Charity underwater card players keep poker faces hidden behind scuba masks

Players donned suits, bow ties and scuba masks for what is thought to be Europe’s first ever game of underwater poker.

And they were served chips by a mermaid host while they competed at Ponds Forge in Sheffield, on Saturday.

The game was organised by 46-year-old scuba dive master John Stanley to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support after his wife Gina died in May following a battle with endometrial cancer.

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“We started planning [the event] together and I so hoped she’d be able to see it happen,” said Mr Stanley, of Hillsborough, Sheffield, “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.”

Mr Stanley, who dealt cards at the weighed-down table said before the underwater tournament: “The divers will have to make sure the reduced oxygen doesn’t mean they start making rash decisions.

“On the plus side, wearing breathing apparatus should make it easier to keep a poker face.”

Specialist cameras relayed the two-hour session to a pool-side audience, while diving instructors were on hand to take people down to watch the action live.

The six players – Scott Bailey, Mark Cullumbine, Mark Jeffs, Rob Timmins, Tim Martin and Dan Hamilton – are all from Sheffield.

Mr Stanley hopes that in future, it could become an annual event.