Issue 211
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Enforced fun with colleagues. Four words that will strike a chilling fear into the very marrow of every British person. It's no different here at I Choose Birmingham where the four of us have a deep-rooted distrust of one another. Alas, the editor insists we socialise, and, given he's keen on cards and chips, decided we should all visit Genting International Casino for a gaming class at Resorts World. He even put up a reward for anyone who could out-gamble him. Spoiler: This ends exactly the way you want it to.



Name: Katy Drohan
AKA: The Butcher of Bournville (Technically it's a Stirchley postcode)
Strength: Was a lawyer
Weakness: Was a bad lawyer
Gambling experience: Has only ever placed two bets. Won them both. 
Odds of winning: 3/1



Name: Benjamin PD Kane
AKA: Dice Man
Strength: Hard to read 
Weakness: Thinks Blackjack is a dice game. Scared of jam. 
Gambling experience: Wins an uncanny amount of raffles
Odds of winning:  40/1



Name: Laurie Prescott
AKA: Ol' Narrow Head 
Strength: New glasses
Weakness: Glasses keep slipping. Blind as a bat.  
Gambling experience: Had genuinely never placed a bet until this day
Odds of winning: 300/1



Name: Tom Cullen
AKA: The Big Texan
Strength: Nicknames  
Weakness: Possible gout 
Gambling experience: Seasoned Vegas veteran, he's played Caesars Palace, The Bellagio, Wynn and more
Odds of winning: Dead cert



One thing you should know about Laurie Prescott: she doesn't *do* public transport. Fortunately, Resorts World is ten minutes from New Street Station, so she struggled to wiggle out of her first train journey in a staggering nine months. On the way everyone agreed casinos can seem a little confusing for the uninitiated. This is exactly what these classes are designed to dispel. They're tailored for beginners and you're designated a table just for you and your crew.  
"Oh, you mean Pontoon!" says our deputy editor the moment our croupier explains the key to Blackjack is getting as close to 21 as possible. She's sort of right, but you won't find it being called Pontoon around here. The words "twist" or "stick" are replaced in Blackjack with "hit" or "stay" or even just a nod, a tap on the table or a slight movement of the hand. Apparently the game can be played in total silence if you're a right grump, but we're quite quickly making excessive noise and ordering a round of whiskies to the table (a drink is included in the experience). Hang on, are we actually having fun? With workmates? This'll end in a disciplinary.

Side note: We're not actually gambling with cash. The only money we've spent is on the class itself, and we're each given the same amount of chips to bet with, so we can monitor individual success, or lack thereof. Yes, Blackjack is a game in which you only play against 'the house' (the casino). But there's a bottle of Chateau Malecasse 2002 up for grabs for whoever finishes up with the most chips, so everyone is paying attention. Except Ben. He's still wondering where the dice are.   
At this point, picture a casino-based, time-lapse montage where our chip piles are rising and falling like the Birmingham skyline. The pressure is hugely on the editor who has boldly nicknamed himself The Big Texan, despite being born in Nottingham and growing up in Brum. His pile is the only pile that seems to be heading in just one direction... South. Meanwhile Laurie, who has never played cards before, seems to be raking it in. So much so that everyone except the editor is referring to her stack of chips simply as 'Manhattan'. Pretty soon 'Tex' busts out (loses all his chips) and decides that roulette was the real reason we'd all come to Resorts World, and so we all had to start from scratch over at the wheel. Hmm... Sounds legit.    


Possibly just as daunting for the beginner, roulette is arguably more fun. Except, it seems, for the editor who (pictured below) was unsuccessfully trying to save face. It's a super simple game when you're shown how. The ball is rolled around the rim of the wheel and it'll land on a number. You can bet on it landing on that number, or on a colour — black or red. All the numbers are displayed in three columns, and you can bet on the ball landing on any number inside a column. Alternatively, you can place a chip so that it straddles two, or even four numbers. That'll mean you're staking your bet on the ball landing on one of those two, or one of those four numbers.
We've probably explained this terribly, and there are interesting twists and quirks to both games (you can't hand the dealer money, we learned, not even jokingly), but the basics are easy to pick up, and the croupiers seem to really enjoy working with customers who have absolutely no idea what the blithering hell is going on.

Once we got to grips with the rules (and the editor is sulking sufficiently), we're given a free £5 bet each to play with on the 'live' tables. Within two hands of Blackjack we've all lost the lot, and we're taking it in turns to do bad impressions of George Clooney from Ocean's Eleven. "The house always wins", we say sagely, but it's jolly good fun finding that out.

Ben asks when the dice come in to play, signalling home time. Laurie insists on a taxi. She ain't getting on no train, fool. 

