Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Thoughts On Love And Smoking Podcast #18: Kirsty P.

We've been a little remiss here at TOLAS for the last couple of months as far as our podcasts have been concerned, but now that Christmas, and January,,,, and a good chunk of February is out of the way we've given ourselves a good old boot up the rump and the gears are once again beginning to turn at the HQ. As such we thought we'd lay something extra special out for you this time round and we're pretty sure this mix fits the bill perfectly. 75 minutes of immaculately curated sonic goodness from a lady who's rapidly becoming one of our very favourite selectors, Kirsty P.
Kirsty has been making all the right noises of late with a handful of excellent podcasts for the likes of Something Spaceial, Serial Experiments, Esters as well as a stellar take for the NSA mix series which featured in our best of 2017 list. As a result Kirsty has been collecting an increasingly busy gig schedule as a result playing around the country as well as further afield. You can catch Kirsty on the 28th of April up in Edinburgh for Finitribe Presents, then at the mighty Alfresco Festival at the end of May.
But first things first! Dig into this beauty and lose yourself to the world of wild rhythms. X

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Saturday, 30 December 2017

It's the end of the year as we know it...

Well, unless you've spent 2017 full of mogadon and lager, you may well have noticed that the previous 12 months have been a quite wretched time. It's safe to say that its been about as much fun as being booted into a pit of broken glass covered in dog shit. With this in mind I'm going to wisely leave the geopolitical deconstruction to the broadsheets, Charlie Brooker, Frankie Boyle et al. Here at TOLAS we'll stick to what was actually a rather glorious year for music.
Songs and albums only tell part of the story of a given calendar year, but the best DJs can lend an additional context and depth. I find that mixes can help you understand unseen connections between disparate sounds and scenes — the way that only the best DJ's can. Whether it's cutting-edge electronica, nostalgic Balearia, old school techno and EBM or new wave weirdness. These are, in no particular order, our favourites of 2017.
Hope you enjoy some or all of them, and here's to a wonderous 2018. X

1: Young Marco. RA 571.

2: Vladimir Ivkovic. Live at Dekmantel 2017.

3: Solar: 10 Years of Huntleys & Palmers.

4: Lena Willikens. Live at Dekmantel 2017.

5: Manfredas: Renate Podcast 39.

6: Joe Gill & Alex Gryzbowski. Outlaws Yacht Club on KMAH, 11.07.17.

7: Kirsty P. NSA Guest Mix 29.

8: Andrew Thomson. Nasty Age Of Loving mixtape.

9: Nosedrip. Dekmantel Podcast 87.

10: Black Merlin at Strange Sounds From Beyond 2017.

11: Standeasy. Mind Garden #1.

Happy new year. Big love.
Mark. X

Thursday, 16 November 2017

10 things which made you look NAILS at school!

Tough guys in the 70's and 80's: for whatever reason it was important that we all looked and acted like Darth Vader, Mr. T, Chuck Norris, Peter Sutcliffe and the criminals of the day, despite being ten years old and the owner of a Transformers/Zoids lunchbox.
At our school, it was imperative that we gave the impression of A) not giving a fuck what anyone thought of us (especially teachers) and B) being able to roundhouse kick anyone in the school into the middle of next week. It also helped if we could project the aura of someone who carried guns, and who had the Hell’s Angels on speed-dial (assuming our mums let us use the phone).
Because we were all idiots, we used to take our cues from the popular TV shows and movies of the day, thinking that if we just copied whatever punk, tough guy or shit gang member (I’m looking at you cast of Beat Street!) was on the screen at the time, then their street cred would rub off on us. If we acted like them and did the following things, then our enemies would run and hide in a bin when they saw us coming.
It never worked. All that happened was that we either got lamped, laughed at or told off by grown ups.

