The Diary: Deep breath - it’s underwater poker

John Stanley plays underwater poker
John Stanley plays underwater poker
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MEET a man who’s not bluffing - Sheffielder John Stanley has organised what is thought to be Europe’s first ever game of underwater poker.

The 46-year-old scuba dive master reckons the session in the deep will be Ace.

Six players will don suits, bow ties and scuba masks, and be served chips by a mermaid host while competing in the game at Ponds Forge on Saturday.

“They’ll also have to make sure the reduced oxygen doesn’t mean they start making rash decisions,” says John, who will deal at the weighed down table. “On the plus side, wearing breathing apparatus should make it easier to keep a poker face.”

Specialist cameras will relay the two hour session to a pool-side audience, while diving instructors will be on hand to take people down to watch the action live. Face painting, card tricks and children’s entertainment will also feature at the free event.

But if it all sounds a little jack-potty, at least the real winner will be charity.

John, who dives with Diveworld in Hillsborough, has organised the event after wife Gina passed away in May following a battle with endometrial cancer. Sponsorship, which currently stands at £3,000, will go to Macmillan Cancer Support.

“We started planning it together and I so hoped she’d be able to see it happen,” says the drive cleaner of Hawksley Mews, Hillsborough. “But it wasn’t to be. She was 44.

“I had the idea in bed when I couldn’t sleep. I wanted to do something to raise money and I thought what do I like doing? Diving and playing poker, so I combined the two. I was so excited I woke Gina up to tell her. What did she say? ‘It’s 3am, tell me in the morning, love’, as I remember. But she thought it was a great idea. She wasn’t a diver but she loved sitting on the beach sipping a Cuba libre while I went in the sea.”

Now John’s thinking if the event goes well, it could become an annual thing. The six players - Scott Bailey, Mark Cullumbine, Mark Jeffs, Rob Timmins, Tim Martin and Dan Hamilton - are all Sheffielders. But he sees no reason why it can’t be widened out in future.

“When you tell people you’re doing a sponsored run they’ll give you a tenner,” he says. “When you tell people you’re playing poker underwater, they give you a tenner and then say, ‘Hang on, you’re doing what?’ It creates real interest.”

The event is on Saturday at 4.30pm. More at www.underwaterpoker.co.uk