It’s grim up north as Steve Hill makes a return trip to Bury…
Six and a half hours in the car to play poker with drunken idiots that I’ve already met. Improbably, it could have been worse. This month’s Home Games freeroll winner was actually from Glasgow, but pulled out due to alleged babysitter issues, leaving the prize to fall to Bury’s Chris Greaves, who keener readers may remember qualified for the first ever Hilly’s Home Games (see issue 28). He eventually came second in the inaugural grand final, and bluntly refused to share any of the prize money with his railing mates, something that rankles to this day. Nevertheless they’ve turned up in force for the sequel, a mixture of old and new faces, with the game hosted this time by expectant father Ian Bell, who in a twist on modern parenting explains that he has prepared a ‘Fritzl shed and a 12-year plan’.
It’s the kind of ribald humour that punctuates the evening, the tone of which is set when Ross ‘Dreamer’ Jarvis and myself roll in two hours late – via Bargain Booze – to find our hosts watching a grotesque documentary about penile surgery. Talking of bell-ends, the legend that is chubby barber Alan Waterfall is present and correct, having impressively been drinking and smoking for a solid seven hours. Greeting me like a long lost friend, we immediately convene to the smoking area where I am introduced to taciturn bouncer, Keith ‘The Chief’ Fortune, presumably named after the mute in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. What he lacks in speech play he makes up for in stubbornness, wilfully refusing to be bluffed off a pot. Likewise potential Scrabble high score, Matthew Szymanowski, who declines to fold his pocket fives, despite me betting into an imaginary Ace. I decide to tighten up, a ploy already adopted by Dreamer, despite (or perhaps because of) me kindly telling everyone that he plays any two cards.
You’re My Waterfall
By this stage, it’s a surprise that Waterfall can even see his cards, and shortly after mucking his hand he mucks his trousers with an entire chicken tikka kebab. It also soils his T-shirt, which bears the phrase ‘LET’S GET NAKED,’ a truly terrifying proposition. The evening does feature some nudity however, with the cock operations replaced by only marginally less unpleasant footage of inverted nipples, and eventually – mercifully – by Babestation. Seemingly not satisfied with this, Chris Greaves casually asks, ‘Will 888 pay for a porno?’ Er, no…
Having wiped himself down, the short-stacked Waterfall gets it all-in with K-7 and is swiftly dispatched by Bell’s A-J, along with an invitation to ‘F*** off out me house!’ As established in the initial Hilly’s Home Game a few miles away, first one out is ‘drinks bitch’, and in time-honoured fashion I order, ‘A Corona please, Alan.’
He soon relinquishes his duties however, announcing his intention to leave with the ill-advised excuse that ‘me Mum’s picking me up’ greeted by howls of laughter from his supposed friends. Still wearing a layer of tikka, and with perennial eyes like piss-holes in the snow, our man Waterfall disappears into the night, minus a tenner, a kebab and his dignity. We may never see his like again.
Hairdresser On Fire
Back to the game, I pick up pocket Aces and attempt to make small talk despite my voice inadvertently rising about three octaves. Szymanowski makes the call, the money all goes in on a raggedy flop, his pocket Queens are no good, and I am back in the game while he is crippled and soon out. Next to drop is Lee Corrigan, who despite some exceptional laydowns ruins it all with some 7-2 under the gun shenanigans. He eventually goes out in a three-way pot that also sees off Bell, with Greaves hitting the river and whooping like a girl as he takes the chip lead.
The Chief wordlessly makes an exit, leaving us on both the money bubble and the grand final bubble, a position that Dreamer and myself naturally exploit versus Greaves and designated dealer Nick Greenhalgh, notionally the brains of the operation. Dreamer generously doubles me up by calling my K-3 shove with 6-3, but it appears that we might be wasting our time as it transpires that one of Bell’s non-playing mates has pocketed the 90 quid pot and left, having been given it for safekeeping.
Thankfully, our host digs deep to replace the cash and play resumes, with Greaves unfortunately hitting double-bubble to put Greenhalgh in the final. Shortly after I get it in with K-8 suited against his A-T and the Fish is fried. A full 13 hours after setting off, I’ve got my money back.
Heads-up is mercifully short-lived: Dreamer’s K-9 loses to Greenhalgh’s Q-T and we are out of here, not long after Bell’s heavily pregnant missus gets home after a big night out in Bury.
Grabbing a couple of cans for the journey, we dive into a cab to Manchester, me to legendary late night venue The Star & Garter, and Dreamer to presumably throw himself around the hotel room. When I crawl in at first light, he’s sprawled across his bed, snoring like a chainsaw. That’s livin’ alright…
MILES TRAVELLED: 460
LENGTH OF GAME: 2 hours, 55
LEVEL OF PLAY: Leathered
INTERESTING FACT: Bury was
recently immortalised in a song by The Fall
HOW’S HILLY’S HOST
Seemingly under the impression that we were there
feed and water them, they were underwhelmed by our token alcohol
contribution, with freeroller Chris Greaves quipping, ‘Shall I give you a
hand with the rest of the beers?’
In fairness, shaggy-haired
Bell did ask if we wanted in on the takeaway. Thankfully, we’d already
dined in our hotel, as the fetid kebabs arrived in what appeared to be
tampon bags. As for the venue, there was just enough elbowroom, a
view of the flat-screen TV, and a picture of Candice from Corrie
bog. Despite coming across as foul Northern monkeys, deep down they’re
probably good lads who are nice to their mums. Or each other’s mums…