Last month I played in the Victor Poker Cup, a televised poker tournament hosted by Victor Chandler and filmed in the Teddington Studios outside London. This event is definitely going to change the future of TV poker as we know it. Now that everybody has gotten over the novelty of being on television, they are just not going to put up with crapshoot tournaments anymore, and I say this despite the fact that the Irish are known to be very good at crapshoots. At $10,000 a pop, crapshoots just don’t appeal to that many people. The fact that Victor Chandler put this thing together is marvelous; those involved came up with a completely novel idea that the poker players are the stars, and not bit players paying for the privilege to be seen on TV. Jon Shoreman surprised lots of people, including him and me, with his excellent performance as tournament director. All of the players were collected by courtesy cars, all of the marketing people were friendly and helpful, and the hospitality was marvelous. The guy on my right and I shared 18 vodkas during the course of the event, and for the first time in history, I didn’t have any of them.

Barry Shulman and Victor ChandlerThe buy-in for this tournament was £5,000, with the 100 entrants drawn into 10 heats of 10. The structure was so fair that it was unbelievable, as many of the heats lasted 10 hours or more. Apart from structuring the event to make a lot of play, they brought in an idea that if the average stack at any stage was 16 times or less than the big blind, the blinds would stay at that same level for another 15 minutes. On the fourth level in my heat, this rule was brought into play when there were still eight left, which was extraordinary because they called my table “The Heat of Death.” I’m not sure what happened next because I got knocked out. One of the joys of being knocked out was that there was a wonderful hospitality center. Dave “The Devilfish” Ulliott and Marcel “The Flying Dutchman” Luske found a grand piano in some hallway close by, added a few volunteers, and started playing “Blueberry Hill” over and over again. It made for a great atmosphere. I’ve been at events where security would be called if someone decided to enjoy themselves.

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m slagging off any other events at which I’ve also been treated well, but this is evolution for you. I honestly thought that television poker was going to kill itself, because the people who were designing the buy-ins and the structures weren’t paying for the buy-ins themselves. Another completely novel aspect of this event was that Victor Chandler and his marketing people were personally talking to all the players who had been knocked out and asking them how they felt about the event and what improvements, if any, they thought could be made. That’s pretty novel, isn’t it? Victor Chandler could set a new precedent by having a poker guy present when the TV editing is done. I’ve played at lots of these events in the past where the people doing the editing knew lots about television but not much about tournament poker, and the result has been that the commentators have had to comment on some of the most boring hands in the tournament while the real stuff was left on the cutting room floor.

From an Irish point of view, there were several top Irish players involved and some others. Included were Donnacha O’Dea, Noel Furlong, Rory Liffey, Paul Leckey, Ivan Donnaghy, Liam Flood, Sean Murphy, and myself. More good news is that I’m reliably informed that Victor Chandler Poker’s next move will be to run a big tournament in Ireland.

Leaving Las Vegas

I was told to inject a bit of Irish humor in this column, and I can’t think of a better place to start than Irish poker champion Alan Betson, who has probably said five of the 10 funniest things I’ve ever heard at a poker table. Normally, you’d bet the farm on Alan Betson to win a battle of wits with anybody, but I recently had the pleasure of witnessing a very close contest when Alan took on a Las Vegas taxi driver on the driver’s home turf.

Veronique and I were stumbling half asleep through the corridors of the Golden Nugget, holding our suitcases and headed for the airport for our flight back to Paris, when Alan Betson emerged from a room on the route slightly worse for the wear. It was a pretty good result considering that Alan had spent 28 hours in the company of Big Al from Cork and only 58 minutes in bed, and he managed to communicate that he would be in favor of sharing our taxi to the airport.

Veronique and I sat in the back while Alan sat in the front beside the taxi driver. Alan immediately pulled his baseball cap down to the tip of his nose and lay back in the seat. The taxi driver was even more animated than the normal Las Vegas version. He drove with one hand and held his coffee cup in the other, and he was extremely polite, because he insisted on turning around to face us while he was talking. After the driver had given us his opinions on just about everything, he started telling anti-French jokes while intermittently giving us the only line he knew from Viva Las Vegas, which was “Viva Las Vegas.” Alan, whom we all assumed to be asleep, raised his baseball cap slightly and said, “I assume this is your idea of working on your tip.” He then went right back to the position he’d been in before.

Immediately after this, the taxi driver spotted an accident on the other side of the motorway involving a taxi from his company that was facing in the wrong direction. As it looked like there hadn’t been any serious injuries, this wasn’t of particular concern to any of us except the taxi driver. He proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes wondering if his colleague’s car had been driving the wrong way on the highway, or maybe it had been spun around after the crash. The taxi man came up with about 10 different theories as to what might have happened, and eventually Alan raised his baseball cap again and said, “Maybe he was just talking nonstop and had a coffee in one hand.” This would have stopped a normal human in his tracks, but not our Las Vegas taxi driver. And despite the fact that Alan had landed two beautiful punches, we had to call the contest an honorable draw.

There’s a poker terpercaya lesson in this somewhere, and it’s probably that having all the talent isn’t enough. Some guy who is really dogged might manage to bridge the gap. If a guy with total commitment can withstand two knockout punches and get up off the floor, it’s probably because he doesn’t know that he should have been knocked out.

Elvis Has Left the Building

You’ll have to have a wooden heart not to shed a tear for this one. There was a raffle in the Brighton poker room last month for a car valued at £26,000, and the first ticket out of the drum belonged to player and crooner Bruce “Elvis Senior” Atkinson. But you have to be there to get the prize, and despite a frantic search, Bruce could not be found. Many people remember where they were when Elvis died, and I think Bruce will remember all of his life where he was when that ticket came out. Atkinson lost all claims to the car and there was a redraw. It was a classic case of “Return to Sender.” ´…

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