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What’s wrong with this structure?

I decided to try something different while I contemplated my retirement from Gutshot’s cash game with a perfect record.  So I went to The Vic instead.  Sitting proud on top of Argos – among all the retail space in Las Vegas, I can’t think of a one casino that is connected to a catalogue store - The Vic boasts that it is "open from 11am to play on the slots".  If you need to gamble earlier in the morning – maybe to try to win enough to buy breakfast - a motorway service station is about your only option still.

38 players. It was a quiet night with a travelling contingent of regulars apparently in Manchester for the GUKPTK.  9 spots paid. Yes, they really did pay 23% of the field.  9 get paid here whether there’s 38 or 72 players.  At least it goes some way to offsetting the variance in this crapshoot of a tournament that you get for £50. 

The blinds double every 20 minutes right up to 200/400, before finally slowing down a little but by the time it’s at 300/600 it doesn’t really matter.  The average stack for this level was only about 4000.

So I had to get lucky, and the way I got lucky was to somehow survive to the final two tables without really seeing any cards worth noting, having much of the garbage I threw away making monsters and dumping marginal hands that appeared to be way behind but in fact were winners.

6 limp, and only I fold with my 23o.  Of course it would have made a full house on a 3342 board, with plenty of action from pocket tens and a J7 who hung around long enough to catch top pair on the river.  Later, my 88 looked like nothing on a K9x board with a bet and a call ahead of me, but not only was I in front (against ace-high and a flush draw) but the turn brought another 8 and the river gave me what would have been quads.  You would think the crappy hands in that pot would never pay me off, but I just can’t be sure.

Down to two tables with still not many more chips than I started with, I picked up two decent pots by moving all in against a raiser and apparently having just enough to take it down uncontested both times.  Then I just blinked a couple of times while nine other players busted very quickly.  I’d only showed one hand (AK all in against another AK) the whole game right up to when I went out – obviously I didn’t win, or I’d have said by now!

At the final table, three big stacks almost had enough to see flops and stuff.  Nobody managed to catch up, so these are the prizes I was actually playing for.

9th £60
8th £80
7th £100
6th £110
5th £150
4th £190

Only £10 more for 6th place than 7th, even though the bottom three prizes go up by £20 a time?  Obviously, once I’d spotted that 6th place was getting stiffed, my fate was sealed.

The perceived greatness of king-jack offsuit was all I needed to see to take a gamble after being whittled down to my last 2000.  I ended up in about as good shape as I could hope for, drawing live against A2 and AQ with an added bonus of 1200 in dead money from the big blind.

I’d not helped myself by making a super-weak fold with A8s when I should have pushed with 9 players left, simply because one of the short stacks would be forced all in next hand.  In fact he doubled up, and the ghost of Dan Harrington lingered as I walked home.  He was waving a little flag that said "first in vigorish" and kept asking what my M was.  I wanted to punch him, but he was a ghost.  Also a ghost of somebody who isn’t actually dead.

£110 wasn’t all I won tonight though… must be on a roll.

Not on TV again.

Not yet anyway :)

I played a satellite last night at Gutshot for the Party Poker World Open, one of those six handed made-for-TV efforts that wishes it was Late Night Poker.  I lost one race out of one, my AK not getting there against 77 and that was that.  9th out of 20.

The signs weren’t good for this one anyway.  It was Friday the 13th and I was 13th to sign up.  Yes, there was a player called Jason.  No, he didn’t have a mask.  (Edit: Jason came 2nd; it was Saturday 14th by then though).  It started at 11pm, and the fact that these numbers even got me thinking about that awful Jim Carrey movie is a very bad thing: 11pm is 23:00.  But wait, there’s more.  23 is 13 plus 10, and ten is the number of players starting at each table.  The televised heat starts on the 27th of April: 27/4, and twenty seven minus four is twenty sodding three.  We started with 3000 chips, the levels were 25 minutes long and my coffee cost £1.50 and tasted like bleach.  What was my point?

