Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

The Bubble

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

‘The bubble’ is a term to plunge any poker player’s heart into misery: the last place before the money in a tournament. I have argued before that a bubble (a soft, fat, gentle and appealing thing) is quite the wrong image for the situation. It should be called “going out on the spike”. Nevertheless, bubble it is, so the connotations become horribly negative over time. Why, then, would I agree to do a TV show with that ominous name? How could it end well?

  Jeff Kimber went out on the bubble of last week’s UKIPT Manchester with a pair of aces. Doesn’t get more horrible than that. I finished 25th for £1650 – which might have been one of those cases of exasperatingly so-near-and-yet-so-far except, under the circumstances, it was probably just as well. The final went on late into Sunday night, and on Monday at dawn I was due to set off for a period of total isolation in Lincolnshire. That takes some packing. 

  I say “total isolation”, it’s actually weirder than that. By the time you read this, I will have been locked up for two days with Frank Skinner and Reginald D Hunter. A curious threesome, I think you’ll admit. The idea of ‘The Bubble’ (a new topical panel game for BBC 2) is that the contestants will be asked questions about the week’s news without having seen the week’s news. To this end, we are locked away from televisions, newspapers, telephones or the internet for several days before the quiz takes place. After the 13-hour playing days in Manchester, I’m hoping to live like a 17th century aristocrat: almost constant sleep, punctuated by the occasional game of cribbage.

So, please don’t think I’m being rude if I don’t reply to comments here this week. I won’t be seeing them. I won’t be seeing anything, except Frank Skinner, Reginald D Hunter, and a bit of Lincolnshire outside the window. I don’t know what’s scarier: a week without my phone, without my laptop and without any poker, or being publicly quizzed alongside two professional comedians at the end of it. What if I’m accidentally silent from start to finish? It’s the stuff of nightmares – maybe I won’t be sleeping constantly, in seclusion, so much as doing whatever it takes to avoid sleeping at all. But the scariness is all to be embraced. If you read the news page of this site, you’ll see I’m trying to make good on a New Year’s Resolution; it seemed like an excellent idea at the time. Hmm. If I had my life over again, I’d resolve to give up smoking instead.

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Ian at 12:26 am on February 17th, 2010

Now there’s going to be some interesting chat, although somebody must have kill Frank after four days surely?

Andrew at 1:40 am on February 17th, 2010

Frank Skinner and Reginald Hunter are two fine exponents of the chat show art - if Victoria can hold her own with these two titans then she should never fear a panel show again.

So it’s a little strange that I have no doubt whatsoever that she’ll MORE than do her share.  Its a show that is an interesting idea - could be brilliant or could be a train-wreck.  So it’s not too surprising they are debuting with three of the sharpest exponents of the art.

I’ll watch with interest…

RomanticRecluse at 2:18 am on February 17th, 2010

No TV, papers, phones or net?  That’s normal for Lincolnshire.

The show sounds interesting and BB should have been more like this.  However, the idea of isolation is alien to me.  Being cooped up in a house for days on end?  Feeling cut off from the world?  You wouldn’t find me in that state, never mind thinking “If there were no other people I’d stay in that house for weeks or months and if it had a view of the Pennines rather than Lincolnshire you could make it years”.  What do you take me for?  A hermit?  Next you’ll be telling me that Michael Jackson is dead or Saddam Hussein doesn’t have WMDs.

I’ll watch “The Bubble” and I look forward to reading about what life in the bubble felt like, assuming you don’t go back in or they let you out.

Did you take a watch?

Ginger Pogue at 5:31 pm on February 17th, 2010

Sounds interesting!!  Looking forward to it.

KlooRhee at 5:40 pm on February 17th, 2010

Would be interesting to see how the news correspond to what you volunteer prisoners were going on about at the time. If I get the concept right… :)

There is a couple of entertainews as well as WTF news already. I wouldn’t worry.

shane phelan at 3:41 am on February 18th, 2010

yeah the bubble really is a killer. I once bubbled every night for 8 days in a row in my local huddersfield grosvenor… also a quick question: what kinda bankroll do you think is good to make $400 a week at online poker consistently and what levels of cash poker should i be playing for how long and how often…wud love some advice please x

- also thats a great new years resolution, i would love to see more of you on the TV. I’m sure other people would too ....and i’m sure you dont fear it too much, you have no fear on the felt ...well you come across as you don’t x

Alan Glaum at 1:57 pm on February 18th, 2010

The publicity team has managed good coverage for the show, especially the story that BBC News have banned their staff from doing the inserts - see

(The paper version had a picture of Vicki that did not make the web)

Polly Moss at 6:44 pm on February 18th, 2010

The Bubble is already in the news - and the rags will go with stories of what went on inside the bubble - a feedback/loop/chain reaction possibly - so maybe the Bubble will experience accelerating expansion, like the cosmos, until about 2012 when we discover it’s all a giant hologram ..and…well…um…as Axl Rose wrote when I think he wasn’t sure how to end his song: “Where do we go now?”
Looking forward to the show!

