Victoria Coren Mitchell turned her hobby into a career and has now entered poker history as the first player to score a double win at the EPT.
Easter Sunday turned out to be a very lucky day for journalist, writer and TV presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell. After playing against more than 550 competitors, the poker pro won a cash prize of GBP 391,932 and a watch worth more than GBP 4,000 at the European Poker Tour (EPT) in Sanremo, Italy.
Of course, the cash prize sounds amazing, but Coren Mitchell won something even better: she made poker history by becoming the first two-time winner of the prestigious tournament. She is also in the all-time top 10 of female poker players.
The long journey to stardom
Poker is not really seen as a game for women, but there are a number of excellent female poker players out there. Victoria Coren Mitchell, a member of the elite Team PokerStars Pro, is certainly one of them.
With total winnings of GBP 1.43m, Victoria Coren Mitchell is now:
•9th on the list of all-time female poker players
•22nd in England’s rankings
•355th in world rankings
It all started when she was a teenager. Her brother’s friends were playing poker and she wanted to fit in with the boys, so she joined a game and used her pocket money as a stake. It must have all seemed very exciting to her, because she started taking the game more seriously and even joined tournaments.
It wasn’t until 2006 that she became a true poker star, entering poker history as the first female player to win the EPT. This year on Easter Sunday, she won that title for the second time in her career, becoming the first player in poker history with a double win at the EPT.
Playing poker is not Victoria Coren Mitchell’s main job. She writes for the Observer and the Guardian, and she presents “Only Connect”, a quiz show on BBC4. But she is also one of the most respected poker players. Her lifetime winnings are now at an impressive GBP 1.43 million, placing her among the top female poker players of all time.
In a recent interview, she told reporters: “I’ve long since lost the sense of what my day job is. Am I a professional writer who plays poker as a hobby? Or a professional poker player who writes as a hobby?”
From eighth to first
A total of 556 players joined the game held in an Italian poker room in Sanremo. The GBP 2 million prize pool poker event lasted for an entire week and things weren’t looking too bright for Victoria on Sunday.
She was on eighth place with a GBP 6,576 win, worrying that her fans might be disappointed. “Tens of thousands of people (on Tweeter) got behind me. I thought I’d be happy with sixth, but also thought they’d be disappointed,” she said.
“I kept calling my husband during the breaks asking, ‘Is sixth place all right? Fifth place?’” she added.
It was an incredible finale, as she made her way from eighth place to first, beating Italian player Giacomo Fundaro and winning a total of GBP 391,932. She wrote to her followers on Tweeter “I WON! I bloody WON!!!!!!” and added: “Sorry for that language on Easter Sunday. But I WON!!!!!! That is at least partly thanks to the amazing support, God bless everyone.”
She celebrated the good news with her husband, comedian David Mitchell, by ordering room service in their hotel room.
Changing the image of poker
Victoria Coren Mitchell is one of the most beloved poker players and industry experts believe her latest victory will help change the image of poker. “Poker is going to enjoy an enormous uptick in popularity, clinging on the coat tails of this sensational triumph,” journalist Howard Swains wrote.
Poker has become increasingly popular over the past few years, but it has reached a stage where veterans are competing against a new generation of talents who play online poker in the UK and across Europe. Many of them earn millions before they turn 20.
However, Coren Mitchell believes everyone who truly enjoys the game already has what it takes to become a professional player. “The big thing for me is trying to fly the flag for people who are playing poker primarily for fun and have another job. I want those people to feel they have a chance at winning,” she told reporters.
“You don’t have to be a full-time professional, or a teenage maths graduate who studies videos all day long. It’s an incredibly inclusive game, for men and women, for old or young. I’ve played with the blind and people in wheelchairs, we can all do it. I want women to feel encouraged and not be put off but the bigger thing is everyone should feel very welcome.”
A game once associated with underground clubs and criminals, poker has truly come a long way. And all this was made possible by professionals like Victoria Coren Mitchell and other talented players, who showed the world that poker is more than a simple game of chance.