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Bet big. Just once

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Privé (South Africa) Summer 2010

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One day you need to stick your neck out. Bet big and feel the rush says Daniel Ford.

My friend Ray used to be in the merchant navy. From Singapore to Malaysia to Durban, a girl in every port, the sun on his back, life on the ocean wave and all that. The trouble is the ocean waves do get a bit big sometimes. Very, very big, and the waves can toss around even a 14,5 million tonne vessel as if it’s a leaf lost at sea. Which isn’t much fun if you’re stuck on the said leaf.

So why exactly did Ray decide to venture out to the crew deck as his ship passed through the edge of Hurricane Ida? Yes, a hurricane. Why did he scramble across this foam-covered deck with a pooping just waiting to happen and wash him off like an even smaller leaf, never to be heard of, or remembered again? And why did he wrap his arms into some iron bars on the deck for stability, stick his chest out, close his eyes and allow the powerful spray to pummel him so hard that it left speckles of blood on his face?

Ray did it because it was exhilarating. And he did it because he wanted to feel that burst of exhilaration that only comes from taking a chance.

Now, Ray was being a bit silly (silly, silly boy Ray) and he admits it’s the biggest chance he’s ever taken in his life but I know exactly what he was after because I’ve always believed that every betting (wo)man should take at least one BIG chance in their betting life.

It means sticking your neck out, breaking all the normal rules of sensible betting and making one big bet that sets your heart racing again (remember the excitement of that first bet?). I’ve been a betting man as long as I remember but it’s always struck me that never feeling the rush of stretching yourself is like going to a sumptuous feast and sticking to the tomato soup.

Bear in mind that ‘going big’ varies from person to person. What’s ‘big’ for you may be nothing to your friend. It’s not the actual amount that matters; it’s whether it takes you outside your comfort zone. Are you looking at your chips on the table and absolutely fascinated by the bet you’ve just made? Too often I bet and don’t really mind one way or the other because, as it should be, it’s a bit of fun. Of course I want to win, who doesn’t? But the amount I bet is well within my comfort zone. My pulse won’t speed up until a pretty girl in a short skirt walks past.

It comes down to adrenaline and stress. Stress generally gets a bad press, always associated with a hard day at work or a nightmare afternoon out with the screaming kids. But controlled stress can take us to a new level. If you never stress your muscles in the gym your muscles stay the same. If you never stress your brain at work your brain goes flabby. People who never stress themselves rarely get anywhere in my view. Get up, eat, tickle the dog’s tummy and go to bed.

And so goes the theory in my betting world. If I were to always bet within myself my whole life then I would never feel the adrenaline that stressing my betting brain brings.

So one day I decided to stick my neck out. I should explain at this point that although my experience of sticking my neck out ended in a win, I would still be writing this article even if I had lost because it was the feeling just before the bet was concluded that mattered not the actual win itself (nice though it was).

I’m on a weekend away with two friends and we’re playing blackjack, my friends’ favourite game. After an hour of going up, going down, trying not to upset the guy next to me by drawing the card he needs, I decide to scoop up my chips and move to my favourite game: roulette.

I put the lot on black. It wins and I let it ride. My friends join me and double up my bet. We win again. We look at each other and laugh. The weekend is paid for and more.

“Let’s leave it,” I say.

This is the moment that counts for me right now. Black comes in but it doesn’t actually matter because those few seconds while I stare at my (rather large) pile of chips and wait for the wheel to settle are amazing. Stressed I was. And not in a screaming kids sort of way.

Just for once, go out on the deck in Hurricane Ida.

Poker in Paradise

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Prive (South Africa) Summer 2010

It’s not often you get to play a national champion at poker. Daniel Ford heads off to the sun to beat the Bermudian champion.

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The giant leaves of the palm trees are gently rustling in the breeze while the Atlantic waves slap half-heartedly against the rocks as if the warmth of the day has sapped even their energy. The double doors to the balcony are wide open to frame the sun setting on another perfect day in Bermuda. I’m wearing shorts, slops and a T-shirt and am completely coated in that amazing warmth you get only on those days when you feel as if you can actually reach out and grab a chunk of the air and put it in your pocket for later. This is poker in paradise.

