August 2006
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A quickie in Leicester

It’s 5pm and I get a message from Geoff asking if I fancied going to Leicester to play the £20 tournament at the Gala tonight. I did, so I rushed to leave and even then nearly missed out. I was 45th to register (maximum 56) at 45 minutes before kick off. Geoff told me the night before (the even more popular £10 game) they had essentially opened registration early by giving everyone in line a ticket with a number so they could come back at 6.30 and queue up again in the same order. Just like getting your cold meat and pork pies at Tesco.

I didn’t last long, failing to find any opportunities to start with, then having to push with 88 twice in quick succession, flipping against AK (and winning) and AQ (and losing). So I stuck my name on the list for a £20 sit-and-go and waited a good hour for them to find a dealer that wouldn’t be making the casino more money on a blackjack table.

The SNGs are intense – 7 players, 10 minute blinds and only 2000 chips to start. I wasn’t going to mess around, and got them all in with 99 early on, called by 44 and holding up. Three players fell in the first 7 hands. A drunk aggressive guy called Wayne – it was his birthday, so he’d been on the free champagne-style pop – wanted to own the table, but I found the perfect opportunity to show him who was boss. Poker rarely feels as good as this…

Getting a free ride with Q7 in the big blind, I see an unsuited flop of 752. I bet the pot (500) and he calls. I check and let him bet at the turn, which is a rather scary K, but somehow when he makes his bet of 700 I know I have the best hand. I don’t know how, but I understand now what it means now to trust your reads. The all-in check-raise move I made in that spot is something I could never have done six months ago. I was actually so sure I was ahead that I wanted him to call! After nearly a day he eventualy folded and I showed the 7, asking (in that extremely cocky way that lawyers only ask questions they already know the answer to) if it was good enough.

I didn’t get much resistance for the rest of the game, and managed to pick up blinds and small pots uncontested the majority of the time. Wayne actually wasn’t a bad player and made a couple of quality laydowns. I felt certain I was going to get a drunken payoff when I hit a flush with 2345 on board. Wayne laid down his ace-five straight. Or maybe he was just weak-drunk…

Down to two players and we were fairly even in chips – roughly 7000 each and blinds were 400-800 so I jumped at the chance to chop for £70 each.

GSOP Day 3 – Twenty Four Hour Poker People

It took me 24 hours and 13 minutes to bust out of the Gutshot Series of Poker Main Event. In a strange way, I almost wanted to make the 24 hour mark more than I wanted to make the final table. It’s a landmark of poker endurance, don’t you think?

I actually finished tenth, with the final 9 coming back tomorrow to play out for the big money. I’d sat pretty at somewhere between 60k and 70k most of the day. As the number of players dropped from 30 down to the 18 in the money though, I hadn’t really had much chance to accumulate chips and continued to slip behind the pack. Even so, it wasn’t really until right at the end after a very dry spell that I couldn’t maintain my stack at this level that I had to force opportunities. I had 21,600 when I moved all in with ATo, and blinds were at 1200/2400 with 300 ante. I had a few hands left if I wanted to wait, but this one seemed good enough. I got to flip with a pair of fours, but I didn’t improve and everyone got to go home.

Here are the hands that actually made it into the live updates. Sorry about the shirt…

Much as I wanted the experience of being at the final table, I really didn’t want to come back tomorrow to play one hand – the difference in money was £100, and it would probably cost me that to stay here another night, plus I’d lose working time on Tuesday. If I was coming back, I wanted to at least be able to fight for a higher spot.

This was a FANTASTIC tournament, and I am very pleased indeed that I managed to last so long. I got pretty much everything I wanted to out of the weekend, and even managed to avoid the heartbreak of going broke and watching everyone else keep playing – when I busted, I was more than pleased with my performance, had accepted my probable fate, and even then the game stopped for the night anyway! No major bad beats since my AA got cracked on day 1, and I only recall two close races before the final hand (I lost AQ vs 22 and won KJ vs AT) – there was more post flop play than in probably all of the tournaments I played in Vegas combined. I made good decisions and maintained my composure for a marathon of a poker game. Room for improvement? For sure, particularly in small pot dogfights. Fair result? Well yeah, I kinda rocked.

