Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

The Bubble (2): Lincolnshire life

Sunday, 21 February 2010

So: life in the house. Living without news, mobile phones or the internet was strange yet relaxing - I’ve written about that in my column this week.

  There isn’t very much to say about the day-to-day goings on, it was really just quite quiet and peaceful. I slept a lot, and read Martin Amis’s new book The Pregnant Widow (though, being a very slow reader, I read it for 3-4 hours a day all week and I’m not even halfway through). I played lots of snooker and cribbage with Frank Skinner; I’ve become quite enthusiastic about snooker. Frank is an excellent teacher. On day one, I couldn’t hit the white ball far enough across the giant table to connect with anything, but by the end I was managing some reasonably good shots. I even won a frame! The final tally of matches was 6-1 to Frank (but I won all the cribbage). Now I need a snooker table in my house. For which I’ll need a much bigger house. When I win the WSOP, that’ll be top of the list, for purely snooker reasons.

  Since the broadcast, lots of people have asked whether there was a “special chemistry” between me and Reginald D Hunter. I think that’s based mainly on the fact that I was leaning towards him in my chair. I’ll be honest: that’s because if I leaned the other way, you could see my zip. It’s a weird dress in that respect. Reg is nice and very funny, but he kept to himself quite a lot in the house: he was catching up on The West Wing on a dvd player in his room. We all had meals together, and there was a fun night of karaoke (Frank Skinner was the main entertainer there; Reg is too cool to sing, and I’m too tuneless) but mostly I was either snoozing and reading, or playing games with Frank.

  I’m a huge fan of Frank Skinner in lots of ways. He’s always made me laugh immoderately as a performer, his two autobiographies are really great books, and he’s an incredibly nice guy. The other thing that I thought a lot about, in the house, is that Frank Does Life Right. He really seems to have the balance. He works hard (he timed his days well in the house, doing a disciplined few hours every morning on a script he’s writing, earning his snooker time in the afternoons) but also finds a lot of time to do interesting things and discover the world. He goes to art galleries and museums, practises a faith, learns languages, plays musical instruments, reads widely and travels to interesting places. This makes for great conversation - he has a huge frame of reference and great experiences to draw from. During a conversation about fear of heights, for example, Frank’s contribution began, “The only time I’ve ever felt vertigo was on a mosaicist’s balcony at Westminster Cathedral…”

  He told another story about learning to ride a horse in order to go on a cowboy holiday in the American midwest. I think this may be why his comedy and his writing (and his general chat) remain as funny and fresh as they always were: if you keep feeding in new information, you never get old. He is a properly impressive, inspiring man. It made me think [shiver] that I ought to play less poker. Maybe if I fitted my work into better-scheduled hours, spent fewer days and nights lost at the card table or online, I would make the space to go out into the world and see new things, learn more skills, develop my brain and become more interesting.

  That didn’t last, obviously. I came out of the house and went straight to the Vic.

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whoops at 2:53 pm on February 21st, 2010

It’s a lovely dress though.  You looked great on the show. It truly is a pleasure to see more of you on tv

Pete at 4:48 pm on February 21st, 2010

I rather hope that this is just the beginning of a series of guest appearances on panel shows, next up must surely be ‘Have I got News For You’ and you’d be a hoot on QI.

Yes please, more televisual feasts with you as the main course.

RomanticRecluse at 5:10 pm on February 21st, 2010

Vicky, I’m so glad you enjoyed life in The Bubble house as you did seem very scared beforehand.  You seem happy and the show was funny so the main downside seems to be avoiding militant Mumsnetters.

Frank Does Life Right.  He is inspiring but don’t be too hard on yourself.  I’m someone who Does Not Having A Life Sort Of Right which is why The Bubble house appeals to me.  Relaxing?  Peaceful?  Slept a lot?  I can barely remember what they feel like.  If I’d been in the house it would have been a cross between Shrink Rap (I’d be the interviewee) and Big Break.

