Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Wow! That’s big!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

When I was about 16, I played the recruiting officer in a school production of Mother Courage. The male recruiting officer. This would have been all right if there hadn’t also been boys in the play. I will be haunted for years by the memory of standing in front of an audience, khaki jacket stretched over my confused teenage torso, staring up at two male “soldiers” a foot taller than I was, and having to shout “You look like the kind of lads I’m after! Nice big chests!”

  The first night, awkwardly enough, it got a laugh. It isn’t supposed to get a laugh. Mother Courage is supposed to be a piece of harrowing German tragedy. Still, what could I do? The second night, I played it for laughs. I never got cast in a school play again.

  I remembered this a couple of days ago, when the script came through for a PokerStars commercial we were due to shoot today. My lines were basically a list of things that might be said in poker situations, like “I raise” and “Nice hand” - and, I discovered on page two, “Wow! That’s big!”

  Clutching the script in my trembling hand, I was 16 again, in front of that giggling crowd of my peers.

  “You can’t make me say, ‘Wow, that’s big!’ ” I whined to the director. “Do you KNOW what they’ll do with that on the internet?”

  “It’s okay”, soothed the director. “In the commercial, you’ll be saying that in response to someone making an all-in bet.”

  “Yes”, I said. “When they’ve finished playing with it on the Hendon Mob Forum, I can assure you I’ll be saying it in response to something quite different.”

  I think my lower lip might have started to tremble. I am a nightmare for makeup ladies the world over - one of my many curious tomboy qualities is that I HATE having my makeup done, I don’t like having my face touched, particularly not my eyes and ugh ugh not my hair, I don’t like the feeling of wearing makeup, I find it most peculiar to have a multicoloured face, and I get impatient in the chair, squirming around and wriggling to get away. It’s like trying to give a cat a bath. So, possibly anticipating a meltdown of my eye makeup and an hour’s further torture for the poor woman who’d put it on in the first place, the nice director allowed me to change my line to “How much? Wow!” A bit ditsy, but definitely the kind of thing I’d say.

  Walking back past the makeup room, I saw the excellent Barry Greenstein, multiple tournament-winner, lavish charity-giver, poker guru, wise man, father, writer, broadcaster. I was feeling a little guilty at having been difficult so I told Barry the story, knowing he would sympathize with the situation I’d been hoping to avoid. Barry Greenstein is aware of the mischief that happens on those poker forums and, being a proper grown-up man, he would have no time for such nonsense.

  Barry listened, sombre-faced, nodding sympathetically. There was a pause when I’d finished. Barry thought about it for a while, carefully mulling it over, and then said: “Of course, it would have been all right to say ‘Wow, that’s big!”... as long as you were looking at me when you said it.”

  Then he winked, giggled and carried on clipping his beard.



Facebook Google Digg Reddit Yahoo! StembleUpon Newsbine LiveJournal BlinkList

Add Comment


danny maris at 1:46 am on September 30th, 2009

OK, I’m a man. There’s way too much emotional info going on in that for me to take it all in. And that “marvellous” at the end - is that marvellous as in “resigned sigh” at the predictability of man or marvellous as in “he saw the funny side of it too”.  See - it’s difficult for a man to follow these intricacies.

Anyway I remember a play from my teenage years when the ugliest girl in the sixth form had to receive a compliment about her beauty in a play by Wilde I think.  I remember being rather in awe of her courage as she accepted each night the guffaws that accompanied this little scene with such good grace -  almost regal good grace as I recall. Yes, that’s real courage isn’t it?

YankeeWilliam at 3:57 am on September 30th, 2009

You obviously did the right thing. Those amazingly talented perv-geeks at 2+2 would have had a field day with that one.

You should also realize that despite the wink and giggle, Barry never misses an opportunity to make a play for a sweet pot…

Michael at 4:59 am on September 30th, 2009

Today I took my very first coaching session of a group of young footballers in an affluent area of Manchester, all aged 11 years old.

I find that privileged children can be quite self-assured, maybe I’d go so far as to say cocky, and I look about 11 years old myself so establishing authority was of prime importance.

After a brief warm-up I was teaching them heading skills, my first ever ever drill as a proper coach!
I said ‘Ok, get your balls in your hands’.


Respect lost. Potential career as a coach cut short. Gin. Sleeping pills.

Rover at 10:23 am on September 30th, 2009

but but….

“Wow….that’s big!” - Heather Graham in Boogie Nights

“How much? Wow!” - Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal

leon71 at 11:07 am on September 30th, 2009

A wise move.

Put the words ‘Vicky Coren ’ into Google toolbar, and in order of popularity of search you get:


When the order starts to change, you know you’re in trouble!

RomanticRecluse at 2:19 pm on September 30th, 2009

Bad advert scriptwriter!  People (and especially men) who like to brag tend to be vain, child-like and insecure.  Their need to compensate for their deep-seated inadequacy, boost their ego and stand out from the crowd can make them do things which cross the line dividing acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.  What are people who “big themselves up” such as Phil Hellmuth, Kanye West and Chris Moyles trying to hide?  Even if they are only meant in jest, phrases like “Wow! That’s big!” only encourage sad, emotionally illiterate and immature people to play around even more.

Modesty and shyness are far more appealing than vanity and brashness, aren’t they Vicky?



Mike at 4:42 pm on September 30th, 2009

To be fair to the Hendon Mob Forum, only a couple of posters would take malicious enjoyment from the double entendre,  half a dozen more would join in, but in a more lighthearted and jocular manner and then the usual suspects would have leaped to your defence!

Freddie at 8:27 pm on September 30th, 2009

Haha! That’s definitely an “After dinner” gem, Vicky.

Andrew at 12:01 am on October 1st, 2009

What sort of ad-man are they!  The holy grail is an ad that will be a talking-point and that people will self-distribute to others who are also good targets for the ‘message’.  Something tells me the original version would have been doing the rounds very rapidly!

However, for the dignity of our heroine - good decision Vicky!

sam at 1:06 am on October 1st, 2009

Since he’s known as the “robin hood of poker”, I would like to hope that barry would have been wearing skin-tight green leggings in this imaginary scene of his.  It would be perfect.

Oh, and did you play the wsope or not?  Didn’t see any mention on any online coverage, but I thought stars would have bunged you in one of those.

terry at 5:42 pm on October 2nd, 2009

corr….that’s a nice pair you have there…...!!

Ewan at 2:07 am on January 9th, 2010

Correct decision!

I think you’re beautiful and intelligent and witty. I admire you in so many ways, Victoria Coren.

Victoria Coren

News: September 2017

September 7th is a big day!

Click here to read more »

Switch Theme

Click here to change colour scheme

RSS Feed

Subscribe to the RSS feed here