Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Day After The Night Before

7th July 2007 - G Casino, Salford, Manchester
£5 No Limit Hold Em Rebuy Tournament

Compared to the previous night, where the casino was bustling with activity, the whole place was virtually devoid of people. Perhaps it was too early in the day, being 3:00pm when play commenced, to attract the numbers I'm used to. Nevertheless, three full tables were filled when the time came to shuffle up and deal.

Due to the prize pool accumulating to such a small amount, I had decided the best tactic was to play few hands, but play them aggressively when I decided to enter a pot. I didn't want to reload every five minutes on re-buys because only the last three remaining players were going to get paid out. Unfortunately, like many things in life, things didn't exactly go to plan. After my fourth re-buy, I was very tempted to call it a day and go home. The only factor which kept me in my seat was that I wasn't playing badly. Every time I committed myself to the pot, I had the best hand, only to get outdrawn later on during each hand. I was very calm after each beat, and didn't feel like I was steaming inside. I know the danger signs to watch out for. When I first started playing, I would quite often go through ten re-buys at a time, feeling that sudden rush of blood to my head where I couldn't think clearly, rapidly going on tilt, playing bad cards in terrible positions.

I wasn't the only one on my table donating generously to the prize pool. In particular, I felt really sorry for one young chap, who was obviously new to the game. After what must have been his seventh re-buy, he had decided to quit. I was actually relived to see him go. I don't particularly like seeing new players lose loads of money.

By the time the re-buy period had finished I had accumulated 11,000 chips. Considering I had started with just 1,000 chips and had to re-buy four times, I think my judgement was right to stay in the game. I had double the amount I had paid for, and gained some useful insight into what hands my opponents where likely to play.

In contrast to the timid rookie, a short while later, I had a seasoned player moved to my left hand side when the tables were rebalanced. This chap was very confident in himself, could read players well, and had a mid-sized stack. He wasn't afraid to push all of it in the middle with nothing either. He admitted that he had been playing for ten years, which is well before the poker boom exploded. It made my life difficult as well, because of his seating position relative to mine. I was first to act in every pot, so I couldn't be sure if he was going to pass or push all-in. I remember one hand against this opponent where he had pushed all-in on a semi-bluff. By this time, I had a large stack. His body language screamed out that my ace high was leading, but I didn't want to commit my chip lead finding out. There were weaker opponents on the table which were easier to take chips from, and I didn't want to tackle this guy until later in the game. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait that long, as another player did the job instead.

The game continued and I felt in control of the table. When I'm confident, I tend to make frequent pre-flop raises, simply to gain information about a hand. One guy commented that I play very unusually, sometimes showing very strange hands at the showdown, usually winning with them. He also mentioned that when I'm staring someone down, it can be very intimidating! It isn't the first time I've heard those comments. However, both on and off the table, I try to be good natured and play with gentlemanly conduct. Must be that steel glint in my eyes.

It wasn't long before I had reached the final table. The tournament director wanted us to play through without a break, but several players had other ideas. It's now illegal to smoke inside public buildings, and several people just dashed off through the doors for a quick fix, so the tournament director had no choice but to give us a break. By this time my stack size had improved to 18,900 chips. I was the second largest stack, and the blinds were 150-300 chips. Total amount of chips in play were 55,000. I actually enjoyed playing the Saturday game, because even though the structure was similar to those I've played on other nights, it didn't feel like a turbo tournament, due to the reduced field of players. There was much more scope for creative play.

Four of the players were short-stacked, not posing any serious threat to the main three players. That isn't to say they didn't put up valiant resistance. The game continued for a good couple of hours before there were only three left, me being one of them. I did receive some derision concerning a few hands where I was extremely lucky to either win the pot, thus eliminating another player, or splitting a pot which would have given a short stack a little more longevity. What people sometimes fail to realise is that on several other hands, I was extremely unlucky to lose. The luck factor balances out in the long run. You need to put yourself in a favourable position, regardless of what the cards bring.

