Roy Brindley: European Masters of Poker Bulgaria Part I
by Roy Brindley | Published: Jun 25, '12
There are a few things during my life which I have always known were not for me: Homosexuality, voting Lib-Dem, joining a cult and taking a package holiday to a concrete metropolis called a holiday resort. Nevertheless the European Masters of Poker merry-go-round necessitated a visit to Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. It was an unavoidable.
But, today, the pillars of my life lie shattered. My philosophy is in flux, I went to a holiday resort and I almost enjoyed it. My big worry now is: which of my other strict value-systems could fall apart next.
I have to confess it wasn’t your average package holiday. I would still rather have my left ear slowly removed by a cheese grater than go somewhere where bling-clad Brits lie on their Union Jack towels roasting themselves to a piggie-pink amid the scent of chips, lip-gloss and pints Fosters.
I hate the sun. I hate tourists. I also hate the beaches which are like some kind of torturous breast buffet where half of what is on view is beyond reach, forbidden fruits.
Sunny Beach dates back to 1958 when its construction began under the Communist regime. Somehow I very much doubt it was called Sunny Beach at the time, a name which is as tacky as a sun-baked second-hand piece chewing gum waiting to attach itself to your shoe.
Five decades ago limousines only collected KGB agents, complete with a briefcase, rain-mac and trilby hat, from Bulgarian airports en-route to an interrogation using truth drugs or electric shock treatment. Over half a century later a typical limo’s cargo is a ragtag collection of characters, as colourful as a bag of Bertie Bassett’s finest, all masquerading as poker’s equivalent to Karpov or Kasparov.
Within thirty minutes of our particular motley crew’s limo ride we were safely ensconced in our palatial eyrie. But old habits die hard in local parts and hereafter either entering or attempting to leave our four-star complex without one of their prized wristbands – the modern day equivalent of travel documents and papers – required the type of cunning last witnessed in The Great Escape.
I dislike wristbands. There was a time, I confess, that wearing a colourful bracelet had immense appeal. I was seven at the time and it was presented to me by Deborah Dalton the girl I was going to marry. This was our engagement ring, marriage vows and promise of endless kisses under the dinner table all in one. Thirty-five years later Debbie is now the size of that dinner table, as shapely as a moose thanks to her six children delivered in five years and she only owns half her own teeth.
Those Godforsaken wristbands. Hotel management would not let you set a small toe over the perimeter without one and dare appear in the foyer without one strapped to your person and I suspect a public execution would be hastily arranged.
I paid for, sorry I won, a holiday package and I should have the right to not be branded as a chav by having to display a tacky wristband for all and sundry day-in-day-out for a week.
I do have a solution: replace these wristbands with Burberry Caps or just the traditional HMP issued electronic ankle tags. You would probably feel a whole lot less conspicuous at the poolside.
Of course it was the casino and not the pool which was the focal point of our attention. That too had its very own brand of hospitality with its doors featuring an airport-style scanner and a gorilla equipped with a hand-held metal detector prepared to strip-search you at the reception desk should his gadget detect your mobile phone or redundant money clip.
Once inside the tide turns. That’s paradoxical as the Black Sea is notable for not having tides. But, fear not, the place is awash with something, tattoos.
I digress. I like the Crystal Crown Casino. How could you not? Any place which operates a ‘help-yourselves to tins of Red Bull’ service gets a thumbs up. Meanwhile, should you put a note of any size or nationality into a well displayed tip-box you have a free rein on the well-stocked bar. As an added bonus I suspect the alcohol had not been watered down in any way.
Outside, in bars on the walkway alongside the beachfront known as ‘the strip’, the beer has not been watered down. It is water which has been given a brief introduction to a fermentation process known as beer making. Back in my youth, the 80’s, it was called Top Deck.
What do you expect when you are paying 75 cents for a pint of it? There is an argument saying it should be poured straight down the toilet. It would cut out the middle-man alright.
But that would be no fun and fun is the one thing I have been missing all these years. Now I realise this trip has filled a void. It is the reason for the change in my mindset. Here I got the chance to fulfil the dream which is a Club 18-30 Holiday despite being a full fledged member of the Club 42-58 fellowship.
Check back soon for part II of Roy’s Sunny Beach trip report.