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Home of Poker

The Home of Poker is The Old Bunker at the Haskins’. Let me explain… the Haskins, both Craig and Rysie were notorious for going missing, you could phone Craig… no answer, you’d try Rysie… no answer, you’d try the house phone… no answer, you’d try Sue… just kidding! But no-one could understand it. This could happen for days. The rumours spread and there were even whispers of aliens but the logical conclusion was soon unveiled when someone thought they had heard air-raid sirens in the vicinity so of course the little grey cells pictured the ever-prepared Haskins’ in an old bunker down there! This may well be folly but it keeps all the lads amused, and, it sure does make sense! Besides, you don’t get any damn reception in them bunkers do you? So in conclusion to that introduction, the old Haskins house is forever known as The Old Bunker… where poker began…

Friday nights were Poker Night at The Old Bunker; all the boys would make it. In those days we hardly knew the rules, no-one could deal, apart from me, so I was designated croupier and christened ‘Croups’. Chips were used one-at-a-time, literally. I mean, we didn’t understand different values of chips back then so ten chips regardless of their colour was a bet of ten. If you had a King in your hand you were going all the way for sure, and an Ace… Wow! There just wasn’t any way in the world you were folding. Everyone had their styles which we’ll come to shortly, but we all soon progressed, perhaps some quicker than others, but the game soon became competitive. What I mean is it started to resemble a poker game. And don’t worry; we picked up on valuing different chip colours so at least we didn’t need three poker chip sets just to play one table. We used to start the game with forty chips, valuing the chips meant we could start with ten chips valued at fifteen hundred. Let’s just say the change wasn’t understood by everyone at first! We would play £5 buy-in SNG’s and, depending on how many showed, pay the top 2 or 3 their profit. We even became accustomed with using a timer to signal the blinds going up! And Rysie pulled out all the stops introducing a felt cover for the poker table! The only thing that became more important than the game was knowing who was buying the Haribos and sweets and chips-n-dips and drinks! The game flourished as individuals nurtured their own version of correct tournament strategy, and then the fun really started to begin…

Poker, a game of people, started for us, a group of mates, in The Old Bunker… The Home of Poker.

Player Profiles (in Poker-Nickname alphabetical order):

Neil ‘4th Street’ Marshall aka ‘Gremlin’

It’s simple; he checked the flop and bet the turn too often not to notice! But what is more noticeable is that ‘4th Street’ Marshall is the unluckiest guy in poker. When you’re involved in the poker world you hear that statement far too often, it’s a common cry, usually used to save face and cover-up an inferior game. To some it’s an ego game after all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not describing 4th Street here; my usual roll-of-the-eyes have been rightfully replaced with almost psychic raised-eyebrows when that statement is used in 4th Street’s case, as another miracle river sends him to the rail!

But there is more to 4th Street’s downfall than just a bit of run-bad, and that comes in the form of consciousness. I would say 4th Street is a favourite to fall asleep at least some point during a marathon poker night. Did I say favourite? I meant banker! As Gremlin replaces counting his chips with counting sheep we’re left to interpret which decision on his action he intends by his grunts…

“Grems it’s your go…”


“What did he say?”

“I dunno…”

“I think he said “All In”!”

“Yeah I thought I heard it too…”

“Well if he’s announced it then he’s All In!”


“Ok boys on their backs!”


“Good luck boys!”



“So sick…”

“Unlucky Grems…”

Its ok man, we’ve got your back.

Keith ‘Aces’ or ‘Secondary Croups’ Marshall aka ‘Beans’

‘Aces’ pops up with Aces, a lot. That’s that one covered. ‘Secondary Croups’ believes he has skills as a croupier and STEPS UP (or merely steps in) when cover for me in this area is needed. He possesses a unique ‘Chip-Flick-and-Click’ trick which he uses, when psyching out an opponent is necessary. However, the secret to Beans’ poker game lies in the quantity he drinks! As lines like “There’s only one Marshall boys!” and “You boys have got no game!” are starting to be heard spat across the green baize, and the more his Secondary skills diminish, the more his bluffing prowess and confidence increase, and as all your senses swirl out of alignment, only one remains clear… the sound of torture in which it was intended…“Flick-Click… Flick-Click… Flick-Click”!