You playing less poker?  It’s an interesting idea but perhaps there’s too much poker being played and if more people played less poker they may enjoy the poker they do play more.  Fair point?

Fairman at 5:35 pm on February 21st, 2010

Caught the Bubble by chance with my wife and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought I remembered your face and since you were in company of Frank and Reginald I thought you were a comedian too. Only after googling your name and coming to this site I remembered seeing you on the screen from my days of poker playing.

Also comments were very amusing.  Specially the ones about the netmums :-)

After reading your blog about Frank Skinner I have decided to read his Bio and keep on practising the guitar. I will also play a game or two of poker again.

Hope to see you again on the screen soon!


Lego at 6:43 pm on February 21st, 2010

I wouldn’t have thought that about Frank Skinner, I’ve always just thought of him as that bloke on the telly that likes football & cracks jokes.

I love pool (the English variety, not that American nonsense). Only played snooker on a full size table a couple of times, but never really took to it. I think pool’s more fun, whereas snooker’s a bit more stuffy and serious. You can get away with being a bit rubbish at pool and still compete quite well and have fun, and I think it can actually be quite therapeutic and relaxing just practising shots. And it’s ACE when you try for one of those really hard shots and sink the bugger :)

Simon Hawkins at 7:39 pm on February 21st, 2010

I really enjoyed the programme, although it did seem to have been badly scuppered by this BBC nonsense. Most of the news stories seemed so obscure that it hardly seemed worth shutting people away in a house for four days.

When you’ve tried snooker it’s worth having a quick look at a proper match on TV because you can then appreciate how ridiculously skilful the players are. Also, Ronnie O’Sullivan is a really great example of a troubled genius. I don’t gamble *sorry*, but it’s interesting to follow snooker on Betfair and to watch the odds fluctuate on the outcome of individual shots.

I wonder if Germaine Greer will play snooker?

shane phelan at 10:40 pm on February 21st, 2010

hi vicky it sounds like you had a very interesting experience….didnt have frank down as a snooker player ...also you worried me at the end saying maybe you should play less poker….but your last sentence put my mind at rest ...ha’re well known for playing poker and you’re good at it ...why slow down when youve got the ability to make the sky the limit? x

KlooRhee at 1:16 am on February 22nd, 2010

I was thinking you’re gonna skin them dry, you gambler. It was joyful to see you well rested.

Yeah I know…. Apologies. Off to the Observer to read some more praise on you. Beware and Be well.

Gavin Mills at 4:05 am on February 22nd, 2010

Why can’t I find any jeans to fit my leg length, excepting female jeans (New look, Armani, Isle of white for men) etc?
Looking forward to your reply, and I must also applaude your barnet, nice to see.
Also, yer Dad was the guvnor, with respect.

Yours, Gavin

C Scott at 8:39 am on February 22nd, 2010

The mumsnet people probably call their partners ‘hubby’. Derision is therefore appropriate.

And yes, get a pool table. If you can win a frame of snooker on a full-sized table, pool will be a stroll.

jojii at 11:15 am on February 22nd, 2010

You’d be welcome to spend 4 days at my place any time…

Steve Andrew at 12:11 pm on February 22nd, 2010

I caught the show on Friday - great concept, great mix of host and guests. I thought you came across brilliantly and like many others I thought the mumsnet rant was inspired. (I certainly don’t think you needed to apologise to them afterwards - I thought your intended joke was obvious.)

Sounds like it was a fun week beforehand too!

(Enjoying the new Only Connect too - am I imagining it or are the teams all nicer this year? I want them all to win!)