So the hunt begins for my next major tournament. I have my eye on the Ongame Poker Classic in Barcelona, and the EPT events are coming soon. Better get qualifying….

GSOP Main Event Day 2 – 157 down, 29 to go

I am absolutely over the moon to still be in the hunt for the GSOP championship. This is an amazing tournament, and has really just confirmed that I want to be playing more major events. I just need to either win enough this weekend to fund it, or get really good at online satellites 🙂

30 players remain. My chip stack is 69,900 – just above average. 18 get paid, but with the difference between 18th and first being £17,500 I’m hoping the bubble won’t really be that much of a consideration – I want to win now! I was worried about create a false bubble effect last night, when I started wishing the night would end after I’d amassed a decent stack, but a lot of other players were feeling the same way and the game slowed down nicely as the end came into sight. We’ve played 16 hours of poker now, and it was starting to show. When it took a good five minutes for both the players involved in a hand to be happy that neither they nor their opponent made a straight on a 4579T board (one had one pair with an 8, the other had two pair) it was clear that no great poker was going to happen before the restart.

I started to get ahead with an effective double up coming from one of the worst mistakes I’ve seen this tournament. I raised with AJ, and the big blind calls. The flop has an ace and he check-raises me on the flop. My bet was 1500, his raise was 5000 and I only have about 6000 left. I clench my teeth and hope I read him right, and it seems I did as he wasn’t even going to call the extra 1000 for a pot of about 14k. Getting 14-1 with two cards to come, it surely cannot ever be correct to fold. Virtually any two cards can draw out on me profitably there. Clearly I was happy to get the pot uncontested!

Then, hooray, aces held up. There was a raise to 2500 and a call ahead of me and I moved in for my 15k stack. The middle player must have thought I was trying it on, because he called with KQo. The dealer scared the shit out of me with a JTx flop and didn’t improve things when a third spade gave him a one-card flush draw on the turn. Somehow I survived and was back into the game.

The rest is a bit hazy. I’ve gathered chips up to nearly 70k without having to risk it all. I recall one monster pot where I limped with 89s, got to draw to a straight for cheap and made my draw when two players looking for different flushes both missed. QQ held up against AQ to knock out a short stack, but mostly I haven’t shown down any hands for a long, long time. There was a decent period of time where I managed to maintain through stealing almost exclusively from one player who had noted very loudly how tight I’d been playing. My raising requirements when he was on a blind were significantly lower than usual… he eventually got moved to another table though.

So it’s all good so far. I’m in decent shape with ages left to play. Blue Square now has me down at 20-1 to win, I guess based on my chip count alone as I still haven’t made a single hand review on the Gutshot site. I’ll be alright…

GSOP Main Event Day 1 – Bagged and Tagged

Clearly this is not the best way to adjust back to British time. It’s nearly 5am here, which is only about 9pm in Vegas. I’m somewhere inbetween really. Maybe if I was in iceland it would be the right time… My body doesn’t know what’s hit it. I’ve eaten funny food at funny times the past week, had more exercise than I usually get in a month just walking around London (my hotel is situated just far enough from King’s Cross Station to make it quicker to walk to both the Gutshot offices and the club) and tonight I’ve been playing poker since 8pm with almost no breaks (it’s a two hour clock with just ten minutes off every level). My body has tried to shut down on me several times, and I’ve not let it. It would be pretty bad form, and I’m also fairly sure that if you’re not in your seat – and awake – when the second card hits the button your hand is dead.

So now that I actually have the chance to go to bed, instead you’ll find me blogging about how tired I am, and also doing a little rampaging on Empire Poker with a free $20 they stuck in my account. It’s up to $61 so far…

The GSOP Main Event played to half way through level 4 tonight. Something of a compromise between being able to get enough levels played out before the end of the four days and not wanting to keep the players up too late. A 4am or 5am finish doesn’t make a whole load of difference if you ask me. Finishing in the middle of a level – particularly as we’ve also redrawn for seats – feels just a little bit odd.