There’s only one problem: I’m sitting down to play against the Bermudian champion who has just returned from the World Championships in Las Vegas. A Canadian, who’s been working on the tax-free island for a number of years, had defeated locals and ex-pats alike in the months-long island-wide competition to earn the honour of representing the small country at the big tables in America.

“I made it right to the end of day one,” he tells me. “I went all-in on silly cards. I think it was a mixture of tiredness and wild confidence.”

The others sitting round the table are mostly financial people, here for the money and their own slice of the good life.

There are a couple of other South Africans sitting round the table and we swap tales of rugby, spit braais and where to find Mrs Ball’s chutney as you always do when you meet someone from home. Like everyone else they are here for the tax-free dollars. Talk abounds among all ex-pats of returning home laden with their booty and buying cars and houses in just a fraction of a time it would take to achieve the same goal at home. Maybe it’s simply a way of distracting ourselves as we prepare to lose our money to the national champion.

I’ve come across quite a few South Africans on the island (Facebook’s South African’s in Bermuda group has 98 members) some in the financial industry, of course, but many working as part of the many gardening and maintenance teams that keep the homes of the many rich and famous (Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are residents here) nice and shiny.

Stakes are pretty high, as you’d expect from a bunch of bankers on six-figure dollar salaries. I wince as the dollar notes with more than one zero start to be flung about. My friend nods across the table to indicate that he will cover me if I want to stay in. It’s just the Bermudian champ and me. Oh, what the hell.

I go all-in, he follows and we both flip our cards over. My six and seven really look rather sad against his pair of kings.

“What are you doing Dan,” asks my friend. I suppose it is his money after all.

The flop generously adds an eight to my wildly hopeful bid for a straight. The trouble is the tens mean he’s got two pair now. Oh well.

A three. No good to anyone.

Then a beautiful nine on diamonds to complete my straight.

“Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,” I declare as if he has just lost his eyesight as well as his sense of humour. I’ve just beaten the Bermudian champion. Vegas, Smegus, I think quietly.

“Sorry,” I tell him. “I was lucky; they were silly cards to go in on. I think it was a mixture of tiredness and wild confidence.

Once more over the (sort of) cliff face

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Land Rover One Life 2011

It’s understandable when sportsmen and women punch their fists in the air to celebrate but it’s never done much for me. If I’m running in a road race (particularly if it’s a hard one) I simply pat my legs with a little congratulatory ‘well done’ as I cross the finish line. It is, after all, my legs that carry me through the whole thing (and I’m too exhausted to punch the air anyway). The gesture is a simple one (oh, alright, silly one too) because frankly I expected nothing else from my legs anyway. A difficult job well done by something built to purpose.

And so it is after two days with the Land Rover Discovery out in the rough and steaming hot terrain of Catalonia, Spain. If it had legs I would have given it a little congratulatory ‘well done’ for carrying me over slippery log bridges, along ravines, up slopes that are close relations of cliff faces, down inclines covered in loose rocks and dirt and finally through mud-filled tracks that would go down a treat with a bloat of hippos.

Okay, I admit I was a tad nervous before the three-day Land Rover Experience, geared towards novices and Land Rover drivers alike. Driving through London is just not the same as being perched with two wheels on the edge of a rocky slope with just the on-board camera display offering any visibility to what lies ahead (cameras offer views straight ahead, to the side, and to the back for when you can’t see yourself). But after a couple of days I’d found a remarkable confidence, knowing that terrain that appears impassable is simply waiting to be gobbled up by the Discovery.

“You went over that lot with even blinking,” laughed cameraman Darren, who’d gamely sat next to me on the adventure (although he did keep leaping out as we approached really dodgy looking bits, claiming the shot would look better from the outside). He was right. A similar patch of steep dips, sharp rocks and tight turns had me breaking out in a cold sweat the day before. But confidence is quick to build after a few hours inside the Discovery.

