Friday, October 25, 2013

How about a nice game of poo?

Here’s a joke for you: An American walks into a London casino and asks the way to the craps. The East European waitress directs him to the gents’ toilets. Boom boom. I thank you.
Now under any normal circumstance this would just seem like a really lame gag that – considering this is my column – would hardly seem out of place. However, the above ‘hilarious’ set-up actually happened. The London Hippodrome Casino has had to change its signage from ‘Craps’ to ‘Dice’ as people are, apparently, becoming ‘confused’ when dealing with the term craps. Oh, and just in case you don’t know, in the UK crap means to empty one’s bowels, but is more generally used to describe something as rubbish (e.g. the joke in the opening paragraph was crap. You get the idea.)
            Now as I understand it, you have to be over 18 years of age to enter a casino in the UK, an age at which you’d expect people to have matured enough to not collapse clutching their sides when confronted with the word CRAPS hanging from the ceiling surrounded by flashing lights. However, according to Hippodrome owner Simon Thomas, “There’s a lot of sniggering and smirking going on”. ‘Sniggering and smirking’? At the word craps? Oh GROW UP! Let’s just be thankful the American in our story wasn’t wearing a ‘Fanny Pack’ or there’d have been intestines hanging from the chandeliers as our ‘mature’ over-18s exploded with uncontrollable laughter.
            Owner Simon Thomas also said in an interview with the Evening Standard that they decided to make the name switch after the sign “raised eyebrows”. Now obviously this is somewhat more refined than sniggering or smirking, but just who raises their eyebrows anymore? This isn’t 1860, so unless Roger Moore or Leonard Nimoy are in the room I can’t imagine a casino full of unhappy punters all looking at each other and raising their eyebrows; a fist fight – yes - but raised eyebrows…seriously? Oh, and WHO NOTICED THIS! Just how close up was the CCTV-monitoring staff zoomed in to notice such facial tickery? And furthermore, exactly how seriously were they expecting to be taken when they called in the manager to report: “Trouble on table 12 boss; six people have raised their eyebrows.”
Newton’s Third Law tells us that “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” so I’m wondering if somewhere in the USA right now there’s an exact opposite event occurring, where an uncomfortable Londoner is jogging into a State-side casino (where you have to be over 21 to get in, so they must be REALLY mature) and is urgently approaching a waitress saying “I’m dying for a crap”. What must he think when she directs him to a group of large men wearing suits, holding wooden sticks and accompanied by a shooter! Never mind craps, I’d shit myself.
Meanwhile meanwhile…
Back at the Hippodrome Mr Thomas has a problem: just how far does he take this? If people are raising their eyebrows, sniggering, smirking and generally becoming confused over the word ‘craps’, does he need to take a closer look at some of the other games on offer. If someone gets to 13 on a blackjack table and demands of the dealer “hit me” surely we can expect more than raised eyebrows once it all kicks off and they have to call the police. And as for ‘Casino War’… well when angry staff from neighbouring Empire and Grosvenor Casinos turn up with flick knives and sticky bombs I certainly don’t want to be anywhere near the buffet.
End as we began
Well I sense I’ve spread this gag about as thin as it’s going to get, so let me end as I begun, with a lame joke:
A man enters the Hippodrome Casino and says: “I’d love some Caribbean Stud”.
“One second sir,” says the pit boss, who then reaches for the phone and whispers into the receiver: “get me Billy Ocean.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rejected EPT locations

It goes without saying that the EPT has been massively successful. So successful in fact that Europe simply isn't big enough to contain it. As a result, the EUROPEAN Poker Tour stops at places such as The Caribbean, a region more usually located southeast off the Gulf of Mexico and North America. Hardly Benelux is it.

Anyway, in its efforts to find more 'European' destinations for the tour, PokerStars sent out some experts to come up with new and interesting locations. Some are still under consideration, others were rejected. Here are some of the rejections:

EPT NARNIA: couldn't get the tables through the wardrobe doors

EPT MOON BASE ALPHA: Liv Boeree kept floating away; there was no affective way to moor her, and when they tried tying her to Michelle Orpe they both just floated off in to space together giggling.

EPT FANTASTIC VOYAGE: All 826 entrants were to be miniaturised and injected directly into John Duthie's spleen. However, plans were abandoned when it was discovered John had no internal organs, only breadcrumbs and the stuff you get in jiffy bags.

