Newport scally rappers Goldie Lookin' Chain love a shuffle, so they challenged PokerPlayer to a game. Here's how it panned out
|I won 60 quid, fair play. It got me a burger and chips at the bar
The last few months have seen PokerPlayer embark on some cracking Busman’s holidays: to Aruba to compete in the Ultimate Poker Classic; and to Monte Carlo to lock jaws with some of the world’s best card sharks. But karma, as they say, can be a bitch.
Welcome to Newport. Affectionately dubbed ‘the arsehole of Wales,’ Newport is not without its charms. There are local traditions (fighting, drinking, fighting and drinking). There are a variety of locations for the intrepid sightseer (good range of kebab shops, bridge that doubles up as a popular suicide spot). But we’re not here for the scenery. Word has reached PokerPlayer HQ that one of Newport’s most notorious exports – comedy hiphop group Goldie Lookin’ Chain – are pretty tidy on the old green baize. And you know us, we love a challenge.
‘I started playing before the big poker boom,’ declares Mystikal. ‘I know it’s fashionable to say that, but it happens to be true.’ Part leisurewear-clad Newport stoner, part epic-bearded Tolkien hero, Mystikal has honed his card skills in house games – a fact more down to necessity than design. ‘I went to a casino in London and they wouldn’t let me in,’ he bristles. ‘Took one look at me an they were like, “Get rid of the ha get rid of the coat”. They had a load of nice TK Maxx-style dinne jackets round the back, though, sorted me one of them out.’
But how did he fare? ‘I won £60, fair play,’ he beams. ‘Got me a burger and chips at the bar.’
Mystikal’s three compadres – Billy Webb, Mike Balls and Two Hats – lack any such past experience. ‘Mysty’s tried teaching me poker on the tour bu before,’ puzzles Billy, the Chain’s West Country representative. ‘But it’s not really the ideal atmosphere for concentration.’
‘I’m going to use the bluff game,’ announces Two Hats – so-called, sensibly, because of his penchant for surplus headwear. ‘Bluffing is a game I’ve often applied to life, so I figure it should be easy to use at the poker table.’
Mike Balls, meanwhile, wears a pair of sunglasses embossed with the Welsh flag, combining poker face and patriotism in one attractive package.
But what of the Chain’s legendary predilection for a puff of the old Mary Jane? Will a few joints help them scoop the big pots – or send their game up in smoke?
‘Certainly can’t do any harm,’ nods Mysty. ‘So long as you’re not operating heavy machinery, I think you’re all right.’
‘Some people say it’s a coordination enhancer,’ reckons Two Hats. ‘Plus it gets in your opponents’ eyes.’
Mike Balls, already deeply engaged in the rolling of a monstrous spliff, looks up. ‘It enhances the things you do like doing,’ he ponders, wisely. ‘And it makes the things you don’t like doing more enjoyable.’
‘It’s true,’ nods Billy. ‘We heard it on Trisha.’
Newport in the house
Here to challenge GLC is the cream of the PokerPlayer office: editor Dave Woods, news editor Rick Dacey, production editor Mark Stuart and Beginner’s Luck columnist Steve Hill. Master of the confidence trick, Hill has arrived wearing four baseball caps, which he plans to alternate depending on hand, mood and degree of alcoholic inebriation.
‘You know, 50 Cent wears two hats,’ mentions Steve. ‘A mate of mine interviewed him yesterday. “Why are you wearing two hats?” he asked. He said: “I hear it’s the thing to do.”’
Two Hats tuts with irritation. ‘Should have copyrighted this one when I had the chance.’
We’ve set the rules: the game is Texas Hold’em and we’re playing teams, meaning the first player to get knocked out earns their team 8 points, the second scoops 7 and so on, with the team clocking least romping to victory.
And we’ve also supplied the prize. Behold, the Safe As F*ck Invitational 2005. Cast in 24-carat brass, shaped like an accident in a Primary school pottery class and topped off with a cards-clutching hand with all the eerie naturalistic qualities of a Thunderbirds puppet, it’s a mini-masterpiece of high street bling. As an added bonus, the winners may one day be able to rent it out to store Peter Stringfellow’s ashes.
Let’s play cards. The opening pot falls to Dave, who flops trip Nines. Any early confidence this instils is quick to crumble, however. Hand three sees the pot swell impressively, but with a board of Q-10-10-8-6, no-one dares match Mystikal’s bullish 1000 raise. And then, next hand, the unthinkable happens. The flop comes down and it’s checks all round – but a waft of one of the circling medicinal cigarettes appears to have fanned Dacey’s poker ardour. He bets out, only to be called by Mystikal and Two Hats. Dacey goes all-in, but Mystikal has the chips to match him on the river – and an Ace to match the one already on the table – which busts Dacey’s pocket Kings, to universal jeers and guffaws from the table.
One man down and the excitement prompts an unusual question from Billy. ‘Ever had sex before Myst?’ he asks
‘Certainly have, Bill,’ says Mystikal. ‘Not as good as poker, mind.’ Tidy.