And one reason for this confidence is the Terrain Response console which you can adjust to normal mode (road), grass-gravel-snow, mud-ruts, sand, or rock crawl depending on the terrain you are driving into. This will automatically set the gears (eg on rocky terrain it will start in first and on snow in third), the throttle (in sand it would be responsive and in grass it wouldn’t so as to avoid skidding) and adjusts the anti-skid DSC (dynamic stability control) accordingly. Just think of it like the time when the automatic cameras came out with their easy-to-understand settings and hey presto, suddenly your photos were in focus.

Then there is also the Land Rover team. If, like me, you’d never driven off-road before, you’ll appreciate a little help when staring a slippery rock climb ahead of you when, due to the steepness, all you can see is the bright blue of the sky as you crawl upwards. And, like me, when you see the vehicle ahead veer to a 45-degree angle in deep mud you might just be zipping down the window and insisting on the help. Thankfully at every tough stage the Land Rover team leap out to guide you through with their hand signals. “Muy buenas direcciones amigos.”

The Discovery might not have legs for me to congratulate but it’s certainly getting a little pat on its mud-splattered tyres.

• For more see http://www.landroverexpeditions.com

Your bag, I believe?

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Sowetan Sunday World

The first thing a woman looks at when she meets you is your shoes. Every man knows that (except that guy at the back with the scuffed brogues obviously).

But in the pecking order of making your first impressions last longer, there is one thing even more important than shoes. When travelling, whether you’re on a bus or a plane, always check-in classy luggage. Because everyone notices what you’re carrying.

I learnt that lesson at an important conference I attended not so long ago. There was my Samonsite suit bag, ideal for three suits and matching shirts and ties, and the Gucci bag for shoes, jackets and underwear. That was it for my decent bags so I figured the jeans and T-shirts would have to make do with a sports holdall. After all, I had two decent bags and no-one would notice one little bag in among all the others would they?

Alas yes, I was told by a colleague who knew all about the conference from experience. In a business world where everyone looked good and performed well, luggage was the only way to stand out.

So we set off, first on an intercontinental flight, then a regional flight, then a bus, then a boat. All the luggage piled up, anonymous, designer bags mixing downtown and sports holdalls chatting it uptown. And so it was for the whole trip; luggage moving quietly from airports to hotel rooms and from hotel rooms to airports, unseen and unknown. What was my friend thinking making me buy a new (third) bag because a sports holdall ‘just wouldn’t do’?

So we headed back: boat, bus, regional flight, intercontinental flight, to the luggage conveyor belt. Meeting place of luggage from three flights, converging at one airport, ours from the conference among them. I am standing with an MD from a big company, and we’re chatting about a successful trip, and hey, look,  I spot my (third) bag heading our way.

‘Here, this one’s yours,’ the MD says, picking it up and handing to me.

Curry corner

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Greenwich Visitor January 2013

There are a few good reasons to like Green Chillies in Blackheath Road. The staff is always friendly for starters, and the food consistently hits the spot (Green Chillies was highly commended in the takeaway category in the Greenwich Curry Club Awards 2012). But they also care about the community in which they operate. They have been involved with supplying freshly cooked food to homeless people in London for some time and now they are looking to link up with some organisations on their doorstep. Bench Outreach, a Christian charity in Deptford, work with alcoholics, drug users, ex-offenders and homeless people, and many of these could soon be enjoying some tasty Sub-continental meals.

“We hope to be working closely with Bench Outreach to supply hot meals where the need is identified,” said the Green Chillies’ manager Ali Ibn Tawhid. “We are particularly pleased that this is a multi-faith initiative [Green Chillies is a Muslim-run takeaway]. After all, I don’t think someone who is hungry and in need is really going to care about the chef’s religion. We have the knowledge of food – we are thinking healthy biryanis and dhals – and Bench has the on-the-ground knowledge, so we hope this will be a great partnership.”

Meanwhile discussions with the Salvation Army, also in Deptford, have led to an interesting possible link-up beyond supplying food for the needy. The community church has identified a problem with obesity in the area so the Green Chillies staff could soon be providing information and guidance to some of the less privileged families the church works with on how to cook healthy but affordable meals.

Do you get the blues on a Monday? A sure-fire fix for curry lovers is to head to the Viceroy in Charlton (10 The Village) where it’s banquet night and for just £10.95 you can enjoy a starter, a main, a side dish, rice, naan, ice cream and coffee. Not surprisingly it gets packed so it might be an idea to book. Tel 020 8319 3436.

