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Alan Ball, The Devilfish, and The Man Who Passed The Aces

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Feb 06, '19


I met a guy at the bar at the recent Grand Prix in Dublin who had probably watched more TV poker than Jesse May. His favorite was the Legends of Football and Poker partypoker Cup from 2016. He was right. It was hilarious.

I first heard about the event when I was sent details of the tournament and an invitation to provide commentary with Jesse. It was an international competition involving three-man teams representing each country competing in a knockout format. Each team was to be made up of two poker pros and a football legend. Wow. As a keen football fan, I was in for sure, even though mention of the likes of Pele and Maradona as possible players seemed too good to be true. It was. Pele was busy and Maradona was washing his hair, but it was still a star studded line-up.

A 1966 World Cup hero, the late great Alan Ball, was to represent England alongside The Devilfish and Ian Fraser. OMG. Manchester United legend Norman Whiteside was in the Northern Ireland side, while accomplished poker players Tony Cascarino’s inclusion in Ireland’s team probably made them favourites. Other legends included Thomas Brolin (Sweden), Neville Southall (Wales), Ray Stewart (Scotland), and Glen Helder (Holland). Germany had veteran of four World Cups goalkeeper Uli Stein in their side. He turned out to be great craic, and he and I had some memorable penalty shootouts in the green room, where the only rule was that both shooter and goalkeeper had to have at least one beer in their hands.

The deal was that all the players from two teams played a six man sit-and-go against each other. Last man standing’s team progressed to the next round. It made for interesting viewing. And a lot of laughs. First up were the English. Alan Ball had a mind of his own and was determined to do his own thing despite what the Devilfish thought he should do. Mr Ball was as fiery on the table as he had been on the pitch and got involved in a heated debate with The Fish.

Mad Marty, the tournament director, stepped in. That didn’t help. It all went off. It was great! Marty and The Fish got into it. Marty was threatening The Fish with a red card. I’m sure most of those watching thought the lads were having a laugh. I can assure you they weren’t. This could have quickly turned into a disgraceful shambles. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

But we did get one of the funniest poker TV shows ever. There was a bit of a problem involving the Italian team. Their captain was actor Michael Greco. I am prepared to accept he has some claim to being a bit Italian. After that, the problems started. Londoner Alan Vincent was asked to play. His eligibility to play for Italy was somewhat dubious. His only connection to Italy was that he’d been there once on a day trip to watch Tottenham Hotspur play a Winners Cup match. But he got a discount and played anyway.

The footballer spot was even trickier to fill. At the last minute, they drafted in a kid who was Portuguese Brazilian, but at least he was a football legend (if having a trial with Barnet football club counts). It soon became obvious he knew absolutely nothing about poker either. It didn’t help that Greco committed hara-kiri in the first hand, leaving the two lads alone with the three Northern Irish lads.

The break couldn’t come quick enough for the “Italian” lads. I overheard Alan coaching his teammate in words of one syllable as his English wasn’t any better than his football. The message was that he should play with more aggression. He understood some of the instructions because almost immediately after the break, he very aggressively called Alan down with six high and knocked him out! Amazing stuff! Alan, to his great credit, did my favorite exit interview of all time. He kept a straight face as he explained that he and his teammate were from different regions in Italy and spoke different dialects which had led to a minor misunderstanding when tactics were being discussed. As an explanation for the monumental cockup which had just occurred, it was an excellent effort in my opinion.

But the fun had only started. Our man, who was called Wesley by the way, leaked away a bunch of chips to the Irish and was soon badly short-stacked. Jesse May, ever the pro, managed to ask me without laughing what this lad would have to do to win from the spot he was in. Just as I said he’d need to begin doubling up pretty soon just for a start, he got dealt two aces. I had barely got out, “And this should be a good start,” when he folded. Try explaining that. We couldn’t! I think we suggested that he thought his aces were low. As he didn’t speak English, we will never know.

For those who like their poker to involve the craic, the Irish Open is coming up at Easter. Good news is that you can either use partypoker live $ to buy in or qualify via satellite on partypoker. See you there!

Padraig is currently involved with Jesse May in hosting Irish Pub Poker Tours for medium-sized corporate groups. For info you can contact him on Twitter @padraigpoker.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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