I should be making sure the last “snagging” gets done, I should be doing all the stuff with utility companies and addresses and whatnot. It would be incredibly useful to have the week here to get that stuff done.
4) There’ll be other tournaments. They happen all the time. There’s one in the Vic in about a fortnight.

THEN AGAIN, I could always put off the admin stuff for another week, move later…. And it’s only money… And what’s the point of getting to my age with no real responsibilities or dependents if you can’t run away, irresponsibly, take a risk, be stupid, because it might be fun and there’s nobody relying on me to be sensible anyway? Then again, that’s all I’ve ever done. Got to grow up some time.

  I dunno. One minute I think OF COURSE I MUST GO, it’ll be all lovely and escapist and life’s only short, why stay here and do dull stuff and worry about money when I could run off and have an adventure and WHAT IF I WON THE TOURNAMENT, then there’d be no worrying about money for a very long time….. And the next minute I think OF COURSE I CAN’T GO, I really must be here sorting stuff out and what’s the first thing I always say when asked for a poker tip? *Play comfortably within your bankroll* ! And what’s the second thing? *Playing tournaments is chasing rainbows; if you don’t exercise caution and judgment, you’ll go skint doing it.* So, of course I can’t go, because I can’t afford it. Open and shut.

  I think the problem may be that my heart says go and my head says stay. When these two are in conflict, resolution is impossible. So: I need jurors. Examine the evidence and give me a verdict. Please don’t tell me these are luxury problems, it doesn’t matter, I’m obscene to worry about it when people are starving in Africa. I know that. But it’s no use to me as advice. I need: Go or not go? (If this works, we’ll move onto “Whether or not to have children”...)




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martin at 3:22 am on November 9th, 2009

Go! Timex will be there, get some happy Canadian memory back! Alternatively, go and don’t play! Solves everything.

Optimist at 4:52 am on November 9th, 2009

Stay here and have a baby, or at least we can practise the necessary activities for such an eventuality. It will be cheaper, may be more fun, and we can have the post activity cigarette indoors, unlike in the casino

fourstar at 7:56 am on November 9th, 2009

Inspired from martin; go and don’t play.

Treat it like a holiday with lots of your mates, watching something you love but from the rail for a change. Maybe take a share of some of those friends who are playing, to make it even more interesting. Get away from the flat, spend some time in Amsterdam, chill out.

But don’t play. I guess that’s the hard part though…

Alan Glaum at 9:08 am on November 9th, 2009

I’d stay which is why I’m an accountant. So GO (and reclaim the passenger tax on the flight you do not take).

Tim at 9:13 am on November 9th, 2009

Exactly, go as an interested observer. Enjoy the time off. Enjoy running away. Enjoy hanging around with nice people, drinking hot chocolate and discussing hands just resolve not to actually buy in to the tournament. That way you get all (well most) of the fun of going without any of the stress/guilt of overcommitting yourself financially.

Dan at 9:41 am on November 9th, 2009

Yup, go to amsterdam. Hang out. Chat to old friends and reduce the stress. For the love of god don’t pay in though. Have a holiday and (if you’re allowed), watch some poker. Other tournaments will come along as you say, but not regularly opportunities to hang in the ‘dam.

Drumvesta at 9:58 am on November 9th, 2009

Moving, moving….. grrrr. We moved last December the 22nd. Can you believe that? At Xmas!  Moving is horrible, it takes all the energy you have. It’s a mental and physical drain and things go wrong, people let you down and you go crazy trying to keep things on track. It should be easy but it is one of the hardest things imaginable. I could bore you for ages with the detail of our last (and I do mean last) moving experience.

I wouldn’t have been able to play poker, either prior to or during my moving experience. Poker can drive me doo-lally-tap anyway. Don’t do it, Vicky, they’ll be carting you away!

Oh yes, and you’ll lose your money as well.

Jim at 10:49 am on November 9th, 2009

That is a dilemma. I say go. But then I’m a crazy, young, hedonistic wildchild.