Matthew ‘Croups’ J-B aka ‘Bones’

The lads like to say my hand is the Ac9c, the striker’s number 9 jersey coupled with a suited ace, which, incidentally, for the historians, is the same hand held (unsuccessfully) by Mike, played by Matt Damon, in the opening scene of the movie Rounders. I tend to have affection for the 8c5c as a bet on roulette by me would always be a 5-8-split. The QcTc has a special place too as that was what I held when I made my first Royal Flush. Not sure why the clubs are apparent but things stick I guess. It matters none. I just like to show up with the winner.

Jon ‘Dirty Rat’ Wallis

The 100 Heads-Up SNG challenge, £1 per SNG… J-B v Wallis. Haribos at the ready. The result… J-B 54-46 Wallis… I made £8! But it will always be remembered when Wallis made me lay down the smaller full-house on a double-paired board, showing what was a stone cold bluff the whole way. And I still don’t know why I folded. It’s just that that Dirty Rat usually gets there!

A former Professional Footballer for Gillingham FC, Wallis and I were training partners and would compete to improve each other in various fitness or skill-based disciplines. And when injuries (fully) replaced competitive football with that of poker for me I substituted the hill running, doggies and quick feet with volume of hands per hour, mental stamina and optimal decision making… and switched head tennis, wall-ball and one-to-ten with range merging, thin value and balancing frequencies, and so carried over these self-enthused motivational skills we’d both developed and banked some valuable life lessons to boot.

So don’t look back, unless it’s a good view.

Lee ‘Hollywood’ Crow aka ‘Crowy’ (or ‘The Big Black Bird’)

Bones-and-Hollywood. It rolled off the tongue like Shearer-and-Sheringham! Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham were known as ‘SAS’ when they played together for England and reached the heights of their striking partnership in the European Championships in 1996, held in England. Bones-and-Hollywood too graced football pitches wearing numbers 9 & 10 respectively, the classic combo… flair and pace… touch and power… vision and goals! Hollywood had an eye for a ‘Hollywood-Ball’… I scored goals… a lot of goals… together it worked. The only trouble is that ‘BAH’ sounds more like something a sheep would say than the elite military outfit of the England strikers!

So, back to the more pressing topic: Crowy’s a throw-back from the old smoke-filled three-card-brag card rooms of old, and thrives in any gambling arena. We will always find something to bet on… football, golf or bowling… snooker, pool or darts… what time the train will arrive or simply the toss of a coin. Our Heads-or-Tails game excels in its simplicity (albeit not understood by Beans, bless him!). Heads is good. Tails is bad. Two players each toss their own £1 coin. Heads beats Tails and that player would claim his opponent’s £1. If both players flip Heads then it is a push and both players flip again, but if both players flip Tails then they must put their 2 x £1 coins in the middle and each flip new £1 coins, the winner of which scoops the pot! See, the thing is, this is a break even game, so when ahead, you have free money to spin up, and when behind, the more you play the less you lose! So that’s the sick part, it doesn’t really stop, Crowy and I even decided we didn’t need to both be present; such is the respect and honesty of a gamblers word, so when boredom strikes we play this via text message and just keep a tab! Many can’t get their heads around this, and in many ways, but, to us, it’s just action.

Stuart ‘Language’ Hoffman aka ‘Hoffy’

Hoffy and Nobby verbal attacks are so common that it would be a surprisingly surreal five minutes of time would it be not coupled with curses coming from Hoffy’s mouth. But the lad did come to my aid during a game in Southend after I was almost getting physically attacked for beating a guy out of a pot. The attacker was then told in no uncertain terms by Hoffy, “If you [bleep] talk to him like that again [bleep], I’ll [bleep] take you outside and [bleep] smash you up! [bleep]” The attacker shrunk considerably, silence fell, and he never spoke another word. A word though on poker, Hoffy is a hand reader, a thoroughbred, he prides himself on deciphering the action and putting a guy on a hand, and is, seldom inaccurate (none more so proven than when we played in Latvia!), although apparently can’t get a read on me… which is a good thing!