The best example of how unlucky I can be can clearly be shown in my second to last hand:

Three handed, I'm the big blind holding K9.
Approximate chip counts were:
Small blind: 22,000 chips
Big blind (me): 25,000 chips
Button: 8,000 chips
Blinds were 2,000/4,000 chips

The button folded. Small blind raised it to 2.5 times the big blind for a total of 10,000 chips. He was doing this on a regular basis, and I felt he was just trying to push me around. I considered my options for a little while and push all-in. The pot total now stood at 35,000 (he couldn't win the extra 3000 chips I pushed in) and he had 12,000 chips left. After much deliberation, a couple of minutes later he decided to call, saying that he must be behind. He turned over 98. I now had a 71% chance of winning the pot, and more importantly, would be in a very strong position to win the tournament outright. The prize breakdown was £110 for third (20% of the prize pool), £165 for second (30%) and £280 for first (50%). Unfortunately, the eight fell on the turn, effectively ending the tournament for me. Ironically, it was the short stack on the button who went on to win the tournament.

Despite losing that hand and finishing third, I was happy to have cashed in a live game. I have only managed to do so once before, and I really messed it up that previous time. I'm not a wealthy man by any means, and even though it was only £110, the amount of satisfaction of being able to play the game I love, and playing to the best of my ability and having something to show for it, made that money feel like a million pounds! For once, I walked out of a casino with more money than what I walked in with!

Tournament: £5.00
Entry Fee: £2.00
Re-buys: £20.00
Add-on: £0.00
Drinks: £4.80
Petrol: £4.00
TOTAL: £35.80

Tournament Winnings: £110.00
Total Profit/Loss: £74.20
Cumulative Profit/Loss: £56.80

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Birthday Celebrations

6th July 2007 - G Casino, Salford, Manchester
£3 No Limit Hold Em Rebuy Tournament

In the last few weeks, I've been looking for any excuse to get out of the house. My old car, a yellow Fiat Cinquecento, was becoming too much of a financial burden by constantly fixing repairs to keep on the road. I didn't enjoy driving in it during the last few years, as it felt like sitting in a small tin box with wheels on. So the time was right to purchase a new car. By a lucky twist of fate, a couple who are two of my closest friends needed to sell their top of the range Renault Clio 1.6 RSi, as it had become surplus to requirements. I knew it had been kept in immaculate condition from new and cared for lovingly. Buying it was the most logical course of action. I even sold the Fiat the very next day to another friend from work. So everything has fitted together wonderfully. After working out what all the buttons do, I just want to drive anywhere and everywhere!

I've started playing live again a couple of weeks ago, but didn't document those visits on this blog. I've decided to post more trip reports on here, as I think it will give me a positive direction to aim for, rather than playing in a happy go lucky manner. Additionally, I'm going to start recording my results as best as I can, to see whether solely playing live tournament poker can be financially sustainable.


Being a large city, Manchester has several casinos which offer poker, and I intend to try them all out, bankroll permitting. If any readers of this blog may remember, I started out playing live at The Riverside Grosvenor Casino in Salford. In it's time, it was voted best card room, and although I haven't been back there for a number of years, I suspect this honor has slipped from it's grasp. A strong contender may be the G Casino, also located in Salford, and owned by the Grosvenor chain as well. Although not the most salubrious of places to locate a casino, it does offer secure car parking, complete with machine gun posts around the perimeter.

Although I've never visited the place on a Friday night, I knew something was afoot, or more precisely 8 feet, as a pink bunny girl on stilts welcomed me in with a champagne reception. At first, I thought I had gatecrashed someones private party, so humbly accepting the glass, I made my way to a quiet part of the casino. It wasn't until the tournament had actually started, that I discovered that G Casino was celebrating it's first birthday.

I've never seen the place as full before. By midnight, there were six full tables playing cash games, although it would be stupid for a novice like myself to play on one of those tables, as the standard of play is very good. I recognised Alex "King" Kong playing on on of them, who has WSOP experience and success. I've played tournaments with him before, and gained some useful insights from those sessions, the hard way.

A buffet was provided during the night, which instantly attracted a large crowd. There were still enough food to go around by the time the tournament was on break, which was fortunate for me was it was the only time I would get a chance to grab a bite to eat. One thing which was distracting was the sixties band that was playing on stage. The volume of noise near the bar area was shattering glasses, including the ones on my face. The din was a little more tolerable over in the poker room, but still loud and manic enough for some colourful but well-natured banter at our table.