1. Wearing a leather jacket:
Wearing a leather jacket instantly made you invincible. This was because of a special chemical injected into the leather that made people cross the road when they saw you coming.
Not that any of us had leather jackets. We had kagouls and coats with velcro fasteners.
Also, biker gangs all wore leather jackets and had names like ‘Groin’ and ‘Pissface’. I think the plan in the back of our minds was to somehow acquire a leather jacket/hat/socks/anything, and then people would mistake our Choppers and Grifters for actual motorbikes. This would mean we’d officially be ‘hard’, and no one would bully us and call us a shit for brains while nipping us.

2. Putting your hand through a bunsen burner dead quick.
What could be more dangerous and hard than putting your hand in a fire? All the hard kids at school would regularly spend entire chemistry lessons waving their hands around in the bunsen burner flame instead of doing any work. This was massively impressive to onlookers until they actually tried it themselves.
Since I wrote that bit, it has come to my attention that my brother is also suitably impressed by this, having never done it himself at his posh knob school.
I don’t remember exactly how you did it, but there was a certain part of the flame you could wave your hand through, and it didn’t hurt or burn you. Obviously, once everyone got wise to the trick, we would just crowd round the bunsen burners waiting for our turn to do this. Thus, the awesomeness of the trick was relegated to being about as clever as doing that thing where you wave your pen and it goes bendy.

3. Saying 'Bloody Mary' into a mirror three times.
the bogs at my school, you could shut the door and turn the lights off, and then the only light would be through the small panel of glass in the door. This was handy because the mirror in the toilets was haunted, but only when it was dark enough.
Once you and your mates were successfully alone in the toilets, one of you was nominated to summon the evil spirit in the mirror. This was done by staring into the mirror (usually with your face pressed up against it, for some reason), and saying ‘Bloody Mary’ three times. No one knows exactly what happened on the third go because no one ever got that far. However, we did have some scary paranormal encounters even before completing the ritual. These included:

– “That mirror DEFINITELY moved!”
– All running out of the toilets screaming
– One of the teachers barging in, thus breaking the sacred atmosphere of the toilets
– “FUCK! I saw something in the mirror!”
– All starting to cry and shitting our pants

4. Tattoos.
When I was a kid tattoos did not enjoy the mainstream popularity they do now; you hardly ever saw technicolour butterflies, fairies and out of context Chinese words. Back then, people generally had things like ‘TWOC’ and 'ACAB' stabbed into their forehead using a compass.
Therefore, having a tattoo meant instant bad points. Unfortunately, we never had much luck with convincing tattoo parlours that we were eighteen when we were ten, so we had to resort to other means.
Step forward temporary tattoos. For a few pence, we could buy all kinds of shit designs to plaster on our arms and faces. These were better than our other option, which was to scribble on ourselves with a biro. Temporary tattoos also lasted a bit longer than biro – sometimes up to a whole day before bits started falling off into your cereal.
However, temporary tattoos had one flaw – these were the kinds of designs you could get, which were less badass than 'THUG LIFE' or 'FUCK THE POLICE".

5. Listening to heavy metal.
Along with dying your hair, listening to loud, 'headbanger' music was something only degenerates did. According to my Mum and Dad.
When you consider the alternatives I had as a kid – Showaddywaddy, Darts, and my ‘Importance Of Being Ernest’ play on tape, it’s easy to see why rock music was the answer to my tough guy problem.
The best way to listen to rock music was obviously to carry it round in a huge ghetto blaster, so everyone around you knew how hard you were. If, like me, you didn’t have a ghetto blaster and stood no chance in hell of ever getting one, then your other option was to listen to it on full volume using your MASSIVE yellow plastic walkman and some really shitty headphones. This meant everyone around you could still enjoy the benefit of your music.
Obviously, it was hard to get your parents to buy you albums with names like ‘Fucked in the skull’ and ‘Bloodletting Cuntz’, so you might have had to rely on your older siblings’ taste in music. Thank you, sister 1 for liking Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper. Sister 2 not so much, with your Cliff Richard tapes. Going through a phase of liking one Twister Sister song does not excuse that.

