Vicky Coren, the Royal wedding and cucumber sandwiches

April 19, 2011


London-based Team PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren is a poker columnist for The Guardian and a commentator for The Observer. She is one of the biggest names on Britain’s poker circuit and is also one of the highest-earning female players.

Vicky, are you beside yourself over the Royal Wedding? What will you do on the 29th?
I am SO watching it. I’m even–okay, I’m going to brace myself for people saying I’m crazy–missing the EPT San Remo specifically BECAUSE I need to be at home watching the royal wedding on television. Start to finish. It’s too hilarious not to. I want to hear commentators forced to talk about cake and fascinators for hours at a time. But I’m probably going to have to write something about it on the day, so I can’t get drunk. It’ll be tea and cucumber sandwiches all the way. (SUE: Just in case you are clueless about fascinators as I was, let me enlighten you. They are bridal hats usually made of silk with flowers, feathers and so forth.)

Out of the three, who do you think plays poker and why . . . William, Kate, or Harry?
I expect they all do. Who doesn’t, these days? Harry, I suspect, would be the most hot-headed and impatient. Younger sons of the monarchy usually are. As we say in London poker rooms, “I’d like to be locked up with him.” But I wouldn’t fancy playing heads up with Kate. She looks like a canny one to me.

You’ve had quite a year since last May–can you talk about your year and career earnings even if I’m now dulling up the interview?
I’m assuming you mean poker earnings, not my whole complicated writing-broadcasting income as reported to the tax office? The poker’s gone pretty well. I think I was most pleased to make two finals of the $109 rebuy tournament on PokerStars, for around $10k both times. I don’t have a brilliant record in online tournaments, so that felt encouraging!

I also played a ladies-only tournament for the first time in many years, at the PCA, and it was nice to make the final table of that for another $10k, less for the money than because it was really good fun playing with the other women and I was glad not to be knocked out earlier and miss it!

The cash games have also been kind to me. I don’t have the time to travel as much as many pros do, so I don’t play all that many tournaments, and cash games are my bread and butter.


Are you still involved in pornography after directing that one movie? And what is the latest?
Oh goodness no. The thing about porn films is: you make none, or you make one, or you do NOTHING ELSE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Nobody ever made two and stopped. I made one in order to write a book about the experience and, tempting though it might have been to launch a whole new career, I felt I ought to draw the line under it there.

Tell us the difference between good porn and bad, and how to spot the difference
Depends what you mean. My co-writer Charlie and I were trying to make “good” porn in the sense that nobody was exploited, nobody was unhappy, everyone was respected and well paid and having a nice time. We were also trying to make a piece of great art. We certainly failed there. But when it comes to what’s erotic and what isn’t (which some might say is the true test), only the individual can answer that for themselves. People are quirky. Someone in the world will tell you that the sexiest thing to watch is a woman unblocking a sink while wearing heated rollers and a bikini, but I suspect that wouldn’t sell very widely.

What have you been writing about for your newspaper columns?
Oh, anything that comes into my head or catches my eye from the news. In the last three weeks I’ve written about cub scouts, gay marriage and politicians using iPads in the House of Commons.

Do you prefer the city of countryside? I think the country bugs you
Well, guess again. I love the countryside! I prefer the city in the sense that I’m a Londoner and I don’t love anywhere in the world as much as I love London. But I’m also very happy to wander across a rainy country field and fall into a cowpat. Who isn’t? Genuinely, I love the countryside.

What is the Hendon Mob–is it like our mafia with the Gotti’s?
Yeah. They’re all friends of mine and they’re mass killers. Of course not, they’re a bunch of likable poker players who gave themselves a memorable name.

You did the intros at the EPT end-of-year celebration in Monte Carlo while some people were rude and talking loudly. What were your thoughts?
Surprising, wasn’t it? Poker players are usually so pleased to watch other people win things!

No, in all seriousness I thought it was fine, it was a great party and everyone was drinking and enjoying themselves at PokerStars’ expense, celebrating the end of a brilliant season. If a few of them were chatting, that’s cool with me. I wasn’t delivering a lecture on environmental conscience; I was handing out some awards!

Since you graduated from Oxford with a thesis on Yeats have you ever used what you learned about Yeats in practical life?
An understanding of Yeats’ revolutionary use of syntax in the sonnet form is absolutely invaluable at the poker table. But I’m not saying any more than that–it’s my little secret to success.

Your poker memoir/autobiography For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker was published in September 2009. Is it still selling?
Sure. It actually just came out in paperback, with a new subtitle. Now it’s For Richer, For Poorer: Confessions of a Player. I think my publishers were worried that people who didn’t play poker would be put off because they imagined it being a technical guide, which it isn’t at all. It’s my life story in the game, full of anecdotes and funny memories of players I’ve met, dark nights of losing money, hot nights of winning money. You know, of course, poker players will relate to it best because they love the game and know who all the people are. But it’s also meant to be an entertaining read for people who have never played at all and know nothing about it.

Are you able to go unnoticed in England or do the paparazzi follow you?
The paparazzi don’t follow me around, though they might take my picture if I show up at a party. But I’m not Kate Middleton yet. I don’t go completely unnoticed, exactly, because people do stop me in the street sometimes and want to ask questions or they’ve seen me on some TV show or other, but I can still get to the supermarket without being impeded by a swarm of photographers.

Is this still true–Coren says she regularly stays up until 6 am, ‘Smoking, and drinking and gambling. But I like cooking and gardening too, which makes me sound like a very strange mix of an old lady and teenage boy.’
It is still true. I’ll grow up one day, but not quite yet.


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