Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Welcome to Budapest

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

I am in Hungary, the land of my maternal ancestors, for the Budapest EPT. I was delighted when this new stop was announced on the European Poker Tour, as I have always wanted to see the place where half my grandparents came from and (shamefully, if predictably) it took a card game to get me here.

  Sometimes I feel like the amazing locations on the poker tour are wasted on gamblers. We fly off to Barcelona, Baden or Dublin, and spend our whole time playing cards in darkened rooms or watching TV movies in the hotel. I go home thinking I might as well have been in Luton. This time I’m really making an effort to leave the casino and get a feel for the place. I’ve already crossed the river from Pest into Buda and walked round the castle, got lost in a few streets, bought a tin of paprika, had a drink in a curious underground bar with graffiti on the wall and Karma Chameleon on the stereo. I was barely off the plane before I was eating a strudel of goose, cabbage and cranberry. (Starter, main course and pudding all wrapped up in one handy 18,000-calorie parcel.) Some people might consider that a weird meal, but it’s exactly the kind of thing my grandma used to make. Even the language (which differs from English surely more than any other in Europe?) is ringing distant bells from the old grandparental home in Stanmore.

  But still, Hungary (like L.P. Hartley’s past) is a foreign country and they do things differently there. Gender relations are a little more old-fashioned than I’m used to.

  This morning, PokerStars had a press conference and I lined up in a little row with a selection of male players - Marcin Horecki from Poland, Denes Kalo from Hungary, and the local guys who run the casino. They were all asked various questions about their confidence as they start the tournament, their best previous results and so on. When the compere reached me, I wasn’t quite expecting the question I got.

  “You look like Kate Winslet”, he generously began. “Do you have any secret weapons - apart from the breasts?”

  Jeez, I didn’t really mind. I’ve been playing poker a long time; I’ve had worse. But not usually from an official interviewer. When the conference finished, the interpreter was sweet enough to apologize for having to translate that question.

  “It’s like women’s lib never happened”, laughed a friend of mine.

  “In Hungary”, said the interpreter, “it didn’t.”





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Jim at 11:32 am on October 29th, 2008

Did you manage an answer?

charlie at 2:49 pm on October 29th, 2008

Yeah well if Catwoman’s playing the question may well be ‘is that where that microphone’s supposed to be?’ All bets are off.

Ian at 4:32 pm on October 29th, 2008

Seen the new glasses on Pokernews, you look very sweet (an adjective that wouldn’t describe me if I wore glasses and certainly doesn’t describe me at present).

Take a look at there is a culture section showing different stuff if you really want to look at some things whilst you are there.

Also please ask Dr. Pauly if he is feeling better now…...

Andy W at 8:32 pm on October 29th, 2008

Weapons, definitely.  Secret ?  It probably depends which outfit you’re wearing ;-)

Victoria Coren at 8:35 pm on October 29th, 2008

I did manage an answer, but not to the specifics… I laughed for about eight minutes (to the bafflement both of the Hungarians in the audience who hadn’t found the question funny, and the English who hadn’t understood it) and then just talked generally about women and poker…

  Thanks Ian very much for the Hungary sights link. I’m definitely going to do some proper stuff while I’m here.

PS. Sorry Andy - on reflection had to edit that post - he’s an old friend, you know how it is…..............

Andy W at 10:59 pm on October 29th, 2008

No, I should apologise, it wasn’t appropriate to post that here.  GL in the tournament !


Victoria Coren at 11:39 pm on October 29th, 2008

No no not at all - just me being a lightweight.

  And thanks so much for your good luck wishes…. if only they had come in before I decided that 33 was a perfect all-in reraising hand….......................

R at 3:13 am on October 30th, 2008

Ohhh, Vicky!

You are a WEIGHTY causer of far-fetched guesses, I’ll tell you that ;-)

You look better than ever, by the way.

David Young at 4:48 pm on October 30th, 2008

On the plus side for you, from what I’ve heard, the whole anti-smoking thing never happened in Eastern Europe either.

Though this is bad news for those of us who care more about your lungs than your breasts.

David Young (not gay by the way).

the chimney sweep at 6:00 pm on October 31st, 2008

not wanting to burst your bubble or anything, but i hear that the same guy who told you that you resembled kate winslet thought that tony g looked like a young brando and that devilfish reminded him of brad pitt… not only is Hungary a bit behind as far as women’s emancipation is concerned, but it turns out their ocular healthcare is in the dark ages too

Fitch at 3:02 am on November 1st, 2008

I really wish I was clever enough to be on your level, but the love I feel must make me worthy. Your father made me laugh all my life. I don’t give a shit, I love your breasts whether they can play poker or not!!

Al at 6:31 am on November 1st, 2008

What sort of scumbag would suggest a woman use her breasts to get ahead in a competition? Absolutely shocking.

I couldn’t believe Ruth was 60:1 after her bottom two. Grabbed a piece of that.

Trevor Johnson at 4:05 pm on November 10th, 2008

You’ve sold me on the Budapest cash games. I take it they speak English and I don’t have to learn Hungarian for “I have an underpair”?

Victoria Coren at 5:46 pm on November 10th, 2008

No, they speak English - certainly the dealers do, if there happens to be a player who doesn’t. Obviously I was playing in side cash games to a big tournament, the rest of the year the games will be for smaller stakes and there may be slightly more omaha than holdem, but I’m told they’re always good if you happen to be in town!

Victoria Coren

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