Curry to Go is the latest incarnation of the curry takeaway at 106 Blackheath Road (it was previously called Medina). The new owners will be open every day from 5pm-11pm and will be hoping to tempt you with dishes such as Balti Duck Tikka Masalla (£8.50) and King Prawn Jalapeno (£9.50) as well as old-school favourites that start from just £3.95 (vegetable) and £4.45 (chicken). There is free delivery over £12 (within 3.5 km) and a free side dish if your order is over £15 and you collect. Tel: 020 8692 2423.

Draam busters

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Chaat! (British Curry Club magazine) 2012

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My friend suggests a whisky bar he knows just a short walk from the station. I’ve just arrived in Aberdeen and the wind blowing off the North Sea feels capable of biting even into the solid Granite that built the city. A couple of warmers later and we’re heading off for a curry, a smart new place he’s heard about that’s just up Market Street.

Whisky followed by fish seems appropriate in Scotland, but strangely we end up with a fish that’s been imported from Bangladesh – a whole tilapia, spiced. It’s not bad but a bit dry. As we are. We down our Cobras and order a whisky. The choice is from the region of Speyside, the small but prolific whisky producing area that is famous for its mostly gentle style of the drink. My friend wants gentle so as not to over-power the fish but goes for something slightly oily to help the dryness. It’s got a taste of pepper too. Three cheers for my clever curry-whisky friend and we’re soon happily off back to the whisky bar to discuss the merits of importing a fish from the freshwaters of Asia to the north of Scotland.

Whisky and curry go together remarkably well. The spicy notes – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pepper, cloves among others – are central to the aroma and taste of many whiskies while a host of the other tastes you associate with your favourite curry can be found too. In whisky you’ll also find creamy smoothness (Korma dishes), smokiness (Tandoori), sweetness (Dhansak), vanilla (Kulfi), nuttiness (Pasanda), zestiness (Achari) aniseed (Goan fish dishes), as well as saltiness, fruitiness and slight oiliness.

There are two approaches to pairing food and drink. One is to complement the dish by choosing a drink with the same or similar tastes and aromas; the other is challenge the dish by adding new tastes to the equation.

Master of Malt John Lamond is firmly on the side of the former. “The whisky you choose has to complement the food. I’d say always do this, but particularly with Indian dishes which are so complex. They’ve been carefully put together to create a range of different tastes and the last thing you want is to choose a whisky that upsets that and blows the food’s taste out of the water.”

But Lamond also warns it works both ways due to the power of some curries. “The art, or magic, is in the marriage of the flavours of the whisky with the flavours of the food so that each complements the other, rather than one swamping the flavours of the other. The more highly flavoured, such as Vindaloo blast the taste buds and make tasting almost anything alongside them almost impossible,” he advises.

“Creamy masalas would go with youngish (up to 15-year-old) Speysides – Glenfarclas, Aberlour, Mortlach, Glenfiddich for instance. Jalfrezis would work with Ardbeg, Black Bottle, Big Peat or Caol Ila, even Springbank or Johnnie Walker Red or Black. Some would also fit well with tandoor cooked dishes, but they would have to be quite heavily flavoured and a lot of the flavour in curries is down to the contents of the dish rather than the way it has been cooked, such as perhaps a Gosht.”

Pairing whisky and curry works, but ultimately it’s about experimenting and having fun.

There’s a lot of snobbery associated with whisky (as with wine) but just as you don’t choose your favourite beer with an elaborate performance of swirling, staring and sniffing nor do you have to do so whisky either. See the boxes for some ideas of Indian dishes and whiskies but don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works for you. A few select whiskies and a selection of dishes from your favourite takeaway can make for a great night at home with friends.

As Lamond mentions, curry has plenty of complex flavours so give your taste buds a chance! I’d advise trying the whisky and the dish you want to pair it with before loading extras like pickle on to your plate. Keep the rice and bread dishes as plain as possible (plain or pillau rice and plain nan or chapatti); you’ve got enough taste stuff going on without introducing lemon rice and garlic nan into the equation as well.