6. Chewing gum.
Favoured by punks, yobbos and general disturbers of the peace the world over, chewing gum was, in our tiny minds, the ultimate symbol of disobedience. In order to successfully utilise your packet of Hubba Bubba or Juicy Fruit, you had to do the following –
– Chew at all times, even while sleeping and eating
– Chew while talking
– Blow huge bubbles while teachers were talking to you
– Adopt a strange 'Nu Yoik' accent when you talk while chewing the gum
– When (inevitably) ordered to get rid of your chewing gum, swallow your gum in one final act of defiance.
The downside to swallowing your chewing gum, of course, is that it will stay in your stomach for seven years. We all know someone who knows someone who died because their stomach got filled up with chewing gum, and their poo ended up coming back up out of their mouth.

7. Doing graffiti.
All the rad/bad kids on tv had cans of spray paint about their persons. People like err, the shite gang members in Breakdance 1 & 2, Death Wish, and well… that’s it. When you cared nothing for the world or authority, it was a good idea to express yourself by doing  wee bit of angsty art on a wall. Not on your desk though, because your teacher would walk past and see you doing it, then you’d have to spend your breaktime cleaning it off while Mr Rhodes the caretaker looked on and tutted.
For ultimate bad points, the thing to do was spray some swears on a wall while chewing gum and listening to your ghetto blaster. However, the chances of us acquiring any spray paint were slim to none, given that they only sold it at B & Q, and you had to pay money for it. So we used the next best thing – our trusty felt tips.
Unfortunately, it takes a lot of skill to do anything resembling a passable bit of graffiti. The general difference between the graffiti in our heads vs the graffiti we ended up with was quite dipserate. So we’d usually just fall back on writing rude words on the cubicles in the netties, or on one brick round the back of a petrol station where no one ever goes. That’ll show them.

8. Wearing sunglasses indoors.
Some people were actually so hard that they didn’t even need to see where they were going, they could just walk wherever they wanted, and people and buildings would get out of their way.
You had to be sure to wear the right kind of sunglasses though. Red Mickey Mouse ones generally didn’t count, and neither did cardboard 3D glasses. You also had to memorise the layout of a room before putting your sunglasses on, otherwise you were likely to walk straight into the wall. Only someone with the effortless cool of Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones had the ability to make walls get out of his way.

9. Watching Horror Films (Pretending to watch horror films).
Given that most kids at our school had never seen any horror movies ever (apart from maybe 'Critters'), we had carte blanche to wow our friends with tales of having watched our 20th horror movie of the week, because our parents got it out of the video shop for us, AND they let us stay up until 3am on a school night.
This was not what really happened. But the other kids didn’t know that. Therefore, major cool points were to be had by claiming to have watched Friday The 13th, Halloween, and some films you’d made up, such as ‘Horses With Drills’, and ‘Killed In The Head’. The more elaborate and gory your made up movies were, the better. For example:
“Last night I watched ‘Eyeball Piss Murder’. There was one scene in it where a man cut another man’s head off with scissors, but the head stayed alive and bit the guy’s knob off, and then blood spurted everywhere and a portal to hell opened.”

10. Swearing.
This was good because you didn’t need any specialist training, clothing or equipment to do swearing. You also didn’t have to risk opening a portal to hell, which was handy. All you needed was a decent enough arsenal (lol ‘arse’) of swears, and you too could look like Dirty Harry, Rambo or similar.
Obviously, some of the more advanced and sophisticated language was unknown to us as kids. Words like ‘fuck’ and ‘twat’ were alien to us, but we knew enough. Our words of choice were:

Piss, Hell, Damn, Bum, Willy, Boobies (especially when spelt out on a calculator), Fanny.

Obviously, ‘piss’ was right at the top of this hierarchy, reigning supreme as king of the swears. Telling someone to ‘piss off’ was extremely hard and clever, as was putting your hand up in class and yelling “Miss, miss, I need a piss”. Obviously, this was for advanced badassery only. Little did we know that all we had to do in the end to look hard was kick a person in the shins.

