February 2024
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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.

Choo choo

The most interesting thing I saw this weekend by a mile, but that’s not saying much.  The brick train sculpture in Darlington, marking the location of Britain’s first railway line.  Now the site of a Morrisons supermarket.

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.

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.