Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I've cracked it!

Before you get excited, my headline refers not to a formula for turning tuna into gold, but a rib; my rib. I’m pretty sure I cracked it, and I’m pretty sure I cracked it a couple of days ago. The reason I’m pretty sure it was a couple of days ago is because a couple of days ago I fell over on the beach. And when I say “fell over” I really mean went down like a fat sack of spanners dropped from a cargo plane. Onto a beach.

What’s particularly annoying is that I’m not someone who ever falls over. I actually go out of my way to not fall over because – from what I remember – it hurts and can crack things.

As we speak I’m in the Bahamas proving poker commentary for the PCA, and during this time the company obviously milks as many PR opportunities as possible while all the big-name players and poker-friendly celebs are present. I’ve always been a fan of the UFC so was rather thrilled to see that Tito Ortiz was here and was running a morning fitness session for anyone interested. I put my name forward and dug deep in my suitcase for the trainers I always bring but never use.

I’ll be 45 this year, but when picturing myself doing physical activities put myself more in the 25 bracket. As an example, while taking a short-cut from the poker room to my hotel room I took a wrong turn and found myself at a loading bay with a four foot drop to the road. Obviously I could have turned around but some burly men were looking at me so I pretended it was EXACTLY where I wanted to be (and that I was 25) and just casually jumped off the ramp.

While in the air between ramp and road I thought ‘oh shit. Bend your knees when you land’ but also remembered ‘don’t forget your right knee gives out when you bend it’. I’m pretty sure some more thoughts were on their way to help out but it was only a four foot drop so there wasn’t a lot of time as gravity took over. The good news is there was no audible snapping or screaming as I plapped onto the tarmac with the gait of a man who’d actually jumped from the roof. I hurried away feeling like Captain America (but probably looking more like a 44 year old man who’d made a bad choice).

 Anyway... at the beach Tito was superb and charming and took control of the 20-odd willing participants. “We’ll start off with a light jog to that red flag and back” he said. No worries; off we go…

60 seconds later I was back from the ‘light jog’ and bent over like girl who’d been punched in the stomach by Hercules. Sand is a dreadful idea when it comes to fitness. As someone who regularly jumps off four foot high ramps I can tell you that adding sand to the mix is never a good idea. How could I be this knackered? All I’d done was jog to a flag and back. Some of the (admittedly younger) group hardly looked like they’d taken a breath. Maybe they hadn’t bothered with the ‘light jog’ at all. Maybe the lazy sods had just stood there all young and lithe, watching us old fuckers trip across the sand like a herd of pissed camels in high heels. I could only conclude that I had just been unlucky in finding some particularly unforgiving sand; I moved closer to the sea where the sand looked less yielding.

Tito announced: “We’re going to do five one-minute rounds”. HA HA HA I laughed out loud, thinking he was jokingly pretending that we were all going to fight each other and would now break into a smile saying “of course not!” He wasn’t and he didn’t; he just meant we were going to do five one-minute rounds of exercise. Never mind; at least I’d identified myself as the weirdo who laughs when nothing funny has been said (I find it’s important to set out your stand early at these things).

First up were step-lunges, followed by sprinting, followed by push ups, followed by burpees, followed by sit-ups. No worries; let me at ‘em!

“Line up here” said Tito (I pushed a girl out of the way to get to the hard sand). “Let’s go with step lunges!” and off we went. In case you don’t know, step-lunges are where you step forward, squatting down low enough so that the trailing leg’s knee touches the floor. Then you step forward again in the same style with the other leg, gradually (and hilariously) making progress. I’m pretty sure I should have been focussing on maximising the ‘burn’ in my quads or something, but I was more concerned that the tiny girl next to me was flying off across the sand like a lizard chasing its lunch.

Thankfully Tito called out: “this isn’t a race; just get your technique right!” Oh thank god. Slow and steady wins the race (or at least gets to watch the race from a more comfortable vantage point further down the field).

We step-lunged our way to the markers set in the sand and I must say I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for not being the last to make it there. But wait; where’s everyone going? “Half way there!” shouted Tito. Oh shit, we’re doing 60 seconds of this aren’t we, not just one stretch. Bollocks.

Luckily being 44 means I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Not only did I take a couple of normal steps before lunging into the return trip, but I also came out of the step-lunges a couple of paces early. Text book.

Good. One down four to go. “OK… now SPRINT!” shouted Tito. And off I shot… mentally. Yes, my brain clearly sent a message to my legs to sprint – I was there, I heard it loud and clear. However, unlike all previous times (barring a few beer festival moments) the message from brain was received, processed and initiated, but something was seriously wrong in mission control. My body weight was moving forward, my arms were pumping to assist sprinting… but my landing gear was still down. Legs! LEGS! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Sadly the step-lunges had taken their toll, and the burn had indeed burnt. The vast majority of my body (no comments please) was sprinting, but my legs were taking a moment to reflect on life, leaving my feet somewhat buggered. Most of me took off in the correct direction, but my feet dug pitifully into the thick, luscious, bastard sand and physics decided it was time to take control of the situation; down I went with a muffled crack.

“On your feet you filthy maggot!” I heard Tito shout (actually he just said “Up you get” rather politely (which was somehow worse)). “You can do this!” he called out incorrectly, and off I dragged like some poor atrophied squid. Because of my face-plant, just as I got vaguely going all the kids with normal functioning legs were turning around for the return run. How they must have pitied what they saw shuffling across the sand. If you know the bit in the original Robocop when the ginger lad goes into the toxic tank and lurches back out to be killed by a car – that’s me that is.

I did make it back to the starting line, but knew I was done; exercise routines are really best undertaken with working legs and to do so without a reliable, functioning mode of transportation is just asking for trouble. It’s simple math(s).

I decided the best course of action was to pretend that I never meant to do the whole thing (obviously, snort!) and had really just turned up to support the event and make the photos look more populated. But there were some similarly aged people nearby, and they knew.

I drank some water, tried not to throw up for a while, and then sat back watching the young people enjoying themselves with the professional sportsman. We all went for a swim afterwards which was nice (the buoyancy of the water meant I could appear fully-functioning once someone had carried me into the sea).

I walked back to my room once my legs had returned to operational status, thinking that perhaps next time I’d just pretend to have left my trainers at home (I might even start leaving them behind to avoid temptation).

In my absent mindedness I’d taken the wrong route back to my room and was faced with turning around or jumping over a four foot wall. I looked at my legs, and they looked back. We all turned around.

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 - thepokershowlive.com. 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 (www.thepokershowlive.com) 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.