I was sitting in the Vic quite recently, one Saturday night, (OK, not exactly front page news, but what did you expect?), when the TV got turned from sports to news. This highly unlikely turn of events had also recently happened during the US's Super Tuesday, but that was practically like watching a sports channel, as we only watched with a concern for the "Next President" market on Betfair.
On this particular Saturday Camden Lock was burning down. We weren't really concerned that the Hawley Arms was no longer, and that Kate Moss would need to find a new local, but just quietly watched as the spectacular flames grew higher.
It was Trevor Coles who finally broke the silence.
"Of course, they'll be a lot more of this now the recession is starting to kick-in."
It wasn't the statement that made me smile. It was the inherent cynicism of all the other people there. Everyone knew exactly what Trevor was alluding to and nobody challenged it at all. I don't think you get that level of distrust anywhere other than in London and I like it.
It was a few days later when Lawrence Gosney called me. I then realised there are similar pockets of bitterness and cynicism in Leeds. I asked Lawrence if he was going to be in Walsall for the GUKPT. He said he was and that he'd be playing Thursday. I replied that I thought Friday would be a much busier day as all the players would be busy with Valentine's Day on Thursday, and asked him which he thought would be easier.
Lawrence opinion was forthright and simple:
"I don't know what these poker players are doing worrying about Valentine's Day. Most of 'em couldn't get a bird. Someone should tell 'em they don't have Valentine's Day in Thailand."
Almost an honouree Londoner.
In the end Nik and I chose to travel by train on Friday morning and to play immediately on arrival. Having done every leg of the tour since it started I'm starting to get into a routine, and Nik and I had travelled with Ken Wong a year ago. Ken's gone back to Malaysia now but he has called me to say he plans to come back to the UK and play some more poker. He's a great tournament player, his absence on the tour makes things easier for everyone, but I miss him.
In place of Ken, our train carriage contains Muzza, defending champ Jerome and young Tony. It's a pretty formidable team.
My first few hours is typical of my time on this tour. I'm dealt jacks, queens and kings and each time have to fold on an ace-high flop. I also manage to flop a set, but have to pass on the turn having put a few chips in. Meanwhile Nik, who's on my table, as well as playing very well, is busy getting a few gifts. I'm beginning to get frustrated when a simple squeeze chance occurs. Ed Giddens has cleverly read it for an obvious squeeze, but forgets that he doesn't really have a hand. I finally manage to get above average.
90% of the rest of the day is quite fun. I'm sat next to Priyan De Mel who's a total nuisance to have on your left, but who makes me laugh nevertheless. A massive pot develops where, with the average at 27k, I can call 17k to take myself to 52k or leave me with just 8k. The blinds are just 300/600 and I've only got a pair of sevens. If I fold I'll still have a healthy 25k, but I'm CERTAIN Priyan has AK. It takes me five minutes to pass. I regret the decision for the rest of the day.
The 10% of the day that I didn't enjoy was sitting next to Mick McCool. This bloke is going to have to realise that the world doesn't revolve around him. His poker career will run a lot smoother if he learns to shut-up in pots that he's no longer involved in, rather than giving advice, or commenting on the hands in progress. I've played with him in three tournaments recently where he's done this, and it's disappointing that no dealers or floorpeople have managed to point it out to him.
Junction 10 of the M6 wouldn't be my number one holiday destination, but The Village is an ok hotel. A bunch of us went back there and eventually RiverDave, Cabbage, Tony, Nik, Kareem and myself all found a place to kip. I slept really well despite young Tony snoring away on the floor.
Day two looked like it might pass quickly. I planned to go all-in a few times early on, and that's what I did. Somehow I got away with it though, and I also made a few good calls. Before long I actually had enough chips to play poker and was relishing a fun battle with Nick Gibson who had a large stack. Nick used to be a real Vic regular - afternoons and all - but we only really see him at the festivals now as he's busy jetting around the world. We always have a laugh though, and I was enjoying the prospect of a good battle. It was an extra shame then when he bluffed off a lot of chips to Peter Charalambous. He looked a bit disappointed with himself, but I can tell him that by playing poker, and not just sitting about like a rock, he is a rarity on the tour, and hopefully he'll get a deserved result soon.
Jeff Kimber was also on our table. He didn't have to do much as people kept giving him nice presents. He's quite formidable looking though, sitting there behind a big mountain of chips, and I'm sure some people were scared to take him on. I wasn't, obviously, I fearlessly reraised him when I had the boots.
In the end I let myself get a bit low after running into a few genuine hands and I managed to get myself knocked out in 22nd for a prize of 1440, a profit of nearly four hundred quid.
Padraig once pointed out to me that one of the worst faux pas you can commit in poker is being knocked out of the tournament before your backer. A couple of the crippled "horses" in my "stable" had to come and tell me there sad story, while being embarrassed to see a mere cash-player like myself still cracking away. Not for Nik this walk of shame though. He carried the stables hopes into the final and put up a tremendous display to take 4th. He lost two key hands to Jeff, the other real classy player in the final, but I'm sure if Ken was there he'd have decreed that Nik did: "Nothing wrong."
With five money finishes on the tour now including two finals, Nik is the most consistent player, and maybe playing better than anyone. Thanks to Dean's Tardis-like car the Persaud fan-club were sipping champagne in The Vic by midnight.
Neil "Bad Beat" Channing is glad that the next leg of the tour is taking place in his house, and he'll be proudly wearing a red PokerVerdict shirt there.