Warne's poker ambitions could leave Hampshire with a busted
The itchy texting thumb of Shane Warne has got him into hot water
again. No, nothing like that, at least not as a primary concern.
Apparently he was sitting at a poker table at
Melbourne's Crown casino - with which he has long enjoyed a profitable working
relationship - during his first session as a professional player when the urge
to SMS overtook him.
Etiquette and more practical issues demand that a
player leaves the table for such activities. So Warney was sent into poker's
equivalent of the sin-bin for five minutes, missing passages of play, including
a "blind". As any poker knowledge I have was gleaned from The Cincinnati Kid, I
confess I know not what this means but it cannot have been helpful.
The bowling maestro, retired from Tests
for more than a year now, is heavily into poker and has signed a deal with an
online company that has installed him as captain of their team to play in
various large events across the globe. (An aside: does he get his stake paid
for him and what happens to winnings in that case? Just asking.)
good for him to get involved in what clearly is a burgeoning market,
particularly online. But Texas Hold 'Em's gain is cricket's loss, or more
specifically that of Hampshire, the county side he is contracted to lead this
coming season as he has done for the past couple of years.
This week it
was revealed that he will not be joining them for the start of the season and
may miss chunks later on as his poker commitments take over. A contracted
cricketer, one of the most famous ever employed by that county, is not going to
fulfil his playing obligations because of poker.
Quite how much he will
miss is not yet entirely clear but Hampshire's first match proper is against
Sussex, the county champions, on April 16, and, according to a poker news
website, Warne is due to lead his new team in the New Zealand poker
championship in Christchurch from May 3-11. There are other big tournaments
too: the 2008 world series of poker; the United Kingdom poker open; and the
poker nations cup.
All of this will have been greeted with a
frustrated shrug by Hampshire's chairman and benefactor Rod Bransgrove, whose
initiative and financial clout brought Warne to the county in the first place.
"We shall have to sit down and work out a sensible programme for both of us,"
he said this week. There is a feeling, though, that the sensible programme
ought to entail Warne playing poker if he wants to or cricket if that takes his
fancy but not try and mix them, an arrangement which would suit Warne but which
would do little for the integrity of county cricket in general and Hampshire in
I confess that the lure of poker eludes me but then that
is true of cards in general. Crib I can do, taught me by my grandad, and I have
vague recollection of parents trying to explain canasta, a game which must have
been popular half a century ago. But that by and large was it, even given the
fact that sportspeople do play a lot of cards, whiling away breaks or travel
time. Rain interruptions at Lord's generally sent me to the crossword instead,
Phil Edmonds to the telephone and Wayne Daniel to the treatment table but a
card school was usually in operation as well: Find the Lady (the polite name)
was one, and a few - Mike Brearley, Mike Gatting and John Emburey always
looking for a fourth - continued an ongoing bridge tournament.
Generally Brearley did not approve of the imperative for the cards to
come out at the earliest opportunity. One game known as Last Card, high on
banality and low on skill, became an obsession among a core of the Middlesex
team rather than a mere distraction, to the extent that it was played while the
match was in progress. This rankled with Brearley who, apart from the more
obvious issue of commitment and focus, observed that no one was watching when
he batted, although an exception was made when a crowd pleaser such as Roland
Butcher was at the crease. "Can't think why," said Edmonds drily.
came to a head one day in the dungeon-like dressing rooms at Cheltenham
College. To his assembled team, sat head down and silent, he launched into a
rant, gave chapter and verse, reached a crescendo and then finished. The room
remained contemplative for perhaps half a minute, before the silence was broken
by Emburey: "Right, whose deal is it?"