23/01/2008

Killing Phil

Barry Carter

Last week a press release went out announcing that 11 time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth was coming to England to play in next month’s Party Poker European Open. I’m not sure that there will be armies of screaming girls to watch him as he gets off the plane but there is no doubt that his arrival in the UK is always a headline worthy event amongst the poker community. The press release also mentioned other noteworthy players who will be playing; Neil Channing, Roland De Wolfe, Ian Fraser and many other UK regulars. I was shocked, however, to see that one name was missing from the press release.

Mine.

Ok, that was just really a tenuous link to tell you that I’ll be making my debut in the televised studio tournament arena next month and playing in this event. Of the 72 players enrolled, chances are that I would rank at best 71st in terms of my likelihood to appear at the top of a press release plugging the tournament. Of course I could be grabbing all the headlines if the cards fall my way on the day, but I’m probably more likely to end up looking like a complete tool out of his depth or ‘just another internet qualifier’.

I haven’t actually qualified online for this event, luckily the nice people at VC Poker don’t seem to think that the ten pounds the camera adds to me will put off potential customers and have agreed to buy me into the event. Although the pressure is off for me in monetary terms, I must admit to being more than a little nervous about having Jesse May poking fun at me when I attempt in vain to outplay the Poker Brat.

I’ve played against a great deal of the players in this event before and have played against some of the best in the World over the last two years. But I’ve never played against anyone in front of a camera, rigged up to a heart rate monitor and having the infectious laughter of Jesse May and friend resonate around a studio as they see me get bullied out of a pot. I actually think the pressure of playing when people can see your hole cards adds a new dimension that certain players like Ian Frazer and Liam Flood excel at and I clearly don’t (yet).

My television experience thus far:

  • I was once on ‘down your doorstep’ – a feature on The Big Breakfast which was hosted by Mark Lamarr. I was 14 and he asked me what I was doing outside Debenhams. ‘Going into Debenhams’ was my witty retort.
  • I believe you could see the back of my head in the Manchester leg of the GUKPT on channel 4 last year.
  • Last month I was a guest on Sky Poker. Soft core porn magazine columnist Grub Smith made fun of my hair.

At present, my biggest fear is much more towards looking like a complete knob on television than it is on busting out with no pay day. Don’t get me wrong, if I had a choice of looking like a donkey and making it to the final, I would of course take it over heroically bubbling and getting kudos from the commentary booth. I already have a few stock lines which I am going to use in the event that I make a bad call, they include:

“I thought you were on a flush draw” (Classic line, got me out of the woods a few times)

“This would be a sick call” (ie. I can’t lay this middle pair down)

“I think I’m live/think I’m priced in” (The people in TV land can’t see how much these chips are worth, I’ll make it look like I’m pot committed)

If you see me make a well timed joke at the expense of another player, chances are that it was actually a strategically planned and well rehearsed routine I’ve been practising for weeks with my girlfriend. This is another secret fear of mine: that I might try and come across too much as a ‘character’ at the table. Should I find myself seated with Mr Hellmuth, I think I am the exact sort of person that would be guilty of the practice of ‘Phil Baiting’ ie. trying to put him on tilt with a cheeky comment or showing a bluff, so I will forever have a legacy on YouTube.

I’m looking forward to the challenge though, generally I make money by finding awful players to play against but I most certainly won’t have that luxury this time. I’m sure the odds on me winning the event will be right down there with whichever novelty celebrity turns up as they seem to do, but at the very least I’ll get an extra line on my Hendon Mob Database stats, even if there is no money at the end of it.

Watch this space to see how I got on and when to expect my ‘Phil Baiting’ video on YouTube.