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PONDER STORY

Bombshell!

Lisa-Marie Long is a sassy and popular presenter for the Sky Poker channel. She’s also game for a laugh, as our fantastic photoshoot clearly shows. Chris Lines ducks for cover as the chips go flying

As I arrive at Sky Poker’s HQ in southwest London, Lisa-Marie Long is wearing a little black dress and killer high heels as she stands over a poker table; her exotic hair nicely dishevelled as she poses for the photographer.

“Mess the chips up a bit,” suggests the eager snapper, who I’d briefed in advance to try and bring out Lisa-Marie’s wild side.

She doesn’t need much encouragement as she hurls a fist – and most of a forearm – crashing into a big stack of poker chips sending them cascading in all directions around the studio. It’s like a bomb’s gone off.

“Was that alright?” she asks sweetly, as she demurely fixes her hair. This is going to be a fun afternoon. Lisa-Marie repeats the trick several more times so that the photographer can capture her spectacular chip destruction from a few different angles. Each time, she goes at the chips with gusto and several Sky Poker staffers helping with the shoot get clattered with chip-stack shrapnel.

By the time we finish the shoot, Lisa-Marie has been on her feet for more than two hours. I worry she’ll be a bit worn out when we sit down to do the interview. Not a bit of it. I’ve requested somewhere quiet to do the interview as I’m getting it down on tape, and Lisa-Marie suggests one of the Sky dressing rooms. It looks rather claustrophobic to me, but at least my dictaphone will pick up every word with no background noise.

I needn’t have worried. I ask my first question and instinctively lean backwards as Lisa-Marie starts talking. I don’t know if it’s the size of this room, but her voice seems startlingly loud. I ask if it comes as standard when you’re a television presenter, to have such a clear and crisp voice. “Initially, when I started in television, I had a lot of people telling me that I spoke like a pre-pubescent 12-year-old!” she says, laughing. “So I made a conscious, concerted effort to bring my register down a bit, but now I sometimes sound like a schoolma’am apparently. Though some people seem to quite like that, which is a little bit worrying!”

Having grown up near Portsmouth on the south coast, Lisa-Marie moved to London almost by chance several years ago. “I’d gone up to London with some college friends and we went to Planet Hollywood. Someone there said: ‘Are you looking for a job?’ So I had a chat with them, they gave me the job and I moved to London and started the next day. I literally dashed down south, grabbed my things and moved. Really bizarre. I’m a bit like that though, I tend to do things without thinking.”

She does a good job of coming across as extremely together, so this admission of impulsiveness early in the interview is intriguing. I wouldn’t have guessed certainly. Is it hard for her, as someone who normally poses the questions, to be on the receiving end for once?

“Yeah, it’s really freaky. I feel a bit nervous right now actually. It’s one of those things where if you’ve got someone in the spotlight, where you’re in a position of control and you know what’s coming next, it’s fine. But when that spotlight is turned on you, it’s quite unnerving. There’s so much pressure to be interesting.”

Fortunately, she’s full of chat. We talk about how she got into poker in the first place – apparently she was working for another Sky channel when a chance encounter with the Sky Poker team, including comedian and Sky Poker analyst Norman Pace, encouraged her to give poker a try. She developed a real taste for it and this led to her landing the presenting gig. These days she’s a regular fixture on the channel and even loves to play on the site in her spare time – though she admits that she spends half the time joining in with the Sky Poker community in the chatbox. Her game has improved no end since she started, but she admits that her spontaneous nature has crept into her poker game of late.

“I can be quite impulsive and emotional about things sometimes. If I think someone is trying to pull one over me, I will just keep pushing and pushing until eventually we both show our hands and I realise that he has a straight flush and I don’t have anything!”

She’s keen to play more live poker, maybe in some major tournaments. So which one would she most like to play in? “Oh, the World Series of Poker definitely, every single time. I was dying to get out there this year but I didn’t have time to try and qualify. Just to hear the massive chip riffling noise when the Main Event starts would be amazing.”

It’s a nice ambition to have. But poker and presenting aren’t all that Lisa-Marie is about. In fact, she’s every bit as promising as an actress as she is a presenter. She’s recently finished filming on a movie called The Hike, and has some other interesting projects in the pipeline too. So which would she plump for if a big break came – presenting or acting?

“Either/or. I get bored quite easily,” she says. “Obviously if they were making a new version of Friends and they wanted me to be one of the characters, my response would be ‘Hell, yes!’ So far though, I seem to get offered lots of roles as lesbians or victims – I don’t know why! But if there’s a way that I can juggle everything, I’m happy. I’m quite greedy like that. I like being busy.”

For the time being though, Lisa-Marie is more than happy fronting Sky Poker’s coverage. You get the impression that it’s all about the community for her – something I’ve noticed myself at a Sky Poker Tour event in the past. They are a close-knit bunch, the folk who play there, but totally welcoming to newcomers too.

“You know that you can log on, find a table, and there are going to be people there who are your friends – which is quite nice,” says Lisa-Marie. “If I’m having a bad day and I’m feeling a bit down, or I’ve had a bad beat, you can guarantee that in five minutes there’s going to be a full table of people who’ll listen and chat about the bad beats they’ve had too. It really is like a big group of friends.”

LISA-MARIE’S FAVOURITE THINGS

Food: Cheese and jam toasties. They’re incredible – no, really! You haven’t lived until you’ve tried them.

Drink: At the moment it’s red wine. It used to be Jack Daniels, but that’s a bit of a fighting man’s drink! I love Basil Hayden’s bourbon too.

Casino: Crown Casino, Melbourne

Movie star: Paul Giamatti

Music: I’ve got very eclectic tastes. I like Miles Davis. There’s a lot of jazz on my iPod.

Book: Great Expectations

Film: Inception. I saw it just the other day; it’s amazing. I saw it at the Imax so that was pretty special. I’m a bit of a sci-fi freak.

Sport: Poker. It counts!

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The Big One
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