Karl ‘Luck-o-the-Irish’ Daly aka ‘Paddy’

The Irish have vices in the blood, it’s a natural instinct they are born with, the ancestry runs so deep and pure that you could pick a random Irish with little-to-no poker experience, put him in a game where anyone else would be out of their depth and he will hold his own, perhaps even excel… and that’s exactly what an inexperienced Paddy did in the early days of our game. Holding AhKh and facing a decision for all his chips pre-flop, Paddy tanks, then folds face-up… to our UTTER DISBELIEF! Now, these days this may not seem like that big of a deal, but this was only just post-Moneymaker, this was new-to-poker-SNG-home-game-can’t-fold-an-ace-or-a-king-let-alone-both-at-the-SAME-TIME!!! Well… to conclude this memory, Paddy was ridiculed for a full minute and merely defended himself by stating he thought his man had AA and then only for us monkeys to see his opponent flip his hand up… of course… AA! This brought the house down.

David Leek aka ‘Me-Mate-Dave’

Me-Mate-Dave is a talented guy: computer programmer; grade-eight pianist; seasoned skier; accomplished chess player; expert Connect Four strategist; an under-60-seconds-Rubik’s-Cube guy; among the pen-trick elite (just ask to see the ‘Shadow’ for artistic impression wow-ness, or the ‘Bakaround’ for technical merit!); chip-trick enthusiast; and enough shuffles and cuts to hold his own alongside the card mechanic ‘Worm’ played by Edward Norton in the movie Rounders! And he craves action… like, 6am phone calls: “J, are you still up?? Poker yeah!?!” Ha. A chilled-out afternoon in a ski-chalet in Tignes, in the French Alps ended up with Dave and I multi-tabling Heads-Up… yes, live!… whilst simultaneously keeping our Connect Four game going! I got owned at Connect Four (again), but of course made good at the poker. Ha.

Shane ‘No-Fold’ Norman aka ‘Nobby’ (or ‘Nobby-No-Fold’)

Nobby doesn’t fold… like ever. Give the man some credit; he is also ‘The Daddy’ of Ladbrokes after winning their big one online. And the J-B v Nobby Heads-Up games online are the stuff of legend. A man who had his avatar stolen from him by Brian Hastings (dead ringer) on Full Tilt has just one word by me in the notes section of a player online, four letters long… FISH! But ‘The Daddy’ can clearly play too, a famous hand between Nobby and Hoffy will forever be remembered in a Home Cash Game when Hoffy moved all-in holding AA on a board of (8 2 2) and of course Nobby has the 82! So the 82 is now ‘The Nobby’ and is used when we spice up a Home Cash Game by playing ‘The Eight-Deuce Game’. Just like the common ‘Seven-Deuce’ where if a player can win a hand with a 72, and show it, they get a nominal payout from each player at the table, plus a shed-load of respect. We pay respects to Nobby with the 82 instead! If suited, of course, the payout is higher!

Something worth mentioning which Kiddo and myself discussed, and sums up Nobby’s game, is, hypothetically, if you were in need of a substantial sum of money, say £20,000 or something, and you thought the only way out was to spin it up quickly playing poker, then you would stake Nobby in that game. It’s a no-brainer, the guy spins up sums and loses them in no time… you would just need to be there to grab him by the shoulders and drag him out when ahead!

Darren ‘Pipedream’ Gowler

Gowler, the Dent King, formally the Wizard (or Lizard), fixes dents on cars and breaks other peoples chairs… that’s what he loves to do and that’s what he does best! Gowler has broken so many Home Game chairs that it is a wonder we have anywhere left to sit and get a game going! Think Musical Chairs, replace the music with a drum-roll as Gowler is perched on the edge of a shaking, wobbling, petrified chair in full squat, an electric-guitar-shredding-held-high-note replacing the sound of the squeaking arms… the drum-roll reaching its heights as Gowler’s backside comes into contact with the seat, and the inevitable climatic-crashing-cymbal as the event reaches its (broken) conclusion! But, chairs come and chairs go I guess.

