King of the bluff: Steve Carruthers

Steve Carruthers has a unique ability to get into just about any high-profile sporting event by posing as a VIP hanger-on

Steve Carruthers, a 24 year-old graduate from Manchester, has had a front row seat at some of the world’s biggest sporting events. Look closely at pictures of Real Madrid lifting the Champions League trophy in 2014 and you may spot him in the background.

He was also at the Champions League final at Wembley in 2013, when Bayern Munich edged Borussia Dortmund to the title, and again at the Man United – Real Madrid semi-final at Old Trafford a few years back. Usually you can find him in the VIP area or catching the after-show party.

But he’s not the son of an oil magnate or a flyboy entrepreneur with cash to burn. He’s not a close relative of a sporting super star. In fact, he shouldn’t be at any of these events at all – he gets in because he’s one of Britain’s best bluffers.

He gains access to high-profile sporting occasions – where tickets can sell for thousands of pounds a time – with a combination of preparation, skill, timing and sheer front.

“One trick is to target the VIP areas at big shows,” he says. “Security are on the look-out for people blagging their way into the main arena, but they don’t expect people to try and get in with the celebrities. If you look the part and act the part, people don’t question why you’re there.”

PokerStars has created an immersive experience to help people ascertain their strengths and weaknesses in the game, and the site shows his skills are a good fit for someone  looking to step into the footprints of the game’s high rollers.

His best bluff came in May when he successfully negotiated his way into the VIP ballroom at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas ahead of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight

Essentially he has all the ingredients of a great bluffer. Firstly, he prepares for the event and tries to work an early advantage by packing a suit and a file to convince people he’s the real deal. But he also has the nous to know when to move and when to wait for the right moment and he has the sheer front to convince people he’s the genuine article.

According to Natural Born Poker Player, it takes six essential skills to become a master of the game; these include bravery, which helps players take educated risks; detective skills to learn about situations and turn them to your advantage; a cool head to prevent you jumping too soon and the kind of quick thinking that helps players make good decisions in tight time spans.

Carruthers says these ingredients are hard but not impossible to master. “You have to be focused on the goal of getting in,” he says. “It’s important to not be too eager and jump the gun, or wait indefinitely and miss obvious opportunities.”

His best bluff came in May when he successfully negotiated his way into the VIP ballroom at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas ahead of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. It was the biggest sporting occasion of the year – certainly in terms of glitz – and Carruthers found himself surrounded by A-list celebrities.

“I got in with Leonardo DiCaprio’s group. I wanted to get a picture with him but he said he wasn’t doing them so I just got a handshake from him and then I followed him in. Everyone had VIP passes except me, but I had bought a basic ticket for the fight and I had that in my hand.

“I was on holiday touring South America and the United States and I had planned to see the fight and try to bluff my way in. So I packed my best suit in preparation and I also took a file along with me to make it look like I was supposed to be there.

“When we got through, DiCaprio headed for the bar and bought all his mates a drink. So I bought one for myself. Then I took a look around at who was there. It was incredible, there were so many great people like Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood and Michael Jordan.”

Carruthers set about getting selfies and handshakes with everyone he could possibly point a camera at without arousing the suspicions of the security detail. Among the Hollywood elite he snapped himself with Christian Bale, Michael J Fox, Mark Wahlberg and Michael Keaton.

Among other notables were footballer Robbie Kean, golfer Lee Westwood, US TV presenter Jimmy Kimmel, singer Chris Brown, heiress Paris Hilton and business tycoon Donald Trump.

I parked myself right next to where a county sheriff was standing because I thought it would look less suspicious if I didn’t seem to mind being next to a copper

Having satisfied his celebrity fix, Carruthers wandered down to the ringside seats where tickets cost $650,000 and continued to mingle. His trick was simply to avoid the main aisles and instead hop over vacant seats in the middle of the stands.

“I was walking around the ring while both fighters were in there with their entourages. That’s when I saw Mark Wahlberg and filmed a message from him to my mate who’s a big fan of his. I went back and sat in the seat I had paid for during the fight itself but afterwards I went back down, jumping over the seats to get back in.”

But Carruthers’ most daring bluff came after the fight when he snuck back into the bowels of the MGM Grand to the boxers’ dressing rooms and waited to snap selfies with the fighters themselves. Pacquiao was out first, then Mayweather an hour later.

“I parked myself right next to where a county sheriff was standing because I thought it would look less suspicious if I didn’t seem to mind being next to a copper. I waited what felt like ages and I was thinking the longer I’m here the more likely I’ll get caught.

“I knew Mayweather was coming out because his security people were talking over their radios and I heard them say ‘we’re on the move’. I just walked straight up and asked for his autograph. That’s when they collared me but Mayweather was really nice.

“He said ‘I got him’ and his security stepped back. He said he had to do an interview but he’d do an autograph later and he let me sit in with the journalists while he did his press conference. I’d met him before at a pool party after his last fight and he said ‘I got him’ then too – he’s a top bloke.”

According to Carruthers, the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who has just signed as a PokerStars ambassador, is similarly friendly and willing to take time for fans despite his cool on-field persona. Lionel Messi, who he has also met, “always has his head down and he’s always walking”.

Will he do it again? Of course, he’s a pro. Time will tell where and when, but you can bet as sure as anything that Steve Carruthers will be showing up in a VIP box near you soon.

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