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The Nightmare That Nearly Turned Into the Dream

by 'Mad Marty' Wilson |  Published: Jul 01, 2010


I’ve had some scary moments in my life, but none as scary as when Phil Peters, who is known in the game as “Phil the Professor”, picked me up recently to take me to Holyhead ferry port. He arrived two and a half hours late. After we’d arranged to go at 4 p.m. he came to my house at 6.30 p.m. and then asked me to drive in some of the worst conditions we have ever seen in this country for 10 years. I drove through snow blizzards and on black ice through country roads while he sat there smoking Marlboro lights one after another. It’s a good job he’d packed in smoking, because God knows how many he’d have been smoking otherwise.

We arrived at Holyhead smack on 9 p.m. just in time to see the ferry pull away. Of course Phil blamed me, despite it being his in-car satellite navigator I was following. The ferry office informed us the next ferry was 2:30 a.m. so we decided to go for an extended Indian meal. Phil proceeded to tell me how much weight I’d gained, how grey my hair was, and the bald patch on my head.

Then, having distracted me, he pushed a red hot chili pepper into the middle of my shish kebab starter. I think I spent the rest of the meal with my head plus the bald patch under the cold tap. I’m a gambling man, but I tell you I will never eat another one of these chilies.

When we returned to the motorcar, because I’d been driving with the main beam on, the battery was flat. And because of the treacherous conditions that had been on the road that night, the Automobile Association and the Royal Automobile Club were all out on emergency call-outs. Two more ferries later and a night’s accommodation in the local hotel, and we were finally on the ferry and on our way to the Irish Open.

The date was April 1, but it was no joke to me. With this kind of start behind me, was I really ready to play my biggest tournament of the year so far? I knew I’d been playing well for weeks. At the Irish Open I made it through three grueling days of play, eventually finishing 17th.

My exit hand was pocket queens. It was my own fault. I should have learnt the lesson that you should never play with the ladies when gambling. The €18,300 prize money came in handy though, as I was able to tell Phil Peters what to do with his lift home and booked a flight. Just remember, keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and Phil Peters as far away as possible.

This was a nightmare journey that nearly turned into the greatest weekend of my life. I played some of my best poker in 20 years, cutting my way through 708 runners. Every time there was an all-in announced, the rails were packed. I had become an adopted Irishman, everybody was shouting for me.

Later on, somebody gave me a badge with an Irish flag on it that said, “Vote Marty”. I thought it was for me, but it was really about Marty Smyth in the race for the Tournament of Champions. So I’m asking all my readers to go online and vote for Marty Smyth to be elected to the TOC, as Marty has agreed to donate every penny he wins to children’s hospitals in Belfast and Dublin. This is the class of the man. So get online and vote for Marty Smyth at Because next to me, he’s the nicest Marty in poker! Spade Suit

Mad Marty Wilson is a professional gambler and poker consultant for Matchroom Sport.