Let me just start by saying that to my mind there are two important positives to say about Monte Carlo. 1) It’s not Paris, 2) The local girlfriends. Now I won’t expand on point one (I think it speaks for itself) but as for point two, well… let’s just say that, if you can afford to reside in Monte Carlo you’re not likely to have a minging sow hanging off your arm dressed in anything less than the hottest, shortest, tightest, most expensive drapery. I could certainly never drive in Monaco; I’d be wrapped around a lamppost before you could shout ‘porno clogs’. Suffice it to say this is NOT the place to visit if you have a shoe fetish. You’d probably spend the whole time bent double in groinal discomfort.
The only problem with the ladies of Monaco is that the part of a woman’s brain that normally kicks in at the age where long hair and short skirts are no longer appropriate doesn’t seem to function. From the back – Bingo. From the front – Bingo Hall. It’s often like your Nan has been dug up and forced at gun point into an outfit even a Barbie doll would roll her eyes at.
Oh, and if you were thinking that maybe beer goggles might ‘iron out’ some of those wrinkles, let me just tell you that a bottle of Heineken round these parts will set you back €30. This could be a very expensive trip…
First up: the obligatory media tournament. Now this always creates a stir in the poker room, as anyone currently not doing anything else sharks about worried that they might be missing out on something. I get asked by random strangers (only about 23 times) how they can get involved. “A career in journalism,” becomes my instant, nay hilarious answer. Frankly I’m surprised I get through the night without having my head caved in.
The quality of play isn’t all that great to be honest, but in our defence most of us have been travelling since about four o’clock this morning. To describe the group as ‘a little unbalanced’ would be fair. If you brought a doner kebab Piñata into the room right now there’d be carnage. THAT’S how much Red Bull has been consumed.
Sitting down, I’ve managed to draw a table including Greg Raymer, Luca Pagano, Humberto Brenes and Victor Ramdin. So… nothing to worry about there then. I shan’t bore you with the game itself, but those of you who enjoy sob stories will be delighted to know that I chose to make my short-stacked move with 5-5 just as Victor picked up A-A, and I enjoyed the rest of the game from the party downstairs.
A friend of mine from an oily tabloid goes deep in the game, but gets an ear bashing from me about nearly throwing it all away when he goes all-in with T-J for no reason against Noah Boeken’s A-J. He’s fortunate enough to suck out and win the hand, but I ‘gently’ suggest T-J isn’t the sort of hand to piss about with. He proudly mucks T-J the next time it comes round, only to see a 7-8-9 flop. Oops. To suggest he gives me ‘daggers’ is to suggest that the Big Brother contestants are ‘a little bit stupid’.
He then goes into ‘fuck you’ overdrive, calling an all-in with 9-7 against pocket jacks. The flop comes 9-3-9-6-7, and at this point I’m pretty sure ‘maths’ has nipped downstairs to get twatted on €30 beers while the poker gods run amok upstairs with us.
The next morning we gather in the spectacular new tournament room at the Monaco Bay Resort for a grandiose opening ceremony. Strauss’ Sprach Zarathustra (that’s ‘the 2001 music’ to you and me) blasts out as the final table’s curtain rises on-stage to reveal an orgy of dry ice and felt. Everyone too close to the platform coughs their lungs up and attempts to keep last night’s Red Bull from erupting through their nostrils, but the onslaught is far from finished. Next up is a room-length curtain that veeeeery slowly opens to the melody of The Blue Danube. One hundred bloggers gasp in unison and grab their cameras, desperate to capture this wonderful moment. One can only assume that where ever these bloggers come from (where DO bloggers come from?) they just have bare windows. I also get the feeling that YouTube is about to be brought to its knees, as a thousand identical movies of a curtain being drawn are uploaded simultaneously.