As it was a late start, I spent the first part of the evening playing the £25-£50 pot limit game, and I’m now eight for eight in winning sessions and, on average, up £60 per session.  I may consider retiring with my perfect record.  It’s only about a month until I’m finished working in London on a regular basis, and I’ll probably have to work in the evening the next few times I come down anyway, so I can easily walk away undefeated.

On the other hand, Vegas is T-99.  And I know nobody will get this, but what the hell…

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Double digits now, but it’s still over three months away.  What am I going to do meantime?  I’m still running hot at Gutshot.  A good chunk of my £54 profit last night came from my AK top pair not losing to a massive 62s flush draw.  I think he’d paired the 2 as well, so it’s obviously impossible to fold in that spot.  Yes, I did raise pre-flop.  How can I quit a game like that, even if I do owe it money?

Just time for a quick quiz for wannabe poker dealers:

Q: At showdown, the board reads 444Q2 and there’s no flush possibility.  Two players flip over K9 and K6 respectively.  Do you:

a) Push the pot towards K9.  The board didn’t help either hand, so the best hand pre-flop must be the winner.

b) Stare at the board until someone says either "nine plays" or "split pot".  It’s their money: they’re paying attention so you don’t have to.

c) Anticipate the possibility of a split from the texture of the board.  Read the damn hands like you’re meant to and chop up the pot before anyone gets chance to tell you how to do your job.

If you answered (c) please apply for work at Gutshot.

Seriously.  I saw split pots with three of a kind or two pair on board pushed to the wrong person by three different dealers.  Fortunately there were always plenty of nits who weren’t involved in the hand to have a contest to see who could yell "split pot" first.

Just can’t do it

So I tried and just couldn’t do it.  I started writing up my play-by-play for the GBPT Teesside £200 Freezeout and sent myself to sleep before I’d got half way.

So, believe it or not, this is the very short version - minus many of those pesky bet amounts and without most of the minor details about who was in the pot and from what position.  Doesn’t really matter, does it?

I nearly got in a mess early on with pocket queens.  I had one caller pre-flop and took it down with a re-raise on a J33 flop.  I bet, he raised, I thought and eventually managed to raise without moving all in.  The pot was getting far too big, far too quickly for my liking and even though I suspected the usual overplayed KJ, I didn’t like my hand that much I didn’t like the thought of being pot committed with that hand.

From the small blind, I raised six limpers with ace-king and five of them called – seven times the big blind!  Then I didn’t really know what to do on the ace high flop, out of position.  It got checked around on the flop, I bet the turn and check-called a small river bet.  He had jack high and I wasn’t quite sure where all my chips had come from.

I faced off against three short stacks before the blinds became silly: My AK beating AT; QQ losing to A6; KK actually dominating KQ.

I check-raised all in with a flush draw against an agressive player who had minimum-raised from first position.  I’d called on the button with AQ, the flop was three small spades and I held the ace of spades.  He thought for about a week before showing one card that made an inside straight flush draw.

I laid down A9s to an all-in re-raise preflop getting about 2.5-1 on the call.  I’d called with worse the night before, but this time I figured the chips I already had were more valuable given the speed the game was moving, but I thought about it for too long and as a result the big blind went up just seconds before it reached me.  By now, an average stack was less than ten big blinds, and I now had an average sized stack.

There was an early position raise and a short stack moved all in for less.  I found AK in the big blinds and re-raised all in.  The raiser folded so I got some change when I lost to pocket aces.  The short stack said he’d only looked at one card.  I said bullshit.  He said no really.  I said nice hand.

In the big blind for 4000 I had to call a push for 6100 more.  My Q9 lost to a mighty 94.  Racing off garbage like this is what poker is all about.

I moved all in with A6s and got called by AT.  The board brought K244… I called for another 2 or 4, but a jack was just as good, and I was the only person in the room who realised it was a split pot.  The dealer fumbled a bit but I got my money back.

It was folded to the small blind who moved all in and I found ATs on my big blind.  Instacall.  I lost to QT and went home via the late night garage for a consolation flapjack.

The KLF were right

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I’m still due some luck then.  Today it wasn’t a case of being crippled because I couldn’t win 50/50s, it was that I couldn’t win the hands where I dominated.  I finished 19th from 100, lasting long enough to collect the goody bag they gave out to the final three tables, but not long enough to collect any cash.  Still, I’m now the proud owner of a GBPT swimming bag which came preloaded with a t-shirt (size L, and not good enough to motivate me to lose that much weight),  a pen, a chip, a keyring, a pin badge and a card protector which is actually rather nice.  Oh, and the obligatory pack of cards, but the guy next to me spoke for everyone when he said "like I need another one of those".

I’ll probably post some pictures of the freebies when I get home, along with as much as I managed to photograph of the local places of interest. They’re not all that interesting at all – I was bored after not much more than an hour of driving round trying to find stuff.  I’d seen a sculpture of a train made out of brick, which "pushed at the boundaries of brick technology" – boy was I impressed – and a transporter bridge, apparently the world’s longest but so much less useful than a road bridge that you could cross at any time without stopping, instead of at fifteen minute intervals during the day and not at all at night.

Yes, it’s grim up north.  This far north anyway.  This is up beyond Yorkshire, where you have a city with rich Roman and Viking history in York, the fastest growing city in the country in Leeds and a lot of picturesque moors, which have only been spoiled by the occasional serial killer.  Up here in Cleveland, the world is stuck in a timewarp, and not in an endeering way.  Parts of the towns I explored could very easily have been the set for any period drama based in the 1970s.  It may well already have been used for that, I just can’t be bothered to check.  Getting back just now I filled my car up using a petrol pump that had a mechanical seven-segment display, none of your newfangled liquid crystal that’s becoming so popular with the rise of the pocket calculator.  Not quaint, just crap.

I also wondered if we were stuck in the 1970s after an indicent at the poker table.  One player had raised pre-flop and got one caller.  The board was queen high, the raiser bet and the caller called.  The turn brought another queen, the raiser bet again and the caller moved all in.  The raiser must have had kings or aces and eventually folded and the caller – a dark skinned fellow, seemingly of Indian origin but a Teesside local through and through – showed his king queen.  Disgusted, the raiser shouted across the table, "Why don’t you go back where you came from?".  For a brief moment, if felt like things might be about to get ugly.   "Whadeeya mean, like?", he asked.  "Back to that other table", came the reply.  Oh right, he hadn’t long been moved here.  False alarm then, probably.

I’m not writing a match report tonight, but I probably will.  I have to be in Hanley tomorrow afternoon for an eye test, and so sleeping before the three hour drive (Autoroute said 2h15 but I don’t believe it) is a good idea.  I have notes from all my key hands and this time there were a few interesting confrontations.  However, for at least the last hour I was there, the tournament structure left a person with an average stack less than ten big blinds, so there was no poker left to be played.  Short stacks had to move all-in with any old garbage and big stacks had to call them with not much better, and everything just went a bit random.  In the midst of that, I couldn’t get lucky enough to capitalize on the strong position I’d got myself into during the first four hours.

The tour hits Nottingham next month, I might get to have another crack.

Welcome to the North

I don’t get the A1(M).  There are motorway parts that are just two lanes and non-motorway parts that are three lanes.  Aside from making life difficult for learner drivers, what’s the point?  One sign on the way up this afternoon advised me that "narrow lanes remain in place for my safety".  Clearly much safer than those pesky wide lanes.  And why is Scotch Corner signposted from 40 miles away when all that’s there are two roads and a Travelodge?  I was somewhat underwhelmed.

So today begins by two day poker trip to fabulous Teesside.  I’m staying near Darlington in a very new looking hotel right off the A1(M).  It’s nothing fancy, but it would do just fine for anyone considering the Alan Partridge lifestyle in this part of the country.

Did I know how to use the swipe card to get into the room, the receptionist asked me.  "Isn’t it just …?", I asked, accompanied by an obvious action.  I started to wonder whether electronic door locks were just too modern for northern England.  If training was available, could I get a certificate?  But in fact it was me who is behind the times.  First time I’ve seen this: you have to put your key card in a slot on the wall to turn on the electricity.  Great for the environment I’m sure, but no good when I needed to leave my iPod charging when I went out.

So onward to Stockton I went, and there’s not much to report really.  I got about half way, lasting 3.5 hours.  I lost two out of two races and that was enough to do me in.  No interesting hands.  Sorry.

I’m still not sure if the real reason I busted was that I was hungry.  I’d arrived at 6.30 for a 7pm start, but there was no food available until after 7.  Although I did see someone else order food at the table, I was never really comfortable enough about my chip position to do the same, and glad I didn’t too as it took over an hour for a chicken salad to arrive.  I was holding A7s in the big blind and after everyone folded to the small blind, he moved all in for virtually the same chips that I had.  7k to call, blinds at 500/1000 with a 100 ante.  Eight handed, 2300 in dead money on a 7000 call wasn’t that great, but his range was that wide that I figured I could be ahead often enough to make it not a dreadful call and to go much further in this tournament now I had to gamble to get ahead.  He turned up KQo, the flop brought an ace and a king, and he hit a second pair on the river.  With a classy hand clap and a little scream of joy.

I just crunched this through Poker Stove.  Getting 9-7 pot odds I needed 44% pot equity for a breakeven.  A7s is 43.9% against a range that only includes any pocket pair or any ace.  If he would push with any other hand than these – which he surely would, and should – then it’s apparently a +EV call.  If he’d push any two cards in this spot, I’m 60.9% to win.  Doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better about busting with ace-rag (actually it was the next hand, I had 275 left and forced all in on my small blind) but it turns out that I’ve made worse decisions.  Maybe I’m just in denial about my subconscious desire to go broke so I could get a burger though.

For the first two hours I was playing on a table that was so well padded it felt like a bouncy castle.  Chips would not stand in stacks of more than five or so unless you used the rail to prop them up, so players just started to gather mounds as they won pots.  Three tables were built like this, apparently – someone must like foam.

Whoever chose the chip colours needs to be shot too.  I can live with non-standard colours (altough why the hell not just use a tried and tested scheme?) but they need to be better thought out than this.  25s were red and 100s were purple, with the Great British Poker Tour logo taking the majority of the face of the chip so the value numbers were tiny.  These two looked virtually identical, even close up.  500s were green and 1000s yellow and with the grey edge spots – the same colour on every chip – being bigger than the amount of chip colour left visible on the edge, it wasn’t exactly easy to see at a glance how many chips another player had.  Even the cheap composite bought-off-ebay chips that they poured over Michelle from Liberty X would have been better.

Anyway, back tomorrow.  Same structure, more money.  And it’ll be my turn to get lucky.

Double Gutshot

Pocket nines.  I’d raised to 600 from early position and been reraised all in by another player who developed a bad case of verbal diarrhea.  Whilst I paused to make it look like my decision was harder than it was, he talked himself into a pokery grave.

OK, in fact it was a closer decision than I first thought.  The all in bet was 1400 more to me, so throw in the dead money from the blinds and it’s about 2-1 pot odds.   It’s just about a profitable call against all but the very tightest players, but in a tournament I almost always fold here.  Unless the other guy just got impatient, he doesn’t have to play here with a worse pair than mine, which typically puts someone making this bet on a strong hand which will send me packing more than half the time.  I actually have a few more chips than him, which gives me 8 big blinds and enough time to try to find a better spot than this one.

Tonight, I called.  I’d like to say it’s down to my superlative reading skills, but really the other guy just threw it away.  Whilst I went into the tank – at first acting, but then actually considering just how weak it was to fold here – he started talking:

"It’s a race against your overcards.  I have a pocket pair".

The more he said, the more I believed him.  I just waited and let him carry on as he insisted that he didn’t care if I called, he’d be in good shape.  A look of horror crept over his face when he finally realised that he should have just kept quiet and given me chance to throw away the best hand.  I called and my 99 held up against his pocket sixes.  I’ll still file this one proudly under "trusting my reads", even though I had significant help.

Three days and two nights in working away from home gave me the chance to play back-to-back evenings at Gutshot.  Not that I would have been able to have a quiet night in my hotel room if I wanted to.  Although I’d scored a surprise ensuite room, it was still a shoebox and had a peculiar separate shower and toilet cubicle arrangement at opposite ends of the room.  Opening the door to either bathroom involved moving some piece of furniture in front of some other door.

The tournament was Tuesday’s "beginner night" with a variable buy-in structure that I’ve not come across before.  I don’t think it makes much difference.  You can choose to pay £5, £10, £15 or £20 to start with 500, 1000, 1500 or 2000 chips respectively.  Nobody on my table started with less than 2000, and I can’t imagine the cheaper options are very popular.  There’s a £3 daily membership fee to get into the club now (this did not replace the raked "donations" at cash tables, but there was no additional collection for the tournament).  A £5 tournament with £3 entry fee really doesn’t sound attractive.

I finished about 20th of over 90 players, after deciding to push with KQs.  There were two limpers and I thought I’d found a good spot to pick up a decent pot, or have a hand with a fighting chance if called.  Naturally the first limper called me with AQ and I was doomed.

On Monday I played the £25-£50 pot limit game and I came real close to breaking my streak, going for two good hours without a sniff of anything at all.  My recovery began with a fortunate mistake.  The player to my right had been raising with all kinds of garbage and raised to £7.  This time I found AK and I immediately reraised the pot.  That was £26 apparently, and the mistake was that neither of us bothered to look at my stack.  It left me with just £17 so my bet size couldn’t be have been much more wrong with that small stack.  I’m not crazy about his smooth call either – decide now: either you’re going all the way or you’re not.

There wouldn’t be many flops thats I could to get away from with so little left to play with, so when it came jack-eight-six in three different suits and he checked, I moved in for a pathetic 1/3 pot bet.  A little bit of folding equity can go a long way: he not only folded, but also announced that he was giving up AK.

I definitely owe something to that game.  I’ve not yet been in a big pot where I’ve had the best hand cracked, and not getting unlucky in a £150 pot is what set me up for a winning night this time.  After limping with 67 in the cut-off, the flop was a gorgeous A67.  I found a player who liked his ace and got a pot-sized call on the flop with the rest following on the turn.  What could have been better than a deuce on the turn?  He didn’t show his hand, but it wasn’t AQ as the river brought a queen and my hand held up.

I lose to any ace or deuce here as well as a paired kicker – it’s only 8 cards from 44, but that means I’m still "looking after" £30 from that pot alone, and there have been several others like it.  When it’s my turn to pay back, it’s gonna hurt.

Adventures in straddling

I have a confession to make.  I experimented with straddling last night.  But it was just one time, and I didn’t inhale, so that’s OK, isn’t it?

I wanted to do something to help my solid-as-a-rock image.  I’d hardly played a hand for an hour, then when I did, I got my entire stack in the middle with nothing less than a flopped nut straight.  I was amazed I got any action even then, but it was only going to get trickier to get a call from anyone who had been playing the slightest attention.

Not only that, the player to my left had remembered me, knew that I didn’t fool around and – like most of the players at Gutshot – couldn’t keep information to himself.  When I first sat down, the dealer asked for blinds and said to me "it’s £2 if you want to straddle".  I declined, saying "not this time".  He piped up, laughing, "yeah, and not any time".  So when I actually did stick my two quid in blind, I got a reaction from him as close to a hi-5 as you could ever expect from a young black Londoner wearing a Full Tilt hoodie and an ipod.

With six players calling the straddle, I didn’t have the balls to do anything other than check my option when I see an offsuit ten-five.  Not a great hand to play ever, let alone multi-way and out of position.

When the flop gave me a dreadfully weak top pair though, could I just check-fold?  I probably should - the board was T72, all different suits – but I found myself needing to be seen to throw some chips around, and led out for £10.  One player re-raised the minimum and another called, so it’s £10 back to me for a pot of £64.  Now, finally, I change my mind, panic at the prospect of losing all my newly acquired profit with a garbage hand and give up.

In fact I would have been up against T8 and 75, with the 5 on the turn giving me the best hand and another player a decent second best hand, so I could have done very well out of my moment of madness.  But that’s just some stray results-oriented thinking getting the better of me.  It would be a very poor call if I could actually see the other players’ hands, and a pretty poor call if I thought I might have as many as five outs.

If I do find a call here, I’m not going to put in another chip unless my hand improves, but I’m still not sure what to do if I do hit a miracle.  If I’m counting getting implied odds with a suckout, I have to know where they’re coming from.  Another ten on board would definitely get me into trouble against someone who flopped top pair, or a flopped set.  Improving to two pair gives me not much more than a difficult decision still to make.

I see the potential for only big losses in my future so I fold the hand.  So much for making myself appear looser.  Now I’m the rock who folds top pair to a minimum reraise, getting better than 6-1 on the call.  But looking at the kind of action I was getting in this hand anyway, I guess I can live with it…

Five out of five aint bad

Maybe I can’t actually lose in the Gutshot £25-£50 game.  Five evenings, five winning sessions and nearly £300 up.  I have to be running good, the question is just how good?  I really need a losing session to keep a grip on reality.  I left (relatively) early this evening as I was getting tired (but apparently not too tired to brag in a blog entry) and left with £83 of other people’s money in my wallet. 

It all started off so promising when I couldn’t hit a straight draw in a pot that was just too big to let go.  Along with eight (count ‘em) others, I’d called a £3 raise from the small blind holding T8 in spades, and the flop brought J93 with two diamonds.  Sixth to act moves all in for his remaining £28 and the player to my right throws his last £14 into the pot.  It’s £28 to call, to win £74, which I can’t pass up.  I could be drawing to only 6 outs for some or all of the pot, and there’s a chance it could be raised behind me, making me play my remaining £40 for not such a great price.  But there could also me more callers, and if I can beat one of them I can beat them all.

Then things got good just after the tournament started.  Our table had been reduced to three-handed, and after a few £5 pots I somehow managed to win another player’s stack with an ace high flush against a smaller flush.  If that happened online with just three players dealt in, you’d say it was fixed.

After I got moved to the dealer-dealt table, the only way I managed to increase my stack for about an hour was by adding the change from my burger to it.  Tipping waitresses with chips is one thing, but letting them give you chips as change for your twenty feels a little bit funny.  Those chips should never have been in play, but nobody seems to care when you bring more chips onto the table, only when you put them in your pocket.  What can you do?

My big hand came well after the burger was just another juicy memory.  I called a pre-flop raise from the huge stack to my right who had been raising every time he played a hand.  KQs was more than good enough to see a flop with, and I was very happy to see five other players join in – had to double check I wasn’t actually in Vegas!  I flopped the nut straight – ace, jack, ten - and let out a little cheer internally.  With two hearts on board and seven players left in, I wanted to find someone who also didn’t like the possible flush draw to get it all in against right now.  I bet £20 into the £35 pot, and only got one call from the pre-flop raiser.  It didn’t really tell me much, but at least I’d ended up with position.

I willed for a black card, and the turn obliged.  Be careful what you wish for though: it was a king, so I still had the nuts, but you’d expect it to kill my action.  How on earth did I actually get a payoff from a worse hand with AKJT on board?  My customer went into the tank for a good nwhile and eventally called my last £50, saying "I don’t believe you".  He turned over king-ten and didn’t improve on the river.  That king had actually helped me, although I’m still not sure how he could call with a very weak two pair on that board (he didn’t believe I had better than ace-nine?) and I was stacking up over £170 as the bully stood up to leave.  He still had about £200 to take home, but he was clearly wounded.