Gowler and I once travelled to Copenhagen for New Year, we stayed at the Casino and whilst there we found a £5-10 game that looked ok. I got in the action but Gowler was made to wait on the list. Well, by the time he sat down he must have given himself a good talking to in front of the mirror in the toilets, as he steamrolled the game and took it for a £1,000 or more in no time. He even tipped the dealer £50 one hand; by mistake I might add (damn exchange rates!). There I was, sitting in a foreign poker game, in a foreign country, and my one friend there was now looking foreign to me! Most uncharacteristic! You see, at a poker table, within the group, when it comes to flair, Gowler props up at least the majority of this list of players. But Gowler’s strength lies in his discipline and can confidently sit at the top of the list in this field. Neil ‘4th Street’ Marshall can take credit in Gowler’s ‘Pipedream’ nickname which was the result of another Gowler ‘idea’, away from the poker table I might add. It seems there is a different Gowler at the poker table to the one we see in everyday life, which is then commendable to the man as they say you should fight the urge of your personal character tendencies at the poker table… what Gowler should be doing though is fighting the urge to sit down… the result of which is someone’s chair is about to break!

Craig ‘Reckless’ Haskins aka ‘Albino’

Albino is so called because he is white, I mean perhaps a little too white, like factor-35 sunblock doesn’t even come close. It’s not insulting but merely a correct observation. Albino is a milk drinker, the word is that is why he is so white, and at least that explains it to the lads.

The nickname ‘Reckless’ is what it is. There’s no mistaking Albs’ style at the poker table, he is the all-in-or-fold ambassador. He makes it work… or he mows the lawn! Seriously. If Albs busts out early he can be seen through the window outside mowing the lawn! He loves mowing that lawn. Which leads me to offer some friendly advice on the matter… if you turn up to a Home Game at the Haskins’ and you notice the grass is overgrown… beware! Albino is running hot and he will mow YOU down!!!

Courtney ‘Straight-Up’ Rayfield aka ‘Courts’

Holding only a Gutshot Straight-Draw on the flop and needing to hit your 4-outer to win, with two cards to come you can consider yourself a 5-to-1 dog. Well, if Courts is holding that hand, you can flip those odds upside down! Courts is a 5-to-1 favourite to make that Straight! In the Dwight Yorke mould of play-with-a-smile, it’s an uncomfortable spot when a Straight-scare-card comes in on the river, all of Courts’ chips are in the middle, and he’s sitting across from you grinning like a Cheshire Cat! You can’t but laugh and fold (or call and lose!).

Once upon a time it didn’t come in; Courts didn’t make his Straight and was busto! Aghast! Jaw dropping silence fell… the tension rose through the roof… everyone’s suspecting eyes were landing on each other; each reaching the only logical conclusion… the deck has been stacked! The cards were ripped in half and discarded and a new deck was put in place. The hand was declared dead and Courts was reinstated. Courts of course, ended this fairy tale winning all the money with what was to be the final hand… holding a Straight! Courts scooped the prize money with a smile. Everyone lived happily ever after. The moral? Well, in the words of Gloria played by Rosie Perez in the 1992 movie White Men Can’t Jump… “Billy, sometimes when you lose you really win…” Ha.

Ryan ‘The Rock’ Haskins aka ‘Rysie’

‘The Rock’, it’s not ironic. Rysie went to the Dan Harrington school of poker. See no action! Hear no action! Speak no action! But Rysie leans on the successful side of the group so this can’t be mocked. Dan Harrington made it work winning the 1995 World Series of Poker Main Event! But his greatest accreditation came when final tabling back-to-back Main Events in 2003 and 2004, with some at the time recognising this as the greatest feat in WSOP history considering the modern field sizes. And off the back of this he received further acclaim writing some of the most influential strategy texts in his ‘Harrington on Hold’em’ and ‘Harrington on Cash Games’ series.

Rysie has an unmistakable way of peeking at his hole cards, viewing from the cards’ shortest edge he bends the cards in half past ninety-degrees to see the top half of each card clearly, holding that pose while he is thinking, until, whilst still in fixed concentration on his cards, he announces his action. Always sure of his decision, never misunderstood, he protects his good hands, checks his bad, and seldom makes the wrong move. Tight is right… especially in a bunker full of donkeys!

