STEVE BUTT chats to BARRY MUNDEE, the former Penhill resident who now rubs shoulders with poker's elite.

BARRY Mundee's dreams of becoming a professional footballer were shattered at the tender age of 18 but since then he has really played his cards right!

The former Penhill resident was spotted by Bournemouth as a youngster but a back injury ended his career. After undergoing surgery, Bournemouth's then-boss Harry Redknapp was unable to offer him a new deal.

But Mundee was about to fall on his feet in a new-found career.

From Dean Court he got himself a job at The Victoria Casino in Bournemouth. And now, over 20 years later, Mundee has hit the big time as a freelance poker tournament director.

He has directed some of the biggest poker games in the world, is a regular on the television poker circuit and is familiar with top names in the sport.

And the 40-year-old's next venture is in Swindon at KC Members Club in Ermin Street, Stratton.

KC stands for The King of Clubs' and offers sports club membership which includes the use of Swindon's first poker venue.

Poker is the latest craze to sweep across the world and the experienced poker guru Mundee will be KC's tournament director And, as he explained, his job is far from a nine-to-five affair.

"I always wonder what might have been with the football," said Mundee, who played for Greyhound in his time in Swindon.

"I was pretty good, so were my brothers Brian and Denny. Denny played at QPR while I went with Brian to Bournemouth.

"The back injury ended my career. I had a burst disc during a time when Bournemouth were going through financial problems.

"Harry (Redknapp) offered me the chance to stay and train but couldn't pay me. I said enough was enough' and jacked it in.

"From there I worked in The Vic, Bournemouth's biggest casino.

"After that I worked in the card rooms before working my way up to inspector within three years.

"Poker wasn't as big then as it is now but I ended up working in London at The Connoisseur. They had the biggest card room in Europe at the time.

After that I went freelance.

"I'd built up a reputation in the game and people started employing me to run big events.

"Last year I worked about three weeks and still made very good money.

"But it depends on the clients, I can charge £1,000 a day or more or as little as £150 a day to run an event.

"It's unsociable hours but I wouldn't change it for the world, it beats doing a regular job."

Mundee knows all the top poker stars like Doyle Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Gus Hamson, Chris Ferguson, Mike Gatusso and Phil Ivey and claims they are a joy to work with. The money being played for can be in the millions but that doesn't daunt Mundee.

"The bigger the tournament the better for me," added Mundee.

"The biggest cash game I've done is a $100,000 sit-down in London.

"I've done the Irish Open, which I am doing again this year, the European Poker Masters, the World Speed Poker event and I've dealt to some of the richest men in the world in my time in casinos.

"Working with the top players is easy, they know the rules and don't make mistakes."

Earlier this month, Mundee oversaw proceedings at a big poker tournament at KC's.

He was so impressed that now he will be the in-house tournament director at the club and believes KC's will be a big hit in the town.

"Poker is massive now, far bigger than ever before," said Mundee. "It appeals to people from all walks of life, young or old, rich or poor it makes no difference, it's really catching on.

"KC's looks fantastic. I'm really excited about this opportunity.

"They've spent a lot of money to get it right and it will be popular I'm sure of that. "

So what advice does Mundee have for budding poker players?

"Anyone can play," said Mundee. "For me it is still a game of 99 per cent luck and one per cent skill. That's why anybody can beat anybody no matter how many times they have played.

"The etiquete is the most important factor. It's what my job is about, making sure people don't break the rules, and there are lots of them.

"You can play for as much or as little as you want and get hours of entertainment for your money. There is no place for elitism in poker.

"People play poker and think they know how to play poker.

"They don't always know the etiquette. There's no place for shouting expletives at the tables - it's a gentlemen's game, you need to win and lose your money gracefully.

"It's not just a place to win money, it's social thing.

"I've seen players win tournaments that haven't played poker before. I've had to tell them the rules, pick them up on things but then, at the end of the night I'm handing them the cheque.

"I play occasionally but I'm not a good player. It's like chess really, you're making your moves to outwit your opponent, that's what makes it such a great game.

"Every game is different. The top starting hands can get smashed and often do, that's why it doesn't matter how good a player you are."

From April 10, KC's will host tournaments on Tuesdays to Fridays with sit-and-go games on Sundays. There will also be beginners nights on Tuesday's and the club is available to book functions.

On Saturday, Stratton Rovers Football Club are hosting a fundraising tournament with a £40 buy-in. For more details about KC's call 01793 834482 or visit their website:


1: Learn the rules

2: Start small, learn the basics of the game before you play.

3: Play, play and keep playing. Start for small money but play as much as you can. You can't beat playing, you'll learn more from playing.

4: Play face-to-face not on-line. Internet games are completely different to face-to-face. Face-to-face is better.

5: Take a lot of notice during games. Watch people and how they play, how they bet, when they fold etc. What their mannerisms, taking breaths or a big gulp of their drink, it can give you an indication of what they've got.