EPT BERMUDA TRIANGLE: You work it out.

EPT COPA CABANA: After speaking to one of the organisers (her name was Lola) it became apparent that while music and passion were always the fashion, they weren't really into poker.

A couple of other considerations:
EPT PANCAKE HOUSE: It fell flat.
EPT HOT POTATO: Was dropped.
EPT FITNESS GYM: It just didn't work out.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fortune Cookie #1

Hello again.

So I fancied a Chinese takeaway last night as we've not had one in ages (not that I have to justify it to you, Mr Policeman). I found the menu (after digging through about 16 Pizza Hut menus - BOY do those guys know how to waste trees!) and worked out what we were after. Then... DISASTER! They (Hong Kong, Hornchurch High Street - name and shame) are shut on a Tuesdays! What to do, what to do...

And so it was that I headed boldly into the night clutching only a £20. We, ladies and gentlemen, were through the looking glass - off to try a never-tried-before takeaway.

Frankly, I've already forgotten the name of the place I ended up in, but that's not important right now. The fact they also do Thai, Malaysian, Cantonese, and another one I've also forgotten IS important as I'll probably go back there and try them all (in my next life when I plan to have loads of disposable income to spend on takeaway food).

Anyway, the point is that this new takeaway didn't give you free prawn crackers with every order over £10, oh no, you got a fortune cookie . How cool is that! (please don't text in, it's just for fun).

Anyway, I had my food (plain chow mien, lemon chicken, hot 'n' sour soup and mini veg pancakes in case you were wondering) and then couldn't wait to find out what my fortune held.


"Your biggest virtue is your modesty"

Yes. I think it is. When you are as excellent as me, you have to be modest with it or people think you're a wanker. What an apt fortune (although it's not really a 'fortune', more a spot appraisal with very little in the way of a sample - the cookie had only known me 20 minutes, and for most of that I'd be throwing noodles up my nose).

I told the wife: My virtue is my modesty. Love.

"Really?" she replied, "So why do you walk around with your cock out and your balls balancing on the top of your trousers so much then?" she quizzed. Bless her.

She clearly doesn't understand how modesty works.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lucky Boy

So I know the last post was a bit doom and gloom, but things are on the up! I appear to slowly be transforming into a session musician while remaining closely connected to the poker world without having to rely on it entirely. Which is nice.

This week sees the recording of the final week of the radio show I've been doing with Jesse May for over a year now - It's incredible to think we've done 32 weeks of this! We started out producing three three-hour live shows a week for twelve week runs. We did this for the first two seasons (seems like even we English now prefer the term 'seasons' to 'series' - how very '24') but the third season has seen us shift to three podcasts a week, no more than 70 minutes in length. It's proved much easier both practically and from a content control point of view. I won't lie to you; with nine hours a week to generate we often had dullards on the phone that I STILL let talk for 30 minutes just to eat up the shows (shame on me). With these more compact shows we've not had to fill in such a way, while proper planning has allowed us to keep the quality high.

I'm not sure if the show will get picked up for a second year right now, but it would seem a shame to have built up a good name for ourselves to not continue. I'm also worried that if we don't have a radio show I'll never get invited to any PR jollies again. Which brings me to... BRIGHTON!

Yes, thanks to my affiliation with The Poker Show and also the ON THE RAIL podcast, I was fortunate enough to be invited down to Brighton for the relaunch of the seafront G Casino. I introduced myself to the group via a slight faux pas, involving a rather attractive PR lady who brought out the never-useful 'alpha male' in me. I attempted to take over the manly duty of instructing the taxi driver, and promptly sent him down towards to the wrong casino some 15 minutes away (doubly embarrassing considering the G Casino turned out to be literally one minute from our hotel). Still, everyone agreed it was nice to see a bit more of Brighton (ahem).

Inside the G you can see where Vegas has really set the trend for UK casinos. I remember my first experiences in London casinos, where nursing-home carpets and silence were the order of the day. The G Casino has smart decor (is it too metrosexual to REALLY like chocolate and orange as a colour scheme?) a lively sexy atmosphere, with music and chatter providing a much more welcoming background noise than the snorting and gambling of old. Another interesting introduction to the G Casino is... SPACE! Yes, rather than dedicate every square inch to gaming machines, there's lots of room to simply 'be' without having to constantly face flashing slots or avoid eye-contact with a blackjack dealer.

