Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Fun in the sun

It’s the last day of Unibet Open Malta. About half the team has some sort of mild bug, and I’m in the sick half, so my plan to play the last side event got altered to one of “go back to bed and stay there all day”. Then I remembered the book signing I’d agreed to do, so I hauled my sick sweaty ass out of bed and headed down to see what the story was. The last time I did one of these pretty much nobody showed up so I mentally set the line of signatures I’d be required to do at two.

I should have known that anything organized by the Polish powerhouse of positive energy Kasia Scanlon is never going to fizzle, but I was pleasantly surprised to see an actual queue. Bearing in mind I was ill it’s possible my memory of the event isn’t true in every literal detail, but I believe it’s true in spirit, and my recollection of the signing in summary form is:

“So what’s your name?”
“How do you spell that?”
“Where are you from?”
“Thanks Mika. And what’s your name?”
“Two i’s”
“Next. What’s your name?”
“How do you spell that?”
“Two k’s and an o”
“Next. What’s your name?”
“How do you spell that?”
“Two i’s two k’s and an o”

You get the idea. About half the queue seemed to be Finnish for some reason (which one of the Finns told me was Finnish poker legend Aki Pyysing, who has been singing the praises of the book in Finnish), and it seems that while Finns at first appearance seem to only have about four male names to choose from, no two people spell their name the same, something I can relate to as Irishman who hangs around with a Daragh, a Darragh, a Daire, and a Darach.

The trip got off to a slightly inauspicious start on a personal front when I was shown up for a total lack of sea legs. I’d only ever been on a boat three times in my life before, the last of those about 35 years ago. Having spent most of my first two boat trips leaning over the side making the Irish Sea greener, the strategy I devised was to take a sleeping pill and have my friend wake me as we docked. He proved ill suited even to this simple task, getting excited as soon as he saw the lights of Dublin, and deciding that was close enough to wake me. We were still over an hour away, almost all of which I spent slumped over the side spewing and swearing at him.

35 years is a long time though. Long enough, you might think, to grow out of sea sickness, as I have grown out of car sickness, asthma, acne and Catholicism. But no. After an initial euphoric period where we cruised gently around the bay and I thought this is actually quite pleasant, our captain put the boot down, the catamaran started heaving from side to side, and before long I was down in the toilet performing an emergency evacuation of my stomach. Not so much fun in the sun as sick on the sea.

When I was a highly paid globe trotting IT consultant, my decision making process for which projects to take didn’t stretch very far past “How much does it pay?” When I look back now at the experiences of that phase of my life both good and bad I can never even remember which ones paid particularly well. Instead my memories centre around how successful the project was (I have much happier memories of the ones that kickstarted the internet and produced the Oyster card compared to the one where we spent a year solving tricky problems only for our French paymasters to decide the whole thing was a bad idea in the first place and escort us all from the building with the added dramatic flair only gun toting security guards can bring to a mass firing), how much fun (or otherwise) the people I worked with were, how nice the place was to live in, and how much my family enjoyed it. I kind of feel the same will be the case when I look back on my poker career and in particular the live trips. It’s a real testament to what a good job the Unibet live events team does and the spirit among the players who support the tour that my abiding memories of a trip where I got sick on the first and last days, and didn’t cash a single event, are so good.

Fun in this case is very hard work, and the hard yards are put in by the crack all female squad of Nataly, Kasia, Sophie and Mai. Kasia has a special place in my heart as someone who gets the job done with the minimum amount of fuss and hassle, while also dispensing apparently endless supplies of support and concern trying to make sure everyone is feeling ok and looked after.

The welcome drinks on the roof featured some very entertaining Blingo and great company. I also enjoyed a couple of stints in the commentary box (the first of which meant skipping the party to let the hardworking duo of David “the voice of Unibet Poker” Vanderheyden and Henry “tall geezer” Kilbane go) with my Chip Race cohost David Lappin, catching up with (or rather being caught by) the divine Ms Kat Arnsby, hanging with Iany and Monika, and meeting some new esports people I hadn’t met before. It was also great to catch up with Saron and Hunter, who is already at least as loud and a better dancer than his Dad. I also enjoyed travelling too and from the airport with Nick and Brian (who taught me Meldx in the airport), and hanging with everyone’s favourite bookie Mike Hill and the thinking man’s Del Boy Barny Boatman, who surprised me by nominating Mrs Doke’s favourite movie (Robocop) as one of his most culturally most significant of recent decades.

It seems like every time there’s a Unibet Open Lappin suffers a delusional outbreak of “I could do that for a living”. Last time round it was professional dancing, after I surreptitiously caught him hip thrusting at a mortified Kat Arnsby at the party. This time round, it was male modelling. After this uncharacteristically flattering photo of him from the boat ride taken by Tambet Kask (who was clearly revelling in the freedom of being able to take photos with natural light) surfaced, he made sure it didn’t slip under anyone’s radar, thrusting it in all our faces as he had done his belly in Kat’s last year. I even heard him ask former Miss Hungary Kristina Polgar if she thought he should start entering some pageants now.

“You look good in that photo” she replied with an impressive stony face which I’m guessing helped greatly on the way to her cashing the main event.

Congrats to Daragh Davey who final tabled three side events and won one in a T-shirt that shouted “I’m here, I’m loud and I’m very much out”, Lany who was both first ambassador out of the main and last one standing, and Ann-Roos Callens who successfully defended her Queen Rules Ladies title.

I’ll leave the final word to another lady, Melania Mylioti, who not only overcame the handicap of being paired with Lappin (who was trying to bust before late reg closed in the super stack) to win the tag team event, but also delivered burn of the week in the staff tournament on the last night.

When asked by Davitsche why she was smiling, with perfect timing and poise, she delivered the Davitschastating line

“How could I not smile when I look at your face?”
Particularly appropriate for the occasion too, since it’s pretty much impossible not to have fun at a Unibet Open no matter how much you brick or are sick, as I hope you’ll find out if you join us in Paris.

(Photographs courtesy of Tambet Kask and Lenka)



Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More