Day Two: Better the Devilfish you know

Dave “Devilfish' Ulliott

THE first official tournament in the World Series of Poker Europe. The globe’s very best players… and me. With a hangover.

Last night I was at the WSOPE launch party at London’s glamorous Casino at the Empire, drinking with ex-World Champs like Chris “Jesus” Ferguson. He looks like Jesus would, if Our Lord and Saviour played the devil’s game: black beard, black preacher’s hat, slow patient style. I played him once and he folded every hand for an hour.

Here’s Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott, Britain’s most colourful pro, only as young as the girl he feels (three decades his junior). He laughs when he recalls giving me my nickname: Dominic “No Tells” Wells. And tiny Annie Obrestad, just turned 21, sweet little killer of a player, already a champion but too new to have a nickname. She’s just been banned from poker ads for looking too young! “Now shuffle up and deal.” We’re off! I should sit tight and play like “Jesus”.

It’s a three-day tournament, no rush. But I am cursed with interesting hands.

I play them, get into trouble. Within an hour, I’ve lost half my chips. Disaster! Devilfish, at the next table, is down to almost zero. Phil “Poker Brat” Hellmuth, the world’s most successful player, is knocked out after just 83 minutes, blaming “my old nemesis: patience”. At least I’ve beat the champ!

The concentration is incredible. Even innocent questions like “where do you usually play?” are fishing for info on your betting style. The only noise is a constant shuffling of chips. You can tell a top player by how skilfully they run them through their fingers. By evening, I’m back on top. A passing acquaintance helps by greeting me cheerily with “Ah, the poker writer!” My standing at the table shoots up. And I play a great hand, which boosts my confidence…