Bad boy limp
It gets worse. Two rounds later, Two Hats takes a big pot with full house, Jacks full of Tens. ‘You boys don’t mess around,’ sweats Hill. ‘Wicked,’ beams Two Hats, although the vacant look in his eyes suggests he’s a bit oblivious to what’s going on.
The dawning realisation that we’re being beaten by the smallest fish in the aquarium is the catalyst to raise our game. A few hands later and a flop turns up Q-J-4. Steve bets big and the appearance of an Ace on the river has him shuffling hats with unbridled glee. He’s all-in, but no messing – it’s a straight and the pot is his. A change in PokerPlayer’s fortunes, and Mike Balls crashes out just one hand later. He wants a rebuy – ‘I’ve got a watch,’ he says, disconsolate. We value it and simply pass the plate of sandwiches in his direction.
The blinds are up to 300-600 and things are hotting up. A flop of J-7-6 sees Woods seize his moment, raising 1500 and prompting Hill to unleash a torrent of expletives. Two Hats calls and when the turn brings a rag Woods moves all-in. And his pair of Jacks look in good shape, when Two Hats only reveals A-6 giving him a pair of Sixes. ‘Anything but an Ace or Six,’ mutters Woods. D’oh! As if by magic a Six appears on the river, Two Hats snatches the pot and Woods looks like he may be about to pull a whitey.
The tension’s rising, but the cod-shite doesn’t let up. Talk turns to other favourite card games. ‘Shithead, that was a particular favourite in the common room,’ recalls Mystikal. ‘Cheat, too. The thing about cheat is, people would actually cheat.’
‘Yeah,’ contests a troubled Two Hats. ‘But the idea is to get away with cheating.’
‘But this was proper cheating,’ explains Mystikal. ‘Like hiding the cards and that.’
‘Setting fire to the table…’ nods Two Hats.
‘Exactly,’ confirms Mystikal. Meanwhile, a flop of J-9-7 has prompted a wave of checks. Mystikal’s sudden raise of 1000 piques Hill’s suspicion, so he re-raises exposing a daring bit of bluffwork. Mysty regains his pride next round, however, hitting a full house and knocking out Billy in the process.
This might be a team game, but there’s no mercy for the weak. And after far too much calling Two Hats’ stack is dwindling too. The next flop turns up an uninspiring 3-7-8, but he’s all-in. Steve ‘Four Hats’ Hill hovers like a vulture, and with a pair of Eights and an Ace kicker, he’s got a strong hand. Only a Jack or a Ten can save Two Hats, but Mistress Fate deals the duds, leaving Four Hats cackling with glee.
Goldie Lookin’ Chain are dropping like flies. To scoop a PokerPlayer win, though, Mystikal needs to be the next to leave the table – and judging by his ramparts of chips – it’s going to be quite a task.
Time for a chip count. Mystikal is chip leader with 19,000, Hill is in second with 16,000, while Mark ‘Shafty’ Stuart is trying to spread out his rather paltry 2000 like an elderly gentleman spreads wisps of hair into a comb-over. Just when it looks like it’s goodnight Newport, however, a flop of 10-6-6 turns his J-10 hand into a strong proposition – and another Jack on the river seals the deal. Two hands later, he’s made a remarkable comeback, raising Hill 2000 and taking a big pot. All camaraderie has gone up in smoke.
‘You boys are hilarious, carry on,’ grins Mystikal.
‘Just giving him some chips, so he keeps up,’ mutters a losing Hill.
With blinds up to a punishing 1000-2000, Two Hats begins burping to loosen the tension. Mystikal’s deck is being gradually worn away, but he’s still getting the hands that matter.
‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ asks Misty.
‘I dunno, what are you thinking,’ splutters Steve.
‘I’m thinking it must be a lot of pressure wearing four hats,’ he announces, trumping Steve’s two Queens with pocket Aces.
‘Shithouse,’ announces Steve.
But those overflowing ashtrays – not to mention a general air purity comparable to the aftermath of a house fire – signify we’re reaching the endgame. And with no team orders in place Shafty loses a large portion of his chips to Hill’s straight. A couple o hands later and Hilly gets lucky again when Shafty goes all-in, only for Hilly to call and flop a flush. He does his best to hide his excitement – by which we mean his victory dance doesn’t quite make it into the kitchen. It’s got to hurt, but not as much as those three points, meaning that the best result Team PokerPlayer can scoop is a draw. Ouch.
Just two hands later, the flop comes down 9-8-7. Hill, chasing the straight, is all-in – and a Six on the river completes it. But it’s not enough! Mystikal reveals the nut flush and a deserved victory is his, leaving PokerPlayer on 19 points and GLC on a winning 17. ‘I feel justified – and ancient!’ booms Mystikal.
All that’s left is for Hilly to present Mystikal with the trophy – credit to him, he’s brave enough to press his lips to it – and PokerPlayer editor Dave Woods calls his team back to the table to give them a stern dressing-down. Maybe next time we’ll pick someone we’ve got a decent chance of beating. Anyone out there got a number for the PG Tips monkeys?