Monday, April 21, 2014

Queen Victoria!

Was simply a terrific day here on the farm yesterday where Vera and I hosted family for an Easter meal and a very relaxing time amid perfect spring weather.

Would eventually turn on NBA playoff basketball to watch my Bobcats play their first playoff game in several years, hanging tough for two-and-a-half quarters before fading versus the Miami Heat. Charlotte’s a huge underdog, obviously, even to take a game off the defending champs. And speaking of pulling for underdogs, like a lot of you I followed closely the delayed online stream of the final table at EPT Sanremo, enjoying watching Victoria Coren Mitchell’s come-from-behind win to grab the title (photo by Danny Maxwell for PokerNews).

Coren Mitchell had begun the penultimate day of play 16th of 16 in chips on Saturday, then managed to squeak into yesterday’s final table still on the short side and in fact eighth of the remaining eight to start play. Thus did it seem reasonable to think she probably wouldn’t be getting too much further. Even she consistently downplayed her prospects pretty much the whole way this weekend, demonstrating what Rick Dacey on the PokerStars blog styled “the power of positive pessimism.”

She didn’t really begin to build a stack, either, until after there had been a few eliminations, then took the lead with three left after a hand in which both she and start-of-day chip leader Jordan Westmorland flopped trip tens, but she had him outkicked.

That hand saw Coren Mitchell having to call a Westmorland river shove after having led out, a call that had to be made but was nonetheless still difficult. And while she’d been dealt some good cards in that hand as well as in the final one in which she flopped two pair with Q-J to crack runner-up Giacomo Fundaro’s pocket aces, she also made some good decisions and savvy plays throughout the final table.

Today on Learn.PokerNews Nate Meyvis talks about one small hand from early on that showed Coren Mitchell playing smartly postflop. There were other good hands for her, too -- including an inspired four-bet from the hijack seat at seven-handed when she was holding 7c5h after Fundaro had defended his small blind with a reraise (and happened only to have had 10d2h).

So because of the chip situation for much of the last couple of days, her winning was unexpected. Also the fact that the EPT had gone 97 tournaments and nearly 10 full seasons without having a two-time Main Event winner (!) made the prospect of it actually happening this weekend with Coren Mitchell seem all the more unlikely to occur.

It had become a running gag of sorts with the PokerStars bloggers who have been more or less obligated to trot out each EPT over the last several years the fact that no one had won the sucker twice. As every Main Event wound down to the last couple of days, if there were a former champ around in the field notice had to be given regarding the “streak” and the prospects for it finally ending.

I’ve written here before on several occasions about Coren Mitchell. She’s been a prominent presence on the poker scene for more than a decade now.

She was a participant during Season Two of Late Night Poker back in 2000, the popular U.K. show about which we recently ran a three-part history by one of the show’s creators, Nick Szeremeta, over on Learn.PokerNews. She then took a turn as a commentator on the show with Jesse May during the show’s third season.

It was at EPT London during Season 3 that she won her first Main Event title back in 2006, becoming the first woman to win an EPT. She’d join Team PokerStars soon after, then in early 2010 her excellent “poker memoir” appeared, For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair With Poker, a book I continue to recommend to anyone looking for interesting (and sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny) nonfiction poker writing.

I reviewed For Richer, For Poorer for Betfair Poker when it first appeared (here, too), then interviewed the author as well. Among my questions for her was one about the book’s title, an obvious allusion to marriage and the wedding vows.

“Well, poker is not a job for me (I enjoy it too much) and it’s not a hobby (I devote too much time to it),” she answered. “It's a way of life; I have embraced a life. In that sense, it’s like a marriage -- or like a marriage should be. For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, poker and I are together for the long haul. I might kick against it sometimes, it might annoy me, I might hate it, but deep down I will love it for ever and I never plan to say goodbye. If I ever get married, I hope I’ll feel the same way about my unlucky groom.”

Of course, she would get married in November 2012 to the actor and comedian David Mitchell who is probably best known for his role on the British show Peep Show where he stars with his comedy partner Robert Webb (one of several hilarious productions with which Mitchell has been involved). Meanwhile Coren Mitchell has an especially large following of non-poker people in the U.K. thanks to her weekly columns in The Observer and The Guardian and her co-hosting of the popular quiz show Only Connect.

The mainstream press across the pond have already been trumpeting Coren Mitchell’s win loudly, encouraging some to whisper about another “boom” of sorts for British poker perhaps being a consequence of her win yesterday. And as often happens when women win big tourneys -- no longer as great a rarity as back in 2006, although still noteworthy especially given the disproportionate number of women who play big buy-in events versus men -- that, too, won’t hurt going forward when it comes to promoting the game and getting women interested in poker.

Of course, as even just that quote above suggests (I think), Coren Mitchell is a tremendous ambassador for poker, not just because of her mainstream connections and celebrity but also because she’s great at explaining why the game is both fun and worthwhile, especially to newcomers. “Queen Victoria!” tweeted a few following her win yesterday, a title she’s earned not just for having beaten the other 97 EPT Main Event champs to two-time-champ status but for her already-established position as an influential promoter of the game.

Lots of reasons, then, why her win yesterday should rightly be considered “good for poker” (in the general sense). Inspiring, too, for those of us who like to write about poker, and who like her have a great enough love for poker and the endless stories and characters it can produce that it has become more than just a hobby but a “a way of life.”

There are a lot of us who thanks to that love of the game are in poker “for the long haul.” It’s fun, then, to see someone else who is as dedicated to our favorite game and who does well describing what’s so good about it do well.

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