I've always envied how relaxed casinos are in the states, where the majority of visitors are there to party, meet friends, have a drink, grab some food, and MAYBE gamble. In the UK it's always felt like you have to walk in, check your coat, shuffle to a table, must immediately gamble, and then quickly leave to make way for more 'winners'. I'm glad to say the G seemed to be full of young people (well, young at heart anyway) mostly more interested in the bar, restaurant and Four Tops tribute singers (of which I counted only three - a small technical error I'm sure).

Poker-wise there's a 10-table room, boasting games such as a mid-week £15 freeze out (which I think is the perfect kind of level to encourage people to play that might not normally). In my journalistic guise I sampled the beer, lemonade (which seemed fine but NOT as tasty as beer) and also attacked a few plates from the bar menu. The PR team even pitched in with the eating and drinking to make sure I had a good time. God they work hard.

I know this has ended up like a bit of an advert, but I'm keen to impress upon you that casinos are becoming nice places to be - regardless of whether you consider yourself a gambler or not. Rank now have about a dozen of these revamped G Casinos in the UK, and if the Brighton one isn't near enough for you, I suggest you find one that is and make an evening of it. You never know, you might even win something (or at least meet a pretty PR lady dragging hungry journalists around).

Happy hunting.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Serious Poker

It’s been a very strange 2010 so far. Sadly I’ve had one close family member death, one VERY close family member near-death/hospitalisation/drama, and a continuing lack of anything much to do. I bet that REALLY makes you wanna read on eh! Do I know how to capture an audience or WHAT!

The funny thing is I thought I’d accounted for the way in which a freelancer’s life tends to come and go with various bits of work. In case the TV stuff ended I had my writing; in case the writing ended I had the radio; in case the radio stuff ended I had my voice-over work… and so on. Sadly I failed to implement an “in case it all ends at exactly the same time” plan, which is kind of where I find myself.

Sure the radio show ( is still going very strong but it’s changed shape this series. Rather than three three-hour live shows a week, it’s now three pre-record 70 minute shows that we nail in one LONG day. Also – and I’ll just be straight with you on this – I’ve already been paid for the work so it kinda feels like I’m ‘doing it for nothing’. I know that’s twisted logic, but there you go.

The funny thing is, with all my work suddenly dormant I find myself in a position that I’d previously dreamt of, namely with no reason not to take my poker more seriously. I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but I have regularly (for about the last six years) promised myself that I would DEFINITELY go out and play more live poker. I have another recurring self-lie that says I should take my poker more seriously, perhaps dedicating two or three days a week to playing online as if it were a job. In the past this hasn’t happened because other guaranteed paying work options have popped up to block it, but now I have no good reason. The interesting thing is… I find I don’t want to do this.

But why? Isn’t this every poker enthusiast’s dream? Well yes, but also… no. If you’re commuting every damn day to work a 9-to-5 (and just for the record I did this from the age of 17 to about 33, so I do know) then this must seem like a dream. However, playing a game for love is different to playing a game for need… and next time I’ll explain further.

I know: just like a proper blog isn’t it! ^__^

Be seeing you…

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Post Office

F**king Freedom Passes!

Now that might not mean a lot to you if you don't often visit the Post Office, but as I am currently enjoying the life of a 'home trader' (i.e. I'm so skint I am having to sell most of my personal belongings to pay the mortgage) I spend a lot of time in the Post Office waiting to weigh and flog my old games, books, guitars, clothes, pride, etc.

Pretty much every day since the new year has been shite thanks to the oldies renewing their Freedom Passes (Just WALK or STAY INDOORS love!) but today was particularly crap for some reason, and I had a book AND an Evel Kneivel toy to sell (I shit you not).

Matt walks into the Post Office. It is VERY busy. After a 10 minute wait...

OLD INDIAN TELLER IN WINDOW 6: Anyone NOT renewing their Freedom Pass?

Matt approaches the counter and plops a heavy book on the scales.

MATT: I want to send this in the UK. Just the cheapest method please.
TELLER: It will be £4.41 or £4.45
MATT: What's the difference?
MATT: No, I meant the difference in the services?
TELLER: One is standard post, one is Parcel Force
MATT: Umm... Just which ever is the cheapest one then please
TELLER: Well I'm just worried that that might take a long time
MATT: Well that's why I asked what the difference was
TELLER: It's 4p
MATT: No, I understand the monatery difference, I meant the difference in the service - i.e. if one was faster than the other...
TELLER: Well if you want a faster service...
MATT: NO! The speed isn't important to me, I'm just trying to explain why I asked!

