Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Vic Players Part 1

To the Vic the other night for their Xmas dinner. VC aka She Who Is Blessed aka The Champ had booked a table and invited DY, JQ, Bad Beat, John Duthie, Ashley Alterman, Panni and myself to eat a rather dubious selection of Christmas fare (in other words, I ordered wrong). Willy Tann joined us halfway through. To be included in this motley crew was an honour and looking around I thought to myself that I was glad we were just eating and bullshitting rather than playing poker; I fancy I would have been the "star" (unless of course JQ went behind - just kidding!).

The funny thing about the Vic is how many detractors it has, including all the above regulars. The players above are sort of allowed to gripe about the gaff because they do go there all the time and keep the games going etc, but I've noticed most people who slag it off usually do so because they can't win there. Instead of saying, "Man, that 100 Hold'Em game at the Vic is tough sometimes, there's a lot more to this poker lark than I realised", they say things like, "The place is just full of grumpy old men and some of the players were rude to me", or, "The staff were useless, I had to wait ages for a seat". The truth is that it does get annoying when you have to tell some cretin for the 25th time that night that it's up to them, or to put their blind in, or to turn their hand over, or to not pass out of turn - that's probably why the howwible man was nasty to diddums; they don't suffer fools gladly at the Vic (unless of course they're a soooooperstar) and I don't blame them.

Anyway, this is all a pre-amble to my series of descriptions of Vic characters (at least two readers asked me to do it, and that's enough for me) that I have had the pleasure of playing with over the years. First of all, these *ahem* portraits are in no way meant to be critical or negative - they are affectionate reminiscences and pretty much everybody I plan on writing about I like. Even though I hardly go to the Vic at the moment I'm sure I'll go back to being a more regular player there in the future so I'm not trying to offend anyone or make enemies. I'm apologising now in case anybody gets pissed off with me. Having said all that I must admit that what has inspired me to blog about Vic players was Stewart Reuben's most recent book (24/7 or something like that) which was fantastically rude about loads of people that he has played with through the years. I'll do about one a week until I get bored (or filled in), or you get bored (already this blog is just one long nostalgia trip I must admit) and to start us off I'm going to talk about one of my favourite ever players:

Francis Rohan

Basically, Francis is an absolute legend. His catchphrase, “You’ll be alright”, has been appropriated by many other players (Derek Kelly of the Gutshot has a column with the title You'll Be Alright and sometimes I wonder whether, a) he knows what it means, and, b) that it originates from Francis).

Francis is one of those classic poker players who truly believes he is the best player in the world EVER. He really does think every one else is an inferior player compared to him, hence his nickname Simply (as in the Tina Turner song Simply The Best). I’ll never forget him saying to me that he would “like to be locked up with Mark Mead with money” ! Francis always sits with small money and plays virtually every hand, punctuating every witticism with his trademark “Eh”. A most affable person and very hard to dislike. Always good company at the table as well as a boost to any game, his colourful quips told in his distinctive northern accent always leave his audience in fits of laughter. He once ended some anecdote with the immortal words, “one day I’ll be sitting on a great big fat Dundee!”.

Francis often goes MIA for months at a time; when you ask him where he’s been he usually replies that he’s been playing in the provinces at places like Southampton, “nicking twos and threes”. Francis is also very fond of a drink and can become quite belligerent when he’s had a skinful. He once had a real go at me when he thought I had pulled a stroke on him. I protested my (genuine) innocence and Michael Arnold came to my defence. Francis then went off on one at Michael ; I felt Simply was out of order but now realised he was very drunk so kept my mouth shut, as did Michael. I didn’t see him for about a week or so and when I did I thought I’d apologise to him (even though I had done nothing wrong) as a way of making peace and letting him know I held no grudge. He immediately apologised and all was forgotten.

I am told that Francis once had a great run at a festival (one before my time) which is possibly where he got his belief that he is the greatest poker player on the planet. Of course the next festival that rolled around he was telling everyone how much he was going to win etc and then duly did his cobblers. He is also renowned for his nipping skills though I truly believe he has good intentions. I once saw him approach Mickey Finn and try to assure him that he would soon be floating in readies and thus able to repay the famous American player. Finn just smiled and told him to forget it - Finn’s world weary smile spoke volumes. Not only how many times he had heard this sort of stuff from Francis, but also of the affection he had for him. Francis may well still have a long queue of bogeys (creditors), I don’t know. I do know that Adrian Holmes has long given up on the money that Francis owes him.

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