No Tights in Vegas

the book: For Richer For Poorer by Victoria Coren 

published. 2009

from regular guest blogger Colm Redmond

[Victoria Coren Mitchell, as she is now called, made history recently by becoming the first person to have won two European Poker Tour main events. This book intertwines the story of the first of those wins, in 2006, with a kind of autobiography: the story of her life in gambling, particularly poker. There is almost no discussion of clothes, but that’s forgivable.]

When the celebrities leave town, I hear that Stephen Fry did not notice the difference between me and Kate Szeremeta, daughter of Nic the commentator. He chatted to her in the cash game, assuming she was the same girl he played with in the tournament. Fair enough: two gambling blondes, we’re similar enough. But we have different tastes, admire different men and express our admiration in different ways. I’m a little embarrassed that Stephen Fry has left Cardiff thinking that it’s me who has Ben Elton’s face tattooed in four colours across her stomach...

Everyone dresses up for the televised events, but when there are no cameras the guys are usually in slacks and sports shirts, sometimes jeans if there isn’t a casino dress code. But I like to be smart, like Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve …

So: I wear a dress or skirt, cute, sometimes fitted, sometimes a lower neckline, but always quite modest. High-heeled shoes or boots. Black tights in a European country, no tights in Vegas. Clean hair, lipstick, but not full make-up or I’ll feel like a clown.

observations: This is a marvellous read. Coren is a very likable narrator and an excellent guide to what it is actually like to be in places and situations most of us know nothing about: private gambling clubs, TV studios full of celebrities playing for real money, and big international tournaments featuring people famous - outside their own milieu - only because they play poker on late-night TV. And she’s good on little details you never knew you wanted to know, like what you do in breaks, and overnight, during tournaments that last for days; or chatting in the ladies’ to the only other female who ever plays at a given club (and the fact that they share a name, and each feel the other should be called “the other Vicky” by the men.)

To make up for the lack of clothes, there is quite a bit about celebrities. Lots of famous people play poker, and not only in specially-staged television tournaments like the one where Coren met Stephen Fry (and Martin Amis and Ricky Gervais, among others.) Nigella Lawson’s first husband, journalist John Diamond – already diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him – was a regular at Coren’s own poker game, and popular partly for himself, partly for the fact that his wife “occasionally sent him along with a home-made cake.”

I’m sure that to a poker player, given a page of build-up, a line like “I close my eyes. When I open them, the beautiful Ace of Clubs is on the river” might be as thrilling and resonant as a baseball commentator’s cry of “And that iiiiiiis - OUTTA HERE!” But half the time, if I hadn’t known in advance that she was going to beat the other seven people on the final table, I’d have thought she was describing getting knocked out. Texas Holdem (the game played in most tournaments, including this one) is complicated, and the specialised language of poker has an enormous vocabulary that does not seem to include “Whoo, I’ve won that hand, then.” This is only a minor problem, because the sections about poker hands are very short, and well spaced out. (And conveniently italicised, at least in my hardback first edition, so you can easily enough skip them if you really want to…)

A bit of background: there had been nearly 100 EPT main events by the time Victoria Coren Mitchell won her second; she was also – in 2006 – the first female to win one. I watched the tail end of the recent win live online: it was very exciting, and, thanks to the hyperactive commentators, quite often comprehensible. Stephen Fry and Ben Elton are both famous British writers and comedians. 

The lady on the bike is Liv Boeree, one of the two other female EPT winners to date; and she is actually playing poker in the photo, honest – the shoot was for an advert for the poker app she’s playing. And the black and white pic is of course the amazing Barbara Stanwyck, in The Lady Eve, with Henry Fonda on her left. So the only one not playing poker is Victoria Coren Mitchell, main pic, dressed for a charity event in one of her other jobs, as a TV presenter.

For more from the guest blogger, click on the label below.


  1. This woman really irritates the hell out of me on the TV quiz show that she presents. Is it just me or does she come across as a smarmy, know it all? On that basis I'm not going to be bothering with this one.

    1. Divisive talk, Col. You've got me on your side with that, but the guest blogger is on Team Victoria.

  2. Moira - Thanks for hosting Col.

    Col - I must say I've not seen her TV presentations. But having been in casinos, I can see how the excitement builds as it does for tournaments. Even people who are just at the slot machines get deeply 'into it.' And it's interesting what she says about dress. I've seen all sorts of levels of formality in casinos, from elegant to beachwear.

    1. My intimate, detailed knowledge of casinos is primarily based on the Friends eps that take place in one...

  3. I guessed from the title that this was by guest blogger Colm. This does sound interesting. I am not sure I am ever going to read it but I can see how it would be very entertaining. And I love Stephen Fry. However, if he cannot tell one woman from another after playing poker with her... that is offensive.

    Anyway, moving on to Barbara Stanwick, I have still not seen The Lady Eve. We have it, I just keep putting it off.

    1. Tracy, I'm definitely going to choose to take that as a compliment, about guessing it was me...

      I have a lot of sympathy with Stephen Fry on this one. You're a lucky soul if you've never got two people-you've-only-chatted-to-once mixed up. I've done it plenty of times, with people who have much less in common than both being "gambling blondes." [I originally read that as "gabbling blondes" and was a tiny bit disappointed when I realised my error.]

    2. It was a compliment, Colm. But I still am miffed with Stephen Fry.


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