Perrygarl at 6:58 pm on February 18th, 2010

If you worry that you might not be as funny, you could perhaps try to win.

I would say you’re odds on favourite, you are a writer for newspapers after all. ^_^  Just remember two questions:

1) Would the Guardian/Telegraph/Independent have this article?

2) Would the Sun/Daily Star/Daily Sport have this article?

If yes to either, say yes. ^_^

Andy W at 5:08 pm on February 19th, 2010

Why do I have a bad feeling about the words “What our three celebrities don’t know is ... ” ?



Jez at 11:16 pm on February 19th, 2010

Just watching the show now. Never seen you before, my god you’re funny, intelligent and totallly gorgeous. Best thing about this silly TV show x

Alan Glaum at 11:34 pm on February 19th, 2010

Just as well the photo did not make the web given that Victoria hates it

Graham B at 11:47 pm on February 19th, 2010

Come on Victoria! ......Big Daddy in York? Much too upmarket for the late departed wrestler. Now   Chorley-cum-Hardy in Cheshire or Twatt in the Orkneys perhaps would be a better ‘gamble’ for such a fit babe as yourself
; 0 )

Simonkey at 11:50 pm on February 19th, 2010

Just saw it - thought you were great Vic - looks like you all enjoyed some good weather up there in Lincolnshire… Think the show’s got some problems though, which is a shame cos I rate David Mitchell and I liked the idea. In practice I dont think it really knows what it wants to be - it’s in a similar mold to You Have Been Watching but more pretentious.

Great to see you doing more stuff - looking forward to the resolution being kept ; )

warleywoods at 12:00 am on February 20th, 2010

Seeing as you will be discussing this week’s news on ‘The Bubble’ what’s your take on Tiger Woods Victoria? You have something in common at least, spending lots of time in Vegas casinos, albeit for different reasons.

sam sham at 12:22 am on February 20th, 2010

Oh my god! How bloody hot is this girl? Yum Yum.

JimmyC at 1:36 am on February 20th, 2010

An interesting show and a hop, skip and jump from Only Connect; you were as charming as ever. I hope you update with what it was like to live with Messrs Hunter and Skinner without outside communication. Are you really as bad at Snooker as Reg seems to think? How are Frank’s pancakes? Please tell all!

Andrew at 2:53 am on February 20th, 2010

The show - has possibilities and a good chairman but where do you go after a stellar first panel like that?  Next week’s trio will probably show if the format has legs with a more average bunch…

Our heroine - two very funny lines and (just as important) set up both her co-panelists to be funny.  Didn’t seem at all out of place with FS and RDH - who are about the best two panel show guests out there IMHO.  A good performance and the rant against mothers should become legendary (even if some people can’t work out it was A JOKE!)

Well done Victoria (and you looked very good too!)

Drumvesta at 9:30 am on February 20th, 2010

I recorded The Bubble as I knew I’d be online pokering most of the night, if I was lucky and I was.

Great show, although I can imagine future shows will struggle if the guests are not as good.

I enjoyed this show very much because the three of you were so funny. FS and RDH seem the sort of people who enjoy life and are naturally funny, even in private… are they? Do tell.

LOD’d at how your ‘learned how to play snooker’ comment was received by RDH.

Well done!

AndyMac at 12:18 pm on February 20th, 2010

Come on chaps! Victoria’s always been clever, always been funny and always rather gorgeous - in fact one of the coolest women never to be over-exposed on tv….
Victoria - yes this is your blog, sorry to refer to you in the third person, but very well done in The Bubble; they should make you a regular….

RomanticRecluse at 4:33 pm on February 20th, 2010

What sort of fool would believe that the ghost of the wrestler Big Daddy haunts the streets of York?  Every night he wrestles the ghost of Giant Haystacks on the bandstand in the Piece Hall in Halifax and when he wins his chant of “Easy! Easy!” wakes the pigeons.  The ghosts of Mick McManus and Kendo Nagasaki will join them for tag-team battles when they are knocked out for the final time.