Ginger Pogue at 12:45 pm on February 22nd, 2010

Hey Vicki.  Absolutely loved you on the Bubble.  A good show made all the better from you being on it.  Nice one.

biondino at 1:04 pm on February 22nd, 2010

Less poker? I guess that depends on to what extent it’s the day job. When I was playing enough (and at decent enough stakes) to roughly earn per hour what I made at work, the game took on a new and scary face and I didn’t know whether to see it as a lucrative hobby or as a second job. I’m happy it didn’t become the latter - and it’s no longer the former, either, just an occasional diversion, usually with friends, and never with earning potential in mind.

On the other hand, if it’s not something you see as a mortgage-payer, then “less poker” mightn’t be a bad thing at all. You seem to have so many other things that interest you and you’re good at (and that’s purely from seeing the small section of your life you choose to make public).

RomanticRecluse at 1:05 pm on February 22nd, 2010

Vicky, I’ve had an idea.  If you’re into snooker you don’t need a new house and a table: you just need a snooker club and a playing partner.  Would you like to play snooker with me in my local club?

I can think of reasons why it’s a bad idea (I live in a dump hours from London, I haven’t played for years, I wasn’t very good, my membership lapsed long ago, I’ve lost my cue, I’m very shy).  Why say yes?  It might be fun.  You might win.  I’m scared you’ll say yes and you say it’s good to challenge fear, take risks and learn.

Do you like the idea?  It’s mad but I am (it runs in my family).  If you’re mad enough to say yes please reply or e-mail me to plan it.  If the answer is no I can accept that and I hope you find a partner, for snooker and in love.

Victoria Coren at 2:08 pm on February 22nd, 2010

How far from London is hours?

Martin The Pieman at 2:22 pm on February 22nd, 2010


I managed to get myself in trouble in the office at lunch time as a chuckled a little too loudly at your ‘Spank the monkey’ faux pas for Noel’s new TV show when watching on the iPlayer.


RomanticRecluse at 6:45 pm on February 22nd, 2010

Vicky, thanks for the reply and sorry about the vagueness.  I was thinking of one-way train journey times (95 to 120 minutes), not miles (approx. 150).  A day trip from London by train is feasible (set off late morning, arrive around lunchtime, play for four hours, leave late afternoon and be back in London early evening). I’m getting even more scared and, unusually for me, I am starting to like it.  You’re going to Berlin early next month, aren’t you?  Do you want to play snooker with me after you get back?  It will give me time to sort out my club membership and cues (they’ve got pool tables too and I was much better at pool).

Victoria Coren at 7:24 pm on February 22nd, 2010

Ooh goodness, you really did mean hours from London! I wasn’t sure if that was, I dunno, just a joke list of reasons not to play. I think I’d better not - sorry Rom, thanks for the offer, but as much as I discovered a fondness for snooker in the house, I’m not quite committed enough to take a properly long journey for a game! So much for all my new ambitions to have adventures… quiet rounds of online poker in my own home retain their strange magnetic attraction…

shane phelan at 7:36 pm on February 22nd, 2010

hey vicky what do you reckon to playing poker as a second job, what stakes do you reckon i should play and what bankroll should i start with to make say 800 dollars a month ...i’m a very patient solid player so that isnt a problem im just after some advice on where to start….big fan x

MDW at 8:18 pm on February 22nd, 2010

Hi Victoria, Just watched that bubble thing on iplayer - it was OK but not great, thought you were very witty on it

Didn’t know who you were so just checked you on Wiki you seem to have done a lot for someone going under the radar

You should just play loads of poker if that makes you happy - there’s plenty of time to do other things

I’ll buy your book but if it’s rubbish I contact you for my money back ;-)

Phil at 9:35 pm on February 22nd, 2010

I’d extend an invite for snooker from sunny Liverpool, but that’s even further..still at least you’d have nothing to fear from crime round here, what with the sky being thick with flying police cameras. That said, I haven’t seen any for a day or two…

Matt M at 9:39 pm on February 22nd, 2010

That was an elegant escape from a difficult snooker. If you start accepting random invitations from your many admirers on here you won’t have time for any poker, let alone broadening your horizons.

red_xl at 10:30 pm on February 22nd, 2010


All the cool kids play pool! (Nothing to do with the smaller table, and impossible to miss balls)

Tom at 11:10 pm on February 22nd, 2010

Play pool!