Ultimately, have fun discovering which whiskies work with which curries, but always tread carefully with powerful tastes, as Tom Morton, BBC broadcaster and author of the whisky books Spirit of Adventure and Journey’s Blend warns.

“Matching curries with whisky is really about the post-prandial hitching of a dram to the aroma left behind by a curry. A Glenfarclas 105 after a nice wee korma can cut through the cream and coconut. But you have to be careful. A cask-strength Talisker on the back of a ferocious Jalfrezi may leave your throat or oesophagus in tatters.”

Classic dishes and popular whiskies 

• Butter chicken, with its creamy, tomato base works well with the vanilla smoothness of America’s favourite, Jack Daniel’s. No Coke!

• The strong and powerful smokiness of popular blend Johnnie Walker Black is needed to compete with the extra hot spiciness of Lamb madras.

• Famous Grouse combines spiciness with sweetness (from its fruit tastes) something that fans of a Prawn Dhansak will recognise and enjoy.

• Biryanis are dry but highly aromatic and need a light and sweet whisky that will not fight the subtle aromas of whole spices used in the dish. Go for a Bell’s.

• Kormas or Pasandas, with their creamy and nutty tastes both work well with the easy, smoothness of Ireland’s triple-distilled Jameson. Any wonder it’s a favourite for Irish coffees?

Advanced tasting menu

Starter: Onion bhaji and Glenkinchie 10 Year Old. A classic, simple starter of sliced onion and gram flour that deserves a gentle accompaniment and this Edinburgh whisky is light but has a touch of spice and ginger.

Lamb: Lamb tikka and Caol Ila (pronounced Cal-le-la). The tandoor-cooked lamb needs something as strong and smoky as the single malt Caol Ila (it’s the lead whisky in Johnnie Walker Black) with its hint of pepper and spice.

Chicken: Achari chicken and Tullamore Dew. This Irish blend offers spicy and lemon flavours, ideal if you like your chicken cooked in tangy pickles.

Vegetable: Motor paneer with Wild Turkey. The smoothness of the cheese needs a smooth whisky and this famous Kentucky Bourbon provides that, but also adds hints of spices including cinnamon.

Fish: Goan prawn curry and Bowmore 12 Year Old. The great texture of this shellfish is popular but their taste of origin is often lost in the cooking process. Go for a whisky that was matured by the sea. Islay whiskies are well known for their salty, seaweedy flavours.

Dessert: Kulfi and Johnnie Walker Gold Label. Have a bit of fun with this creamy, soft dessert. Take a mouthful and let it freeze for a few seconds then enjoy a nice amount of this creamy, honeyed blend.

Curry corner

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April 2013

If there is a lull during the night (or at the end of the shift if it’s particularly busy) the staff in a curry house will take a break and eat their own meal. But for them there is no pondering about whether it’s to be Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Vindaloo or a Prawn Bhuna. The chef will already have a pot bubbling away so there is no messing about when the time comes for the staff to eat. What’s in the pot is what the staff get to eat. The curry (if that’s what it is) is commonly called the Kitchen Curry (although some might say Staff Curry). Very few places actually advertise it on their menu (Memsaheb on Thames near Crossharbour DLR, a place Delia Smith has raved about, is one that does) but quite a few places will dish it up if you ask and there is enough to go round. The Kitchen Curry will change every day and will more than likely be a dish that is popular in the region that the chef or staff originate from. Memsaheb’s menu says the Kitchen Curry (£7.95) is, ‘Usually fairly hot, sometimes very hot, meat is always on the bone.’ You want authentic? The Kitchen Curry is the place to look.

There’s more of what is promoted as authentic Indian food on offer for those of you visiting your broker or investment banker soon, or more likely if you work in Canary Wharf. A new kiosk has opened up just outside the entrance to the Jubilee Line (opposite Smollensky’s) serving Indian street food. Perfect for lunchtime, but expect a queue, and remember not to spill any on your new suit.

