I got the call I was dreading on Saturday morning. Mad Marty Wilson had lost his battle against pancreatic cancer which is practically impossible to beat, but in typical Marty fashion, he put on a Leicester City shirt and gave it a go anyway. I had been to see him a couple of times over the last few months with Rory Liffey and Jesse May, and despite his rapidly deteriorating health, it was business as usual. He even got his box of magic tricks out. The Marty magic show was fantastic if you’re aged under five and a half. We didn’t qualify, but ended up laughing anyway.

The tributes started coming in. Not just from the usual suspects in the UK. Phil Hellmuth, Mike Sexton, Matt Savage and Nolan Dalla were among the big US names who remembered the fun times. Laughter followed Marty around 24/7.

Marty, Katherine, Jesse May and I worked together on TV shows for ages, mainly for partypoker and 888. It was great craic. On my first day doing commentary, Marty was the spotter and could speak to the comms through our headphones. When the heat finished up with a lad from Blackpool heads up against Paris’s David Benyamine, Marty was shouting in my ear “Say it’s The Blackpool Tower against The Eiffel Tower.” I ignored him but he wouldn’t let it go. So I said it. I thought it was stupid. Marty thought it was hilarious. We were probably both right.

Marty was eventually made tournament director. It was an easy job but Marty expanded it to include a full entertainment schedule. Anything was liable to go off in the studio. Marty was liable to tell some young lad that there was a problem with his mic and it wasn’t picking up the “D” sounds properly. He would ask them to say “Ken Dodd’s dad’s dog died.” It was ridiculous, but a decent spectator sport. Then, there was the day he told a guy he couldn’t check in the dark. OMG.

But it was in the evenings Marty came into his own. Once back in the hotel, the games started. He had online qualifiers, pros, celebs, TV crew and innocent bystanders playing Play Your Cards Right or my favourite, Win With Wilson to win prizes like an autographed Eric Cantona picture. Autographed for sure but not necessarily by Mr Cantona. Win With Wilson was bingo with playing cards instead of numbers. The rule was if you thought you had won you had to shout out WIN WITH WILSON. Anything else and you were instantly disqualified. With prizes as valuable as a Marilyn Munroe coffee mug at stake, the disqualifications often led to heated arguments. Jesse loved them. Me too!

What few people knew was that the money raised was kept till Christmas and then used to help out families going through hard times.

When we got Poker For The Homeless up and running, I was telling Marty and Katherine what we were doing. “Do you need help?” was the first question I was asked. And help was what we got. In spades. For years, they and their friend Spiv ran satellites for our events and added to the fun and games for sure. Thank you.

I could write a book about Marty and Katherine in Vegas and maybe I will! One of the funniest episodes was when Marty was interviewed in the street by a TV news crew. There had been a spate of murders in the city and these people wanted to interview a normal tourist to ask if this was upsetting them. They didn’t find one, but did find Marty who told them he wasn’t in the least bit upset as Bridge North on a Saturday night was absolute chaos! You couldn’t make it up!

See you soon my friend. Not too soon!

Photos: Mickey May

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