There may be only three players left in the main event, and three in the high roller for that matter, but The Vic is packed with poker players as the day-to-day business of the Vic card room on a Saturday continues.
For generations the Vic has been the headquarters of London poker, staging the biggest events and hosting the best games. But that has also made it an intimidating arena for the novice, for the new player looking to feel real chips and peel back casino quality cards. It’s a rite of passage. At best they can expect humiliation, at worst humiliation and a breeze in their wallet. But it can be a leap of faith worth taking, even if it takes a while before getting round to actually leaping.
One player who famously dawdled over this leap is Team PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren. Now a Vic regular, and a former EPT winner in this same card room, Coren first played here in the mid-90s. It wasn’t an easy start.
“First of all I was very nervous because I was playing under age on fake I.D.,” said Coren. “Or so I thought. I was over 18 but I thought you had to be 21 because I’d only played in Vegas. So I was unnecessarily nervous. I played a seven card stud tournament and I came second.
That, however, came after an extended period of practice. Not at poker, just at getting through the front door in the first place.
“Bear in mind I had come into the Vic several times before then but had been too nervous. I came in many times but was too scared to go in the card room, so I played roulette instead.
Vicky Coren in action in this week’s main event
“The first few times I came in, looked through the glass at the card room and left and immediately went home. On the sixth occasion I thought ‘I’ll play this roulette to warm myself up. They seem friendly’.”
After losing a couple of grand on the spin of a wheel Coren finally plucked up enough courage to enter the card room. “I thought a tourney would be an easier thing that the cash games,” she said.
Looking back, Coren recalled the type of opponent she was up against, a figure that is not too dissimilar from the characters still found playing their trade at the hold’em tables.
“They were all the same, grumpy old gentleman,” she said. “Obviously I loved them later, but they were all men, all in that very special Vic uniform at the time. There was a dress code and they’d all done the absolute minimum to get past it. You had to have a collared shirt and no hat. And these jackets that smelled slightly of Benson and Hedges.”
But it was a convincing debut for Coren, the start of a live career that has made her among the most successful Vic players.
“I came second and I don’t think I’ve played seven card stud since,” said Coren. “But I should have done because I have an almost unbroken record.”
No stud tournaments this week, but a sixth place finish for Coren in the High Roller event today, worth £67,130. That’s enough to cover any outstanding roulette debts.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter