March 2007
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The glitz and glamour of the North East

Welcome to Fabulous Teeside.  Stockton baby, yeah!

Well, it’s really not that exciting, because I didn’t manage to win a seat for the main event and instead bought myself into two of the other festival events.  It’s still a couple of weeks away too, but it’s going to be my first poker road in some time and the first time I’ve been to that area of the country since I was about nine.  I’m dating that last trip to visit family in Darlington from a memory of my Uncle having some kind of early home computer beast that was programmed in hexadecimal and had a two digit LED readout.  He loaded it (by which I mean spent an unfathomably long time for a young boy to type it in) with what was apparently some kind of racing game where the edge segments of the LED digits flashed in a rotation, one slightly faster than the other as we each tapped away at the sort of switch you would expect to use to send morse code.  It was pants, but I was fascinated, so it must have been before I got my hands on my first "proper" computer – a Sinclair ZX Spectrum when I was 10.

I played a satellite at Leicester on Wednesday for the Stockton £500+£50 main event.  With a 100 player capacity, the only way to get into this one is to win a satellite, and they’re held throughout the country as well as online.  There’s a little added value here too, as far as I can tell.  With 48 players at Leicester putting up £20 each (and there’s no exhorbitant session fees for satellite tournaments, just a £2 registration fee) they awarded one £500 seat and split the remaining £460 between second and third place.  So who is paying the £50 registration fee on that seat?  I did OK but simply ran out of cards at the worst possible time, getting stuck on the four-handed table when we were down to nine players and seeing garbage after garbage.  In the end, I had to move all in with some ridiculously poor hand and couldn’t get lucky enough to survive.

So off I went up to the cashier to try to register for the other Stockton events, and leaving with a receipt – although I’m not 100% sure it’s means a great deal – felt like an achievement.  In the afternoon I’d tried caling both the Stockton casino and the Gala national helpline to ask whether I could register without having to travel to Teeside, but as far as I could tell, neither of them had even heard of the poker tour.  The girl at Stockton, struggling at times to understand my relative lack of regional accent, told me all about how I had to be there fifteen minutes before the start time or I couldn’t play (I’ve already learned this the hard way) but didn’t think I could register in advance.  She didn’t know anything about a festival coming up, but there was some sort of game tonight if I wanted to play.  I thought the GBPT was a big deal for Gala, but it’s pretty clear they threw it together in a hurry to compete with the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour (and I already know that you can register in advance for any festival event at any Grosvenor casino).  Grosvenor admittedly don’t have the endorsement of one member of a pop group that didn’t win a reality TV show, and played but didn’t do very well in their last main event, but they do have twice as many stops on the tour and I can’t imagine there’s any chance that their casinos won’t know when the tour is in town.

Much, much faffing at Leicester finally resulted in me getting registered.  Card room manager Steve told me I could do it at the cashier, but nobody at the cashier had a clue what to do.  Various people called various people and in the end I walked away £330 lighter to pay for for the £100 and £200 freezeouts on Thursday and Friday, but only after they made sure to note down my phone number just in case.  Very reassuring.