The first time I spoke to Victoria Coren was back in 2010. A moment I remembered more than her. I had just finished reading For Richer, For Poorer and as you do when you read someone’s memoirs I felt a small personal connection. She was darting in and out of the Enfys Television Studios in Cardiff, catching quick drags of cigarettes, in between her busy commentary schedule at Late Night Poker. I was desperate to grab her attention, but just couldn’t compete with the small nips of nicotine.
So it was a wonderful surprise to see her sat in the Rio with a copy of Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking on her lap. A book that changed my life when I first read it over 12-years ago. She had just busted from the $2.5k and was waiting patiently for the Barny Boatman bracelet ceremony to get underway. I gave her those, ‘do you remember me eyes,’ and she gave me those ‘who the hell are you eyes,’ but luckily the sound of my Welsh accent did the trick and I was able to pinch a few minutes of her time. The conversation immediately centered on Boatman’s amazing victory.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic result. I genuinely can’t think of a bracelet result that would make me happier. I would rather Barny won a bracelet rather than I did…which is lucky because I haven’t.” She jested.
It was during the filming of Late Night Poker that I witnessed at first hand the camaraderie that British players have. Especially, the players who have been in the game slightly longer than the rest. Players like Victoria Coren and the Hendon Mob for example. It was special, and I imagined what it would be like to be part of the gang. They all seemed so wonderfully happy together. Late Night Poker did that and we should never forget it.
“It doesn’t really do it for me like it used to,” Says Coren referring the WSOP.
“The first couple of times I came to the World Series was when it was held in May in Fremont Street and it was magical…I loved it…we all used to stay in the Golden Nugget and would walk across the road to play the tournament at Binions. It was like a little village, the weather was nice and it felt like the best thing in the world.”
I could sense that Coren was not the biggest fan of all things Brazilian.
“Since it moved to the Rio it all seems a little arduous. Its 117 degrees! 117 degrees! I’m from London and I don’t do 117 degrees! I feel like I’m just schlepping around this aircraft hangar of a tournament room, and so it doesn’t have as much character as it used to. But Barney winning a bracelet has put some of that character back into it again.”
I never experienced the WSOP at the Binions but as a writer I have a decent imagination. The bigger the tournament gets, the more magic dust that falls from its tail. I bet there was nobody reading a non-smoking book when the action got underway in Binions. I bet you couldn’t see the cards through the smoke.
“I stopped smoking in Vegas last year, which is really miraculous because I smoked a lot of cigarettes for a very long time. But lately, I have started to amoke a few cigarettes a day, so I have gone back to the book because as Allen Carr says, ‘it’s all or nothing…you can’t just have a few cigarettes.’”
So what was the the cause and effect story that resulted in this minor relapse?
“I had my first cigarette after I was knocked out of a tournament of course. But I got complacent. You think it’s easy to stop, you know cigarettes are horrible and you’ll never smoke again, and so you think you’ll just have one because you know you won’t enjoy it…and you don’t…but then you find you are smoking again.”
“I also think that for a big time jet set international poker player like me, what is more glamorous than being seen sitting in the Rio corridor reading a self help book?”
My thoughts exactly.