Learn to play at Genting International Casino from £13.95 each. And be sure to remember what George said — always gamble responsibly


If you’re the slightest bit cynical, or resentful at being manipulated — or even have high blood sugar and need to watch the glucose levels — this may not be the film for you. If you’re looking for that rare non-animated family film, however, or perhaps if the cruelty of life has yet to drain all generosity from your heart, this old-fashioned weepie's probably for you. Room’s Jacob Tremblay is a facially disfigured boy moving from home-schooling to mainstream school, Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson are his parents, and you know where this is going. Sanitised depictions of bullying and a generally dated feel aside, it’s the acting that makes this something worth taking the kids to, not least Izabela Vidoovic as Tremblay’s sister. Times


There's a brief window in which it's acceptable to essentially drink dessert. And it starts tomorrow. Fully embracing all 31 days of December, The Edgbaston's launched a Christmas cocktail list of seven seasonal bangers. Fancy a gander? Thought you might. Go full yule with After 5 (pictured), because why wait until 8pm? Green Spot single malt, Cotswolds Irish Cream, almond, mint and truffle is what you'll be supping. What we'll be supping is a Grumpy Old Bastard, which includes more single malt, but this time it's Redbreast — Irish and with a spicy kick — plus walnut and acorn, as well as the ultimate Chrimbo beverage in our house — Pedro Ximenez. From £9 to £14, the menu launches tomorrow. Cheers bab!


Twelve chefs have made it through to Knockout Week on MasterChef: The Professionals. And as if we needed more statistical evidence that we're utterly excelling at food as a region, 25% of the remaining contestants are currently cheffing in the West Midlands. The last time we saw sous chef Leo Kattou (left), he was threatening his head chef at Simpsons with a fire extinguisher. Having worked in his parent’s chippie in Coventry, Leo got work experience at Simpsons in 2009, and was employed the following month. Brett Connor (right) worked at two 2017 ICB faves — Hampton Manor and Mallory Court — before becoming a development chef. While you'll find 22-years young Louisa Ellis at The Wilderness, where she's been working as sous chef since September. Neh bad, Birmingham, neh bad.

Knockout Week airs Tues 5, Wed 6 and Thurs 7 December, 8pm, BBC Two
Venue: Cookhouse & Pub, Wolverhampton Road, B69 2BH; Website
Choice: Steak, Ale and Cheddar Suet Pie (£8.49) Chooser: Hayden

What's the
number one rated restaurant in Oldbury? It's a question you may not have expended a lot of energy over. But in our mission to expand our minds, (stomachs) and geographical spread, we made the actually very short trip to the Cookhouse & Pub on the Wolverhampton Road. And though a Michelin star we don't predict, pub nosh, completely lovely service, and change from a tenner on almost every order we did find. Our entirely delicious Doom Bar was less than our favourite coffee shop coffee and served in a proper pint glass. The pastry from the steak and ale suet was buttery and flaky, while the filling had the sort of gravy ratio you seek but fail to achieve without a slightly awkward supplementary sauce request. Served on a big bed of mash with broccoli and green beans, this is more than enough to see you through a wintry day. But if you are having a starter, the chunky hummus, served with the lamb kofta grazer, topped with pomegranates (£4.89) is where we direct you. Menu


As archives go, Miss Moneypenny’s is right up there — a little bit outrageous, nostalgia-filled and largely too damned sexy for us to publish. For its 25th anniversary project, the iconic Brum club brand has released a preview from its extensive collection of artwork and photographs, taken from original flyers and limited edition photographic prints. Queen In Paris (pictured) is taken from a 1995 night, which we may or may not have been at, and featured DJ’s Tony Di Vit and Jim ‘Shaft’ Ryan. Buy it as an A3 poster, or maybe take a gander at the whole beautiful lot while you get working on that time machine.
For San Carlo's next big deal: a Gran Cafe. Think patisserie, an ice-cream bar and proper Italian coffee. Opening December 4 in Selfridges' food hall.
The CBSO's got a whole lot of lovely scheduled in the lead up to Chrimbo. Strictly's Ore Oduba is presenting this year's Choral Christmas, from December 19 to 21.
There's a Magic Door you can enter at Lab 11 this Friday. Unusually, some tickets (at £15) remain. Hidden spaces, muzak and mind-bending lighting will abound.
Birmingham Uni's competing against four other cities to win funding for a bike sharing scheme. At the moment we're coming second to Swansea. Help?
The undisputed Thai champion of the Midlands division is launching in the city centre tomorrow. Sabai Sabai, we'll see you very soon.

Danny: "Because the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.[pause]
Rusty: Been practicing that speech, haven't you?
Danny: Little bit. Did I rush it? Felt like I rushed it.
Rusty: No, it was good, I liked it." 

Ocean's Eleven

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WORDS: Tom Cullen, Katy Drohan, Andrew Lowry
IMAGES: Tom Bird

I Choose Birmingham, 18 Great Western Arcade, Birmingham B2 5HU
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