As for York being “upmarket”, parts of the city are, but parts are the opposite.  Perhaps in centuries to come The Stonebow and Foss Islands Road will be highlights of a hoverbus tour of Second Elizabethan era York.  They are not amongst my favourite haunts in the city.

vicky a. at 5:09 pm on February 20th, 2010

Loved it. Especially the wee rant about mums net… left me wondering if you are CF?

LC at 5:56 pm on February 20th, 2010

Were Frank and Reg alright housemates?

Victoria Coren at 6:56 pm on February 20th, 2010

They were great housemates! My Observer column this week is about living-without-the-news (how could it not be? It’s tricky to write a topical column when you’re locked away from everything that’s happening…) so I’ll put it up here on the blog some time tomorrow with some extra stuff about what house life was like. But there’s no brilliant gossip. It was just… nice and peaceful, really.

leon71 at 8:57 pm on February 20th, 2010

I’m glad you found it relaxing, I was wondering whether eWithdrawal would kick in, instead it sounds like you felt the grass between your toes for a few days, great.

BecsR at 10:09 pm on February 20th, 2010

Well done on The Bubble! Just watched it on iPlayer. I admired your bravery in sticking to your resolution and just going for it! Must indeed have been interesting in itself; doing your own mini Big Brother, only without the Big Brother or the annoying people, or the nauseating puerile tasks. (Unless you, Frank and Reg did some of those anyway and we’re now about to read about them in your article?!). I love ‘Only Connect’, and am hugely enjoying your collection of your Dad’s writings, bought for me this Christmas. Lucky me. Wonder if your continuing adventures in TV were as rewarding as you’d hoped and if you want to do yet more? As long as it doesn’t involve looking in York for Big Daddy’s ghost….I mean, PLEASE!

rog at 11:11 pm on February 20th, 2010

Ah, the bubble. Well worth watching. Very funny as well…You looked like a picture in an art gallery..
Originally, I assumed that you would be on this every week…still I hear that there is a rumour in the press that you are seriously considering allowing a team of monkeys to enter for the next episode of Only Connect..!

Conor at 12:35 am on February 21st, 2010

Good show and well done for keeping your new years resolution, no nerves at all, at least not visible :-) .

James at 1:20 am on February 21st, 2010

You were brilliant on The Bubble and on You Have Been Watching last year, hope you keep the New years resolution going. Would be good to see you on Have I Got News For You or QI.

Andrew at 3:34 am on February 21st, 2010

They wouldn’t let Victoria on QI - she’d show the rest of them up!

David Hilton at 4:25 am on February 21st, 2010

I thought you did amazingly, especially considering the comedic talent you had to bunk with, your “spank the monkey” comment made me and me friends laugh.

When should we expect you next on our T.V’s?

Jonathan at 9:54 am on February 21st, 2010

Maybe you should give Noel a call, ‘spank the monkey’ already sounds like an improvement on his idea. Although, The International Primate Protection League might want to have a word with you, I understand they take a dim view of the abuse of mammals so closely related to the human race, such as Mr Edmonds. I’m sure there be fine with the monkey though, as it will be able to demonstrate its high level of intelligence against the contestants and prodcution team with comparative ease!.

DBrinkley at 12:01 pm on February 21st, 2010

Victoria, your presence on any television show improves it one hundred fold.

Watching the show, did we see some *ahem* chemistry between you and Reginald?  No offence to Mr Skinner, but you two seemed to have bonded in your isolation.

Ian L at 12:45 pm on February 21st, 2010

Must have been strange appearing on the first show. The mumsnet thing seemed very plausible to me and I knew the police drone thing was true.

Would be better if you were locked up and all you had access to was DVDs and books that one of you had appeared in or written.

I look forward to you chairing Have i Got News for You in the near future

Sara at 7:07 pm on February 21st, 2010

Loved your comment about Mumsnet but I was very disappointed to read your apology on said forum the next day. You might not be aware of this but there’s a huge childfree community out here who are applauding your view on mumsnet but are deeply disappointed with your “childless and jealous”  excuse - okay, I realise you were referring to no-one but yourself but you’ve no idea how often we have to deal with being called “selfish and jealous” (not to mention childLESS) by parents. Are you seriously “scratching at the window” or was that for their benefit?