The noise distortion didn't help the new, inexperienced dealer at the table....... me. Having just busted our dealer, these being self-dealt tournaments, and being sat immediately to his left, the onus was on myself to take over after his departure. Being partially deaf, if not a little dumb, I didn't relish the prospect. But, as I keep saying to myself, the only way to improve is with practice, so I didn't object to being pushed into this position. One of the first things I noticed as I sat down in the centre swivel chair, is that the extra height of the chair and it's position, gives you a commanding position to view the rest of the table. Most of the time, sat in other positions, your view will be partially blocked from at least one or two other people. Another thing I learned from dealing, is that it is mentally a drain on your resources. Subsequently, I found my game tightening up drastically, only playing premium hands. I'm wondering if this is something to look out for in other players when it's their turn to deal. I think that it is, especially if the dealer is inexperienced like myself, or looking flustered. I think I handled dealing reasonably well, and got feedback from a couple of players after the tournament. I handled one complicated four way split pot well, insisting on sorting out the side pots before the cards were turned over and the board cards revealed, despite one player's insistence that we should just play the hand out an sort the pots out afterwards. I'm glad I stood my ground there, although I need to be more assertive, insisting that a player makes his intention clear whether they are raising and by how much, or simply calling, making a non-verbal action. However, with the constant noise emanating from the band in the corner, I was under difficult circumstances.

Overall, I felt happy with my standard of play, reaching the last two tables before busting out. The tournament plays out very fast, with the blinds increasing every 15 minutes, and only 1000 starting chips. Despite the turbo structure, I only made one re-buy and the add-on, and made some creative plays when the opportunity arose. By the time the re-buy was over, I only had 3,200 chips, but quickly improved to 17,000 once the break had elapsed. Being only a £3 re-buy tournament, it attracts new players to the game, which is a wonderful thing. I'm probably punching below my weight in these games, but they are a good way to ease myself back into live play without proving to be too expensive. I want to prove to myself that I can successfully beat these tournaments before looking for those with a higher buy-in and hopefully a slower blind structure.
Further information regarding G Casino, Salford, can be found here

Tournament: £3.00
Entry Fee: £2.00
Re-buys: £3.00
Add-on: £3.00
Drinks: £2.40
Petrol: £4.00
TOTAL: £17.40

Tournament Winnings: £0.00

Total Profit/Loss: -£17.40
Cumulative Profit/Loss: -£17.40

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Seven Years

Well after tonight's facade on PokerStars, as their servers crashed whilst I was playing a $315+20 turbo sit and go, I've decided enough is enough. I'm throwing the towel in, with regards to playing online poker, and instead concentrating more on playing live. It will also give me incentive to update this blog more often, as I often use this to recall certain events during a game. I never get the same buzz playing online, which is why I rarely write about playing over the internet. Annoyingly, I had three stories I was going to write on here, but never found the time to do so.

For interest, I'll briefly add some dates as to when I started playing and milestones that I can recall.

2000: Started playing poker on Yahoo after watching Series One of Late Night Poker. Didn't have a clue how to play, but quickly realised that if I was careful which hands to play, the game was beatable. Was quickly hooked on the game from there. Shortly afterwards, I began to play live games at Grosvenor Casino in Salford.

September 2001: Played for real cash for the first time online at UltimateBet. In those days, they didn't even have tournaments. These days, they simply don't have any players! My first tournament on there was a charity event. I stayed up all night just to play in it, and ended up on the final table with Russ Hamilton, 1994 WSOP NLHE main event champion. I ended up in 6th place and Russ in 5th.

May 2002: Was tipped off at my local casino that the place to play tournaments online is at PokerStars. Never looked back since! Too many highlights to recall fully. I gradually moved up in limits over the years, always trying to push myself forward, playing every type of game available on there. I especially enjoyed the Omaha and HORSE tournaments. Biggest win was finishing second in a $50+5 tournament. Another time, I qualified for the Sunday freeroll by winning one tournament, and literally a couple of minutes later, played the second tournament, only to eventually win that one as well. First prize was a grand total of $50 in those days. Another touching moment, which I was intending to write about, was recently finishing third in an APAT tournament on Stars. Aside from being a good laugh, it was great to have people who I've met face to face cheering me on, even though it was rather late at night. The bronze medal has pride of place on my display shelf. I'll probably continue to play these, just for a laugh.