It is truly spectacular in the room, and for once I don’t mind poker players wearing dark glasses indoors. However, as soon as the tournament actually starts, the glare of the harsh yellow burning sky-ball (I believe I heard one of the organisers refer to it as “the sun”) is too much for anyone to bear and they have to draw the curtains all over again. It seems poker really is a game you have to play in the dark. Of course, once they draw the curtains again not a single player removes their shades, and I can go back to calling them all ‘losers’. The balance of nature has been restored.
An hour into the game and I realise for the first time that music is being gently piped into the room – not something I think I’ve heard at a tournament before. The weird thing is, it’s a kind of soft, funk… well, porno music. I’m not entirely sure what kind of action this is mean to promote, but I’m secretly praying that the Dutch players all have their iPods on nice and loud. I mean, if any of those crazy guys catch whiff of these arousing twangs all hell could break loose.
Gus Hansen enters the tournament room late and everyone with a spare seat at their table shits themselves immediately. It must be nice to have that kind of a reputation. I personally still think he looks like a potato in jazz shoes, but that’s just me. He leaps athletically towards his table to play his hand before it’s mucked and manages to knock an entire table’s worth of glasses and bottles over. It’s nice to know that even the top poker players are still a long way from cool.
Chad Brown sits two seats to his left, and looks like he’s been working out… a lot! It actually looks like the gym instructor who put his program together got distracted having only written down the biceps exercises and then never came back. He’s like a modern day Popeye. They’re huge! I’m surprised he can move his chips around the table with those ham hocks swinging off his shoulders.
Some of the table draws are fantastic fantasy-poker affairs. Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius are on same table (with everyone else on that table looking like they are about to throw up). Flush favourite, Isabelle Mercier, and the Flying Dutchman Marcel Luske also share a lively table. Marcel is, as usual, busy playing top poker and telling great stories. It’s amusing to see the amateurs multi-tasking; simultaneously trying to 1) ignore him, 2) listen to him, 3) not be intimidated by him, 4) not like him. I must have watched that table for an hour and can barely remember a single hand played. Fantastic entertainment.
Sadly Mr Luske exits the tournament a little later holding A-K after two aces hit the flop and a guy who ‘didn’t believe’ put him all-in while holding 4-5. The turn was a 2 and the river was a 3. You’d feel bad for Marcel, but before they’ve even raked his chips he’s found a nearby camera crew and is busy making the best of it while chatting up a tasty-looking female presenter caught within his charm radius. What a fucking brilliant bloke.
As I wander round the room, I start to feel old and out of date. All the camera crews are crowded around one table filled with what looks to me like a bunch of 16 year old kids. They are clearly Swedish internet poker wiz kids, but I have absolutely no idea who they are. Where’s Doyle Brunson in a mobility scooter when you need him?
Vicky Coren – who I must say looks more attractive each time I see her (and no, it isn’t because she keeps winning more money) - fires off a dazzling smile in my direction and beckons me over. I feel like the cat who got the cream and quickly move towards her (‘sprint’ is such a nasty word). She greets me with: “You still haven’t paid me, Broughton”. Ah yes… The column… Issue 15… Shit! I dribble out some weak excuse and shuffle off like the cat that got no cream, but instead ended the day with a castration under its belt.
Anyway, Vicky remains a fantastic piece of work. Sitting in a room full of old men trying to be young; young men trying to be rich; and ‘cool’ guys in shades/enormous headphones trying to get a sponsorship… it all simply passes her by. Vicky instead is having a nice cup of tea and doing The Times crossword while she plays. I imagine (forgive me Vic) that sexual intercourse with Vicky is either a functional activity involving four minutes with the lights out and a courteous handshake to finish, or the sort of filthy all-night encounter that leaves you blind in one eye, covered in various rope burns and bruises, and sporting a permanent nose bleed for the rest of the week. It’s so hard to tell with these quiet, proper girls. Of course that’s pure speculation, so please don’t quote me on that.
And on that bombshell, I'm off. More from Monte Carlo soon...