Like you say, money sorts itself out, flat will be cracked eventually…. Just go enjoy yourself. You’re much less likely to regret *not going* than going.

Victoria Coren at 11:06 am on November 9th, 2009

Hmm. Going and not playing does sound like a shrewd compromise, but I think not an option. I often end up at compromises - it always feels like such an achievement to end up anywhere when you’ve been deadlocked by indecision - but actually it often just meaning half doing things. Whole hearted is best. If I go, I’m playing. (Going and not playing would have been a good option on Friday; go, have a nice weekend there, see if I’m in the right mood for a bit tournament when the day dawns. But flying the night before, or morning of, and arriving just as everyone else sits down to play, and THEN wandering off to look at art galleries… Then I think I would be thinking, no no, this half measure doesn’t justify not being at home packing boxes and staring baffled at “home hub kits”.
  One or the other, ONE OR THE OTHER. I still don’t know. I despise my brain. I’m going to meet a builder at 10.30, just trying to work out how fast I’d have to move to get back here afterwards, pack a bag and be at Luton for 12.30…
  Maybe I’ll split the difference and just spend a couple of days in Luton?

C Scott at 11:53 am on November 9th, 2009

Please remember that moving house is often listed amongst the most stressful things in life. This may affect your decision making skills. Your un-decision making may be more intense if you went. Stay home. Do what you need to do.
Running away is only fun when it’s fun. It doesn’t sound like you’re enjoying a moment of spontaneous decision making.
Or failing all else, having had time to fully absorb the pros & cons, toss a coin. In the moment just before you uncover it, what do you *want* it to be?

Roy Spencer at 11:56 am on November 9th, 2009


You have more pros than cons but I’m rather practical and boring so I say: cut your losses on the air tickets and stay at home.

If you get all of your domestic stuff dealt with now, you’ll be more relaxed by the time of the next tournament and presumably enjoy it more and play better.

And buy the supermarket’s own cheap washing powder - it usually works as well as the others.

Yours boringly,


Smylers at 12:55 pm on November 9th, 2009

If you can invite a friend, preferably a bossy one, round: stay and get on with stuff. Moving home, including the packing part, is an entirely reasonable thing to ask friends to help with.

If no friends are about: go. Staying at home by yourself while so indecisive, you probably won’t get much done anyway — so at the end of the week you’ll still be wallowing in a pile on undone tasks but also thinking you might as well’ve gone to Amsterdam.

If you do go, fly tomorrow: BA is a nicer experience than Easyjet. Also, the baggage limit is higher, so you can pack a few copies of your book. And since the sponsorship logo space on your top is free, use this evening to make a sign you can stick there which plugs your book — the front cover or the URL of this site or something.

RomanticRecluse at 1:01 pm on November 9th, 2009

This reply may be too late because I found this page too late (because I’m a chronic insomniac) and I’m indecisive (please don’t ask why) but here goes anyway.

Booking two flights was sensible because it gives you choices and more time.  I would say forget about the early flight, spend today thinking and (if you can) getting things done and then if you want to go catch tomorrow’s flight.

If you go and you want to play then play.  Going and not playing when you want to play doesn’t seem like an option to me.  It would be like, to use a cliche, standing outside a restaurant watching people inside eat when you’re hungry.  You may envy them and hate yourself so go and play or don’t go at all.

Whatever you decide do it with all of your heart and may good luck be with you.

Colm at 1:13 pm on November 9th, 2009

Sorry but I think you should stay home.

Unless things go very well, every losing hand will feel worse knowing what is waiting for you when you get home.

Stay home, meet the builder, get your new home finished, in plenty of time to relax over Xmas, and go to the Vic instead.

Apologies for the practicality.

Fake Jake at 1:59 pm on November 9th, 2009

Glad you gave that idea of going and not playing the short shrift it deserved - shame on you bloggers for suggesting such dismal torture! This time next week, I confidently expect to be reading of a crushing tournament victory, the builders finishing early and under budget, and the selection of the appropriate detergent to shift those really stubborn stains. Now, where did I put those tablets….