My favourite fish supplier, Lockie’s Shell Fish (in the Lord Hood Pub garden on weekends) has been expanding its range lately, which is great because fish curry lovers cannot live on whelks and cockles alone. The red mullet is a must try and it’s easy to rustle up a spicy snack. Take half a tsp each of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, a quarter tsp of black peppercorns, a couple of dried chillies and a pinch of salt and cinnamon powder. Crush it all up and rub into the flesh and leave for at least an hour. Then on a high heat fry the flesh side for two minutes and the skin side of the fish for one minute. Eat with a pickle of your choice.

Being surrounded by beautiful things when your eating a good curry really can make a difference to a night out. @Benb111 (a regular tipster for Curry Corner) has unearthed a gem at Ladywell Tandoori, where beautiful murals of Indian scenes (by artist Gill Golding) go hand in hand with great food. The Murg Achari (£6.95) is recommended while you enjoy the artwork on the walls.

So now we’ve got great food and great art how about some music? My favourite curry songs are Korma Chameleon, It’s Chappati and I’ll Cry if I Want To, and Oh Dhansak Boy, the Pipes are Calling. Of course, if you don’t like those you must be Sharp Dressed Naan so maybe you can Tikka a Walk on Wild Side?

The Mighty Mitre Burger

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It stands at a wobbly 17cm tall and includes nearly a kilo of beef (two pounds) – hungry people, please welcome Greenwich’s biggest burger.

Inspired by his favourite TV show, Man versus Food, Matt Lannon, manager at the Mitre Hotel, has set his customers a challenge of his own: eat the Mighty Mitre Burger (and chips) in 20 minutes and you’ll get it for free.

Having witnessed the first one being cooked and plated I’d say chef Ed Lorryman will have as much trouble getting this monster to stand up straight as customers will have of actually eating it. But should you fancy your chances at the challenge here’s what you’ll have put away… one Italian brioche bun (plus a middle bit of bread), four 225gm (or eight ounce) beef patties, every one topped with cheese, bacon, a battered onion ring and Naga Bhut Jolokia peppers from India. The peppers, nicknamed ghost peppers, supposedly because the heat sneaks up on anyone who eats them, was named the hottest pepper in the world by the Guinness Book of Records in 2007 (although it’s subsequently been out-hotted). Add a side order of chips.

“Don’t forget the lettuce, tomato and onion we top it off with,” says Matt, “we want to make sure there’s some healthy stuff on there as well.”

The burger is priced at £15 and all in all weighs in at approximately 1.25 kilos (2.8 pounds) uncooked and that’s not including the chips.

Gambling glamour

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Privé (Autumn 2010)

This is the part of the magazine where all you women should make a cup of coffee (or pour a large glass of something stronger), sit down and prepare to shake your head at us boys and say something about us not really ever growing up. And I do mean boys, even among those of us who have long since forgotten what a school was (unless it’s a card school, of course).

We all long to be James Bond. Yes, I know you might have heard that mentioned before, but I mean we ‘really’ long to be James Bond. It’s shallow and it’s obvious. Good-looking, the fast cars, the women, all those languages he knows (without ever practising), all those gadgets he gets to play with; he is basically a collection of all the parts every boy wants in his personality and life. Ian Fleming invented him for us.

But however good Bond is behind the wheel, in bed or stopping a plot to ruin the world, it all amounts to nothing when compared to 007 at play in a casino. That’s when we ‘really’ want to be Bond. Is it any wonder so many scenes are shot with the backdrop of the green baize, colourful chips and rolling dice? And that the plot of the first novel (Casino Royale 1953) that set the hero on the road to stardom revolves around the action in the French casino at Royale-les-Eaux? James Bond belongs in a casino. In fact, let’s be honest, Fleming invented him for the casino, not us boys.

So here we are then. It’s so dark outside it’s purple, while inside the soft lighting round the tables is sultry and sexy, like the women in the long, oh-so-classy dresses that dance round their ankles. Bond is wearing an immaculately fitting black suit with crisp white shirt. He orders a martini (did you just say ‘shaken not stirred’? Thought so). The man is a risk-taker. This is no spy scuttling around the back alleys with a hood and a brown bag filled with documents. This is a man who, bold-as-brass, marches up to his enemies and tells them his name (this is the bit where you say, ‘the name’s Bond, James Bond’).

