Dave Colclough looks back at Late Night Poker: “Phil Hellmuth wasn’t happy and walked off, spitting fumes”

The return of Late Night Poker takes Dave Colclough back to the late nineties…

Late Night Poker has been back on our screens, with the shows filmed down in Cardiff. This time around the producers had no trouble finding players willing to get the TV exposure, but back in 1999 it was a different story.

When Welsh TV production company, Presentable Productions, first attempted to recruit 49 players for a ‘televised’ poker event, the concept had never been done before. It was new ground!

It wasn’t as easy as you would have thought to get players to appear on TV. These days, TV exposure is seen as a route to fame and lucrative sponsorship deals, but in 1999 ‘poker faces’ only really cropped up on Crimewatch.

The show also pioneered the ‘hole- cam’ technology that allowed viewers to see the players’ hole cards, and this idea horrified many players. They were afraid that their ‘secrets’ would get out and other players would learn how they play, as well as possibly being scared of embarrassing themselves.

Other players, such as Devilfish and the Hendon Mob, were very enthusiastic. But initially, Presentable Productions still struggled to fill all the spots on the first series.

However, the show was obviously a hit on Channel 4, and soon poker players far and wide were clambering for the places in the next series. The format has also been repeatedly copied around the world.

It just so happened that I made as many appearances on Late Night Poker as anyone. This was due to an uncanny knack of repeatedly finishing second.

In the second series I had generally played well during my heat and ended up heads-up with Malcolm ‘The Rock’ Harwood. I had a 60/40 chip lead and fell victim to complacency.


One of the greatest advantages of having an image of a ‘rock’ is that when you start to make a few moves, you are much more likely to get away with them. Malcolm was sat in front of me, hardly having played a hand to this point, wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with ‘THE ROCK’ in big capital letters. I fell for the whole image like a sucker.

He raised and I passed. He re- raised, I passed and he generally just ran straight over the top of me. He had turned the game around and taken a 2-1 chip lead before I realised what was hitting me. Even when I realised, it wasn’t long before he closed it out and I was left cursing myself.

Late Night Poker was a crucial point in the rise of poker. The success was in no small part due to the players who won the various series’. The producers were a lot luckier than they probably realised with Devilfish, Simon Trumper and Phil Hellmuth each winning a series. I am not so sure that the poker acceleration would have been quite so fast if quieter, more modest players had won.

Late Night Poker also provided a lot of classic moments that never made it to the screen. One of these was when seven lunatics (myself included) sat around a couple of coffee tables in the Cardiff Grosvenor.

In those days the venue didn’t host poker, so when seven of the top players in the UK sat down to play six- card Omaha (possibly the wildest poker variation played in cash games), it turned out to be quite a spectacle.


With about 50 grand in crisp fifties piled up in front of us, we were a bit of a strange attraction. I’m not so sure that the casino management were too happy. There were more punters watching the poker than there were playing the blackjack and magic roundabout put together. I’m sure the croupier responsible for handing us a pack of cards was duly reprimanded.

On another occasion, one player was running a book on each Late Night Poker heat. The opening prices for heat six had Padraig Parkinson at 9/4 favourite and the great Phil Hellmuth at 5/2 second favourite.

Now when Phil ambled over wanting to back himself, we expected him to complain that his price was too short and try to talk the price up for a decent bet. But when he realised he wasn’t the outright favourite, the ‘Poker Brat’ was mortified.

He protested vehemently that he was six-times (at the time) World Series bracelet winner, the all-time leading money winner and the best no-limit hold’em player in the world. The book clearly had to be wrong.

Not to be outdone with this illogical logic, our bookie could see Phil was unhappy with the price on offer and raised the tempo even more. He shortened Padraig to 2/1 favourite, and moved Phil out to 3/1.

Phil wasn’t happy and walked off, spitting fumes at the outrageously stupid odds that were offered. Poker players can be such an odd bunch.

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