Sean ‘Unknown’ Prescott aka ‘Kiddo’

The Unknown, a complementary nickname as no-one knew what he was up to. Kiddo mixed it up so much that the T3 became known as ‘The Kiddo’, and in the words of the man himself, it is “so much better than a Doyle Brunson!”. The T2 of course forever being known as a Doyle Brunson due to The Godfather of Poker’s two World Series of Poker Main Event back-to-back victories coming with him holding the T2 on the final hand both times. The guy you want there when he is not there, the Amarillo Slim of the group: Kiddo never fails to have the room in stitches with one of his famous one-liners; they follow him like he follows Sheffield Wednesday Football Club!

Kiddo was an accomplished reg £2-5 player on the old Cryptologic network online, back when the games were “like picking money off the floor!”, so is privy to sizeable action. However, Kiddo’s gambling tendencies extend far beyond the green baize, to sports arenas and race tracks with the gee-gee’s holding a special place. Whether backing or laying, he always holds to his maxim “you never wish you’d bet less!”, after all, “the next best thing to gambling and winning, is gambling and losing!” Ha!

The Best Man at my wedding. Having lived with and travelled the world with Kiddo, we have shared many experiences… fond memories of travelling to Dublin to play, sharing a roll, with me cleaning up playing cash and Kiddo cleaning up in the tournament… to Egypt and finding we only had enough cash to put one of us in a (bigger) game, I sat down with Kiddo railing me, and I literally waited for hours on end to finally flop the joint, triple up, and pay for our trip. Kiddo later gave his analysis as “the greatest display of patience I have ever seen!”… and of course to Australia where we lived (and worked!) for a year.

Throughout all of this we have spent countless hours playing Heads-Up, in hotel rooms and hostels all over, I have played Kiddo Heads-Up more than anyone by far and likewise him with me, so much so that I made a genuine Royal Flush one time, albeit in a game where we played for free just for fun to pass the time. Now, I say ‘genuine’ Royal Flush as there have been many others due to more ‘underhand’ tactics! If one of us goes to the bathroom mid-game it is completely expected that the other one will stack the deck! This kick-started the first time my mischievous evils got the better of me, I had fixed it so that Kiddo held quad-Queens on the river… now picture full-on competitive concentration mode, then, all of a sudden watching the penny drop as it dawned on him a Royal Flush was out there, and to his credit he folded (whilst now shaking his head and laughing!), so now it’s just a little something we find so funny, every time. Ha. It’s just for fun of course, you see, things became hazy when I made it not so easy to appear ‘morally right’… dealing him Kings Kiddo walks back into the room, looks at his hand and open folds face-up, “you’ve got Aces”, so I show him the hand I dealt myself…72o, “I don’t know what you mean!?!”

Daniel ‘Vegas’ Pickering

They say home is where the heart is, well, for Pickering home is Las Vegas! The man responsible for taking me to my first casino and for, of course, taking me to Las Vegas for the first time… for his wedding! There is a variant of poker where Deuces are wild, well, Vegas is wild about Deuces! Born on the 22nd of the month Vegas’ hand is pocket twos. There I was walking through Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas and happened to walk by Vegas scooping a pot… holding pocket twos, he sees me and is all smiles… “Mighty Ducks baby!!!” That made me smile too.


– “Boys, let’s shuffle up and deal!”

[“Its ok Beans, I’ve got this… someone go and get Albs… tell him we need a new chair, again… Grems, go back to sleep…”]

– That’s (Home of) Poker folks!

4 Responses leave one
  1. Nobby no fold permalink
    September 3, 2012

    Legendry blogging mate lovin the profiles of everyone brings back lots of memories from the past but one thing I wanna know is what gives u the impression that I never fold lol I’m tight as a nuns ***** lol great work mate just let me know when ya want that 20k spun up yeah :)

  2. 1debo1 permalink
    September 3, 2012

    Legendary! I can imagine even Doyle or Ivey reading this and wanting to be in on this game!

  3. MeMateDave permalink
    September 3, 2012

    Ha, quality! So true. Especially “unlucky” Grems who somehow managed to lose in Sorrento even when he had virtually every chip in play!

  4. Kiddo permalink
    December 31, 2013

    “the Amarillo Slim of the group”

    Does this have a double meaning? haha

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