Then he buys a large stack of chips and settles down in a chair to enjoy the action. He doesn’t even stop playing when he has to switch the conversation to a strange foreign language or two or when turning down the attentions of the best-looking women in the place (at least for now, anyway) because he’s busy gambling and enjoying his martini.

Most of us come to play the tables in a casino to take a risk and to escape. We come to the tables to enjoy that touch of glamour surrounding us. And we come to the tables to feel that we are part of a movie scene just like the one described above.

Not everyone one of us can drive a car really fast, not everyone can attract the hottest women in the world and few of us get to play with really cool gadgets (sorry, your iPhone doesn’t count unless there is an app on it that sprays oil onto the road to deter the Russian spies who are trailing you). But around the tables we can be our own version of James Bond. Or for you girls who enjoy a touch of the high life, the girl who wants Bond. Or even Jamie Bondette if you prefer.

It is here, when sitting around the table with our pile of chips in front of us that we get to take our own risks. We don’t just want the thrill of winning; we also want the rest of the place to look up and wonder who we are when we are winning. Who is that well-dressed stranger, swanning into the place, tossing those chips around and really enjoying the whole occasion?

So when you’re next out playing, move around the tables and see the glint in the eyes of different players who are in the room playing their own film role. There’s nothing glamorous about being the kid at the back of the class who never moves seats the whole term. Sneak glances at the couple playing Blackjack who gently whispering to each other between deals. Watch the group of tall men discussing tactics on the roulette wheel in the middle of the room. And cast the girls sipping drinks at the bar as they chat loudly about which table to hit next.

Play big sometimes, play small sometimes. Enjoy the games. Order a cocktail. Hell, make it a martini, everyone else wants to really, trust me.

Dress up. Men for seduction, women for romance. Catch someone’s eye as they win, smile when you win and accept the congratulations from around the table. Really soak up the atmosphere; we’re all here to catch a touch of our own slice of glamour and romance after all.

Are you showing the game?

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JetAway (June 2010)

No matter where you are in Europe this summer, someone will be showing the World Cup. Daniel Ford selects 10 key matches and where to watch to them

South Africa v Mexico

11 June, Manchester

The poor old South Africans have had it in the neck ever since winning the right to stage the 2010 World Cup, but 11 June is the day when, after 80 years, football’s big celebration arrives in Africa. It’s Friday afternoon and the first match of the tournament – will there be an office open anywhere in Europe? Watch the hosts (the lowest FIFA-ranked side in the tournament) in the first ever Revolution (90-94 Oxford Road, Manchester. 0161 236 7470, www.revolution-bars.co.uk). With its swish bar and comfy seats, this smart vodka venue, opened in 1996, beats standing up in the Dog & Duck any day. Pre-book your World Cup burger and drinks on 0800 6300 800.

Post-Match Celebration Cry: Nkosi sikileli’ iAfrica!/God bless Africa!

Post-Match Celebration Drink: Springbok (half Baileys or Amarula cream combined with half crème de menthe)

URUGUAY V FRANCE

11 June, Paris

No one will be heading home early after the opening game, especially on a Friday night, so continue to soak up the atmosphere as the flair of the French takes on the rugged Uruguayans. Watch outside on the big screen with the locals in the beautiful surroundings of Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (City Hall Square, 29 rue de Rivoli, 75004 Paris). Situated near the Seine and surrounded by fine architecture, the square used to hold public executions, including that of Jacques Clément, the assassin of the French king Henry III, in 1589.

Post-Match Celebration Cry: Est-ce que Thierry Henry à utilise son pied maintenant?/Did Thierry Henry use his foot this time?

Post-Match Celebration Drink: Pastis

ENGLAND V USA

12 June, Paphos

Every four years England wait in hope of World Cup glory. Every four years they are disappointed. The disappointment might as well come in the sun at Aces (Ayias Anastasias, Kato Paphos. 00 357 269 36400, www.acesbarpaphos.com), a popular bar with English football fans. If there’s one game the Three Lions could lose in their weak group it’s this one, so make sure you get into the much-coveted position where you can see the game but still sit in the sun (the holy grail is to have some shade on the head, lots of sun on the rest of the body but no glare on the screen).

Post-Match Celebration Cry: Rooney!

