After two years, millions of pounds and the odd heart bypass, Rob Yong and his team finally opened the Dusk Till Dawn doors on Wednesday 28th November. Unfortunately for the masses, this was an invitation only occasion and as a notable (ahem) member of the ‘media’, I was able to blag my way though the doors and witness first-hand what all the fuss was about.
As a former student of Nottingham University, I knew the area relatively well and reminisced on fond memories past as I heard the faint beating sound of cheesy house music emanating from the crappy neighbouring building that I used to frequent.
But whilst several years ago, I might have been vomiting up a kebab in the car park and allowing my beer goggles to chat up girls with more facial hair than a Yeti, today I was here for rather different matters, and those of the more sober kind. Yes, today was the big unveiling, the result of years of blood, sweat and tears, and I couldn’t wait to see what it had produced.
With fuchsia trainers donned, I was as anxious as an underage teenager preparing to unveil his fake ID as I passed the two security guards outside, my defence of “they’re fashion, not sportswear” braced to fall on stony ground, but, to my elation, they let me pass without apprehension. Inside, there was already a long queue of nosey parkers… I mean keen media members, all waiting to get their hands on one of those shiny black membership cards and feast their eyes on the delights that lay inside.
As I stepped through the glass doors for the very first time, I was not only greeted by select norkage handing out free glasses of champagne (bah, I drove!), but also an endless sea of tables forming an arched amphitheatre effect. To the immediate right was the bar and restaurant, along with a row of computer terminals, and on the left was the VIP Room and toilets.
The first figure I spotted was the unmistakable sight of Nick Whiten (right) running around like a headless chicken attempting to juggle two jobs: making sure the night ran smoothly and pursuing in small talk with his guests. As a suited and booted Rob Yong swanned in with a tired, but relieved expression, I also spotted the rest of the DTD crew in Yogi, dik9, Actionjack, Paul Zimbler, Chubbs, Adam O’Connell and Simon Trumper, the latter of whom was clearly in his element and enjoying the challenge. Trumper’s a top fella with a heart of gold, so best of luck to him.
Whilst I caught sight of Thewy, Womble and Simon Zach in the queue, also present were Jammer, Nick Wright, M Power, El Blondie, Chili, tikay, Nick Hicks, Fran Creed, Barry Carter, Mel Lofthouse, to name just a few, so there was a real community spirit in the air. But community or not, when Rob Yong announced a free bar due to the current lack of an alcohol license, the mere idea of ‘friendship’ was swiftly brushed aside as everybody raced to the bar, elbows ready to take a neighbour out if required.
Meanwhile, fruit juice in hand, I treated myself to a brisk tour of the joint. The place is very open plan, and predominantly captured in one single room, but the VIP room, which I believe is now reluctantly known as Rob’s room, lurked provocatively in the corner and I couldn't resist a quick peak.
Like most aspects of the cardroom, the attention to detail in the VIP room was remarkable. Magazines lay neatly across the table, drinks sat patiently in a central dip of the table (left) and a gleaming, and highly amicable might I add, barman greeted me as I entered. The room was cool, suave and sophisticated, and best of all, led on to a private poker table that looked out onto the rest of the cardroom. But do you really want people holding glasses up against the window and steaming up the sheen with their murky breath, I hear you cry. Well, not only is the room soundproof, but one flick of a switch and the windows go black. You can see them, but they can’t see you. Awesome, just like a James Bond film.
I didn’t get to taste the Nottingham cuisine of the restaurant and the bar was your average run of the mill bar, but I do remember the toilets being big enough to swing ten cats in and possessed a peculiar smell of biscuits. I checked for Chubbs munching away in a cubicle, but saw no sign of him or any trail of crumbs, but I did spot the all-important flush censor. Why pull when you can hover? Hmm, that sounds like a slogan for a dogging organisation.
Back in the cardroom, Rob Yong was addressing the crowd, thanking his team and adding, “It doesn’t look like much, just a few poker tables, but you wouldn’t believe the trouble we’ve had getting them in here.” And after the two Nicks had been presented a trophy for their efforts, the ribbon was cut by Rob’s mother, which I’m sure was an emotional moment for all involved.
“Shuffle up and deal,” announced Rob, and everyone ambushed the cardroom, ready for the media comp to commence. A new style of tournament clock hit the screen and the draw was displayed. Apart from my brother, I didn’t recognise anybody at my table, and I question how many of them were actually involved with the press (cough, splutter), but I expect many were simply friends of Rob who hadn’t necessarily played much poker.
One of those was seated next to me – a real, “oh, what the heck, who cares, it’s only a game” type of players. Well, although I wasn’t as amusingly disgruntled as one player whose pocket Tens had been outdrawn by his Q-4 all-in pre-flop, I was admittedly disappointed to be one of many victims of beginner’s luck. With our friend limping under-the gun and another player min raising, I decided to make a big overbet with Kings in the small blind. The rookie called, and it came an all heart Flop. I pushed, he called with Ah-2h and that was all she wrote – a debut to match the Shockmaster’s (one for the few wrestling fans there).
Although the tournament ran relatively smoothly for a first outing, I did notice that the dealers seemed a bit on edge and perhaps lacking the required experience. Our one made a few unforced errors at times and seemed unsure of certain rulings, but it’s early doors, and with Luton’s Alistair, Blackpool’s Kate and former Broadway supervisor dik9 at the felt, they’ll have more experience in that room than a Countdown audience.
The eventual winner of the tournament, I believe, was Ladbrokes’ Nigel Turver. He was joined on the final table by none other than Paul Jackson’s daughter, showing her pops how it’s done. She’s the spit of him, it’s bizarre. Not sure why though, could be the distinctive nose – it’s certainly not the good looks!
One of the things I love about DTD is the post-match action, ranging from big Omaha cash games to low level STT’s. Following the Vegas trend, the waiting lists are efficiently listed on the plasma screen and your name called out when your seat opens. I played two STTs, along with Pokernews’ Barry Carter, but again, these were fruitless experiences, coming 4th and 5th for nothing but a thinning wallet.
Whilst everyone was friendly, smiley and generally having a good time, the slightly hollow atmosphere of what, admittedly, is an enormous room, as the crowd dispersed was a slight concern. Fill it with an EPT or WPT cast and it’ll be buzzing, but with just 60 or so players a night tucked up in one corner, it could echo the seven dwarves stranded in the Grand Canyon.
After my pockets were empty and my morale in smithereens, I said my goodbyes, thanked Nick for the invite and hospitality, made my way through the safe (no more Gala dungeons!) car park and headed back down the M1 for the long, tedious two hour journey.
Overall, my stay at DTD had been a pleasant one, but one that had satisfied expectations rather than surprised me. The DTD saga has been ongoing for so long now that I felt I knew the club before I’d even been there. Like most, I was an avid reader of Rob’s diary and had followed the trials and tribulations of his seemingly endless struggle with a very keen eye, so already knew what the place was going to be like and how it was intended to be run. And from first viewing, they’ve certainly followed up on those initials promises.