Matt is clearly becoming somewhat flaberghasted and appears to be getting 'slightly' louder. A nearby teller has twigged...

WINDOW #5 TELLER: Is there a problem?
MATT (through gritted teeth): NO! Just a misunderstanding. It's fine now.

Matt's teller passes him a postage sticker for the book. Matt now produces a HUGE box and places it on the scales.

MATT: Same again please.

The teller looks at Matt and opens his mouth to ask what service he wants. However, before he can say a word...


Matt manages to pull a smile out of the bag so the authorities aren't called for. The elderly teller passes another sticker to Matt. Matt applies the label, pays the man, thanks the man, walks to his car, turns the radio on VERY loud and BLOWS HIS BRAINS OUT WITH A SAWN-OFF SHOTGUN.

The last bit didn't happen, but you can understand why people just turn up in Post Offices with guns sometimes.

I'm not saying I'd do it... but I understand.

That's all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bruce Lee and the round table

"To become immortal, one must first live a life worth remembering."

I think Bruce Lee said that, or at least stole it from someone more ‘wordy’ and brought it to the mainstream (and by mainstream I mean ‘anyone who saw the film DRAGON’). Anyway, it made me look to a more contemporary version, which is: “To blog, one must first have a life worth remarking upon”. And that’s my problem right now – I’m dull as dog dirt, bland as bat bilge, rank as rat’s rectum (you get the general idea). To blog at the moment would just be inflicting my own misery on a wider audience, and Phil Hellmuth appears to already have that market cornered with his own blog.

In the glory days of poker journalism I got to travel the world, interview people I’d never interviewed before, witness things I’d never witnessed before, play in games I’d never played in before, and so on… Now, sadly, I do best part of fek-all on a daily basis.

Trying to make an interesting and witty blog out of “woke up, read my three emails, wallowed in my friends’ successes via Facebook, refreshed my email inbox just in case, played SNGs until 5pm then played Call of Duty until it was time to make dinner”… well, you can see what I mean. It’s not quite at the dullard “woke up, brushed my teeth” level I attained in my acclaimed personal diary of 1981, but it’s pretty damn close.

In an attempt to do something with my life before my legs rot and they put me in a wheelchair, I decided to investigate the local Round Table. Having seen an advert in the local paper that described it as ‘A drinking club for blokes who occasionally have to do something for charity’ I thought I might fit in quite well.

I went along to the first meeting that, though not that Masonic, certainly had a few ‘funny handshake’ moments (without, I’m sad to report, any actual funny handshakes - although I like to think that once I left they shook the crap out of each other’s hands in a ‘funny’ way). There were people who were Chairmen of this and that, one chap who had to stand up and recite the ‘Aims and Objectives’ (a kind of boy scout pledge for children over the age of 25) and a Master at Arms (I shit you not) who reviews the meeting at the end and ‘fines’ people for lapses in behaviour and protocol. It’s only fair to say it was all done very much tongue-in-cheek and with a sense of fun, but it was certainly interesting to see grown men being told off and financially penalized for shouting “fuck!” at each other.

My next encounter with The Table (for ‘tis how it’s referred to once one is ‘in the know’) was the Santa sleigh, which grinds up and down the local streets behind a Range Rover playing loud Xmas music while Santa shouts “ho ho ho!” and waves at kids fizzing with excitement in the windows. Meanwhile a gang from The Table knocks on doors and collects money for the local charities and causes they support throughout the year. I wasn’t sure how I felt about joining in with this as I’m usually the one sitting watching telly in only my socks shouting “bah humbug” when charity collectors visit. However, upon seeing the sleigh I remembered how excited I used to get as a kid when the Upminster version came down our road, and once a few old folk had merrily bunged me a couple of quid with smiles on their faces and I’d witnessed the reaction of the kids down the first street I was well into it.

