And the Winner Is…

And the Winner Is…

Monday, 26 May 2014

The British poker scene is bloody great and we need to be proud of it, says Sky Poker presenter, player, and all-round loveable bloke Tony Kendall.

Well there’s a thing – a month ago, the nice folks at Bluff Europe gave me a British Poker Awards gong for ‘Best Contribution to Growing/Promoting Poker’. Who’d have thought? Proper proud, I was.

I’ve attended every one of the Bluff Europe British Poker Awards jobbies, and it’s grand to see British poker being larged up for a change. Previous ceremonies were in hotels (and even on a boat one year), but this year, it was held at the really quite splendid Hippodrome Casino in London, hosted by Bluff Europe and those nice folks at PokerStars.

I had no plans to attend, even as late as midday on the day. But then Lord Channing came on the blower and did a sort of “This is Your Life” ambush, Eamonn Andrews style. (Who remembers him?)

‘Fancy a night out tonight, old man?’ said Mr Beat of the Bad variety.
I refused, but he went on, and on. I still refused.
‘We have a table booked.’
‘No thanks.’
‘You and me, front row.’
‘No thanks.’
‘Table for three.’
‘With whom?’
‘Vicky Coren.’
‘See you there.’

He’s sharp, see? He knows I have a shocking crush on Mrs Mitchell, née Coren. Not physical, no no no, not at all. She’s just…well, I love her. No, I do. I mean, really. Vicky is British Poker’s answer to the HM the Queen-ness, everyone loves her. They do.

She is a fabulous TV presenter, writes for posh newspapers, playwright, and author of numerous books including For Richer, For Poorer, a Love Affair With Poker. Not a bad poker player, too, with an EPT on the CV. Speaks beautifully, and has a rapier sharp mind and tongue. Not one to get on the wrong side of, mind. I was updating the WSOP Main a few years back, and noticed she’d been near-felted.

“Lost some chips have we, Vicky?” was probably not ideally timed. Her withering glance in my direction and face like thunder, complete with a seriously curly lip, was all I needed to know that timing really is a gift. Which, as it seems, I’ve yet to learn.

But Vicky just rolls up at regular poker tourneys and we all barely notice. If British Poker ever decides it needs a Female Ambassador, Vicky is your man. She is a national treasure, so let’s respect her, and be proud of her.

I had the good fortune to meet another British Poker Awards gong winner, too – Alex Millar. Who is he? You may ask. (I did). But we all know of ‘Kanu7’, who absolutely owns the big online cash games. Expecting a pale, pimply, introverted type with an attitudey baseball cap on the skew, Sammy Grafton style, I was pleasantly surprised to meet a beautifully dressed chap with the two things we all love in successful people – humility and manners. Nice looking boy, too.

Barny was there too. Oh, how we all loved Barny winning his WSOP jewellery last year. You know true greatness when no surname is needed. Think Twiggy, Pele, Madonna, Flea, Bono, Moby. Now add Barny, right at the top of the list. Well, not quite the top, but you get my drift. Not too many British poker players are so well known by one name. Barny is UK poker furniture. He’s been doing it for years, right back to the days of that TV show that ignited the dormant but explosive fuel in our poker genes, Late Night Poker. Never a whiff of scandal associated with him, either, in all those years.

Tricky Sam Trickett, as expected, was there, receiving, like Barny, not one, but TWO British Poker Awards gongs. They offered him one, but you know Sam. RAISE. Another lad we can be proud of.

‘Loudest Man in Poker’, aka ‘Personality of the Year’, went by a landslide vote, to Sam Grafton. There’s a surprise. You ever met him? Wowzer, the man is incredible. Such a sharp mind, but a really caring man, with decent values. In fact – move over Vicky, Sam is my new love.

We must not forget Neil Channing, either, aka Lord Grumpy, who picked up the gong for ‘Best Blogger’. I’d like to quote his acceptance speech, but I doubt that would get past the sub-editor’s beady eye. Neil proves the old adage – anyone can walk the walk, but oh my, he can certainly talk the talk. YES HE CAN.

So well done all of them, and they have every reason to be proud. Proud – it’s not a word we see often in British poker these days. But why?
The new kids on the block are all smashing lads. How can we not be proud of Toby, Jake, Brammer, Sam, Cody, Pez & co, following in the footsteps of the greatest ever (x 10), Lord Moorman? And, as I write this, news comes in that Middy has won the WCOOP Main, for a cool half a million dollars.

Brick and Mortar poker in the UK is also thriving. There are better structures and tourneys, and more and more recreational players able to mix in with the Big Boys. After the stunningly successful Sky Poker UKPC, a regular lad at the £5 & £10 online tourneys wrote to me. He’d been on a table at the UKPC with double WSOP Bracelet winner JP Kelly, and called JP down all three streets with third pair. JP mucked, and said “great call, bud”. That might just have been the greatest day of his poker life, and he’ll dine out on that story for years. What’s not to like?

That event had the winners of EIGHT WSOP Bracelets and half a dozen EPT winners playing. And the winner was a 20 year-old lad, playing in just his 4th Live Poker Tournament. Only in poker, eh?

And finally… this is my first piece for the nice peeps at Bluff Europe, so I may as well finish by getting a few things off my chest.

Did you ever play the “King for a Day” game, inspired by the Radiohead lyric? OK, indulge me for a few moments more.

When I’m King for a day…

Low stakes live tourneys will all have big starting stacks. Yes, I know the Big Boys sniff, “that’s daft”, and they may be right. But that misses the point. Poker players LOVE big stacks. Give them what they want. They are the future of poker.

More of those aforementioned Big Boys will turn up at poker league finals, or even regular nights, and sit there with the lads, maybe play a 5 quid Sit and Go. Poker leagues are the bedrock of poker, and it’s where it begins for most. If the big guns dropped in once in awhile, it would make a difference – yes, it would. Come on boys, do it.

British poker has plenty to be proud of; so let’s big it up and be constructive, instead of so many folks chuntering all the time.
OK, stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Big thanks to all at Bluff Europe for the gong, and for letting me contribute a few thoughts. I might return, but don’t hold your breath. Meanwhile, please remember why we all love poker. It’s the F-word. FUN.

Tags: Tony Kendall