Now we wouldn't put you through all that boring reading stuff without just enough sweet to outweigh the sour would we? In this case, the sugar that's helping the medicine down is this little mix I found down the back of an old hard-drive. Many years ago, myself and a geezer from the posh bit of Wallsend called Geoff, (he may have been fat then, I can't remember) probably better known these days as 'Man Power', used to run a half arsed blog/party called 'Tourist'. We were lazy and wildly unsuccessful but one good thing we did, after much coercing and not a few threats of physical violence, was to persuade Sean Johnson and Andrew Weatherall to bring their 'A Love From Outer Space' party up the road to Newcastle and play in our mates bar one cold Thursday night in December 2011. I believe it was the first time they'd done ALFOS outside of Stoke Newington and because of this I'm going to take full responsibility for any success they had after that!
Seriously though, it was a great night and we were lucky enough to capture most of it on the above recording. As an extra bonus, I think you might even get 9  minutes of my AMAZING warm up set at the beginning, but don't let that put you off. Dig in and enjoy a little bit of history.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Monday, 30 October 2017

The best DJ you've (probably) never heard of #9: Slobodan Brkic AKA DJ Brka.

Now before I start I know this is going to be a contentious one as Slobodan is in fact as many of you will know a rather well know DJ. In fact he's something of a legend in certain circles. However, I'm working under the proviso that there are a few folk out there still haven't heard of him yet who deserve to. And even if you're more than familiar with his work, it's still an excuse to go back and listen to some of these, frankly outrageous, mixes!
Slobodan is one of the leading figures in the Serbian music scene, if not in the whole of former-Yugoslavia and has been for some years now. He's one of a handful of promoters, producers, artists and DJ's who've undoubtedly been responsible for Belgrade's rise on the cultural clubbing map of Europe. Running the Disco Not Disco party as well as nights on the Sava river at 20/44 alongside DJ Schwabe, he's hosted most of the preeminent underground talents of the scene. He is a truly uncategorisable DJ with an astonishing knowledge of music, able to weave club sounds, techno, house, weird mutant disco as well as Balearic, cosmic and krautrock effortlessly into the fabric of his sets. This is the REAL underground we're talking about here. If you got a favourite DJ? Chances are that this person most likely played Slobodan's party. That underground party we all want to be a part of, with no sponsors, no guest list, and no musical restrictions.
I'm pretty sure my first taste was either an old mix he did for the Noise In My Head website or a sterling turn on Tim Sweeney's Beats in Space show almost 10 years ago. These sets led me down many a rabbit hole, one of the wonderful musical palces they did take me was to his incredible 'East of Cosmic' trilogy of mixes. Without doubt some of my favourite musical selections that I've been borderline evangelical about banging on relentlessly to anyone who'd listen since I first heard them.
It's this set of mixes that I decided to upload for the purposes of this little piece, as I'm sure that anyone who's not had the pleasure of hearing Slobodan play before will undoubtedly want to seek out any/all recordings of him immediately after listening!
Happy hunting.

Follow 'Disco Not Disco' on Mixcloud, here. 
Interview with Slobodan on Krossfingers, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Monday, 2 October 2017

Playtime Paradise!

(This is something of a spiritual successor to the recent 'Fun? Fair?' article I wrote for Ransom Note.)

