Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Vegas Postcards, part 2

Friday, 1 July 2011

  The journey from my hotel to the Rio, where the World Series of Poker happens, takes about 15 minutes. As I head there in the cab, hair neatly brushed and PokerStars logo pinned on, thinking positive thoughts, en route to the big tournaments, I always find this an encouraging signpost.

“Thanks Frank!”  Why so cheery? I’m not exactly sure what Frank has done - presumably not caused the bankruptcy? I guess he does the paperwork. I’m sure the bankrupt client is grateful for the help (maybe even relieved to have drawn a line under the whole disaster), but I still think a calmer, more reflective, perhaps glummer thanks might be in order. Who embraces bankruptcy with a cheery exclamation mark to indicate delight? ONLY A CRIMINAL. Those funds have been hidden in Switzerland, don’t worry about that.

  No bankruptcy for me yet. I’ve played a $1500 Holdem, a $1000 Holdem, a $5000 6-max Holdem and (thanks to a lucky win on the blackjack and some sudden bonus funds) the big $10,000 6-max Holdem. I made day two of the big one, but - as I whined on Twitter - my lovely chip stack (100,000 by the second break) was cruelly whittled in the penultimate hand of day one. I raised with a pair of tens, got two callers and a macho young fellow decided to shove all in. I’d been on that table for a couple of hours, playing very quietly, and I knew there was a strong chance this chap thought I would pass a wide range of hands in this spot. People can be aggressive at the end of day one if they think an opponent is keen to nurse chips through to day two. This really smelt like a bluff. So, I moved all-in over the top, the two callers folded and (sure enough) he showed me KT. Sadly, as I attempted to argue in my New Statesman column about poker’s lessons for life, this game forces you to accept with humility that the universe is not under your control. A king came on the turn, and I only had 20 big blinds to take back for day two.

  These were lost in a standard coup (the button raised, I re-raised all-in from the big blind with KsJs; one of those situations where you can shove with almost anything so a real hand like that was a bonus) and I was out. Meanwhile, I noticed that the macho young KT fellow who’d doubled up through me the night before was out about ten minutes later…

Ach, these aggressive youngsters. They’re a little army! In their uniform of sports gear and shades. I was very pleased to see, on my first visit to the Rio, this old-fashioned advice above the doorway.

  But then I looked again.

  Dammit, they’re just trying to sell them a whole NEW set of sunglasses! What are these ones, x-rays?

  Other products being strongly recommended in the Rio hall include this curious formula.

  Testosterone BOOSTER? Jeez, what chance do we stand? I wonder if you noticed this little section of its boast.

  Yeah? Good luck finding them.

  I’m only teasing; no bitterness here. I’m having a nice time. Yesterday was a full day off - relaxing in the gentle 110-degree heat, and then a barbecue in the evening at my friend Neil Channing’s rented house with a pleasing group of UK degenerates and assorted poker cohorts. I say “house”. If I were ever going to use the word “mansion” (which I wouldn’t if I wrote for the Daily Telegraph, where it isn’t allowed on the pages - presumably because all their readers have them, so the word “mansion” is indistinguishable from “house” anyway).. where was I? Yes, if I were ever going to use it, I would use it about the houses that friends rent in Vegas. They’re ridiculous. Giant fountains in the courtyard, vast pools at the back, huge marble halls. At least Neil’s house-mansion has 347 people staying in it, so it doesn’t feel like a waste. It has a nice feel. It feels like the flats I used to stay in at the Edinburgh Fringe, full of hopefuls making toast at 5am and sleeping in the bath.

  I don’t know if I drank too much at the barbecue or just pressed the wrong button on my camera, but this appears to be my memory of the evening.

  I took along a bottle of wine, some weird but strangely addictive “guacamole flavoured tortilla chips” and some little biscuits stuffed with Smarties. My Vegas diet is as healthy as ever. But my purpose is not to get fat, of course not. What would your purpose be, if you were going to eat a box of little biscuits stuffed with Smarties? To assuage hunger? To give you a sugar rush? To plug that tricky gap between meals?

  Mine was to…

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Add Comment


Dave "oldbloke" Budd at 8:23 am on July 1st, 2011

You didn’t hold the camera still so the lights are streaked, but the flash has given you a shot of everything else

Paul Smith at 12:24 pm on July 1st, 2011

Hi again.
Thanks for the response on the previous blog.
A question for you. When a player wins for example the main event, what percentage of it is down to luck/hitting cards? Is it a high percentage of hitting cards, maybe 80%, or is skill a much bigger factor, making the cards far less relevant?
As a average amateur, I would say the cards are important, maybe an 80/20 split in favor of them. I’m guessing pro’s believe the skill has a higher value than just 20%. Obviously if my assumption is correct, your 20% of skill would still far outweigh my skill keeping the pro/amateur split still in situ.
Keep writing to keep us informed from Vegas please.

E Kerr at 11:28 pm on July 1st, 2011

I have rather enjoyed reading this blog and looking at the pictures, so I thought I should thank you for taking the time to create it. 
Sadly, the nearest I could come to an interesting comment is a pun on “Vegas diet”, but where you are concerned, there could hardly be a less appropriate one.  (100% pure compliment intended, rest assured of that) 

Thanks too to Dave for explaining the photo.

KlooRhee at 12:12 am on July 2nd, 2011

Glad you’re having a good time! :)

David B at 6:08 pm on July 2nd, 2011

“Creme” is one of my all-time hated food terms, along with “lite”, “80% fat free” and “chocolate-flavoured”.

I bought some corn chips the other day that said it “Contains 100% real ingredients”. What does that prove?! Sure, they might contain MSG, dog meal, arsenic and angel dust but they’re 100% real…

JazBenz at 12:31 am on July 3rd, 2011

meh have to rewrite my comment cuz i forgot to fill in the email field :’( - anyway, to sum it up, already whined on twitter bout betting on the wrong boxing fight, thinking i won, when the fight i bet on wasnt the one from tonight. but yes i feel better by reading this, to me, there is no better style of writing than yours. x

mary hinge at 11:57 am on July 4th, 2011

hi, do any of you posters know where i can view victoria’s Hay Festival interview?  I dont think Sky Arts 1 has broadcast it, perhaps it is somewhere on line? thanking you in advance.

Sarah at 8:13 am on July 5th, 2011

Mary, it was on Sky Arts several times a few weeks ago. It’s probably out of circulation now.

Victoria Coren

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