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How Victorian Coren helped free poker play from stereotypes

Victoria Coren is now one of the world's most famous female poker players, having collected over a million dollars in prize money and being a member of the top team Poker Stars.

However, the erudite Guardian journalist is not perhaps the image of a poker star that most of us would have in our minds. Coren also presents intellectual TV shows like 'Only Connect' and 'Balderdash and Piffle', and has been a journalist since winning a Daily Telegraph competition as a 14-year-old.

A graduate of St John's College, Oxford, she is the daughter of columnist and humorist Alan Coren, while journalist Giles Coren is her brother. This is not the background many of us have in mind when we picture poker professionals like Hull-born Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliott.

Coren acknowledges these seemingly contradictory elements of her career by stating that she does indeed spend much of her time, "Smoking, and drinking and gambling. But I like cooking and gardening too, which makes me sound like a very strange mix of an old lady and teenage boy."

Her success is not to be sneered at. She was the first woman to win one of the European Poker Tour's events, and she also enjoys the distinction of being the first player to win both a televised professional tournament and a televised celebrity tournament, after winning events in 2005 and 2006.

Her media and poker careers have dovetailed nicely at times, with Coren helping present television coverage of the game, examples being the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour, which was on Channel 4, and Ultimate Poker Challenge on Channel 5.

Although the privately educated intellectual is not an obvious poker star, the appeal of the game to her can perhaps be explained by certain quirks in her upbringing.

Always an outsider at her west London girls' school, Coren found her fun playing poker with her older brother Giles and his friends. As she told the Jewish Chronicle: "Boys weren’t bitchy like girls — they insulted you openly and laughed in your face. I loved that. That characterises the poker scene. It’s not about witty small-talk but stupid jokes and strong opinions. I fit in there very well. I found my community."

Perhaps the best place to look for some free tips on her poker play would be Coren's book about the sport. Originally published as 'For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair With Poker' in 2009, it was reissued in paperback in 2011 as 'For Richer, For Poorer: Confessions Of A Player'.

As well as playing on the live tournament circuit, Coren is also something of a regular at the Victoria Casino in London, and has also been associated with the poker 'team' the Hendon Mob.

Should anyone really want to tangle with this new-breed titan of the table then Coren can be found playing on line at Pokerstars.co.uk, along with her top-ranked team mates.

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