Victoria Coren Mitchell was always one of the most popular members of Team PokerStars Pro, thanks in no small part to her career away from the poker tables. Even as she became the first player ever to win two main events on the European Poker Tour (EPT), Coren Mitchell focused at least as much of her attention on her career as a journalist and television presenter, including hosting the long-running BBC quiz show Only Connect.
Coren Mitchell hasn’t been seen quite so frequently at the EPT poker tables over the past few years, but she’ll receive a pleasant reminder of her days as a player tonight when a quizzer named Patrick Winterbottom appears as a contestant on Only Connect. Winterbottom, a maths teacher by trade, is also a keen poker player and holds a Platinum Pass to the next iteration of the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC). He won it during the “Streamers Showdown” at Lex Live in London almost precisely a year ago.
Although we’re still awaiting the green light for when that postponed event can take place, and when Winterbottom can put his Platinum Pass to good use, he has kept himself busy testing his intellect with his appearance on the show.
For anyone unfamiliar with Only Connect, it is the most cerebral quiz on television, where most viewers rejoice if they manage to get even a single question right during the average show. Questions are hidden behind Egyptian hieroglyphs, just because, and even the contestant introductions are wilfully cryptic. According to the Radio Times magazine, Winterbottom is introduced tonight as “a maths teacher who once inadvertently helped a one-legged man steal a keyboard from a pub”. Don’t go hoping for any more information. They tend to just leave it at that. (The show’s name comes from E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End.)
The show is divided into four rounds, each of fiendish difficulty, with the theme of connections running through each. In the first round, the teams see four apparently unrelated clues, revealed one by one, and need to figure out what connects them. More points are on offer the fewer the clues have been revealed. (For instance, you might see “Button”, “Hijack”, “Cutoff”, “Big Blind” and realise these were positions at a poker table.)
In the second round, teams see three clues, again apparently unrelated, and again revealed one at a time. But in actual fact the clues represent a sequence, and the teams have to not only establish what that sequence is, but to name what would come fourth in the sequence. (For instance, you might see “Hijack”, “Cutoff”, “Button” and then have to answer “Small Blind”. The sequence is positions on a poker table, but you have to know what comes next.)
The third round is the “Connecting Wall”, on which the teams are presented with 16 clues, jumbled randomly on a grid. They are required to sort the clues into four groups of four, where each group is thematically related. It might sound relatively straightforward, but there are always numerous red herrings to make things more difficult.
The fourth round is the “Missing Vowels”, where common (or not so common) words, names or phrases are presented with all their vowels removed. Teams have to buzz in when they spot it.
We’re not sure how Winterbottom fares on tonight’s show — tune in at 8pm on BBC if you’re in the UK to find out* — but in honour of his appearance, we’ve put together some poker-related Only Connect-style questions below.
See also our list of poker-playing quizzers, whose number Winterbottom now joins.
*For international viewers, it also tends to appear after a few days on YouTube. Try this (unauthorised) channel.
James Holzhauer – Jeopardy!
Without question the best-known poker-playing quizzer, James “Jeopardy James” Holzhauer is one of the most successful players ever to appear on one of the world’s most popular quiz shows. Holzhauer, who is a sports bettor as well as poker player, won close to $2.5 million during a 33-show run on Jeopardy!, the second-most of all time, which he then boosted closer to $3 million thanks to appearances on two “Tournament of Champions” shows. Holzhauer became a sensation thanks to an ultra-aggressive, and seemingly unorthodox approach to the game, relentlessly targeting the bonus payouts and gambling for the maximum whenever possible. He holds the record for the largest amount won in a single game: $131,127.
Alex Jacob – Jeopardy!
Before Holzhauer came along, Alex Jacob was poker’s best-known export to the world of Jeopardy!, and is credited with utilising the same kind of aggressive strategies that Holzhauer later went on to perfect. Jacob won six games during his Jeopardy! stint, and also won a Tournament of Champions in 2015, earning more than $400,000 in total. Holzhauer’s Jeopardy! total is significantly higher, but Jacob is the more successful poker player. Jacob’s live tournament earnings sit at more than $2.6 million and he has been to four WSOP final tables.
Andrew “Statto1” Hulme – Countdown
The quiz show Countdown has been a fixture on British TV since 1982, providing a keen intellectual challenge to daytime audiences on Channel 4. Its format is exceptionally simple: the “words” rounds require players to pick a random selection of nine vowels and consonants and then make the longest word they can. The “numbers” rounds is a test of mental arithmetic, as players try to make a specific three-figure total from six random numbers. Alex Hulme is one of the game’s stars, having made his first appearance at the tender age of 11, and going on to achieve “Octochamp” status — ie., winning eight consecutive matches, the most any player is permitted to play. His poker career is also stellar. Playing online as “Statto1”, Hulme has a SCOOP title to his name, and has also won on the GUKPT.
Liv Boeree – Golden Balls and others
Liv Boeree’s introduction to poker came when she was a contestant on a poker-based reality show, where she received training from Phil Hellmuth, among others, to learn the game. But it’s not that quiz show for which the EPT Sanremo champion is best remembered. Instead it’s the British show Golden Balls in which Boeree ably demonstrated the ruthless streak, underpinned by some exceptionally convincing and gutsy bluffing, to earn herself a massive payday at the expense of some poor old chump who just couldn’t have possibly seen it coming. Just watch the clip.
Patrick Winterbottom’s fellow Platinum Pass winner Michael Robionek revealed that he too had been on a TV quiz show. Writing in the busy Platinum Pass winners’ Facebook group, Robionek revealed that he had been on a show in Berlin 24 years ago. “I didn’t make it to the money after missing the turn,” Robionek wrote. “‘Wasserkopf’ was the wrong answer regarding the biggest mountain of the Rhoen.” Robionek, who provided one of the best stories from the first PSPC, did share a picture of himself from all those years ago, however.
Test your poker knowledge with these Only Connect-style questions:
Round 1: What connects the following clues:
a) Dublin –> London –> Dortmund –> Loutraki
b) ElkY –> Jake Cody –> Roland de Wolfe –> Gavin Griffin
c) Circuit –> Europe –> Asia –> Asia Pacific
d) Pier Paolo Fabretti –> Toni Judet –> Isabelle Mercier –> Luca Pagano
Round 2: What’s next in the sequence:
a) Vicky Coren –> Joseph Mouawad –> Michael Martin –> ??
b) Phil Hellmuth –> Johnathan Duhamel –> Peter Eastgate –> ??
c) Dzmitry Urbanovich –> Tobias Leknes –> Shaun Deeb –> ??
d) Seidel –> Moss –> Ivey, Chan, Brunson –> ??
a) Former EPT venues; b) Triple Crown winners; c) WSOP expansions; d) Former Team PokerStars Pro members
a) Aaron Gustavson (EPT London champions, 2006 onwards); b) Joe Cada (Youngest WSOP Main Event champions); c) Denis Strebkov (winners of most WCOOP titles, up to highest); d) Hellmuth (WSOP bracelet winners, in order of number won).