January 2003: My first involvement with a poker forum led me to play on the now defunct site, DynamitePoker. Very basic site with few players. In a way, it's intimate nature is what made it special. One of the few places where you could readily make deals at the final table, or even request your own tournament structure, or theme nights. I think out of all the sites I've played on, I miss TnT the most. Had such a good laugh on there. And if that wasn't enough, I won a reasonable amount of money on there too! Sadly. I don't spend too much time getting involved in forums these days either.

Other notable poker rooms I've played on:
I learned the art of bankroll management the hard way on ParadisePoker, when I tried to play 40/80 limit (I think?). I remember my very first hand though. Never to be intimidated with losing a large amount of money, I had put my entire bankroll in the middle of the pot on a pure bluff. Amazingly, I won. The other guy was bluffing even more than me! Needless to say, a few hands later I did successfully manage to lose my entire bankroll. Psychologically, it took me about a year to come to terms with that. I never want to return to that state of mind.

TruePoker: At the time, it looked very cool, but never attracted enough players for the kind of games I wanted to play.

PlanetPoker: Felicia Lee managed to get a blogger tournament running regularly on here, and I decided to play a couple of times. I think I finished in second place in one of them. The games were so soft, and I really enjoyed playing there. Played against Roy Cooke during one tournament.

Pkr: Relatively new site with soft games but poor sit and go structures. The cash games were weak, even at the higher levels. Quite enjoyed playing there, but there's only so many chicken impressions one can stomach in one day.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

For the love of the game

23rd February 2007 - Grosvenor Casino, Cardiff, Wales
£30 No Limit Hold Em Double Shootout and
£20 No Limit Hold Em Single Table Tournament

I was in a foul temper this morning. The previous day, my mother had an accident. It was raining heavily, and she had slipped in a grate whilst on her way back from work. Unable to walk, she had struggled home via taxi. After having a cup of tea and some lunch, some four hours after the event, I received the phone call at work. Naturally, I was deeply concerned, as it sounded as though she had broken her leg. Getting increasingly frustrated by her procrastination, I finally managed to persuade her to phone for an ambulance to take her up to the infirmary. Unable to concentrate on my work, I left early and headed up to the hospital. After an x-ray examination, it turned out that her ankle was badly sprained, having swollen up to the size of an orange. I had asked her repeatedly during the day whether she wanted to cancel travelling down to Cardiff with me. She wasn't in a fit enough state to hobble to the car when I lifted her out of the wheelchair, never mind a long trip down to Wales. However, she insisted that after a good nights sleep, she would be fine. I had serious doubts that she would, but that was her choice.

Friday morning, and I get the inevitable phone call that her ankle is causing too much pain. I was really annoyed, because at any time during Thursday (preferably at 10 o' clock) , I could have cancelled the double room I had booked for my mum and dad. Now it was too late to do anything about it. I guess she was simply not trying to disappoint me by having to cancel. I didn't mind that too much, but despise being messed around. I was very tempted to call the whole thing off, as I was in no mood to play poker. It even affected my driving, missing the M6 junction and very nearly had an accident involving a lorry. Finally arriving in Cardiff, my mood didn't improve after talking to probably the most abrasive landlady in the whole of Wales, who refused to give me directions to the bed and breakfast. With the football cup final being played on the Sunday, finding accommodation was difficult. It was cheap but not very cheerful, and I couldn't wait to get out and hit the town.


APAT live events are incredibly popular, and this one proved to be no exception, selling out to capacity within 6 minutes. Rather than face the onslaught of a massive crowd all waiting to fill in their membership forms, I decided it was prudent to complete all formalities on the evening prior to the main event. After a small complication involving my old, tattered membership card, I made a bee-line straight for the bar, to be instantly greeted by Geoff "KEDSTER" Keddy. Although it was the first time we've met face to face, I recognised him from various forums and web-sites. Using forums does cause some confusion though, as Geoff knew my name, but thought I was "BurnleyJoe" for a while. We had a good laugh about it, and I now have a new unofficial name "RochdaleJoe". Perhaps that will become my poker nickname if I ever raise my profile enough to be recognised. The unwritten rule is that your not allowed to give yourself a poker nickname; it has to be thought up by your friends. I always fancied being called "The Rochdale Cowboy" after Mike Harding's song. Another nickname I've been called in the past by a close friend is "Casper" (the friendly ghost) after my pleasant demeanour and albino-like complexion. I have a feeling Kedster will make a name for himself. He's currently looking for a sponsorship deal, which I hope he will secure. He has a genuine passion for the game and a very amicable personality. Apart from running his own web-site,, Geoff is also manager for the London and Essex Chapter of the World Amateur Poker Tour (WAPT). I used to play in their events on Ultimatebet a few years ago, and for a very brief period was ranked number one until work commitments interfered with my poker schedule. I'm considering playing in WAPT events again just for a bit of light-hearted fun.

