It could only happen at Mad Marty’s funeral. Jesse May, Rory Liffey and I arrived in Bridgnorth and set off in search of the church. What we found was a coffee shop. Seated outside, all scrubbed up, were Paul Morrow, Mr and Mrs Skally, Marty Smyth and John Magill. A lot of WSOP experience in that lot! Morrow was saying something about a fifty pound note that I didn’t quite understand. Jesse in a coffee shop is like a kid on Christmas Eve and he quickly made a beeline for the counter. I went with him. Jesse ordered coffees from the kid behind the counter. He refused to serve us.
It’s 11.15 a.m. Neither of us has had a drink in over a week. Neither of us has been in Bridgnorth before. I’m wearing a suit. Jessie, who has a speaking part in the funeral service, is looking like Little Lord Fontelroy. It’s got to be a mistake. Jesse asked what the problem was. The kid said we knew the people outside, that one of them had taken a picture of him, and we weren’t going to be served till it was deleted. What? Jesse said we knew the people outside, people inside as well, we had just arrived in the country to attend a funeral, we neither knew nor cared about any pictures and could we have our coffees please. Nope.
I’ve known Jesse for decades. Usually, he hides behind the couch at the first sign of confrontation, but the rules change when coffee is involved. He told the guy that if he had a problem with the people outside, that was his problem, not ours. Our problem was we needed coffee. No chance. The queue behind us was getting bigger. Jesse was going nowhere. I was wondering how long it’d be before the police got called and what the penalty was for trying to buy coffee when common sense prevailed.
A guy in the queue told the kid not to be an idiot and give us coffee. They might not have been his exact words. The guy almost threw the coffees at us. Maybe it’s a Brexit thing.
We went outside and asked if anyone knew anything about pictures. Mr Morrow did. He said he had tried to pay for coffees with a £50 note. The guy wouldn’t take it. Morrow showed him the queen’s head on the note and said it was legal tender. He still wouldn’t accept it so Morrow photographed him and said he was going to report him for treason! OMG. Poker players! We might have lost Marty but there’s always one.
Jesse, fortified by coffee, delivered a eulogy at the service. The highlight was a story he told about Marty at a tournament in Amsterdam. He stole the TD’s microphone, locked himself in a cubicle in the toilet and sang Sweet Caroline from start to finish. Just another day out. When Jesse was finished, everyone stood and belted out Sweet Caroline for Marty. Outside the church, I said that’d be hard to beat.
Someone, I think it was John Shipley, said a friend of Marty’s who had recently died had insisted they play Another One Bites The Dust as his coffin was carried from the church. Strange place that Bridgnorth. It’s great craic. I’m seriously considering being cremated there, preferably after I die. But only if Jesse has access to coffee of course.
A couple of hours later, we were all in the pub. It was my first English funeral. It’s exactly like an Irish funeral. Except it lasts a couple of days less. And there’s no band. Or even a fight. There were of course lots of Mad Marty stories.
One of my favourites was from Binions. A small TV crew were making a WSOP documentary. I can remember Andy Black had a John Lennon moment and was interviewed in bed. Ouch. Marty made sure he made the cut by telling the interviewer an outrageous story about how he got the entry fee for the first Late Night Poker. He said he was broke but knew where he could sell traffic cones. He didn’t have any of them, but figured out where he could get lots.
He borrowed a truck and hired a couple of friends to help. In the middle of the night, the three of them drove to a spot in the motorway where major roadworks were taking place. There was any number of traffic cones in place, diverting traffic. The three lads filled the truck with them until Marty had enough to pay the £1,500 LNP entry fee and give his assistants £50 each for a drink. Job done. The next day Marty was watching the news on TV. Apparently, there was a record eight hour traffic jam that day on the motorway because someone had nicked hundreds of traffic cones and all the traffic finished up in a dead end. OMG. This story was easily the highlight of a decent documentary.
It got worse. A researcher on a popular Saturday night UK TV programme, The Clive Anderson Show, picked it as The Clip Of The Week so Marty made prime time TV. You couldn’t make it up. Marty was more famous than the Devilfish. Infamous anyway!
A few years ago, Marty was telling this story at a partypoker GP in Killarney. A few guys asked Jesse and I if the original story was true. We didn’t know either! I guess we never will.
Over a decade ago Jesse May talked me into writing a magazine article by just telling a story or giving my thoughts on the poker world as though I was talking to a guy in a bar. I didn’t need to practice. This is the result…