You could have a fuck-load of fun for a pound when I was a kid. You could buy enough Freddos to induce a mild coma. You could take advantage of the 10 year old me renting out my brothers air pistol for the whole of lunchtime. Or you could have 5-10 goes on a ticket-shitting arcade machine.
These machines were the backbone of my summer trips to Whitley Bay and holidays in Folkstone, Scarborough or similar. I would pester my parents for up to 24 hours a day, and eventually manage to get enough loose change to be able to wander round, honing my skills at ball throwing, thing hitting and general gambling. This tour of the machines would last about three minutes, because I would inevitably lose at everything due to being a stupid uncoordinated kid. On the occasions I did win at these games (about once a year), I’d be rewarded with tickets. These would then be exchanged for things like one fake rubber finger, and a pencil sharpener with ‘Showaddywaddy’ written on it. What more could you want? The best 8 of these games/machines I remember from my childhood years have been compiled for your reading pleasure below. REGARDE!!
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1. Cosmo Gang
Shoot the shit out of aliens before they manage to advance forward and steal your energy packs. Which might actually be their energy packs? I can’t remember. But the more I think about it, we might be the bad guys in all this. Excellent music and sound effects as each alien got shot in their bastard alien face. Those poor aliens. I hope I was proud of myself. I probably was. As far as I'm aware, the ongoing human/alien conflict continues.
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2. Basket Ball Beat The Clock
Not a tribute to Television X’s ten minute freeview. Basket Ball Beat The Clock was actually a ball rolling game similar to Kentucky Derby (I’m getting to that). My memory’s all gone to shit now, but I’m assuming you had to fill up some kind of score meter before the clock ran out. Then you’d beaten the clock. See? If you didn’t manage it, the clock probably punched you in the face. Strangely, the most memorable I remember about this game is that it played Mussorgsky’s 'Promenade' on a loop. photo Pic203..jpg
3. Feed Big Bertha
There’s no other way to say this – this game is about a fat woman who likes to eat balls. Because she’s fat, she does nothing but stand there waiting for you to put her dinner in her lazy fucking gob. I do that too. As Bertha eats balls she gets fatter and fatter until… the game just sort of stops. But if you’ve done well, a load of tickets come out of what I assume is her vaginal area.
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4. Whack-a-mole
It wasn't actually called ‘Whack-a-mole’, it was 'Bash the Beaver' or something like that, but I can't remember the propper name for it so we're going to use the yanks name for it, despite the fact that they're always wrong about everything. Anyhow, in our version, brightly coloured things (lollipops?) come out of random holes just to grief you. You must then show them who’s boss by beating them to death with a hammer.
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5. Kentucky Derby/Arabian Derby
Known in our family as ‘The Donkey Roll’. Similar to Basket Ball Beat The Clock (which I didn’t explain properly above so the comparison is a bit pointless now at this stage). Basically: roll balls, get them in holes, and this makes your horse/camel move forward using technology and magic. Excellent theme tune. What made this game special is the bloodthirsty competitive element. This isn’t just you playing for tickets – this is you playing against a dozen other people, all of whom might be up to 100% better at rolling than you. Therefore it’s completely acceptable and within the spirit of the game to elbow your neighbours, occasionally to bite your neighbours and DEFINITELY use some salty language towards your neighbours. Sadly, there’s nothing you can do about the people who aren’t sitting right next to you, apart from hope they suddenly die, or throw shit at them. photo Pic206..jpg
6. Rocket Ship
This was ace because of all the lights and buttons inside the cockpit – you really felt as if you were on an Apollo mission (not Apollo 13, unless there was a power cut). You sat in the cockpit, held on (if you were a wimp), and the rocket would go up and down while twisting round a bit. This ride gets into the top 8 for its immersive theming (the buttons you could press that went WOOWOOWOOWOO).
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7. Mini Wheel
The object of this game is to sit there going round and round and round and round and round, until your 10p's run out. By the time this happens, there will be a long queue of crying children and angry parents. Ignore them, apart from to ask them if they will give you money for another go. Chances are they’ll say no. No tickets to be won as only a moderate level of skill is involved. photo Pic208..jpg
8. Horse Racing Thing
This had various names, but was generally called something like ‘The Derby’ or ‘Grand National’. It was probably never called ‘Horse racing thing’. You didn’t win tickets, but you did win cold hard cash – sometimes you could win 4p, which was not to be sniffed at. Gameplay was simple – put your money in, pick a horse, then watch the ultra-realistic race play out before your eyes. Different horses had different odds, so some paid out more than others. Having said that, you were never going to be able to retire on the winnings from this game. I wish I could have found some footage of the game to include here, but sadly I fear it would have been missing the all important element of the announcer ordering you to “Place your bets now” while sounding a bit like Stephen Hawking.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Living Daylights!

