Half of art is knowing when to stop - Arthur William Radford
Every year on a wintery Sunday in December 32 healthy looking males disappear from the face of the planet for 24-hours to participate in the annual Valley Championships of Poker.
Skit won the first two Valley Championships of Poker and last year Neil Farm stopped him from making it a triple crown when he took home the trophy. The trophy is one of my old football player of the year trophies with my name scratched out and post it notes stuck on the sides showing the names of Skit and Neil Farm.
In no time at all, one by one, the luminaries of the Valley poker world fell by the wayside and straight into the arms of a wonky cash game table in the corner of the room. There were a group of us who wanted to play DC and a group of people who didn’t know how to play DC so we set up two tables.
There was a lad called Shane who didn’t know how to play DC but who decided to sit down and play anyway.
“How much does everyone start with?” He asked.
“About £200 but you can sit down with as much as you like.” I told him.
Shane put £200 down in front of him.
“6 card double flop.” Danny Mac declared before dealing the cards out.
“6 card what what?” asked Shane.
“If you are not sure just watch the first hand.” I told him.
The blinds were £1/1 as always. I called for £1, as did Kurty before the action was on Shane.
“I am all-in.” Said Shane.
“I thought you didn’t know how to play the game?” I asked.
“I don’t.” He replied.
“Well, why are you going all-in then?” I asked.
“Because I don’t know how to play the game.” He said.
“Well you can’t anyway because it is pot limit.” I told him.
“I’ll go all-in with you.” Said Danny Mac.
“You can’t make the rules up as you go along boys. You can only bet pot.” I said.
“OK I raise pot.” Said Shane.
“And I re-raise pot.” Said Danny Mac.
“And I go all-in.” Said Shane.
“And I call.” Said Danny Mac.
There was £400 in the middle and Danny flipped over two flops.
“What now?” Asked Shane.
“Just turn your cards over and we will have a look,” I said.
Danny Mac had him beat on both flops and Shane was out of pocket to the tune of £200 in the first hand.
“I think I will go over to the other table.” Said Shane.
“I liked him.” Said Danny Mac.
The cash game was getting quite juicy and there were more nationalities than you would find on a tube train. You had Kurty who was a hard looking bald Turkish bloke and liked to play 6 card double flop, you had Landi who was Iranian and liked 6 card Omaha hi-lo, you had Danny Mac who is part Irish and likes to play 6 card double flop and you had me all the way from China who likes to play 4 card Omaha hi-lo. The rest of the seats were taken up with the Welsh, you had Eddies Dad Steve who liked to play Seven Card Stud with two wild cards, Wayne “Bill” Jenkins who played 6 card double flop and Terry “The Run” Welsh who liked to play 6 card Irish with the first card down on the flop acting as a wild card.
In one of the first hands of the night we were playing double flop when I hit the nuts on one flop and the second nuts on the other with three people in the hand all-in. My second nuts turned out to be the mortal nuts and I took down both flops for a £1,000 pot. There was money everywhere and the old timers were mesmerized as they played 6 card Don for 50p per board on the table next to us.
After a while an old timer came over and introduced himself as the Club Secretary. He told us to hide our money because of the Old Bill. You could tell he didn’t want us in the club. Danny Mac was the only one drinking and the rest of us were only buying the £1 Corned Beef Rolls by the bar. Then we ordered a Chinese but the old timer said we couldn’t eat take away food in the club so we decided to eat the food in Landi’s car. I picked up my Singapore Chow Mein and Landi started to pick up his chips and the cards.
“What are you doing with the cards? No one is gonna nick them?” I told him.
“We can play in the car while we eat.” Said Landi.
Landi is a funny looking bloke who travels a long way to play in our game. He looks the absolute spitting image of Manuel from Fawlty Towers - or Super Mario depending on your age. He loves to play cards and doesn’t like wasting time. He is always the one who keeps the pace of the game at a high rate when everyone around him is either too pissed or too stoned to care.
So we continued to play in the car while we ate our Chinese. There was money, chips and food everywhere as five of us squeezed in to his car to play and eat. We used some spare Chinese cartons to hold the money and a scrabble board we found in his car to hold the flop - we looked like a right bunch of nobs!
“We gotta get out of that place. I don’t like it. Too many rules.” Said Landi.
“We can go over to my house.” Said Terry.
“Your other half won’t be too happy.” I told him.
“I forgot about that…don’t worry we can play in my other house.” He said before taking a bite out of a chicken ball.
“But your other house doesn’t have any furniture in it.” I said.
“You don’t need furniture to play cards.” Said Landi as he tipped rice onto the scrabble board.
“I am not playing cards in a house with no furniture. Where are we supposed to sit?” I asked picking up grains of Landi’s wandering rice between words.
“I have chairs Ching.” Said Terry.
“He has chairs.” Mimicked Landi.
“Well I have cement bags. But they will have to do.” Said Terry.
“Good. Very Good.” Said Landi.
“Not bad is it?” I said pointing to his carton of rice.
“No not the food Chink - The cement bags. Cracking idea.” Said Landi.
I hated it when he called me Chink, but no matter how many times I told him he just kept forgetting. We finished eating the Chinese and headed back to the club to finish a few more hands. The tournament, that no one no longer cared about, was won by a guy called Bins so I had to put another post it note on the trophy.
At midnight the old timer gave us our marching orders and we all got into the car and headed over to Terry’s house. There was Kurty, Terry, Danny, Landi and I. Terry only had four cement bags so we played chase the ace to find a loser who had to forgo the luxury of sitting on a cement bag and had to make do with the floor.
At 08:30, freezing our tits off and aching in every joint we decided that it was time to head home. Landi was furious and wanted to keep on playing.
“We can’t keep on playing Landi we have women to go home to.” I said.
“I don’t.” Said Landi.
“Mine is at work.” Said Danny.
“I have no problem.” Said Kurty.
“Mine is away at her Mum’s.” Said Terry.
In a scene that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Fawlty Towers sketch - with Landi playing Manuel - we all stopped talking and took it in turns to create an opened mouthed stare until I finally broke the silence.
“Away at your Mum’s! So who is in your other house then?” I asked.
Terry didn’t say anything as it dawned on him for the first time that we could have just gone around his other house and played on the kitchen table, sitting on proper chairs next to his nice warm radiator.
“This makes much a much better article though Ching. Cement Bags I mean come on!” He said.
This article appeared in Bluff magazine.