Dan at 2:17 pm on November 9th, 2009

You haven’t tweeted or posted here in an hour.  Does this mean you’ve gone?

John at 3:18 pm on November 9th, 2009

I’m sorry I’m a bit late V. but I’ve only just read your question and I know the answer: - you just cut a pack of cards, if it’s over 8 you go and play, if it’s 8 or under you stay, - simple - John.

Victoria Coren at 3:37 pm on November 9th, 2009

The silence does not mean I’ve gone (more’s the pity). I’ve been at the new flat talking to the builder. I’ve come home, now I’m going back to try and see if I can install a “Home Hub”. Unlikely; I can barely use a tin opener.
  Anyway, I’m finding all this advice very useful - what I’m finding is that the “Go!” advice makes me feel wistful and wish I were there, but the “Stay!” advice is making me nod at its wisdom and accept that is what I probably have to do.
  So I’ve let today’s flight pass, and I’ll just have one more night of wondering about tomorrow… But this is all very useful, thanks agony aunts & uncles xx

Tom G at 3:56 pm on November 9th, 2009

From what you’ve written it seems to me that your poker brain is in absolutely no shape for a major tournament. You need a clear, focussed head for a major 3 or 4 day event. Only you can honestly say if you’re ready for that.
Much better to ‘punish’ yourself by sorting out the new flat. After all you’re going to be keeping it company for years and years so why not make sure it will give you all the nice extras you richly deserve.

Carl at 3:59 pm on November 9th, 2009

As someone apparently as indecisive as your good self, I heartily understand your dilemma. However, I am a massive believer in going with your gut feeling, so what was your initial thought when planning the Dutch trip? Also, you don’t move very often whereas there are many tournaments so this appears to be a no brainer - stay, sort out your version of domestic bliss, and conquer the poker world next year!

malc at 4:02 pm on November 9th, 2009

Dearest Victoria

I think you should definitely stay at home!
Because if you are indecisive about going and playing!
How are you going to make you mind-up on whether to bet on King-seven offsuit!!!
So you won`t win!

So stay and sort things out!


Emily at 4:15 pm on November 9th, 2009

As a fellow ditherer, I say go!  When I’m at my indecisive worst, I find it helps more to DO something, rather than NOT do it.  Get out of your routine (builders, packing, augh, augh) and get out of the funk.  There are clearly enough good reasons to go; that’s why you bought the tickets.  Now you just need to do it.

Jo at 4:48 pm on November 9th, 2009

Phone a friend at random and ask “1 or 2?”. If they say 1, go. If they say 2, don’t go. Then it’s not your fault if it turns out to be the wrong decision.

MarkP at 6:27 pm on November 9th, 2009

If it were me I would end up not going, but then I would beat myself up for weeks for not making the right decision. So I’m recommending you to go.
Also I’ve now asked the magic 8ball and it said the trip would be certain, so you can’t go against its wishes. Get packing those bags.

babyfish at 7:16 pm on November 9th, 2009

Stay. Spend tomorrow morning sorting out flat/builders/packing and then play in the £25 freezeout at The International in the afternoon.

OK it’s not quite a €6000 buy-in, but you should win back your flight money and still be finished in time to do something else in the evening.

Matt M at 7:55 pm on November 9th, 2009

Pay somebody or ask a friend to supervise builders, do your networking and unpacking so things will be (relatively) stress free when you return.

Go to Amsterdam and enjoy the break, the company, the dope and perhaps some side games safe in the knowledge that things will be fine when you get back.

However well you play, you are unlikely to win any specific tournament - you won’t regret not playing because you “might” have won but you will regret playing if it goes tits up after being this close to having that 6K in your pocket.

Go and enjoy yourself - guilt, panic and stress free (ish)

Steve at 8:02 pm on November 9th, 2009

Don’t know if it helps or hinders, but send me an email on Facebook if you have trouble setting up the wireless doo-dah. I’ve done a bit of IT in my time.