Post-Match Celebration Drink: Anything

ITALY V NEW ZEALAND

20 June, Rome

The highest score in a World Cup match is 9-0 (Yugoslavia v Zaire, 1974). Can Italy go one better against the massively outclassed New Zealanders? Flann O’Brien (Via Nazionale 17, 00184 Rome. 00 39 06 488 0418, www.flannobrien.it) is a popular Irish bar for fans of English and Italian football, boasting numerous screens to watch the (no doubt) numerous goals in classic pub surroundings.Your main problem, however, will be getting the attention of the waiters.

Post-Match Celebration Cry:Dieci!/Ten!

Post-Match Celebration Drink: Grappa

SLOVAKIA V PARAGUAY

20 June, Prague

The Czechs didn’t make the finals but their former country-mates and now neighbours Slovakia did (for the first time) and the city’s large Slovak population will be aware that this game could decide who qualifies with Italy from Group F. In an area with a few sports bars dotted around, Sports Bar Zlata Hvezda (Ve Smeckach 12, Prague 1. 00 420 296 222 292, www.sportbar.cz) has a good mix of expats, locals and visitors, and claims to be the first of its kind in the city.

Post-Match Celebration Cry: Kde je Paraguaj?/ Where is Paraguay?

Post-Match Celebration Drink: Pilsner Urquell

SPAIN V HONDURAS

21 June, Benidorm

It’s unlikely that favourites Spain (4-1 to win the cup) will be shaking in their boots playing Honduras (1000-1), but at least they’ll be able to console their Central American opponents in the same language. The Winning Post (Calle Girona, Benidorm) is a big bar attached to a betting shop, selling cheap food/beer in basic surroundings but at least you can put a few euros on Torres to score first and Spain to win by more than four.

Post-Match Celebration Cry: Ole!

Post-Match Celebration Drink: Sangria if it’s a hatful, San Miguel if it’s not

GREECE V ARGENTINA

22 June, Crete

Despite the name, the locally owned and run Sky Sports Bar (Agios Nikolaos, Crete. 00 30 28410 82860) is a traditional venue in which to line up the ouzos as the Greeks look to topple Diego Maradona’s Argentina. When the sides met in 1994 Maradona’s manic goal celebration into the camera was later found to be fuelled by substances more than adrenaline and ended his World Cup career.

Post-Match Celebration Cry:Ouzo!

Post-Match Celebration Drink: More ouzo

AUSTRALIA V SERBIA

23 June, Ibiza

There are nearly 100,000 Serbians in Australia (Holly Vallance and Jelena Dokic among them), so who should they support? A young energetic bunch heads to Hogan’s Aussie bar (Carrer Bartolomé Vincente Ramon, San Antonio, Ibiza.www.hogansibiza.com) for cocktails and to mix with a sexy crowd in the heart of Ibiza.

Post-Match Celebration Cry: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!

Post-Match Celebration Drink: Cocktails

CAMEROON V NETHERLANDS

24 June, Amsterdam

One of the most attractive games in the group stages, this one will be attacking football all round. Expect plenty of goals as you merge into the sea of orange in Amsterdam. Join backpackers from around the world and locals in Belushi’s (129 Warmoesstraat, 1012 JA, Amsterdam. 00 31 206 231 380, www.belushis.com). The international nature of this bar means there will plenty of shots and strange-coloured liquids flying around, but try to keep one eye on the game. Based in the red-light district and attached to the Winston Kingdom nightclub, you won’t be short of after-match entertainment should the strange-coloured liquids start to kick in.

Post-Match Celebration Cry: Hup, Holland, Hup!/Go, Holland, go!

Post-Match Celebration Drink: Some more strange-coloured liquids

PORTUGAL V BRAZIL

25 June, Albufeira

The world’s big Portuguese-speaking derby. Who needs sun? Escape the heat and watch the game in Diamonds Sports and Karaoke Bar (Rua Alexandre Herculano 33, Albufeira. 00 351 289 542 952), then follow up what has to be the best clash of the group stages by belting out your favourite karaoke number to cheering football fans. Maybe.

Post-Match Celebration Cry: Goooooooaaaaal!

Post-Match Celebration Drink:Superbock