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Anyone who ends up on the mailing lists for umpteen labels and promo companies will tell you that for the dozens of tracks you get sent every week, only a small percentage of them turn out to be worth more than a cursory listen. This makes it all the more special when something drops into your inbox that turns out to be very special. The last few weeks seen an uncharacteristic influx of these. Notable among these is the new Smagghe & Cross album 'Timothy Dalton' from Laurent Richard aka DJ Sundae's Idle Press imprint.
The label released one of my favourite tracks of 2016 with a reissue of Pitch's post-punk/no wave anthem 'What Am I Gonna Do For Fun' complete with a stunning retouch from Tolouse Low TracksLaurent and close friend Julien Dechery also compiled the peerless Sky Girl album last year. A magnificent compilation (released on Efficient Space, the label run by the guys behind the 'Noise In My Head' blog) of minimal wave, post pop, Balearic folk, or whatever you want to call it, is without doubt one of the most essential, as well as one of my very favourite, albums of recent times. With this pedigree in mind I was expecting big things of their next release!

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Timothy Dalton is the second full-length record from the experimentally inclined pairing of Ivan Smagghe and Rupert Cross. The collaboration has had a prolific year, releasing a well received album on Vladimir Ivkovic's 'Offen' label and no less than three seperate EPs, MmmmmmmTalking To Katz and Jazz, already in 2017.
Described by the duo as 'neither pop, nor psychedelic, nor ambient, nor house, nor techno, nor post punk nor even new wave' the record recalls the sound of 'the beardies from Tangerine Dream being kidnapped by Soft Cell, C86 and 1988, the Silver Apples composing a space opera with the help of an electro cardiogram monitor. Or the Wizard of OZ reviewed and reworked by Psychic TV.'
From the wobbly bass stabs and clattering percussion of the titular opener all the way to the shimmering shards of what sound like Tibetan bells and an unabashedly sweet melodica with its graceful melodic interplay on closer 'Time To Remember' you are in no doubt at any point that this most definitely isn't just a collection of session tracks that have been laying around the cutting room floor and jammed together.
'Klang' and 'Ostend' most strongly recall Smagghe's 'It's A Fine Line' project with their supremely odd dancefloor sensibilities and 'Door Ajar' sounds like it could have easily been transposed from the duo's 'MA' album, but saying that the range of the sound is still never less than striking.
They've drafted in a few extra's on this one to help out, too. Tim Felton from Broadcast's guitar can be heard prominently as can vocals from Andrea Balency, and Roman Turtev fleshes out the drums somewhat. The result is some of the albums standout tracks. 'Circle Around Rings', 'Interlude' and 'Janine'.
Overall, Smagghe and Cross have created a sleek listening experience. They're careful not to steamroller their individual voices either. Their respective signatures adding a striking shine and infectious spirit to proceedings.
Lets just hope that 'Pierce Brosnan' lives up to expectations!

Timothy Dalton by Smagghe & Cross is released on the 25th of September.

Find Idle Press on Facebook, here.
Find Idle Press on Soundcloud, here.

Follow Smagghe & Cross on Facebook, here.
Rupert Cross' website can be found, here.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

How to get rich in the world of underground card gaming + Manfredas BiS mix.

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Don’t lie to yourself. You want to be rich. We all do. Staggeringly rich. We all want to be so rich we can march into our boss’s office and tell him we bought the company, he’s fired, the company has been renamed Dave Poncenbry Is A Cunt Recruitment Solutions. Dave Poncenbry was my old boss’s name. Except it isn’t, the legal advisor to this publication made me change it as I couldn’t prove Dave was a cunt to her legal department’s satisfaction. But this isn’t about what my old boss is or isn’t called, it’s about me telling you how you can get rich.

