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Wednesday 20th April 2005

My kitchen wall is partially mended now. A very nice Polish man called (I think) Julian came over this morning. I have never had a builder called Julian before. Everything people say about Polish builders seems to be true: he was polite and efficient and helpful. I love a united Europe.
There was a funny incident as he came into the house for the first time. I usually keep my props for Hercules in the hallway if I know I have a gig coming up, but I'd tidied most of them away. The only thing I'd forgotten to move was the sword which was leaning up against the radiator. It was not as if it was there for decoration. If you saw it there and didn't know why I had it (and let's face it I am only a nationally known comedian, not many Poles are aware of my unique take on the Hercules myth) you would have to assume it was there for protection. I keep a sword in my hallway in case anyone attempts to break in. Or maybe I lure unsuspecting foreign workmen into my home and then slaughter them as they work. You're not going to think, "he's probably using that in some comedy show based on Greek myths".
As he walked in he looked at it slightly askew and commented, "A sword!". If that had been me I think I might have turned on my tail and fled, but Julian took it in his stride and just got on with his work. He was so polite and efficient that had I suddenly leapt on him and started cutting him with my theatrical sword I think he would have gamely carried on working.
Tonight I was invited to a poker tournament (it's the new thing, everyone's doing it. Even Richard and Judy are talking about it), organised by vcpoker.com. I have been playing and losing on-line a bit and so it was nice to be in an environment where I was playing for free and had nothing to lose, but had a little something to win. First prize was a red letter day, where you could go on a balloon trip or a rally driving experience or similar, second prize was £100 in a vcpoker.com account and third prize was £50 in an account. You also could win a bottle of champagne if you knocked out one of the six experts. There were a good 40 or 50 people, but my record in tournament play has been pretty good (second in the one I went to with date 46, 7th in celeb poker club). Also there were free cocktails which I decided to avoid, which meant that many of my competitors got very drunk very quickly, which gave me an additional edge.
I got a bit ahead early on, but then went all in against one of the poker experts (hoping for the champagne) because I had the high pair on the flop (look it up and get with it grandad). It turned out he had a pair of sixes and there was a six on the board, so he took that. Luckily I'd been a little ahead of him, but this depleted my money very seriously. I had the least on my table by some distance and it looked like it was going to be an early bath. But I'd been in a worse position in the Celeb Poker heat (Rory Magrath had 30 times more chips than me at one point), so I didn't give in.
And I played much better than I have ever done before, with a confidence that was lacking in the celeb poker final and through a combination of bluff and bluster I clawed my way back in and within a couple of hours had more chips than anyone in the room. Poker is a brilliant game.
It was weird being the only sober one amongst mainly completely bladdered players, some of whom didn't know how to play but were staying in almost by magic. One girl got cross because she'd thought I'd told her she was big blind, when in fact I was just telling her she had to put 400 chips in if she wanted to play. She was busy texting someone throughout the game and so wasn't paying attention. I concluded this was her own fault, but she seemed to take exception with me. I had to take charge of making sure everyone bet because no-one else was doing so, so made it clear to her every time I came round to her after that whether I was talking about blinds or bets (look it up, I'm not going to pander to your ignorance), which annoyed her even more.
Gradually the drunker people got knocked out and the play improved. I took out one of the experts (I had K Q, he had Q J - sweet!) and won some nice champagne. Not bad for free. I was still up in the top two or three in the room and able to sit back and only bet when I had something good, or intimidate people off when I had something rubbish. It was going brilliantly.
I got moved to another table and took out another expert and won another bottle of champagne and knew I was certain of making the final table. My nemesis Grub Smith was also playing and doing well. He says he's kicked the rat addiction, but if you looked into his hollow eyes you could see that he was lying. I knew he would be my main competition from here on in. He is good and knows all about the odds of certain hands coming up, whilst I prefer to play an instinctive game.
We agreed that if either of us won we would share the main prize and go on a balloon trip together, just the two of us. We both appreciated how strange and uncomfortable this would be. I quite liked the idea. Even though he is my boat race nemesis I am warming to the Grubster, against my better judgement! Emma Kennedy will be furious. She thinks we should hate everyone in the Cambridge crew for the rest of our lives. She may have a point.
Both me and Grub were at the final table and there were only us and one other serious contendor left in. Quickly it was down to the three of us. I slightly lost the cocky spark that had got me so far and bottled a little (not on a scale with the Celeb poker show), but I wasn't getting the cards. I was still comfortable though and definitely in the prizes, though I didn't really want to get back into having to go on-line as I've taken the software off my computer now so that I'm not tempted to waste my time and money.
Eventually we got to a point where Grub wanted to go all in. I had an ace and ten of diamonds, which is good. I suspected he had better, but it was late and with a hand like that you will always have a chance, so although I had a lot of chips (he had slightly more) I went for it. He had an ace and king of clubs, which meant I needed diamonds or tens. The flop saw one diamond and one club, but no tens. It looked like it was unlucky in love with all but rats, lucky in cards. The turn was another low club, giving Grub a flush draw, but winning anyway. Only a ten would win it for me. "But not the ten of clubs," observed Grub, which would give him the flush.
The ten of clubs came up.
Oh cruel fate.
For one time in his sorry life Grub got to experience what it was like to beat me at something.
I was out. But very pleased with my champagne and my impressive play throughout the evening. Maybe I could be a pro at this after all.
Grub had a massive chip advantage, but was playing against a wily old heavy drinking journalist who was clawing his way back into it when I made my way home at 12.30am.
I hope Grub won though.
I'm looking forward to the balloon trip.
I'll bring the champagne and who knows what might happen.
I hope Grub isn't a Catholic though. With his sexual history I would have to insist on using condoms.

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