The Claw

Jude Watching

Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit – R.E.Shay

People have been telling me that I am a lot like Karl Pilkington, star of the current Sky One TV show An Idiot Abroad. The comparison is being made not because we look alike but because we are both Little Englanders. We prefer to stay on our own little island and don’t really enjoy being abroad. Being abroad is crap!

In 2004, Debbie and I took Jude to Tenerife. Quite a stereotypical holiday actually. The hotel complex was your usual bog standard run of the mill cheap three star piece of crap. It was an all-inclusive holiday but the food and drink you got was awful. It was like being in shag as much as you want for free brothel – only when you get there you realise you can only shag the old boilers and have to pay for the normal women. The bottles of Budweiser and Smirnoff sat on their shelves sneaking sexy little glances at us knowing that we couldn’t have them. The stuff reserved for the all-inclusive gangs was given away for free to the homeless on the streets of London.

We spent the daytime by the pool. The only time I moved from the pool would be to puke or to spend some time looking after Jude. Looking after a kid when you have a hangover can be a nightmare. In between trips to the bog I spotted a little machine that was full of cuddly toys. It was a grab game and it was one euro for three tries. It was my time to look after him and I needed to go and have a conversation with God down the great white telephone. I gave him five Euros and ran to the bog.

When I came back there was a big crowd surrounding my son? Debbie was there and she gave me that look. He was crying his eyes out.

So what had gone wrong?

He had put his five Euros into the machine to try and win a Snoopy but eventually ran out of money. Another kid who had been waiting patiently for his turn nudged him out of the way plonked one euro in the machine and won Snoopy. Or My Snoopy, as Jude called him.

“I will sort it!” I said sharply to Debbie and the crowd dispersed.

The sun had gone to bed for the night and Jude and I were the only people left in the bar. Fifty Euros later and we still had not won a Snoopy – but we had got sooooo close. There were more Oohs and Aahs than you would get at a blind high wire act. I had to win this thing – and then I ran out of change! I left Jude by the machine to guard it with his life and ran as fast as I could to the bar to change a twenty. When I returned Jude was in tears again. In my two-second absence someone had walked by dropped one euro in and won My Snoopy!

“Don’t worry son. You have to learn that you can’t have everything you want.” I told him.

I eventually paid the barman 20 euros to open the machine and give me a Snoopy. I told Debbie and Jude I won it. It was the most expensive Snoopy the world had ever seen!

For the next few years Jude would become addicted to these machines. He had christened them The Claw. He was adamant that he was the most skillful handler of The Claw in the world and I was the most skint father in the world! One year we all had three £10 win bets on the National. Jude picked Mon-Mome and it won at 100/1. He was so excited that he had won a grand until I reminded him that it was my £10 stake in the first place! We decided to each have £100 to buy something nice and use £700 to pay some credit cards off. I took Jude to the fair and we spent £50 of his £100 playing The Claw. I made him promise not to tell his Mum that we had spent so much of his money and he agreed. We walked through the door and he ran in to see his Mum. Jude stood in the middle of the front room, his entire body swamped with cuddly toys hiding the biggest smile on his face.

“You do not want to know how much we spent today!” He said.

When writing this I asked Jude why he liked The Claw so much when he was younger and this is what he said.

“I felt like it was easy because I won a lot. I liked them because they were fun. I also liked cuddly toys – so winning the prize was cool. I got very excited when I played on them.”

I then asked him what annoyed him about them and this is what he said.

“If I didn’t win it I would get disappointed and angry and it would spoil my day because I lost my money on something I didn’t get. I also hated it when someone came on after me and won the cuddly toy after I had put so much money in. It felt like it was mine and someone had stolen it from me. That part wasn’t fair. It felt like I had done all the hard work.”

He is destined to be a poker player that kid!

I played a session today and there was a guy on one of my tables who I won’t name and shame. I can only assume he was drunk because we were playing 100nl and he was full stacked and raising 10-15x every hand – and then shoving the flop. He must have done this four of five times and each time he turned over hands like 72, 95, J2, Q6 & K2. The funny thing was he kept winning the flips. At first I thought it was really funny until twenty minutes had passed and I could not find a hand. I was willing to get involved for stacks with him but needed decent showdown value and kept getting the same shit he was getting. I knew it was only a matter of time before his luck would run out along with his money. I then picked up AJ and he raised to $10, I shoved and he called. He turned over 75 and hit a 5 before typing in the chat box.

Thanks Fish

I reloaded and wasn’t that concerned because I knew it was only a matter of time before I would get my money back. Before I knew it he was all-in again with QJ this time but it wasn’t against me – the hero had AA and the fish lost $100. Not just any old $100 but my $100! Some bastard had stolen my $100 off this guy! Daylight fucking robbery! It was like being in Spain again all those years earlier. Someone had robbed My Snoopy!

I picked up AK – Yesssss!!!!!!

The fish raises to $15, I shove and he calls – he has 72. I think I remember spit hitting my screen, as I spontaneously laughed hard at the sight of his hand. I wasn’t laughing for long, a 2 hit the board and I was down another $100. He typed in the chat box again.

Thanks Fish

Now I was angry. I was down two full stacks to this imbecile. He was sat with $500 from an initial starting stack of $100 and all he had done was shove with crap and got lucky. $200 of that money was mine. Stack after stack moved from the fish to all the other players at the table. All I could do was watch helplessly as he took money from me and passed it on to other people around the table. Within no time at all his $500 stack had gone and so had the fish – swimming back down the tributary from whence he came.

Losing money in this fashion is exactly the same as sticking twenty Euros into The Claw before eventually losing the toy to someone who goes on after you and drops one euro in.

So next time you poker players are stood in a fairground next to your kid as he plays The Claw, always remember two golden rules.

  1. Always have plenty of change in your pocket. There is a lot of variance when playing The Claw so you need a good bankroll.
  2. If you do run out of money and a different kid wins My Snoopy. Don’t tell your child it is OK – it isn’t OK! Follow the kid to somewhere quiet, grab the toy and run like fuck. Remember you will probably be bigger than him and you did technically pay for it anyway!

This article first appeared in Poker Pro Europe Magazine