Maybe I’m resentful of the fact that I just couldn’t concentrate for that last hour. I hardly played a hand. The only one I can recall was a QT in the big blind, a Q on the flop and I decided to raise the small blind to find out if I was good. She pulled the old stop-and-go on me, my one pair was way behind, so I took the opportunity to run the clock down a little before mucking.

Part of the experience I wanted from playing this four-day event was to see what it felt like to play endurance poker. I’d even given myself a head start with my useless sleeping pattern. I’ve very pleased that I’m coming back for day 2 (beginning at 3pm tomorrow – probably just after breakfast) but it could have easily ended in tears. I’d worked my way up to a reasonable 13k stack (not way ahead of the starting chips, but not a bad gain at all for the early rounds). I hadn’t really had many hands – most of my income came from a flopped two pair in the big blind with J6, and two players didn’t believe me. The action dried up when a third 6 came on the river. I also flopped a set and did OK from it.

Then I said hello to pocket aces. Hello. It’s raised, I reraise, and pocket kings moves all in. Fortunately he didn’t have enough to bust me when a the king popped up and I’m left with 4400 chips. Which is still plenty at the 100/200 level, but a serious setback. This tournament structure is great. You can get hit by a beat like that and still recover without having to switch to push-or-fold mode (I managed to draw to a flush and got a good payoff, putting me back over 10k). You also have to make decisions up to four times during each hand – the way Hold’em was intended!

This field is tough. I was amazed at one hand where AA and JJ both flopped a set, and JJ managed to get away from it. I’m really not that good. Yet. 🙂

I ended the night officially at 9025, with my chips safely stuffed into a ziplock bag. The next level is 150/300 plus 25 ante, so it’s still fairly comfortable even though I’m starting to fall behind the pack. There is plenty of time still, and anything can happen. 117 of the 187 entrants are still in the hunt for a first place prize of around £20,000. And a bracelet of course.

Gutshot £100 Freezeout

The last time I played at Gutshot I did remarkably well, despite not playing a hand for the first hour and a half. Then I hit pocket aces and shortly afterwards doubled up with AK. Last night, it almost felt like the same story. I’d played a few hands and not really got anywhere. I found it very difficult to spot opportunities in the early levels, and once I’d lost almost half my stack to blinds and a few speculative hands there wasn’t any room left for manouvre.

One hand troubled me a bit, although I think I made the right decision. With Q4o in the big blind and a free play, the flop comes KK4. I check out of position, with four more players to speak and knowing that most of them are capable of making a move if I lead out here. It’s checked round, the turn brings up a third K and this time I bet the pot but get immediately reraised the minimum. I could have made this bet with any two cards, so the fact that I actually have something – albeit a pretty weak something – makes it a tough decision. Does he realise that I would take a pop here anyway (I haven’t given much away yet at all) or does he want me to get carried away with a worse hand? He almost certainly didn’t have the K – quads doesn’t need to narrow the field here, and a free card absolutely doesn’t hurt him – but against any pocket pair 5s or bigger and I’m screwed. I can’t improve (but my hand can be killed by a K or 4, and really only a 2 or 3 is a “safe” river card if I do think I’m good) plus I know I’ll have to pay to see a showdown not knowing where the hell I am at. Good laydown or weak laydown?

Dwindling away I got moved to a new table with only player who had seen how tight I’d gotten. When I found AA under the gun I managed to get all my remaining chips in preflop against a player who was also holding … AA. That doesn’t happen very often. I’ve seen it only once before, and actually it was myself against Claire in one of our home games. Small blind vs big blind. And we both tried to play it cute, to much amusement. Then there was the race to see whether Steve could find the odds of it being dealt in Super System before I could work it out in my head 🙂 I can’t remember the answer, and this time I didn’t care. It’s one of those things that just tells you it’s not your night.

