Many of the sights, smells and customs of England’s capital city will have bamboozled, befuddled and bemused many of the world’s poker players as they’ve holed up in London this past week, particularly if they’re first-timers. Fish & chips, bobbies on the beat, Golf Sales, high-pitched London Lite sellers, but none more so than the various English eccentrics that have become a mainstay of this country.
So step forward John McCririck, the face of Channel 4 (Horse) Racing on British TV, a pundit, gambler, ex-bookie and poker player. The trademark twin gold watches and deerstalker are topped off by 2 of the most outrageous sideburns ever committed to skin and the hands are in a permanent state of motion as he dishes out odds on the various races at Kempton/Ascot/Epsom. ‘Mac’ hit the ‘big time’ and the papers when he was one of the stars of Celebrity Big Brother last year. His sexist tirades, general huffness and clashes with the other housemates were car-crash telly of the highest order. So it was a genuine pleasure (or in some eyes, an absolute nightmare) to spot Mac gracing the baize at the WSOPE this week, sitting across the table at The Sportsman in the £10,000 main event from Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott, another quirk of English nature. I caught up with him during the break.
So, John, you’re still in.
Yeah, just. You know all snooker players have their nom-de-plumes, don’t they? Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins etc. Well, I’m John ‘Loser’ McCririck.
Maybe we should get you some t-shirts made. How are you enjoying the WSOPE?
Oh, it’s fantastic. To play in the World Series is superb. The great thing about poker is that in the old days, the only things you could bet on were the horses, dogs or the football coupons, now you can play poker 24 hours a day. You’re not relying on a jockey, a boxer, a footballer or whoever, because in poker, YOU are responsible. YOU win, YOU lose, YOU are responsible, that’s why poker is exploding.
It’s an inclusive game too.
Of course. Anyone can play it. You can’t get in a car and race Lewis Hamilton, you can’t go and play golf with Tiger Woods, but in poker, anyone can sit down and play. You might lose, but you can play! Fat or thin, young or old, everyone can play.
I see you’ve got the Devilfish on your table.
The ‘JellyFish’ you mean.
He’s not the Devilfish, he’s the Jellyfish.
He’s destroying me!
We’ve seen you on television poker programmes before. Are you a keen player generally?
I don’t play online at all, I’ve never seen the internet before in my life, let alone play on it. It’s embarrassing. I like TV poker though, it makes for great telly sometimes.
So what’s your aim today?
Well, I’ve survived. How many people have been knocked out? [I tell him that we’ve lost 15 so far] Well, if I can get under 300 I’ve done well.
As for the racing, how long can you see yourself in the business?
As long as there’s betting in it. There aren’t many people who can claim to be a failed pundit, a failed bookmaker, a failed journalist and a failed punter. There’s not much left.
Players love to see me at the tables so that they can take me on. There you go, John ‘Loser’ McCririck again!
Maybe they should have had poker in ‘Celebrity Big Brother’.
That would have made it a lot more interesting, but then everyone would have just gone off playing poker. But you weren’t allowed anything in there – no pens, no papers, no books. If we had cards, you would have just seen 2 weeks of poker.
How was your experience? It looked terrible.
It was awful, awful. The only reason I went in was because I was the only person in there determined to lose. As long as you don’t walk out that’s the main thing. So I stayed and just wound up the housemates and the public loathed me anyway – it was a pantomime.
[There follows some typically dubious opinions from the great man on women poker players, which is probably not a good idea to print here.]
Sadly, John was soon on his way when his dwindling stack fell at the mercy of a young Italian in a Harry Potter scarf in Seat 7. John, you will be missed.