Phil at 9:20 pm on November 9th, 2009

I’d say go but don’t play in the comp, if you can bear not to. If you’re worrying about the dent the buy in will make to your bank roll, then this will almost certainly affect your decisions at the table, making you less likely to cash, and more depressed if you don’t
That said, the ‘Dam does sound beautiful and it would be a shame to miss out on some quality Autumn walks…and excellent Thai weed

John at 9:54 pm on November 9th, 2009

YOU can get in the money V. half the players are going to be stoned, just play it slow & safe till you’re in it, - but if you draw a card below 9 then console yourself that the cards are against you going, and enjoy fitting a main hub and stuff.

fourstar at 10:01 am on November 10th, 2009

Probably too late now anyway, but if you’re not being paid in to play by your sponsor then it’s not work, it’s your spare time. And you have other more important things to be doing in your spare time, it seems. Flight #2 was about now, wasn’t it?

Rain at 11:55 am on November 10th, 2009

You should go, especially if people you like are going too. No matter how catastrophically badly it turns out*, you’ll have something to write about.

*unforeseen air or dyke* disasters not included

*the sea-wall type

Victoria Coren at 2:36 pm on November 10th, 2009

Upshot: I didn’t go. I’m here doing a MILLION draining admin chores. It’s not the better place to be, I’m wistful and wish I was there, but it’s the right place to be. It’s in keeping with all the advice I’ve ever given other poker players; just harder to make the sensible choice when it’s yourself! Thanks for the help, everyone: whichever way you pointed, it was all useful for my weakening brain.

Addster at 3:46 pm on November 10th, 2009

I think that’s what they call a good laydown, mate :-)

Roy Spencer at 5:10 pm on November 10th, 2009

I’m glad to hear that you’ve taken the safe, boring opton.  You’ll probably feel much better when the admin’s done, even if your brain feels so much weaker.

If you’re happy with your decision, then it must be the right one to have taken.

Gary at 6:40 pm on November 10th, 2009

Stay in London. Meet a nice man. Have children. And only then run off and play in an expensive poker tournament! And there’s always the GUK Grand Final. Get your head into a better place, play that one, and come second in it.

leon71 at 8:45 pm on November 10th, 2009

Having once stood in a crown court dock as the accused I have to say that one thing that comes across in this particular thread is your exhaustion. And you know what? Good for you. This country would crumble if jurors didn’t commit themselves to the task at hand to the extent that they do - and I personally am very glad of that. To be the voice of the people is a serious undertaking. So, nice one, you’ve gifted some neurons to a good cause. You’ll get them back (not biologically true but you get my point ). You’ll be back in your ‘normal’ indecisive state soon - without the need for analysis (psycho or otherwise) of pro and con lists. Enjoy that flat!

Perry at 12:34 am on November 11th, 2009

After weighing up the pros and cons, all I think is I wish I was in your position where you can consider this, I just look at the easyjet ticket and shudder (don’t believe the papers, not all students are drinking champagne and eating caviar.)

“And it’s only money”......I will strive to be able to say that and mean it. Either by being rich, good at poker, or secluding myself from the real world with some religious cult.

TonyA at 9:07 am on November 11th, 2009

In general I’d say go with your heart to follow money & listen to your head when romance is involved (strange words from a man).
I think the answer is you should definitely not have gone to the tournament, but should have gone somewhere else instead to replace it.
Someone you trust would have come & fitted your HomeHub in no time ... builders just need a written briefing.

Malc at 3:45 pm on November 11th, 2009

A woman with good sense and beauty!
Very rare indeed!

RomanticRecluse at 5:01 pm on November 11th, 2009

Vicky, you’ve reached a decision on your Amsterdam-or-sorting-out-the-new-flat question with the help of replies to this blog but you still have other decisions to make so perhaps you should ask for help with another question.  Perhaps you should ask a question which was included in your initial post which may prompt lots of helpful answers and even more helpful supplementary questions.  Perhaps this question will encourage people to give insights into their lives, express their feelings and explore issues of public importance.

Actually, I’ll just go ahead and ask it.

Tea or coffee?