Slowly the bar area filled up with more and more players, mainly APAT members who also had decided to check in early. My original idea was to head out for something to eat and catch the Cardiff nightlife. Instead, I managed to persuade myself to enter the Friday night tournament. The locals didn't know what was about to hit them!


For the benefit of those unfamiliar to all the different types of tournaments on offer, I'll briefly explain how a double shootout tournament functions.

In a normal multi-table tournament, you'll have lots of people playing at many different tables. As the game progresses, players are eliminated. As the playing field is reduced, players are occasionally moved from table to table to keep the number of players on each table balanced. One of the tournament directors responsibilities is to use his or her discretion as to when players are moved and when a table needs to be broken up and removed from play. Eventually, only one table is left, usually with a bunch of happy, smiling poker players, because they know they are going to walk away with some money, no matter what position they finish in. To ensure fairness, whoever has the turn of posting the big blind may be asked to move to another table. One disadvantage with this type of tournament is that you could be stuck on a tight, slow table were very little action is taking place, whilst elsewhere someone could be taking pot after pot, busting players out for fun, and acquiring a huge mass of chips. So it's very easy to fall behind in a tournament, even if you've never misplayed a hand and won every pot! Another disadvantage is that when you get moved, you have to readjust to your new table and the players there (although if you've been stuck on a tough table with good players, that move can be a blessing).

An alternative method of running a multi-table tournament is to have a double shoot-out. In this format, each table is played as though it is a single table tournament. Players don't move around, but stay at their designated table until a winner is determined. That person then goes onto the final table and plays all the other winners from the other tables. Unlike a "normal" tournament, everyone at the final table starts with the same quantity of chips. Another advantage of this format is you don't have short-stacked players deliberately slowing their table down in a desperate attempt to reach the final table, especially if the other tables with short stacks are playing more hands. In my opinion, it's a better format. Having had reasonable success in the past at single-table tournaments, I was keen to play.


Sometimes, you can just tell when you're going to have a good night! People you meet seem to have a strange glow around them, a simple joy that they're happy to be alive and doing something they love. Electricity in the air. This was going to be one of those nights. Everyone I met seemed to be in high spirits, like they had just won the lottery. A party atmosphere had been seeded, and it's tendrils were slowly entwining their way throughout the card room. My table had a good cross-section of players, from gamblers to rocks, experienced players and those who had only played a couple of live games, local players and those who had travelled a little further distance. I was very relaxed throughout the game. In a way, this was to be a warm up match for Saturday's event. Not having to worry about driving or having to wake up early in the morning meant I could relax with a few pints of John Smiths.

As with most games where dealers are in short supply, this was to be a self-dealt game. At my local casino up in Manchester, when this is announced it usually involves everyone suddenly looking down at their shoelaces, dashing off to the toilets, or inventing a feeble excuse like, "I've just had my hands amputated this morning ....... look!". This goes on until someone decides enough is enough and steps up to the plate and deals. In this game, everyone had a turn at shuffling up and dealing, so there was no opting out. I had only ever dealt once before, (see my previous story "Community Cards"). That resulted in a stray card to go flying through the air and straight down the bosom of the young lady who was sat next to me. Needless to say, they wouldn't let me shuffle again at that table. This time I was determined to do a proper job. I washed, riffled, riffled boxed, riffled like my life depended on it. The only thing which was sadly missing were cut cards, so you couldn't see the exposed card at the bottom of the deck. I learned about that from my experience down at London as well. Slowly, very slowly, I'm beginning to adjust to the customs that live play entails.

