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Mad Marty's Wild Card

by 'Mad Marty' Wilson |  Published: Aug 01, 2005


Martyn is Trying … Very Trying
I left school with my cycling proficiency badge and an elementary certificate in swimming. In the final year, my last report card commented, "Martyn will not be allowed to stay on for further education. He is one of those pupils who knows everything and cannot be taught anything." I chose to take this as a compliment.

It came as a bit of culture shock, then, when I attended the fourth-annual Oxford Cup and found myself sitting alongside future prime ministers and Harley Street doctors. I had been invited every year, but this was the first time I had been able to play.

Other names in attendance included Bruce "Elvis Senior" Atkinson, Jacarama, Dave "El Blondie" Colcough, and Malcolm "The Rock" Harwood.

The £20 rebuy tournament attracted a fantastic 244 runners and amassed a prize pool of more than £13,000. It was run by my old pal Roy Houghton, a man I've driven mad in years gone by. At the first tournament in the Isle of Man, before the Poker Million, I hid the microphone and the trophy Mickey Cook had just won. The place was in turmoil, with even the dustbins being emptied, until someone remembered Mad Marty had been in the room right before they had gone missing.

But the Oxford Cup went by with no interference from me. At my first table, I assumed the other players were all students. The guy on my right made a move on a pot with a possible flush, the board showing diamonds and hearts. He took the pot down and everyone commented that his reds must win. I figured this must be some variation on the game that the students had made up themselves.

Half an hour later, I found out that he was actually the man who had sold everything he owned, even his surname, to have a TV crew follow him to Vegas to film him gamble it all on red or black. I hadn't seen the program, but I remembered the adverts, and I had read a follow-up piece in a national paper, in which the readers had voted for him to bet on red. The casino that had intended to stage the event pulled out, and my old home, The Plaza, stepped in. The gambler won, and two weeks later when I was in the Plaza to meet with some friends, I asked the barmaid whether she'd been there when he placed the bet, and also whether the exposure and advertising had been worthwhile for the casino? "Dunno," she replied, "but all the drinks went up $1 the next day."

The next week, I was off to Challenge TV to do a promotion with Helen Chamberlain for potential sponsors, to show just how popular poker and other related programs are. I was a bit anxious and unsure of my role, but I figured Helen was a professional, so she could keep it together. Unfortunately, she had the same idea about me! So, with an audience of more than 100 people, all having had access to the free beer for an hour, we were introduced and had to come running down the stairs, through the audience, to the stage. The organizer had told me to tell a few gambling stories, and he would signal when to stop. With a microphone in my hand, a receptive audience, and the lights in my eyes, I couldn't see the organizer, so I carried on. A lighthearted tournament and a blackjack knockout followed, and it was over. It seemed to have worked, as everyone was keen to be a part of the rise in televised poker. It's all a long way from the first televised WSOP event, which Binion's had to pay ESPN to screen because the broadcaster didn't think it would be popular!

"Mad Marty" Wilson is a professional poker player from Wolverhampton. He is a poker consultant for Matchroom Sports and is sponsored by Noble Poker. Marty tutors players through his website,