Vicky Coren-Mitchell: “I’m Carrying on Real Legacy of My Family”

Vicky Coren-Mitchell is the first and only player to win two European Poker Tour main event titles.

That's just the beginning of interesting things about her, though.

Part journalist, part writer, part TV host and part poker player Coren-Mitchell comes from a family of "crooks and gamblers," she says, and she's just doing her part to carry on her real family legacy.

"We Try to Make Poker Look Cool"

Back on the felt at her hometown tournament - and the one that began her path to EPT stardom - Coren-Mitchell sat down with PokerListings Germany's Dirk Oetzmann for more on the groundbreaking cool of Katja Thater, why she considers herself a Londoner first and more.

PokerListings: After EPT San Remo how often did you have to tell the story about your second EPT title?

Vicky Coren-Mitchell: Actually not very often, because a lot of people were watching. It was Easter Sunday and it was raining in the UK so no one had anything else to do.

PL: You must have had so many responses on Social Media.

Victoria Coren
Poker in London "used to be a lot different."

VCM: When it comes to Facebook, I don’t really use it. I only have an account because there are several people pretending to be me with fake accounts.

I do use Twitter a lot, though. But many people heard about it in the news. A friend of mine called me from his holiday because he had read about it in a daily newspaper on the Maledives.

PL: As you are from here, let’s talk about London a little. What does the poker scene look like aside from the big casinos?

VCM: Actually, with the evolving of the internet, it has pretty much died down because we simply don’t need it anymore.

It used to be a lot different. There were times when you had to go to a club just to get into a game of poker.

So there were groups that met in private houses and used passwords and stuff, but you don’t find that a lot anymore.

There used to be a place in the city called the Gut Shot Club. It was great for poker, it had all the night life you need to make it a suitable environment for young people.

The problem was nobody was ever sure what the situation with the licence of the club was. Eventually it had to close down because of a legal dispute.

I guess there must be other clubs these days, but I wouldn’t really know because nowadays I mostly play these big tournaments.

Victoria Coren
Gambling in the bloodline.

In London, I tend to go back to my local Casino The Vic. I love the romance of the idea to go to underground bars in mystery places, but I honestly haven’t done that for years.

PL: It is somehow hard to conceive how a girl from an upper class family would start to go to these places in the first place to play cards with the bad guys.

VCM: You see, you are only looking at the most recent generation of my family. My parents have climbed the social ladder, but my grandparents were all gamblers and crooks.

I am carrying on the real legacy of my family.

PL: You used to say you don’t know if you are a journalist who plays poker or a poker player who writes. What’s your status now?

VCM: I am not really a journalist anymore at all. I have a weekly column which I don’t really write for every week.

I am doing lots of TV now, so there is a third thing. I’m the sort of person who never really had a proper job but who’s been lucky enough to find several things to make money with.

PL: As a media person following politics, can you please give us your opinion on the Scottish referendum?

VCM: I was honestly quite happy that I wasn’t allowed to vote there. The reason is I don’t really feel British.

I’m from London, and London is a melting pot, a mix of all the cultures in the world. I consider myself much more a Londoner than a British person.

So, basically, Scotland to me is a foreign country just like all the other countries, and I think it is up to them if they want to split from the UK.

However, my husband’s mother is Welsh and his father is Scottish. His family has a much deeper sense of the United Kingdom and I know he’d have been heartbroken if Scotland had become independent.

My husband wasn’t allowed to vote because he doesn’t live in Scotland. Everybody who lives in Scotland could vote, but not Scots who live abroad. I think that was a big tactical mistake.

PL: You were one of the first female poker players in the scene. Did you follow the other women players following in your footsteps?

Katja Thater
Thater "like an early Vanessa Selbst."

VCM: I was massively impressed with Katja Thater at the time. I remember the Poker Nations Cup in Cardiff, where I was the commentator, and the German team had this woman I had never heard of.

She was like an early Vanessa Selbst. She took all the expectations people had about women playing poker and turned them on their head.

Then there is Liv Boeree, who certainly doesn’t look like a threat at the table but there is something male in her genes. I mean she likes science, heavy metal and motorbikes. So she is playing a mixture of the stereotypical male and female playing styles.

I am sorry there aren’t more women in the business today. I thought it would happen faster.

Women seem to have disproportionate success. I don’t know the exact numbers but there are so few women that mathematically they should hardly win anything. But they do.

I think the main reason for the imbalance between men and women is that guys are just “nerdier” than girls.

We try to make poker look cool and mention the Ferraris and the dancing girls, but at the end of the day it’s a very mathematical, a very geeky game based largely on odds and probabilities.

Girls get bored quicker while boys can be fascinated by doing one specific thing for days. Which is why you also find more male trainspotters.

PL: You said you are much more into television now and you are hosting a terribly difficult quiz show.

Victoria Coren
At the end of the day, poker's a geeky game.

VCM: Yes, and I admit I love doing that. A lot of television is directed at idiots.

Every five minutes there is a commercial break and you are told what just happened and what’s going to happen next.

But there are also a lot of people who are annoyed by that and who are happy to find a show on television that doesn’t do that.

PL: Do you have other plans for TV?

VCM: There is going to be a three-part documentary series about Bohemians, following their development from the original movement in Paris in the 19th century to their heritage of today, to the question if we are all Bohemians now, so open-minded that it isn’t even possible to be a rebel anymore.

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