Card School

With his poker-playing reputation and hard cash on the line, Grub Smith finds that home games can be hassle

And there’s my first lesson to pass on – all the people you play cards with are stupid c**ts!

There are three kinds of vermin you don’t ever want to let inside your house – rats, roaches and poker players. And while the first two will only eat your cheese or crawl across your worktops, the third will take your money, drink your booze, criticise your CD collection, and then want to stay up playing all night even though you have to leave at 7am for work.

If you’ve hosted a home game you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, trust me, Rentokil are missing a BIG opportunity. However, as it’s my job to be your poker guinea pig, no matter how unpleasant the consequences, this month I decided to have a tournament back at my place.

Okay, I’ll admit it wasn’t a totally selfless gesture. The truth is I was getting bored of playing online and especially of having to type all my clever remarks into a chatbox, a bit like Stephen Hawking does. Plus, due to my lack of social skills, the only home game I get invited to regularly is on the other side of London, which requires a £25 taxi ride home in the wee small hours. Given that I usually drop at least a ton at the table, having to fork out an extra pony to a cabbie who says he’s ‘taking a short cut’ goes down about as well as shit on toast.

All back to mine

Anyway, I figured that at the very least I might learn some valuable tips from turning my front room into Binion’s for a night, so I texted out 30 invitations with details of how to get to my house and what time we were starting. Then I sent an email reminder a week later with the same precise information on how to get to my house and what time we were starting. Finally, on the morning of the event itself, I answered 30 frantic phone calls from people wanting to know how to get to my house and what time we were starting. And there’s my first lesson to pass on – all the people you play cards with are stupid c s! They may know the odds of filling a runner-runner flush draw, but they won’t remember anything else if it isn’t tattooed onto their scrotum with a rusty knitting needle. And, unless you play with a lot of Conservative MPs, this might be difficult to arrange.

Secondly, realise you are not going to win. Just as a cricketer’s batting average slumps when he is made captain, so the added stress of making sure everyone has the correct chips and is behaving properly will play havoc with your game. Personally, I fell to pieces, and I reckon even Phil Hellmuth would suffer if he had to walk away from the baize every 10 minutes to order takeaways or get more toilet paper. My advice is to hire a waitress for the day. With today’s exciting immigration policy, there are thousands of young girls from Eastern Europe happy to slave away for peanuts, and a 50p small advert in your newsagent’s window should pay dividends.

Stars in your eyes

Next, make sure you invite as many celebrities as possible. In this age of Heat and Hello magazines, the presence of someone who has been on the telly adds a frisson to any social occasion. And as any viewer of the 938 cable channels that show poker can attest, it is a legal requirement of celebs these days that they play Texas Hold’em. Usually very badly. My own line-up included Michael Greco (Eastenders’ Beppe), Norman Pace and a couple of excellent actors from Green Wing and Nathan Barley, but the plan backfired when they all managed to last longer than I did.

On the plus side, this meant they were in with the chance of winning the trophy I had ordered, which was inscribed with the words ‘The Grub Smith Poker Classic’. It only cost £30 online and appeared to be made of a miracle substance far cheaper and uglier than plastic, but the thought of it sitting on Greco’s mantlepiece while he gently stroked another supermodel to orgasm in front of the fire gave me a weird moment of pride. Until I realised it would probably melt all over them.

Lastly, when you are knocked out, make sure you deal for the final table. The losers already hate you for ruining their Sunday, but everyone still sitting there will be in the money and thus inclined to invite you over to their’s for a game sometime. Watch their faces. Study how they play. Remember their tells. Because if your home game is anything like mine, one day you will have to earn enough off them to pay for 28 pizzas, 140 beers, two bottles of white wine and a professional carpet cleaner…

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