I always expected the reception I’d get at Stoke Grosvenor would be frosty. This is a regular haunt for many of my former so-caled friends and other ex-poker buddies and I knew that whenever I went odds would be that I would bump into at least one of them. Tonight for the £20 freezeout it actually took until level five and my second table move until I came face to face with any of them across a card table. As expected, they were ignoring me just as hard as I was ignoring them.
Allow me to introduce some characters: James Welsh, my estranged business partner on a poker-related venture and the mastermind behind UK Poker Info – a forum from which he has subsequently banned me for posting a strategy article with only the slightest hint of superiority – busted out a couple of hands later, moving all in without looking and tabling garbage that thankfully didn’t improve. Jim Fryer, the former owner of an illegal poker club that is somehow no longer running, and who still owes me ninety quid for a table, was riding high with about 40k in chips allowing him the freedom of only playing every other hand whilst running backwards and forwards to have a smoke. Negative expection on two counts.
I never got to play a pot with Jim, and only contributed to only two hands at that table before I went home. I’d raised once with AQo and folded to a reraise all in, then made a squeeze play with AJ against an early position raiser and a caller. I still quite like the move, even though I ran into a squeezee (I need to know if I’m the first person to use that word) with AQ. I had a chance to nearly double my stack uncontested, which was fairly likely given the extreme tightness I had shown, and the prospect of taking a race with 4.5k in dead money wasn’t too shabby. It’s only real bad when you are dominated – and he calls. Which it turned out I was, and he did, thinking he was behind.
Earlier though, I had a confrontation with "Deadly" Darren Sutton. Daz is not someone I know well at all. I can really only remember one time I’ve spoken more than a passing sentence to him, which was actually at Nottingham Gala on the same day I discovered that my so-called friends from the saturday night game I have such fond memories of were a bunch of ignorant back-stabbers. Let’s move on.
Darren comes over to tell me how nobody likes me, and then how I owe various people an apology and how I owe James some money. He tells me "you and him need to sort it out, or I will sort it out". Whether or not he has a point doesn’t much matter – none of this is any of his fucking business, but he obviously loves the action. I am brought up to speed as he walks away. "You don’t know me. I used to be a minder. I look after people".
Another person he is looking after tonight is Rob Ho, although I doubt this is with his knowledge or consent given that Rob is a martial arts expert and could cripple me as soon as look at me if he wanted. On the very rare occasions we had a saturday game without him, we would gossip around the table about how he is likely connected, a Triad probably. I owe him an apology, I’m informed, because of how I insulted him on the forum – by which he can only mean the "strategy article" I mentioned above. As I walk to the bathroom at the first break, Rob actually yells up from his cash game at me "Hey Chris, are you winning?". I’m so startled, I don’t really know how to respond and mumble back god knows what before running away to take a piss. Unless it’s part of an overly elaborate and highly doubtful good cop/bad cop routine, then Rob isn’t holding a grudge. And I would have gone back to talk to him too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.
Deadly Daz followed me into the bathroom. He followed me into the fucking bathroom! He stood next to me, and carried on with a routine which I pretty much ignored, trying instead to concentrate on whether he specifically was the reason I couldnt go, or just that there was another gent right there who was more interested in me than his own bodily functions. That would usually do the trick. As I left (he was done before me, and didn’t wash) he was waiting near the door to keep yelling across to me and point out exactly where Rob was sitting. I don’t know why he was yelling. I didn’t stop to see who he was with, whether it was even anyone I’d ever met before. Or whether they were impressed. I just kept walking. I don’t know – nor did I care to find out – whether he was all talk. But I was glad to be back on the casino floor. As far as I know, there’s no cameras over the urinals…
So there we have it. I was threatened and intimidated – twice – by a guy I hardly know in my friendly neighbourhood casino. Just one contribution to a general air of violence in the Grosvenor Stoke where threats, fights and beatings appear to be an everyday occurrance. When the cash game was announced, some cheerful soul piped up "will there be a punch up tonight?". Apparently there was yesterday, and it sounds like the crowd loved it. And I heard two guys at my table very openly discussing how they might teach someone a lesson. "Careful though, he’s the kind who’ll run down the cop shop first chance he gets", says one. "Yeah, but what’s he gonna do with a fucking broken neck?", came the reply.