The activity was, however, not without its own perils. As well as smiling elderly folk and excited young-uns, my town is not without (how shall I put this)… mentals. I’d briefly enjoyed the fantasy of having the door answered by some MILF in a see-through gown who invited me in for more than a mince pie, but the closest I got was one old women who wanted me to feel how warm her hands were (seriously). I told her “I have two pairs of gloves on – I can’t feel anything” but she simply lurched out of her doorway with surprising speed and rubbed her moist, elderly hands up and down my semi-frozen cheeks (my face, MY FACE!) until I agreed that they were indeed very nice warm hands, and could I please go now.

Another door was opened by an enormous and entirely hairless man who stood in nothing but his boxer shorts, holding and eating a plate of baked beans. “Hello!” I merrily blarted despite immediately fearing for my life. “Round Table doing the Christmas collection”. He stared at me silently and scooped another two (yes, two) huge mouthfuls of beans into his bald hole while I stood like a tit in the doorway wondering how long I had to live. “No.” he finally grumbled, “You’re alright”. I screamed off up the road as if my shins were on fire, shouting “Merry Christmas!” over my shoulder in case he was chasing me.

Behind door number three was an old lady who I’d seen sitting (presumably dead) in her chair through the front window as I tried to get up the snow-covered ramp that lead to the door without sliding down it like some extra out of Indiana Jones. I now know access ramps are the 2-7 of charity collecting. Houses covered entirely in flashing Xmas decorations are three-of-a-kind, and any house with kids’ bikes and toys outside is the jackpot. I got to the top of the treacherous slope feeling like I’d just completed an ice level in Zelda, and reluctantly pressed the bell. The Tablers had told me to give ample time for old folks or people who lived in the back of their houses (why DO people do that?) to answer. However, after about three minutes I was starting to worry about the police finding her dead broken body clutching a 10p piece in the hallway ALL BECAUSE OF ME!

I could see her chair was empty, knew she must be on her way, and had to wait. After five more minutes she opened the door. “Round Table!” I beamed trying to make it worth the epic two-room trek she’d been on. “Oh,” she said, “I thought you were my carer. Have you got my dinner?” Oh. Fuck. “No, sorry – I’m collecting for the Round Table”. “Oh,” She said, “I thought you were my carer. Have you got my dinner?” Oh. Fuck. Again. What to do? I did have a Snickers bar in my pocket, but to be honest that was already earmarked as my 9pm treat. I opted for the only decent thing a modern chap could do; I ran away. Obviously I didn’t LOOK like I was running away (just in case someone saw me sliding back down the ramp and later shopped me to the body-collecting cops) but I certainly ‘left’ without collecting any money or resolving her problem. One can only hope her ‘carer’ was mere minutes behind and had more than one Snickers bar.

Staying on the ‘ruining old people’s evenings’ front, I also witnessed an old man break the world record for most time taken between opening a front door and opening a porch door. Having stared at me long enough to ascertain I wasn’t a mass murderer, I told him we were doing the Christmas collection, to which he said “you’re a bit late aren’t you?” He looked quite surprised when I told him it was only December 16th, but he handed over £2 anyway. Exactly what month he thought it was (or indeed what year) I can only imagine, but I certainly didn’t wait to watch him clamber slowly back into his house; I was due down the Indian restaurant in two hours.

The avoiders were good. Some would simply stare at you from the comfort of their sofas as if deaf and blind (even thought they were watching telly) while others would dive out of the front room and lie prone on the carpet in the hallway with the lights out. I took to opening the letter box, making eye contact with their frozen bodies and whispering “have a nice Christmas”.

Others would say things like “No, you’re alright” or “don’t worry” before closing the door, while the more creative would say “I don’t have any change” and then pat their trouser pockets. I told one person that if he patted his pockets before saying he had no change it would be much more convincing. I thought he might be insulted, but he looked genuinely grateful for the tip. I’m sure next year will be even less expensive for him thanks to that nugget.

One of the last excuses of the night was particularly involved, with a women turning on all the lights in the house, pulling up her trouser leg, and showing me an ENORMOUS scar (that sadly was not visible to the human eye) that accompanied a story about being off work, hospital bills, £200 a month, etc etc. It was only when she patted her pockets and said she had no change I believed her.

Anyway, that’s my poker blog. Sorry there was no actual poker, but it’s the thought that counts eh! For the record we made just under £400 for 2.5 hours walking, and I had the Chicken Shashlik with pilau rice and sag aloo. The Snickers bar remains uneaten in my coat pocket, and I check the local papers every day to see if my carer-less old friend has been found dead yet. Nothing yet... nothing yet...

Merry Christmas!