I had managed to take out my toughest opponent, Darren, whom I had the pleasure of socialising with later on Saturday, and looked in a strong position to win my table. There were just three of us left, but only one was going to make it through to the final table. One was a smart gentleman who certainly knew table etiquette and was a reasonably experienced and incredibly polite player. The other was a young Welsh lad who had only played in three previous tournaments, who was being distracted by his mobile phone. We could have asked for the phone to be turned off, as mobiles are not supposed to be used in the card room. But both myself and my other opponent could tell that this lad was getting some serious grief from whoever was on the other end of the phone, and it would dampen the atmosphere. We both decided to let it lie. Shortly afterwards he turned off his phone and pushed all in with his stack. I took a swift look at him. He was looking flustered and distracted, and I was pretty certain he had pushed all-in with an ace and a weak kicker. I was holding K J which meant if I was correct, I would not be too far behind with regards to winning the hand, but I'd have to pair up to win and he didn't. The price was it was going to cost me all my chips and my tournament life to find out; the reward if I won would mean I would have a dominant position on both opponents...... I called almost instantly and he showed A 3, which is only a 57.47% favourite to win the hand. My hand didn't improve and I decided now was a good time to go and find somewhere and something to eat. At least that was the plan! No sooner had I been knocked out of the tournament , when Kedster, who was sat on the table behind me, asked, "We're going to start a £20 single table tournament. Are you up for it?" Unable to resist even more joviality, I readily agreed to a game. And this is where things started to go a little strange!


It took a while for this second, improvised tournament to get started, as we had no chips, no players and no clue as to what structure to use. With the kind assistance of the card room manager, we managed to assemble enough chips for a game. This was the first time I was introduced to Mick (mickyp on blonde forum) and his mate Alan, who had both travelled all the way down from Scotland, and Lee Mulligan (jjandellis on blonde forum). Kedster used the clock on his mobile phone to determine when the blinds were to go up. A local chap sat down to my right who also wanted in on the action and the conversation went something like this:

"So this is a cash game?
"No, we're having a sit and go."
"Not cash?"
"So it's a re-buy tournament then?"
"No, just a freezeout. £20 to play, plus an extra £2.50 to the casino. There's eight of us playing, so £40 for second place and the rest to the winner."
Repeat above conversation............ twice.

First hand and I'm dealt A 7. The local chap who's been asking all the questions decides to raise approx. three times the blind. I call plus one other (I think!). Flop falls 9 5 5. Local is first to act under the gun goes all-in.

Now I still hadn't eaten anything all day and was getting slightly drunk at this point. What I thought I had was A 9 but didn't dare look at my cards again. I figured he was an action junkie and would push with A J or something like that. So naturally I called thinking my A 9 was good. I flipped the cards over and to my horror was looking at A 7! Desperately I looked at his cards..... 77. God, could this get any worse! That's screwed up my entire hand. Only an ace can save me now. The turn is a blank. The river........ an ace! I win! The guy looked like he wanted to hang me. I was already going for the rope to save him a job. As you may imagine, I now had a slightly loose table image, and decided instantaneously that is how I was going to proceed. I've played any two cards, any position before online and hammered people into the ground in multi-table tournaments. It's a lot of fun but means you bust out or accumulate a lot of chips early. The trick is to retreat from hands where you know you're beat, and also to ease back on the throttle once you've managed to acquire a huge stack. Unfortunately, I'm not too good on taking my foot off the gas pedal just yet.

Mick and the others couldn't believe their eyes! He asked if I play online often, and I replied that I do, under the name of Mr_Mad. He goes, "Ah, Mr Mad...... you have an icon of an eye with a slit that makes it look like a cu......"
"Yes, that's the one", I quickly reply, "I get called one of those quite often, but I can't imagine why!"

Kedster makes two cracking calls holding pocket tens both times, even though higher cards are showing on the board to take down both pots, but to no avail in the end. The game goes on. Kedster busts out along with Alan and the others until there's just three of us left. I'm literally on fire and not holding back any punches. This is more about guts and glory than prize money. I'm playing all sorts of weird hands including the dreaded J 9! I'm absolutely loving this game! It reminded me so much of when I first started playing for pennies down at the Royal Oak pub after a game of snooker. The banter was so funny! During one hand, Mick said I was like a white Phil Ivey, and Kedster replied "A Phil Ivey negative!"

Lee tried to give me the stare down during one hand, and I said "Bugger this, I'm going for my pint!" and walked off to the table where my beer was waiting. Lee just laughed and said I was like TonyG. I would love to play TonyG at a table. I doubt any high quality poker would be played (at least from my corner of the table), but it would be so much fun!

