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Interview with PokerStars Player and Porn Critic Victoria Coren

Written by:
Jenny Woo
Published on:
Jul/17/2009
Victoria Coren

I had the chance to sit down with a true renaissance woman the other day - Victoria Coren.  With journalism in her blood - her dad being humorist and journalist Alan Coren and brother, journalist Giles Coren - started making a name for herself at age 14 when she won a competition in the Daily Telegraph.  Since then she has authored books including "Once More, with Feeling, about her attempt to make the best hard-core porn movie ever.  You can find the book here.  She's also a presenter - doing a lot of work for BBC in the UK and has poker under belt - playing a lot in Europe.  Read my interview with her to see what it is about the game that keeps her coming back for more and a short versioned explanation on that book of porn.  You can also check out and play Victoria Coren online at PokerStars.com.

JENNY:  You seem to do it all.  What is it about the game of poker that keeps you coming back for more?

VICTORIA:  Goodness, that's a big question. All sorts of things: the infinite challenge, the mental stimulation, the quirky people, the late-night lifestyle... and, luckily enough, it also earns me some money.

JENNY:  Do you play a lot of cash games?  And how often do you play online?

VICTORIA:  Yes I actually play mostly cash games, only a few tournaments a year. That's in live poker. On PokerStars I play lots of one-table tournaments and heads-up tournaments alongside the cash - how often varies on what else I'm doing - but several hours a week at least.

JENNY:  What's your game of choice?  And what is your style of play?

VICTORIA:  My game of choice really depends. At serious high-stakes level, my favourite is Pot Limit Holdem, though I play more No Limit these days because Pot Limit is hard to find. In my home game, we play all sorts of funny games with wild cards, split pots and so on. I love all variants. And my style of play varies according to what we're playing, whether it's a tournament or cash game, and who else is at the table.

JENNY:  How has your experience been overall at this year's WSOP?

VICTORIA:  I've loved this year's WSOP. I came out to Vegas for quite a long time but only played four tournaments. That might sound like a waste but these huge-field competitions are such a long shot, I know people who played 20 or 30 of them with no cashes. I didn't cash in any of the four I played but the select number means I wasn't demoralized at all, and also that I got plenty of sunshine, sleep, meals out with nice friends, and I came back with a decent profit from cash games so (being a part time rather than full time pro) I would call that an extremely good trip.

JENNY:  What do you do to prepare yourself for a tournament?

VICTORIA:  Nothing much. I hear it's good prep to sleep for ten hours, go to the gym and eat a healthy breakfast, but life's too short. I just get up and play.

JENNY:  You've made a name for yourself in this sport and are admired by others.  Are there any players out there that you admire?

VICTORIA:  I admire dozens of players. But I'm pretty square. I don't admire the flashy gambly ones as much as I admire those who choose their games wisely, play well within their bankroll, and survive by banking regular annual profits over years at the game. That is what I consider the truly professional approach. I also admire anyone - famous pro or recreational newcomer - who can, like Kipling says, "meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same", ie. win or lose quietly and with grace.

JENNY:  You and your brother share the love of writing.  Does the same go for poker?

VICTORIA:  Well... yes and no. My brother started playing poker before I did, and he still loves the game but he only plays it occasionally these days. It hasn't taken over his life like it has mine. He plays more cricket.

JENNY:  There's obviously a need of skill in the game.  However, do you think there's luck involved as well?

VICTORIA:  Of course there is luck! It's a game of cards! But part of poker's exciting challenge is to control those swings of luck with judgment, calculation, perception and timing. That might apply to the way you play a particular hand, or the moment you decide (whether to bank a profit or cut a loss) to get up for the night. Over one tournament there is a lot of luck; in a cash game less so. Over one month there is a bit of luck; over a year, luck is less of a factor. Over a lifetime, luck is completely irrelevant.

JENNY:  What advice can you give someone who's just getting their start in poker?

VICTORIA:  My main advice to anyone is to play for sums you can comfortably afford. If you invest too much of your bankroll in one game, you just won't be able to play properly. And I personally have always found it very useful to have a ‘day job', some regular income alongside poker. That isn't really a factor for me financially any more, because I could make a very nice living just from playing cards, but it is a psychological factor. It's very easy for poker to consume your life completely, but keeping other things going - if not other work then at least hobbies, outside interests and sports, a social life away from the game - is not just the route to a fuller life, it also makes you play poker better when you're at the table.

JENNY:  Can you tell me about your work with porn?  And what made you want to review porn?

VICTORIA:  Well, that's another long story, too long for this page! In brief: my best friend Charlie and I decided to direct an erotic movie and write a book about it. This was a few years ago now. Mainly, we thought it would be funny. We also thought it would be interesting to see if we could do it ‘ethically' according to a moral code. I think the book is still available - it's called Once More With Feeling - and it is funny, it's a ridiculous story of two English innocents in a world of sleaze. But we learned a lot along the way, I truly think the experience might have made me a better person.

JENNY:  What's next for you in the poker circuit?

VICTORIA:  Well, seven years after the porn book, I have finally finished my next book: a poker memoir. It's called For Richer, For Poorer and it is an autobiographical story so frank and honest that I'm pretty terrified about people reading it. Then again, obviously I hope they will and I hope they'll enjoy it. It's out in September, so (having finally finished writing it) I'm going to have a little relax in the summer, and then storm back into action for the London EPT at the end of September, my favourite tournament of the year.

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Jenny Woo, Gambling911.com Senior International Correspondent 

 

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