If you’re anything like me you aren’t dedicated or smart enough to get rich in a conventional, legal way, like inventing an app that tells people if they should grow sideburns. Nor do you possess the ruthlessness and amorality required to get rich from a big time criminal career. You won’t make a fortune trafficking drugs across the border via geese flock. At best you’ll be in an entry-level position, trying to stuff drug bags into a goose and getting pecked, hard, for your trouble. Take it from me, there’s only one reliable way for someone like you to get rich and that’s illegal, underground poker.

When I say poker I’m not talking about Texas Hold ‘Em, a game played by dimwitted public school boys named Oscar who used to sit next to me at work and complain to Dave that was writing articles about underground poker instead of doing my actual job. No. I’m talking about a form of the game so frowned on by respectable members of society that it was outlawed by the government even before they’d made it illegal to trample nine MP's to death with a horse, which is what an outraged poker baron did right after they signed the anti-poker law. The type of poker I’m talking about is called One-Card Stud.

It is extraordinarily easy to win money playing One-Card Stud. It’s so easy a camel could do it, if that camel had opposable thumbs and a rudimentary understanding of probability. And if it could talk. There’s a lot of talking involved. Forget it, a camel couldn’t win. But you can.

You might think the best place to play this highly illegal form of poker is in an underground casino run by a slick Mafia boss with a name like Luciano Gambarelli. You’d be right, but Luciano Gambarelli told me that if I wrote an article about him I’d wind up with “even less thumbs than a camel”. He meant “even fewer” but I didn’t correct him as, well, the thumb thing, innit.

So where can you play this game that I can write about and still keep my thumbs? There’s only one place. It’s a bar run by outlaw bikers. The bar is called The Pickle & Unicycle. Don’t tell them this is a stupid name for a bar. The last person who told them that suffered what you might call an 'unexplained disappearance'. You might call it that except it’s easily explained, he was murdered by some outlaw bikers.

Now here’s what you do to get in on this hot poker action. You go to The Pickle & Unicycle and you tell the barman the secret code. The code is “I’d like a delicious roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings”. If you went to the wrong bar by mistake you’ll be served a delicious chicken dinner. If you’re at the right bar you’ll be ushered into a poker room out the back but still wish you’d got to eat that chicken. I should’ve told you to eat before going to the bar, sorry.

In the dimly-lit back room you’ll see other players. There’s two types of people who play One-Card Stud. The first is grizzled Iraq war types called “Cobra”. The second type is people who look suspiciously like you, who are there because they too read an article about getting rich playing illegal poker.

When all the players are seated the dealer will produce a single card. The card bears mysterious symbols and the number twelve. What could it mean? Twelve is a number with heavy numerological significance. The ancient Romans used it to signify the twelfth day of the month. Modern calendar manufacturers use it for a similar purpose.

It’s almost time for the game to start. The dealer will tell you there’s a 5000 pound cash buy-in. Sorry, this is another thing I forgot to mention earlier. The other players, who read better articles about illegal poker than this one, all produce the cash. You don’t have the money so you leave, just as broke as when you went in. Later you learn that every other player in that game is now fantastically rich. So you pull together the 5000 quid and return to the bar. Except it isn’t a bar any more, it’s a shop that sells those giant pants you see in the 'before' shots in diet ads. The only sign of the store’s biker history is the muffled screaming coming from the back room.

You’re dejected. Your shot at riches is gone. You curse me and my terrible article. You start to plot your revenge against me. But it’s too late. That screaming from the back room? That was me. It seems that outlaw bikers don’t like articles being written about their illegal poker games either. Tough break for both of us, but no one ever said it would be extraordinarily easy to get rich playing underground poker. No one except me, and as you’ve learned I’m almost as bad at giving advice as I am at not getting tortured to death in a pants store run by outlaw bikers.

Till next time.
Big love. Mark. X