I actually managed to work my measly 2k up to about 7k before the “last orders” break at 11pm, and got lucky with T7 against A9 along the way. Then I have to take a coinflip with AK against QQ and it doesn’t work out. My miracle comeback from 600 chips is not forthcoming and the hunt for a kebab shop begins.

Tonight it’s the Gutshot Series of Poker Main Event. This four day marathon uses the same structure as the World Series main event. With a two hour clock and 200 runners it’ll be just like the WSOP used to be, before that Moneymaker fellow fluked his way to first place, leading millions of wannabes to believe it was their turn next.

There’s even a couple of bookmakers taking bets on the winner ( and, although don’t expect those links to last long).

But as I’m neither a regular down here, nor have an amusing nickname, I’m not on the list…


After four weeks in the desert you forget just how green England is. And how poor the weather is. Walking along the jetty from the plane you miss the dry heat immediately. It’s not dry, and it’s not hot in Manchester. Typical English summer. But England is home, at least for the time being 🙂

Of course the correct thing to do when returning to England is to go to sleep until it’s late enough to order some good old British food. You know you eat too many takeaways when the local curry house notices you’ve been away, but it’s always kinda nice that someone missed you…

Last hand

I’d already decided the next hand would be my last.

It’s KK, as I almost knew it would be. I raise under the gun and end up losing a tiny pot to 97o. She hits 2 pair, bets the flop but decides that’s enough money when I raise the flop, and I get a very cheap showdown with an ace on board. And with that final reminder of just how great the $2/$4 games are, I’m done.

The air was almost cool as I walked back to the car. Almost. The strip traffic looked bearable so I took the slow way home, listening to Frank Sinatra having the world on a string as the last of the great neon signs wished me to please come again.

I’m sure I will. 🙂

Finally proof that I am great :)

Four way chop – $467 to me in the Caesars 11pm $70 tournament.

I’d actually planned only to play this tournament if I’d been eliminated from the 7pm ($220) instead, but Claire mentioned the word “curry” and so we ran off to Tamba in the Hawaiian Marketplace for a taste of England’s favourite food. My vindaloo was cracking, although like a little girl I asked for it medium hot. I’m sure that’s allowed in the Curry Code, if you can’t have any beer when you’re driving…

Finally everything fell into place at the right time. Every time I had the best hand it held up, and once I won with the worst hand too, calling a short stack’s TT with my 88. I found a few good spots to take down chips that should not have been mine. There was one situation that I had to play rather bizarrely though: I began by stealing the blinds with two players still to act when it looked like nobody was interested in playing. I had complete garbage, but I went with my instinct (which is the major improvement I feel I’ve made this trip – although I know there are still many more opportunities out there). The next hand it’s folded to me with KQs and I make the same raise and get the same result. The next hand I have a slightly better hand and slightly worse position – AJo. I just couldn’t bring myself to raise three hands straight without the third hand being a monster. The other players don’t have to be paying a great deal of attention to notice my sudden rush of aggression, and I didn’t want to be facing a reraise that looked like someone taking a stand with this hand. I’d probably have to call in that spot. So I just limp in and fold to a raise from the small blind. Weak, and I may as well have not played the hand at all.

At the start of the final table someone brought up the idea of a 9-way split for $250 each, but one player said no and nobody seemed bothered after that depite my usual calls of “7 way chop?”, “6 way chop?” as each player fell. With first prize standing at $900, I asked out loud what payout would trigger a W2 tax form (of course I already knew the answer was $600). I made sure to point out that if we kept playing and lost one more, a three way split would result in everyone getting just over $600. The other three immediately wanted to work something out to avoid paying any tax and based on chip count I got $467 of the $2070 remaining in the prize pool. Somewhat conveniently, the chip leader received $599.

So I’ve broken my streak finally. I don’t have to stay an extra week now!

Running out of time

I hate small blind vs big blind situations. That’s how I managed to bust out last night at Binions, after playing solidly enough to keep up with the pack the whole way through, and recovering from two crippling beats where I had the other guy dominated with my AK. In fact I thought it was going to happen again, as I moved all-in with AT for a little more than a standard raise. One guy goes to call but only calls the blind. Pay attention dude – your call is binding. But I survive against his A6s and I’m back in it.