It’s easier to look good when the balls are bigger, and the table smaller.

Interesting concept for the show. Did it once in my teens in my quest to become a man - but quickly fell back into it upon coming home.

In regards to the “adventures”. It’s a dangerous business going out your front door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to. But thats a good thing :)

Hope you’re well.

warleywoods at 12:20 am on February 23rd, 2010

Browsing the babynames thread on mumsnet is a actually a real pleasure; a guilty one but a pleasure nonetheless! Or have we finished with that subject now?

RomanticRecluse at 12:53 am on February 23rd, 2010

Vicky, thanks for replying and I understand.  Four hours travelling is too much for a few hours of snooker, inexpert tuition and slices of Northern life.  However, there is another option.

If you don’t want to come oop north to play I could come dahn sarf.  I don’t mind day-trip travelling and I like London, though I’ve only been a few times and not for years.  You’d have to find a snooker club (which I think differ from casinos in some ways) in London but having a local place to play could help you add snooker player to your list of talents (and maybe inspire a book).

If you want me to come to London to play that’s great.  If not that’s fine and we can talk here about the weird world of snooker.  Either way it can wait until next month and good luck in Berlin.

By the way, I’ve just thought of an idea for a snooker book you could write.  It could be called “Around The World In 80 Breaks” and it would involve you playing snooker in various countries, getting to sample the local cultures and understanding the appeal of and the skills involved in the game of snooker.  However, in order to make it a real challenge in each place you will have to make a break of at least 80 which will mean you would need a lot of practice, a lot of time and a lot of money from your publishers.

Some cruise ships may have snooker tables.

LC at 12:59 am on February 23rd, 2010

Is RomanticRecluse someone you know or is he genuinely that scary?

shane phelan at 3:06 am on February 23rd, 2010

hey vicky i just watched an interview of you and gavin griffin at the pca…very interesting…the bit about american broccoli having maple syrup bacon and whipped cream in it was hilarious lol ....big fan x

Victoria Coren at 10:08 am on February 23rd, 2010

Stop it, LC! RR is simply offering a friendly game of snooker because I said I was a new enthusiast; nothing wrong with that.

  But RR, I think we’d better leave it. I realized that the poster above was right to say that if I start accepting open snooker challenges on the blog, I’ll never get anything else done! I should stick to the old ways, ie. if I happen to find myself in a pub with a pool table then I’ll give it a shot. I like the book idea… it might have to wait a while, I’m still exhausted after the last book, but maybe I’ll get round to that one of these days!

  Shane, re your poker question. That’s very specific, asking what poker stakes/bankroll you should play to make $800 a month. I can’t really answer that, though you could try posting the same question on the forum at and I bet some people would have ideas. My advice would be less to do with the profit than the stake: for the bank roll, set aside an amount you can comfortably afford to lose without missing it, then play games where you never have more than 5% of that bankroll invested at any one time. (For example, if you set aside £500, play tournaments with a £10 or £20 buy-in - or online that would be about $770, you could play sit and goes or MTTs up to $30 buy-ins, or sit in a 25c/50c or 50c/$1 cash game with up to $35) and see how you get on. I wouldn’t think about what profit you “need” to make - just create a bank roll you can lose without pain, invest no more than 5% or maximum 10% of it at a time, and see what profit comes! If you are a winner in the games you play then the bankroll will grow, obviously the 5% stake will then increase in size so you could move up to bigger games. If you lose the whole bankroll, think about why, and whether you want to reinvest or play smaller or stop.

  And don’t think of it as a “second job”. If you have a job, be grateful for the security (!) and think of this as an experiment, a fun hobby and a potentially lucrative one. You wouldn’t want to think about making a living from it until you’d been turning a regular workable profit for at least a couple of years.

