If you had told me that my circle of friends would look like they do today I would never have believed you. Poker even persuades me to like people that I don’t normally like. Take Ogmore Poker Tour (OPT) Professional, John “The Mouth” Winch, for example. When I first met him I just thought what a prick. But as time moves on he is starting to grow on me - like thrush - smelly but pleasant enough when you give it a scratch. He always talks a few decibels higher than everyone else, has accomplished everything that anyone talks about and laughs like a deaf Frank Bruno. He is a degenerate gambler who gets sucked into the belief that he can consistently win on the horses and the dogs. I keep reminding him that if he could win consistently on the horses and the dogs he wouldn’t be getting up each morning at 07:00 to work as a Sparky. He keeps reminding me that it is all part of his wonder plan. He is not a bad NLHE tournament player but he is an awful Dealers Choice (DC) cash game player. He is also one of the few OPT professional players who likes to warm up by drinking at least 14-pints of ale and a bottle of wine. I had not played a hand of poker for weeks. I had been traveling around Europe reporting on the European Poker Tour (EPT), World Poker Tour (WPT) and more recently the Unibet Open. I was desperate for a game and also to see the lads after being away for so long.
“Look who we have here..what brings you down from the lofty heights of Poker superstardom?” Asked Gary “The Sleeper” Acreman as I walked through the door.
I gave him a man-hug and took my seat. I noticed that there was a stranger at the table and looked at Eddie’s Dad Steve for a name.
“This is Jeremy…he is from Spain…Jeremy this is Ching…Ching is our professional poker player and live reporter extraordinaire.” He said.
“Jaime.” Corrected Jaime.
“That’s what I said…Jeremy.” Repeated Eddie’s Dad Steve with a confused look on his face.
I shook his hand, paid my £30, peeled my cards back and tossed my 65s into the muck. Seconds later John “The Mouth” Winch flew through the door.
“Cheltenhaaaammmmmmm!!!!!!!!” He screamed while waving money in the air.
He had obviously had a very successful day on the horses and the lads were giving him more eye than would be reserved for a naked Rihanna singing what’s my name in the middle of the pub.
“Can I join in?” slurred Winchy.
“Sorry mate, you’re too late but you can play cash when people start getting knocked out.” Said Eddies Dad Steve before winking to the rest of us.
We knew what Eddies Dad Steve’s game was. When John was sober he lost hundreds and when he was drunk it was sacrificial.
“I’m starving. Rob can you knock me up a Chilli?” Winchy asked Rob the Scot.
Rob the Scot mumbled something in Scottish that nobody understood.
“He’s doing food is he?” I asked.
“Yeah, he has been for a few weeks now…got to make a living somehow with you drinking cups of tea.” Said Bobby Eggs.
Providing food on the OPT is no mean feat considering we have more nationalities than a dole cue in Ladbroke Grove. You have me and my obvious penchant for Chinese food, Turkish Kurt and his kebabs, Landi and his likening for Iranian style sheep head soup, Danny Mac just plain potato soup because he is Irish and has ten kids, Steve “The Rock” John and his protein bars, Bobby Eggs and his eggs and now you have the resident Spaniard Jamie (or Jeremy if you ask Eddies Dad Steve).
“Have you still got your compartment in Spain?” Bobby Eggs asked Gary.
“I didn’t have a compartment Bob but I had an apartment…no I sold it.” Laughed Gary.
Bobby continued blissfully unaware of his mistake, probably because he is deaf, his attention turning to the new boy Jaime.
“Spain’s a lovely place Jeremy.” Said Bobby.
“Jaime.” Corrected Jaime.
“I found it utterly amazing out there. Do you know they even had McDonalds restaurants with two floors in Madrid?” Continued Bob.
“Like they do in Cardiff?” I said.
“Whityouallwintoeet!” Shouted Rob the Scot.
“What did he say?” Asked Jaime.
“Fucked if I know…food I think…what do you want for food?” I said.
“Jeremy will have a paella!” shouted Bobby in between fits of laughter.
“Jaime.” Corrected Jaime.
“Make sure you put some Gammon in it for him.” Shouted Bobby.
“Gammon?” said Jaime with a bemused look on his face.
“Aye Gammon…it’s a female salmon…Paella is a fish dish after all Jeremy my son.” Said Bob.
“Jaime” Corrected Jaime.
One by one the players bit the dust in the tournament and were dispatched to the cash game tables. Winchy took his seat and promptly tipped his pint all over himself. I have never seen so many people want to lose in a tournament so badly in my entire life. There were five of us left and I had 10bb when I moved all-in from the cut-off with KQo and Gary snapped-called with aces. I got up and squeezed a chair to the left of Winchy.
“You can’t sit there!” Shouted a voice from the other DC table.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because everyone wants to sit there.” Came the voice again.
It was Eddie’s Dad Steve and he was right everyone wanted to sit next to him. We drew highest card and Eddies Dad Steve drew an Ace and parked his bum next to Winchy.
“Everyone wants a piece of the Winch tonight.” Said Winchy before giving us a Frank Bruno style laugh.
Rob the Scot brought some chilli over for Winchy and Gammon and chips for Jaime.
“What’s that?” asked Jaime.
“Gamminincheeps.” Said Rob the Scot.
Jamie, who had no clue whatsoever what Rob had just said, looked around the table and shrugged his shoulders. No one else knew what Rob had said, but we could all see that he had just been given a plate of Gammon and chips.
“£3.40.” Said Rob the Scot.
Jamie paid the money and just stared at the plate.
“But this isn’t paella?” Jaime whispered.
“Paella? Fuck me Jeremy. This isn’t Madrid.” Said Eddies Dad Steve.
“Jaime.” Corrected Jaime.
“They only eat curry in Madrid not paella.” Said Bobby Eggs.
The room went quiet as everyone pondered Bob’s comment.
“Are you thinking of Madras Bob?” I asked.
Bobby gave me a quizzical look but didn’t say anything.
Steve “The Rock” John was the next player eliminated from the tournament. He walked straight over to Winchy and squeezed a chair in between him and Eddies Dad Steve.
“You can’t sit there.” I said.
“I can. There is an even number of players on both tables so I get to choose…we do this every week…rules Ching…not my fault you are never here.” Said The Rock sarcastically.
“Why does everyone want to sit next to me?” Said Winchy before taking a deep swig from his bottle of red wine.
“I will pay you fifty quid to swap seats with you.” I asked The Rock.
“One hundred.” Said The Rock.
“Done.” I handed Steve £100 and took my seat next to Winchy.
The game was £1/£1 DC and I pulled £100 out of my pocket and plonked it down in front of me. After about an hours worth of play I had taken another £60 out of my pocket. This made it £260 if you include the £100 I had donated to The Rock for my seat! It wasn’t a bad investment either because by the close of play I had £1,300 sat in front of me; and Winchy’s Cheltenham winnings had vanished quicker than a sack of potatoes in front of Danny Mac’s kids. Rob the Scot continued bringing plate after plate of food for everyone. We decided to have a break so we could all eat our grub. As we did Bobby Eggs returned from the toilet and he stood still, staring while doing up his zip.
“It looks like the last supper.” He said before taking his seat.
Nobody said anything. It was silent for the first time that evening. Even Winchy was quiet. Bobby Eggs inevitably broke the silence.
“Jeremy, being Spanish and obviously religious, answer me this: if Jesus and all of his disciples were sat at the table during the last supper - who took the photograph?” He asked.
Food flew out of the mouths of everyone except Jamie who wasn’t eating.
“Jamie!” Corrected Jaime.
This article first appeared in Bluff Europe magazine.