C Scott at 11:04 pm on November 11th, 2009

Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon and hot chocolate in the evening. Sorted.

darren at 2:52 pm on November 12th, 2009

vicky can i request you dont put the word ‘poker’ in a new blog entry title because i cant read it at work otherwise :(

Ninj at 8:24 pm on November 12th, 2009

TEA! Always tea. King of drinks. Lion of the beverage world. Bastard offspring of the two most populous and oldest* cultures on earth. Commit to tea, I say!
...or coffee…
...maybe a Horlicks?
(oh bugger.)

* YES! Oldest & most ancient cultures on earth…
...except for the Aborigines…
...possibly the Maori
...and the Eskimos/Innuit/Sami…
Oh f…

AndrewH at 2:44 am on November 14th, 2009

Well said Ninj.  I think it’s generally accepted that the human race first started in Africa, and clearly the early Brits made their way up north because (a) it was a bit too hot for them and (b) they couldn’t get a decent cuppa there !

RomanticRecluse at 1:37 pm on November 14th, 2009

We’re making progress on the tea or coffee question but even if the answer is tea that throws up more questions because “tea” isn’t very specific.

Do you want it made with tea bags or loose tea?  Which flavour?  Red label?  Earl Grey?  Herbal?  There are lots of choose from.  Which brand?  There are lots of choose from.  Do you want fair trade or something from a ruthless corporation which will work with oppressive regimes?  Do you want your tea strong or weak?  Milk or not?  Sugar?

And do you want a snack to go with your chosen tea?  Biscuits?  Cake?  Chocolate bar?  A sandwich?  Crumpets?

Sometimes I’m so good at asking questions I scare myself.

C Scott at 8:00 pm on November 14th, 2009

@RomanticRecluse   Lemon?

Roger Lomas at 10:15 pm on November 14th, 2009

Hey, relax, turn off the tv, switch off the mobile, listen to some classic music such as Jedward…then realise that life is good. Brew some tea, Earl Grey, eat bread with marmalade and cheese and life will seem bright again! Go player poker. PS having seen the new poker ad campaign I am now saving to go on a date. Not paying £500 though!! Might buy some tea…

Noel Farragher at 12:44 pm on November 20th, 2009

Dear Victoria, I have never left a message on a blog before, and it does feel odd (for me at least) to be writing to someone I have never met. But we must embrace the faceless opportunity that modern communication techniques offer us, and indeed I do. However, to the point - I have just read your piece from November 15th (“Twelve angry, calm, sympathetic, hostile, but above all human … men”), and I simply wanted to congratulate you on airing what is still, sadly, an unfashionable feeling; sympathy. Collectively we love to judge others, from X Factor to Gordon Brown to alleged criminals, yet the call made is rarely an empathetic one.
  I’m all for cynicism, what decent person isn’t, but the absence of sympathy, understanding and just plain humanity within the courtroom is truly depressing. Thankfully I have never been called for jury duty; I don’t feel I have the right to judge others, and my personal experience of the police and law has been positive, like yourself. But as the Paul Clarke shotgun case proves, we are all mere inches away from being stamped by that boot for ever and ever. So I wanted to offer my support, given that you say you have been getting some flak, for what that is worth.
  As an aside, it is my birthday tomorrow and a good friend has given me For Richer For Poorer. Hurrah. I walk past High Stakes every morning and I think Georgie (said friend) may have had enough of me saying “ooh I must get that” most days. Sorry, I’m wittering. Keep up the very fine work. Regards, Noel

RomanticRecluse at 6:55 pm on November 24th, 2009

Vicky, please don’t take this the wrong way but are you okay?  You’ve been quiet recently, here and on Twitter.  It may be because you’re busy sorting out your new flat, working or having a great time or because you’re having IT problems but judging by what you have said recently you’ve seemed quite down which is understandable after jury service and moving.  How are you?

If you are feeling down try to remember that there are people who will help you if they can if you ask them to, who care about you and who love you.  Having read your books recently I know that in the past you’ve reached out to people who were feeling down and people have appreciated that.  If that’s how you’re feeling now please reach out, even if it’s only through the weird world of the web.

Victoria Coren

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