Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Monte Carlo or Bust pt.3

Well I’ll give you this – you’ve got stamina! I mean the EPT Grand Final was only, what, seven months ago, and here I am still prattling on about it! Then again, short of coming down to my office and holding a gun to my head there’s not a lot do to stop me is there? Why not click the 'close' button now and save us all the bother?
Ok – then let’s carry on…

As you’ll no doubt remember (possibly – I started this story a long while ago) the nice people from PokerStars’ PR agency very kindly flew me out to Monte Carlo to interview poker’s superstars and report on the EPT Grand Final. As is always the way on these trips, lots of ‘things’ happen to me along the way, all of which I’m more than happy to record on my ever-present digital recorder to later bore/entertain(?) you with. When I finished up last entry I had suggested that masseuses with large breasts were a great idea, and that Patrik Antonius had a head like a jacket potato. Really high-brow stuff then clearly. Let’s continue…

Having previously set up a nice little portable office outside my sliding balcony door, I wake up actually looking forward to getting outside and doing some work. Ordering the hotel’s signature ‘bloody expensive omelette’, I gather my bits together and head for the door. However, I’m stopped in my tracks, as there appears to be something outside my balcony trying to get in. I say ‘something’ rather than ‘someone’ because I can see a shape pounding against my door, but from only about two feet off the floor. Having gone to bed late and full of red wine - and therefore slightly fuzzy this morning - my barely adequate mental functions are unable to come up with any reasonable explanation for this, so I decide it’s probably best to just sit back down on the bed and wait for it to go away. Please.

After a minute or two the pounding stops and I decide to open the door. Peeking through a tiny slit as only really heroic men can… JESUS CHRIST! There is – no word of a lie – a seagull the size of a badger sitting on my balcony wall. In his beak – nay, his crushing jaws – he holds a large Coke cup that he has clearly been wielding as a battering ram. Whether he wants to come in, or simply wants me out, I couldn’t say, but I certainly didn’t want to take him on mano-e-gullo to find out. It wasn’t that I wanted to hand over my hotel keys to the vicious-looking bugger, but visions of headlines back in England to the tune of: “Pathetic Brit eaten alive by enormous seagull” certainly had me on the back foot.

As if to prove a point, the seagull/badger picks up the cup and starts bashing it up and down against the balcony. This clearly serves no other purpose than intimidation; showing me what he plans to do if he ever gets hold of my bonce. With this, I tip my hat in his general direction, and reverse back through the balcony door. In my mind I hear: “beep beep… this coward is reversing… beep beep”, but I don’t care. I want to get home with both eyes still in my head rather than being bashed up and down on a balcony wall until liquid gold (or whatever it is the gull thinks is stashed within my peepers) spills forth.

Rather than spending ten euros on a five minute cab ride, I can walk from my hotel to the tournament venue buy taking a not-unpleasant fifteen minute stroll down something called “The Champions’ Parade”. Though I personally struggle to think of anyone who came from Monte Carlo who might be considered a hero, I’m still rather surprised to find George Best’s hand and foot prints in the pavement. Now I’m not one to suggest they were struggling to find ‘champions’ from Monte Carlo and grasping at straws, but let’s just say I wouldn’t be too surprised to find Bob Marley or perhaps those two lesbos from Tatu wedged into the parade somewhere down the road.

I make it to the tournament (no sign of that seagull, you’ll be glad to hear) and go about the business of sweating a friend of mine (let’s call him ‘Arny’) who’s still in the main even. I’m particularly interested not note that three seats to Arny’s left is Mark Teltcher. Now I don’t like to bitch in these pages (*ahem*) but when I went to Google Mark’s surname to be sure I’d spelt it correctly, I was drawn towards the second result from the search engine. A link that led me to the blog of a popular young poker player, who let rip with: “I had the pleasure of playing Mark Teltcher, who won the London EPT last year. He was without doubt one of the biggest arseholes I've ever met.” So I guess you could say there’s no love lost there then.