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.

Other people’s money

The guy in seat ten has just £17 left in front of him in the £25-£50 buy in pot limit game at Gutshot when it’s time to pay the £3 hourly donation.  Everyone throws in their chips except him.  "Let me just see if I can win a hand", he says, "and then I’ll pay you".  The dealer shrugs whatever – after all the contributions are voluntary, and he’s only working for tips.  It’s just bad karma to mess with the system.

I don’t remember whether he sat down with the full £50 but he hadn’t reloaded, and I’d be surprised if anyone wasn’t aware that he’d not picked up a hand all evening.  That’s clearly a good enough reason to have a bit of a gamble with the club’s money before deciding whether to donate.  The times he gets lucky, he pays his dues afterwards but keeps the extra profit he won from having that £3 in his stack.  The times he loses, the donation simply gets pushed across the table to another player, who surely won’t think to – or see why they should – pay it for him now.

And so it happens.  Mr Cheap manages to get it all in pre-flop with pocket nines and is called by five other players.  Two others make it to showdown with him, both with undercards to his pair, and 99 ends up the third best hand.  Should his hand – by far the best pre-flop – hold up here, he would be £15 better off than he should be thanks to gambling with his risk-free loan.  Funny how these things work themselves out.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems like they don’t want your money.  Tonight I played for four hours and only coughed up the hourly fee once.  The first time they came to collect – after a new table had been running for 90 minutes – most of the players stood up and went to another table or upstairs to the tournament.  We played a few hands three handed before tournament bustees started to join us (it’s freeroll Monday, so this didn’t take long) but they didn’t come back for a donation for another hour and a half, and after that the next time anyone thought to try and collect some actual revenue from the poker tables, I’d already started to leave.

The player to my right, Chen – a young chinese man who I struggled to understand at times, but due just as much to my cloth ears as to the slight accent adorning his perfect English – asked me how the club could make money.  This was after we’d played for over two hours without contributing a penny, so I explained what should happen.  I’d already told him that soft drinks were free, but tonight they weren’t, so at every available opportunity he’d been turning to me and muttering "one pound fifty!" with a cheeky grin.  Hey, tonight you pay for your drinks but the table time is cheap.

I expect that Chen, along with almost everyone else there, probably did not understand the reason for the new sign on the door: "Operated by Clerkenwell Clubs Ltd".  The former company is – and there’s really no better word to use than this – busto.  The question should be not how they make money, but do they actually make money?

Usually the internet room would bring in some revenue, whether it’s from renting out workstations by the hour or offering them free to play Gutshot’s own online poker.  But right now, it’s all offline because the ADSL is disconnected.  I couldn’t possibly believe that this is because they didn’t pay the bill, when there’s a perfectly good alternative explanation: the change of ownership must have confused their ISP enough to result in a full week of downtime.

Anyway, I’m now four for four (which I just discovered should never be written in words) winning sessions in the £25/£50 game.  I’m due a loss for sure, and tonight should have been one.  I got lucky at the right time to finish up £56 instead of… looks like it would have been £12 down.

Holding a pair of tens, I raised the pot from the big blind after 5 people limped and I got 3 callers. The flop was jack-high with 2 small cards.  I checked as did two others and the last player to act bet £10 into the £26 pot.  He only had another £11 left so I made a minimum raise – thinking this would either get me to a fairly cheap showdown against the short stack or tell me for sure that I’m beaten by one of the other players.  It’s not a great play - I’m still making limit hold’em moves that don’t belong in pot limit games and tournament moves that don’t belong in cash games - but it did what I wanted, even if what I wanted to do was not a terribly good idea.

In effect I was taking just better than 2-1 pot odds on the chance that he holds a worse hand than mine – possibly a smaller pocket pair, or that he’s betting overcards in position as a semi-bluff.  In retrospect, as he would have been pot-committed to any raise he almost certainly had to have at least a jack here.   And he did, but I somehow spiked a ten on the river to ourdraw his top pair, top kicker.  Nice hand me.