MDW at 10:26 am on February 23rd, 2010

‘around the world in 80 breaks’ if you don’t do it, Sky will

along with inner city sumo & monkey tennis

David at 2:42 pm on February 23rd, 2010

My wife has twigged! (Part 1)

After reading your book “For Richer, For Poorer”, and being completely blown away, I naturally took an interest in your other work and found the brilliant “Only Connect”, which my wife also loves by the way.

I also watched, not just because you were on (I watch most Poker TV shows), the PKR Heads up challenge program the other week, and by chance, you were playing; no problem there, and I didn’t think my wife was paying to much attention at the time.

Anyway, we sat down to watch this new TV show called the “Bubble”, which I had recorded, and what do you know, you were on again :0), when my wife said menacingly (think angry wife with rolling pin), “have you got a thing for her?” . Now, I have no idea what happened to all my live poker playing skills, but they went completely out of the window and I went beetroot red, and started mumbling as if I were Ashley Cole being questioned by his mother in law.

David at 2:48 pm on February 23rd, 2010

Part 2 My second signed Australian copy “For Richer, For Poorer” is now not so prominent on my book shelf, and what do I do with the sound track to the book for heavens sake? I have no Idea why I feel so guilty (actually I do, but she can’t read my mind so I’m ok); I’ve never been jealous of her admiration for Barry Manilow! Thankfully, she doesn’t do Twitter.

If I go heads up with you at Black Belt Live I’m going to have some explaining to do; the winnings might not be the only thing being chopped.


RomanticRecluse at 4:45 pm on February 23rd, 2010

Vicky, thanks for replying and I understand why you’ve declined the offer (although it wasn’t a challenge as such because I don’t play to win - it was more a chance to play and get encouragement).  Pool is more accessible so when you walk past a pub look at its signs or for an 8-ball sticker in the window.  If you’re still curious about snooker in April the World Snooker Championship starts on the 17th and runs until May 3rd and it’s on BBC TV so you could watch and try to learn.

LC, what’s scary about talking about new passions and offering people opportunities, choices, encouragement and ideas?  Where would we all be without that (asks a recluse)?

LC at 6:25 pm on February 23rd, 2010

Sorry RR and VC, if the comment was misconstrued. I was slightly tipsy when I posted it after a night at the pub quiz (and a subsequent terrifying trip to

I just thought it might be slightly strange to ask for a meeting on the personal blog of someone in the public eye. If I was even vaguely famous, i’d be scared about the concept of having “fans” alone!

stee at 9:14 pm on February 23rd, 2010

Dear VC,

The blog is becoming a bit over-subscribed… I don’t think I can compete with all these posters anymore. But before I disappear from the limelight completely, I just wanted to say how glad I was to hear you try out the gentlemanly game of snooker after we mentioned it in the Deauville thread.

Playing poker and being a poker icon I guess are two different things.  I wouldn’t want you to give up all the limelight of the pokerstars sponsorship, but let’s face facts, that poker is a gambling game that only leads to grief in the end.  Give up now!  And the same for everyone else reading this blog.  RR - I’ll happily give you a game of snooker, but I’m pretty good - so watch out (oh, I live in Christchurch, Dorset)

RomanticRecluse at 12:23 am on February 24th, 2010

LC, apology accepted.  I can see why it may seem strange but posting here feels to me like a cyber-equivalent of talking to people you meet at university.  I use a pseudonym here (as do others) but Phoebe has my real name and address.

As for being scared, I’m not famous and I’m scared all the time.  Almost always have been.  Maybe always will be.  Forever running away or hiding.  My comment about madness running in my family may seem tongue-in-cheek but it’s true.  I didn’t choose my family and The Bubble house sounds idyllic compared to the home I grew up in.

If you want to understand such constant lifelong fear and its causes read a description of PTSD but ignore the bits about anger because I’m very placid.  I wouldn’t wish PTSD on the worst enemy I’ve ever had.

