Steve ‘HillyTheFish’ Hill goes trainspotting in Dundee…
It had to happen. Following a couple of mysterious refusals, a Scotsman has finally agreed to have me in his house. That house is in sunny Dundee, a mere six hours on the train encumbered by a foldout poker table and a backbreaking chipset, which even causes muscle-bound deputy editor Paul Cheung to break sweat during an extensive search for the hotel. Fed and watered, we dive in a cab to the venue and drag the equipment up two flights of stairs, only to discover an identical table already set up along with a set of 888 poker chips. Good…
It’s enough to drive a man to drink, which generous host Scott Walker supplies in sizeable quantities. Honoured to have me there – he compares it to playing football with David Beckham – Scott has kindly agreed to provide the venue for freeroll winner John Ritchie, who would probably claim that he owes him having once treated him to a poker trip to Vegas. John can clearly play a bit and has even indoctrinated his son Connor, who becomes the youngest ever competitor in a Hilly’s Home Game.
The rest are a mix of hustlers and amateurs, some with only a rudimentary grasp of the basics. After a seat draw I find myself directly to Cheungy’s left, which, having studied his hand range in the recent PokerPlayer World Cup game, is the best seat in the house.
Tenners in and play eventually gets under way, at which point it becomes apparent that all the chips are green, the different denominations designated only by the merest rim of colour. It’s a massive problem, as is the language barrier, with everybody seemingly calling each other Bob and enquiring about someone called Ken. Much drink has also been consumed, and freeroller John Ritchie (Sid Vicious’ real name) chillingly warns, ‘I’m a bad loser.’
It’s as intimidating as it is confusing, and the atmosphere is akin to the scene in Trainspotting on the coach to London where Begbie berates someone for neglecting to bring the ‘cairds’. As for my ‘cairds’, nothing playable turns up in the early stages so I sit back and enjoy the constant supply of Tennent’s, Stella and vodka, while the natives get increasingly restless. Cheungy declares that he’s ‘here to create action’ and fearlessly goes about building a chipstack, at one point showing ‘baws of steel’ by going all-in with little more than scotch mist.
I eventually pick up A-K and attempt to drive out the limpers by shoving all-in. Scott ‘Mad Dog’ Walker barks ‘You prick!’ and folds, leaving me up against the Q-J of a Rangers fan in a Chelsea shirt and a trilby. A Jack on the flop is bad news, but a King on the turn saves the day, despite a suggestion that it should have been the burn card. It’s a suggestion that is about to be voiced by observant young Connor until he receives a sharp kick under the table and the promise of a fiver.
Now wielding the big stack, it’s largely textbook stuff, my position helped hugely when Cheungy shoves all-in with 6-8, which I instantly pick off with A-J to leave my bodyguard on the bubble. With John Ritchie’s mate Lolen stating that he has no intention of going to London for the final – even for a slice of $3,500 – we’re essentially playing for the £50 first prize, and I soon find myself heads-up against our friendly freeroller who states his intentions by declaring, ‘You want to be scared if you give me a bad beat,’ and charmingly announcing a shove with, ‘I’ll put you f***ing all-in, you c***!’
Slightly more politely, I go all-in with A-K, Ritchie senior makes a sloppy call with Q-T and naturally makes a full house. As he says, ‘I’m a lucky bastard.’ Next hand I shove with A-K again and he folds to give me the chip lead. He messily pushes his stack of green chips in next hand and his son Connor convinces me that statistically I have to call, a schoolboy error that pretty much puts us level. It all goes in again, and his 9-9 is looking good against my K-J until a joyous King arrives on the turn. He may be a bad loser, but I’m an equally bad winner, celebrating with the traditional one-fingered salute.
Having pocketed a fistful of Scottish notes, I somehow agree to a five-handed turbo for the road. After Ritchie deals me an appalling bad beat, I tell him that he’s the worst player I’ve ever met, getting away with a minor wound as the nib of my pen slams into my chest. Somehow we make it out alive, and in profit. The hotel may be streaked in seagull shit, but our cramped twin room is a welcome sanctuary. And now the snoring starts….