Victoria Coren at 10:00 pm on February 21st, 2010

Hi Sara. Oh dear, I’m sorry you feel that way. What can I tell you? I find the politicians’ courting of mumsnet slightly infuriating. I meant to an express an exasperation with the idea that childless women’s votes are less worth courting (or that childless women are less worth anything), but obviously it was done in a very exaggerated way and the joke was that it’s a childless woman saying it, with a kind of comically exaggerated bitterness at the idea of mothers congratulating themselves on being mothers. I didn’t mean it as a *vicious attack* though. Once people started going online and saying that I “hate mothers”, I wanted to set the balance a little straighter - I certainly don’t; some of my closest relatives are mothers - and reassure the people on mumsnet that it wasn’t meant as a serious assault on everything they stand for… just a little blast of self-defence, exaggerated to (I hope) comic effect but not intended to give offence. And I wanted to lessen any offence if it was taken. It’s OK to joke about being jealous, right? But selfish, no. I would never ever ever let anyone say that it’s selfish not to be a parent; that would lead to a very proper argument.

shane phelan at 10:31 pm on February 21st, 2010

i got lost reading your replies vicky ha…you use so many complicated words i struggle to follow lol….but ive come to conclusion that im not stupid, you’re just really intelligent ha x

RomanticRecluse at 11:14 pm on February 21st, 2010

It’s got a bit heated, hasn’t it?  First it was Mumsnetters on their own site and people tweeting and now the childfree community are weighing in here.  Fortunately, no-one from Dadsnet has joined this argument.  Then again, Dadsnet ( and not to be confused with the Dadsnet section of Mumsnet) is a bit quiet: the site only has 199 members and there have only been three posts on the forums this week.

Can we all please calm down and maybe then get together somewhere and have a mass debate?

(Sorry for the laboured, poor and very old joke)

jorjii at 11:07 am on February 22nd, 2010

I’m in total agreement with jez and sam sham.  Frank and Reginald are lucky, lucky bastards.

Paul H at 3:48 pm on February 23rd, 2010

I enjoyed the Bubble, but I’m not sure a half hour entertainment show that requires 3 guests to cut themselves off from the world for 4 days has a future.

rene at 7:47 pm on February 23rd, 2010

dont give up smoking, its sexy like you : )

Christopher Likely at 2:39 am on March 29th, 2010

Hey Vicky. I have played 2 big satellites online this week, one to the Irish open main event and one tonite on PokerStars to the UKIPT Coventry main event. 
Between them I played 11 hours of poker, only to fall out on the bubble in both events :((  and missing a shot at the big stage.  I felt very upset as in both cases i got the money in with the best of it and it never held up.  Would like to know your advice in how to move forward from this and build back some confidence.  I don’t think my little heart can take much more heartache :(((
I’m going over to Ireland on Thursday to play the Irish open super-satellite to the main event,  it’s the only thing that’s keeping my head up at the moment.

Victoria Coren at 9:16 am on March 29th, 2010

Christopher, first of all it sounds like you did well in both tournaments so you don’t need to beat yourself up. From a technical point of view, you could ask yourself the question: did you need to play those pots? Satellites are significantly different from normal tournaments, because all the prizes are the same - you aren’t trying to win outright, you’re trying to be one of the six (or ten, or twenty) people who all win an equal ticket. So you don’t want to take chances on the bubble (in a way that you might in an ordinary tournament, as it’s a great place to bully those who are “hanging on for the money”). In a satellite, you don’t need to mop up extra chips because you don’t need millions of chips to win “top” prize, which is the same as “bottom” prize. You just need enough chips to survive. Therefore, if your stack is healthy and above average, you can sit back on the bubble and play almost no hands at all. Did you need to play the hands which knocked you out?
  If you did - if you were low on chips and needed an increase to survive, or it was a cold deck and you had aces or flopped a set or something - well, then it’s just unlucky. For as long as you play poker, cruel situations will come up. You’ll be outdrawn, you’ll have bad beats, you’ll have set under set, flush under flush, you’ll go out on the bubble. Yesterday, in the final of the London GUKPT, I made my first move for an hour and the big blind woke up with aces: that’s very unlucky. It’s inevitable to feel miserable for a bit. But you must be able to brush it off and move on - if it crushes your spirit, then this game is not for you. Poker demands that you be sanguine about unfortunate twists of fate, keep your nerve and your chin up. Good luck in Ireland!

Christopher Likely at 12:08 pm on March 29th, 2010

yea.  There was nothing much I could have done as there were 5 of us left and only 4 packages.  I was the shortest stack with 10 BB’s and the table was bullying me right to my down fall. :((  I am very disappointed but as you said, maybe it is just unlucky.    Thanks for the advice, very much appreciated.  I may take the buy in for Coventry out my bankroll and maybe see you there:)))
You’re amazing!! Will have to try and pick up a copy of your new book at some point as i have heard it’s a great read.  ;)))

Christopher Likely at 11:18 pm on March 29th, 2010

Hey,  just to let you know i am The Likely Lad no1 on twitter just in case you never knew who i was.

So will you be going to Dublin on Thursday?

Victoria Coren

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