I of course don’t want to get involved in this fight, but I will tell you that my friend Arny also happens to ‘dislike’ Mr Teltcher. In fact, Arny ‘dislikes’ him so much that when we were here for the EPT Grand Final last year Arny went up to Teltcher late one night in a bar and pretended to be a journalist who thought Mark was “The Future of Poker”, and asked if he might grab the golden one for an impromptu interview.

Mark – who I’m reliably informed has ‘a bit of an ego’ – obviously agreed to the interview, and for the next 15 minutes was quizzed by Arny who put on the plumiest Tim Nice-but-dim voice you’ve ever heard, and held up what was quite obviously a digital camera to Mark’s mouth as if it was a dictaphone. He also asked some of the most mock-sycophantic questions ever, including the likes of: “How can you be so bloody awesome at poker mate?” and “Do you think you were just born with this gift?” It wasn’t big or clever, but it was fucking funny.

Anyway, back in the tournament room a noise rings out that’s familiar to me but seems totally out of place and is therefore hard to fathom. This sound has clearly registered with a large number of other folk in the room, who are all now looking around like people in a lift who suspect someone might have farted.

I look up to the massive screens that show the tournament details, and realise why the noise was familiar - it’s an error alert that my laptop dishes out. The screens normally busy displaying all the information relevant to the tournament (players, blinds, time, etc) are now proudly announcing: “Low battery. You should change your battery or switch to oulet power immediately to keep from losing your work”. With that, pretty much every manager and dealer in the place bolts towards the same spot – presumably some nook with a magic laptop secretly running the whole European Poker Tour in Microsoft Excel. It’s like they pulled back the curtains and found that not only was the Wizard of Oz an old bloke in a dressing gown, but he was also on his hands and knees having a wank. Ah, the magic revealed…

With the laptop plugged in and normal service resumed, another emergeny occurs on table twenty three; this time a severe trouser malfunction. It appears some ‘youth’ - who clearly knows a lot more about poker than he does about wearing clothes properly – is suffering from an unusual condition that has lead to the waistband of his jeans falling level with the backs of his knees while his paisley knickers hang out for all to see. Regardless of just how bloody stupid this looks, I’m sure it’s very popular with the younger men. As a teen, I myself would often pull my socks up over my genitals and hang a Burton’s tie out of my arse. Fickle fasion eh?

Having seen quite enough for one day, I head back down the ‘Champion’s Parade’ keeping an eye out for the seagull. Luckily for me there’s no sign of the bugger, and I can only imagine he’s sitting on a hotel balcony somewhere, savagely tearing into some hapless Brit’s face.

Back at the hotel bar a group of us meet for a drink, but talk soon moves to thoughts of a quick game of poker. Though all present are keen on the game, we’re a mixed group, passing through all levels of ‘skill’. All the way from two hardcore Swedes who want to play for serious money, right through to a PR girl who thinks you need two decks of cards to play Hold’em. I can see we’re in for an ‘interesting game’, but comply none the less, trying to work out what we can use for chips.

Looking down at our table I notice a small box of matches in an ashtray… hmm.
Each box only holds twelve matches, but with a bit of thought – and LOTS more boxes – we might just make this work.

I explain my plan. We’ll break each match in two. The halves with the head are worth 100, the halves without, 25s, and the boxes are worth 500 each. Genius! Now we just need more matches. Leave this to me…

"Stealth". "Cunning". "Guile". Just some of the words that might be used to describe how I sauntered around the bar, ‘flying casual’ as it were, stealing boxes of matches en route. At one point I had about twenty five boxes in my trouser pockets. Had there been a fire, everyone could have gathered round and roasted marshmallows while I ‘genied’ like a roman candle.
At one point I catch the eye of the waitress whose job it is to ensure they tables all have clean ashtrays and matchboxes. She squints at me suspiciously; trying to work out why her job has suddenly become so much more demanding despite the fact that the bar is near empty. I chuckle to myself. The perfect crime!

I return triumphant to the table, but all eyes are over my shoulder. I turn around and find myself face-to-face with the waitress who is wearing the sort of face that practically spells out the phrase “you pathetic twat”. Without saying a word she drops 50 boxes of matches onto the table, spins around and stomps off. So much for the perfect crime... Anyway, who fancies a game of poker!