If you have the vision to look beyond the smashed up windows and boarded up buildings then The Valleys are a truly beautiful place to live. You have the rolling hills, the woods that seem to dance in unison and the quarries with waterfalls streaming down their faces. When it snows you move up a notch and you are now talking Kara Scott levels of aesthetic perfection. The Valley Boyz and Valley Girlz love it when it snows. To us it is like having a few additional bank holidays per year. The tiny snow flake floats down from the sky and lands on the arm of a man and seconds later everyone is moving their cars to the highest point on any hill they can find. It is important to be prepared and what better way to avoid work than taking a photograph of your car, stuck at the top of a hill that is covered in snow!
The European Poker Tour (EPT) holds their annual Snowfest event at the Alpine Palace in Austria. The Snowfest event is an exhilarating combination of cards, skiing and snow boarding. A wonderful place to visit in March if you have a spare €3,750 for the buy-in, money for hotels and flights, money for food and a healthy supply of excuses to dodge the wife and kids for seven days. If you do not have that kind of money or are over 30-years of age then the OPT may be a great alternative for you. We have an exhilarating combination of cards, black-bag sledging and dog shit surprise snowball fighting. It will cost you £50 for the tournament, a few quid for curry, chips and chicken balls from the local Chinese and you can tell your wife you are just popping out to watch the football.
One by one the pub started to fill up with no one who had done a hard grafts work that day - except Andrew “Too Nice” Bayliss! I have left casinos at 07:00 in the morning and Too Nice has headed straight to work. He is an enigma of society; one of those strange people who actually enjoys his job. The funny thing is he is one of the few of us who doesn’t even have to go to work because he part owns his company.
“I cannot believe you skiving bastards didn’t go to work today because of a little bit of snow.” Said Too Nice.
“I went to work today.” I said.
“You work in your bedroom Ching.” Said Too Nice.
“I worked today.” Said Bobby Eggs.
“What do you do anyway?” Asked Storming Norman.
“I sell chicken cages and rabbit hutches.” Said Bobby Eggs.
“Interesting job. Do you sell many?” Asked Storming Norman.
“I have never sold one.” Replied Bobby Eggs.
“Why don’t you sell popcorn?” Asked Storming Norman.
“Why popcorn?” Asked Bobby Eggs.
“Well your chickens lay eggs don’t they?” Said Storming Norman.
I first met Storming Norman when the OPT held one of its legs in Pencoed. Storming Norman is the only person I know who is in his forties and cannot read or write. He is a pickle short of a Ploughman’s lunch if you get my drift. I have known Bobby Eggs for a lot longer. He is called Bobby Eggs because he owns a lot of chickens and gives eggs to everyone.
“Mmmm…popcorn?” Bobby Eggs mutters under his breath while Norman just nods his head in approval of his own spark of wisdom.
We start playing the tournament and I am playing really well. Live reporting on the EPT and WPT circuit has really benefited my game. Then I get seated next to Bobby Eggs and Storming Norman. I cannot work out a strategy against them because they haven’t got a clue what they are doing themselves. They are also arguing with each other incessantly. Bobby keeps twirling his finger around his temple and pointing to Norman, indicating that he is a bit slow, which I find so ironic.
“Your mother couldn’t have been very bright.” Said Bobby Eggs in one angry exchange with the Storming one.
“She is dead. Don’t talk about my Mum.” Said Norman.
“So is mine. What do you want a medal?” Said Bobby Eggs.
“No thanks I have got plenty of medals. How many have you got?” Asks a genuinely interested Norman.
There are only three of us left and I cast an envious eye over to the cash tables. I desperately want this to end. At the break I am having a piss when Bobby walks in.
“Hey Ching, that Norman is not a very clever bloke is he? He is crap at cards as well.” Says Bobby.
“You do know he is a little bit slow Bob don’t you?” I tell him.
“Fuck me no! I didn’t realise…and I have been having a go at his dead Mum…I am usually more switched on than that.” Said a clearly distressed Bob.
Our pissy pep talk worked and Bob and Norman became great friends especially when they both checked down a pot against me. Norman’s 74o beat my AKo to knock me out in third place for a measly £75.
“Are we ordering a Chinese?” Shouted Neil Farm from across the room.
“Yeah I am starving.” I shout back.
“Order it then Ching.” Shouted Neil.
This happens every week. Just because my name is Ching, and I am half Chinese, I have to order the Chinese each week! I wonder if Kurty (our big hard Turkish player) would have to order the kebabs if the shop was open on a Tuesday night?
“Bobby do you want anything?” I ask.
“No thanks Ching I am a vegetarian.” He says.
“Really, I never knew that.” I say.
“What do vegetarians eat?” Norman asks.
“I eat Tofu.” Says Bobby.
“What is Tofu?” Asks Norman.
“A kind of veggie meat I think?” Says Bobby with a face straighter than a ruler’s edge.
“Have you ever eaten proper meat?” Asked Norman.
“I did have meat once in a Chinese because it didn’t really look like meat.” Says Bobby.
“Oh yeah what was it?” I ask.
“A romantic duck. To dry for me though. I will stick to my veggie meat.” Says Bob.
I couldn’t stop laughing and neither could the rest of the lads. He is in his sixties, beanpole thin, dresses like a poor Paul Weller, is deaf as a person with no ears and is blind as a bat. He was just staring at me with a confused look on his face before breaking out in a little burst of laughter. He had no idea what he was laughing about. Remarkably Bobby Eggs went on to win the tournament beating Storming Norman heads up.
After we had eaten our Chinese Neil Farm suggested that we should all have a black-bag sledge race down the hill and the stakes should be £50 per man. Half of our crew is so old they couldn’t participate in fear of breaking a hip but five of us stumped up £50 each for a winner take all sledge race. I was shitting my pants because the hill was like a fucking great big mountain and none of us knew how the hell we were going to stop. We were all sat on our black bags when Bobby Eggs shouted for us to go. We flew down the hill and I thought I was going to die. We all hit the wall of the pub at the same time and I honestly thought I had broken my back.
“The winner!” Said Bobby Eggs.
He was holding the arm of Storming Norman aloft. His nose was bleeding but he didn’t care because Bobby was giving him £250 and you could see he was so chuffed. Bobby took out an old mans handkerchief and started to pat Normans nose.
“Hold your head back.” Said Bobby.
Norman held is head back to stem the flow of blood.
“Why did you turn vegetarian?” I heard Norman mutter from underneath the handkerchief.
“When I was a kid my Dad owned a farm and he took me to the place where they kill animals…what was the place called? Anyway it horrified me and I haven’t touched meat hardly ever since…what was the name of that place again? What was the name of that movie with the blue people in it?” Said a confused Bobby.
“Avatar?” Said Norman with blood still trickling down his cheek.
“That’s it! That’s what it was called. An Avatar! You know what? You are really smart for someone who can’t read or write.” Said Bobby.
“I know. Don’t forget the popcorn idea.” Said a bloody Norman.
First published in Bluff Europe Magazine