Then I’m on the BB for 1200, and only the small blind calls. I check my Q7o and catch top pair on the flop – QT5, all different suits. When he checks to me I bet 1500 and he agonises and calls. I don’t believe he’s acting, and is weak but thinks I’m full of it. He checks the offsuit Jack on the turn and I know that if I check behind here I’m pretty much giving up the hand, with top pair. That’s kinda weak, and I don’t have enough chips to do anything else so I have to move all in.

There’s a lot of popular limping hands that beat me now, QK, QJ, QT, JT have me crushed but my pot sized all in bet will be big enough that KJ, J9, T9, A9 would be making a mistake by calling with their draws, but might consider doing so anyway. Will I only be called if beaten? No – even AJ or AT might think they are winning. Can I call a river bet if I check here? Probably not. Am I likely to be winning? Yes, so giving a free card is terrible. It’s a horrible horrible situation because it’s so marginal and I have almost no information about my opponent’s hand to help make a better decision. I don’t like the all-in move, and just wish I was never in the hand to start with, but I can’t see a better option.

Can I really fear a straight here? The board shows TJQ, but AK would probably not have wanted to give me a free play. 89 or K9 might be around, but would be making a very questionable call on the flop, getting less than 3:1 and poor implied odds with my remaining stack size. But that’s exactly what happened – K9 made the gutshot straight and I was busted playing a hand that I wanted to give up preflop. Someone please raise me next time! Anyone!

And of course, once again I survived just long enough to be too late to get in any of the 11pm tournaments. Three days left. Three tournaments at most… I think I need to stay another week!

Played like a demon

I played like a bleeding demon tonight, and look where it got me. Up to 12k chips (three times starting stack) by the first break, finding plenty of opportunities to gather small pots and maintain. And then this happens. With blinds at 300/600 and a 50 ante I’m dealth JTo in the small blind. There’s one limper and I complete the bet. Big blind checked. The flop comes down a fantastic 89Q with two hearts. I have the Th so I have the nut straight and I know nobody else can have a straight with a flush redraw. I check and the BB kindly bets 1400. The other player raises to 4000 and so I move in.

The big blind calls in a flash, but the other player goes into the tank for a while and eventually folds and shows his top pair, top kicker AQ. The big blind shows J9 hearts for middle pair, an inside straight draw and the second best flush draw. He had about 5000 left so the pot was so juicy he had to call. The Kh fell on the river and I was crippled.

Later I agonise over whether calling here is better, but either calling two raises or putting in a third raise screams “monster” and I probably won’t get any more action from the other player, plus if a heart comes on the turn or the board pairs, do I back off now? I don’t think there’s any reason to get tricky here, I made sure I got my chips in with the best of it and there was plenty of money to pick up even if I don’t get any action. I was at least a 2:1 favourite against any hand to not go broke at least (a hand with a J or T will split the pot about 10% of the time.).

So left with only 5000, the blinds jumped up to 400/800/75 and I had to move all in with any two cards when it was folded to me in the cutoff. 5h6h was plenty good enough, but not against JJ. The flop couldn’t have been any kinder, bringing two hearts and a 6 so it’s essentially 50/50 at this point. I reminded myself to get it quietly when one of my 14 cards came, but it never did and I was out just before 11pm. Which is a crap time to go out of any tournament because it was too late to run up the strip to Caesars or down to Sahara for their late night efforts.

This was so frustrating. This tournament seemed like it was going to be the one. The conditions were perfect for getting a win under my belt – a small field (49 players in total), a fairly slow structure (30 minute levels is about as good as you’ll get here really, although the Mirage during the day has 45 minute levels) and the chance to gather a decent sized stack early on. We were down to two tables before I’d broken a sweat, I hit the nuts and watched lots of chips work their way to the pot without me even having to do anything. Then went home in 13th place.

Seriously, I can’t play any better than this. 🙂