Dan at 1:38 am on February 24th, 2010

I have been given three itunes songs credits, and David has reminded me I could use them to collect some of the songs on the soundtrack, starting with Kenny Rogers.

I’ve just listened to some of the samples, and think a music website by Vicky would certainly be in order.  I would like to know more about her taste in jazz too.

Anyway I’m making an already slightly chaotic thread worse, so I’ll get back to watching The Wild Places of Essex.  Loved The Bubble.

RomanticRecluse at 11:35 am on February 24th, 2010

Vicky, I’ve had a very different crazy idea which will make this thread even more chaotic.  I read some columns in The Guardian this morning and now I’m wondering what you think Gordon Brown would be like at a poker table.  Do you think he’d be like Angus, the sweary Scottish opponent you wrote about this week?  What would his poker nickname be?  Deficitfish?  Would he make a good poker player and would any poker players make a good PM?

Here you wrote about Neil Kinnock’s temper a while ago so perhaps you might want to ask and answer such questions in your Observer column.

kit10indublin at 10:08 pm on February 24th, 2010

I really enjoyed The Bubble, your column and your blog here.  Your dress was lovely despite your supposed zip concerns during the recording.

I ADORE Only Connect.  Best quiz on TV in a very, very long time.  Hope it long continues - with you.

Best wishes.

Russ at 1:16 am on February 25th, 2010

I just caught “The Bubble” on i-player and your comment about the Swiss bar owner who cut a hole in his bar’s wall for smokers gave me the impression you might be a smoker.
If you are then life just isn’t fair, foxy as they come, intelligent and a smoker to boot. my knees have just turned to jelly at the thought.
Just out of curiosity, if you are, what’s your favourite brand.

Victoria Coren at 2:59 am on February 25th, 2010

Favourite brand?! I might smoke, but I’m not proud of it - no advertising!
  (But it’s a very light one.)

shane phelan at 5:43 am on February 25th, 2010

hey vicky…oh no i didnt realise you are a smoker…gutted ha….and thanks for the poker advice i wont bother asking on the hendon mob you told me everything i wanted to know thanks vicky i’ll be sure to get back to you in 6 months to let you know how its going thanks again x

Flipper at 3:23 pm on February 27th, 2010

Can I just say, your rant about or whatever it’s called was exquisite! I didn’t even know this website existed, prior to this programme, but you managed to sum up my loathing of maternal mutual congratulation perfectly.  As someone who has put the hours and pounds in, only to decide not to reproduce, I want to know when I get to take a year off, get really fat and then blame my loss of intellect and bladder control on being a yummy-mummy…?  Thanks Victoria.

Robert TK at 12:56 am on April 2nd, 2010

The show was great and Vicky so were you, but I must say something about Mumsnet. It’s not a mutual congratulation site ... It’s where women who haven’t slept for a month say things like, “why won’t it shut up?”, “it’s turned red, is this a bad thing”, “it just won’t cry, even when I poke it with a stick, what am I doing wrong?” and “tonight I breast fed for the last time ...there’s a litre of vodka and 40 MB lights with my name on them.” I’m a Dad and I wish there was an equivalent so I could ask ... “you’ve been playing online for three hours, there are five of you left and you get aces under the gun ... just as he starts to cry.” What do I do!?

Ian Myatt at 3:45 pm on April 9th, 2010

Victoria, I don’t read papers, and I don’t play or watch poker, so was completely unaware of you or what you do until I saw you on The Bubble.  Next thing I know, you’ve popped up on HIGNFY!  You are an interesting lady, and I shall be popping back here to see what you’re up to.

Billiards at 11:22 am on April 10th, 2017

Am a huge fan of Frank and I emulate his time management skills. I would like toLearn Snooker  too and get to compete against the champions in the world. Actually this can be a money making venture hobby for me.

Victoria Coren

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