The card room manager couldn't believe how long this game was taking as it carried on for an age. We were having a good laugh and playing reasonably quickly, and seriously trying to knock each other out. It was a very even match. Naturally, the weakest link eventually buckled, and I ended up running into Mick's pair of kings against my A 7. I gave them a serious run for their money though. I think that was the hardest fought live table I've ever played in. And it was all done in the right spirit. They both ended up splitting the prize money. Bastards!

Poker for me isn't so much about the money. I'm doing ok and this year in particular has been a reasonably successful one so far, in reaching final tables. I still have so much to learn though. This journey has only just begun. But to me, the reason I enjoy playing so much, is the wonderful people I've met along the way. It's the challenge of trying to get one over on your opponent, but still being friends and having a drink and a laugh at the bar afterwards.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now....

(Photograph published with permission from APAT)

Shortly after this photograph was taken, all of my chips (out of view) were in the middle of the table. The chap sat on my right decided it was a good time to take them from me!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

APAT UK Amateur Poker Champion

(Photograph published with permission from APAT)

Congratulations to Max Ward from Manchester, who won the APAT UK Amateur Poker Championship.

For his efforts he has won:

A cheque for £3,750 - Engraved Championship Cup - Gold Medal - World Series Of Poker Package - 18 ranking points - Significant Media Exposure.

The WSOP package comprises an expenses paid entry to the World Series Of Poker main event being played at the Rio Casino, Las Vegas in July 2007. The WSOP package is worth approximately $12,000.

Ranking points count towards the player of the year first prize of an expenses paid entry to the Caribbean Adventure World Poker Tour event.

Hung, drawn and quartered

2nd December 2006 - Aspers Casino, Newcastle Upon Tyne

APAT UK Amateur Poker Championship

To date, this was the most important live event which I've had the opportunity to play in. This was the second of a series of events which are to be hosted internationally, with an emphasis on offering affordable, prestigious tournaments aimed solely at amateur, recreational players. The Amateur Poker Association and Tour (APAT) is still in it's infancy, and will take many years to reach it's full potential. With permission, I've been allowed to quote APAT's mission statement (taken from their web-site

"The Association aspires to represent the interests of all non professional players in the UK. The APAT will engage government and industry bodies to enhance the player experience; with standardisation of rules, player friendly structures and the provision of a clear communication channel for player feedback at the top of our agenda.

In addition, the APAT will seek to negotiate commercial sponsorship agreements to bring significant additional prize value to the game, for the benefit of our Members.

The Association will lobby specialist and core media channels to increase the level of exposure that individual players generally achieve."

The tour itself is split into two separate sections, to accommodate both live and online events, hosted at , who also sponsor APAT's live events as well. Each tournament awards ranking points, as well as cash prizes. The winner who has accumulated the most points at the end of the series wins a Caribbean Adventure World Poker Tour entry package. So far, my results have been dismal to say the least, scoring zero points.

With a measly entry fee of just £75 (none of which is taken as entry fees), and a first place prize of £3,750 in cash plus entry into the WSOP 2007 main event (worth $10,000), it's little wonder the tickets to this lucrative event were sold out within a matter of minutes after becoming available. The same problem was experienced during APAT's inaugural event at Broadway Casino in Birmingham. The level of demand is so great that the casinos cannot provide enough room for everyone who wants to take part. Perhaps providing regional satellite tournaments with entry into the main APAT events, may be the fairest way of ensuring everyone who wishes has an equal chance of obtaining a seat. One has to bear in mind that this is the associations first year, and it's bound to be marred with a few teething troubles.


Aspers Casino is a stunning new casino which has barely been open a year, situated near the Gate and China town. Finding accommodation was a little tricky, and I ended up booking a room at the Travel Inn located 7 miles out of the city at the airport. Our bubbly taxi driver was only too pleased to go into a brief part of Newcastle's history as we reached our destination. "Over here you see one of the old city walls. And this is Gallowgate. They used to drag criminals through here and up to the gallows. You could be hung for anything in those days, from stealing a loaf of bread, to simply being in debt." I could imagine the practice still going on today, with some poor, tapped out poker player being dragged from the casino, ready to be strung up before an angry mob.

After ensuring I was registered for the tournament, it was time to grab a beer and do a little socialising. Martin and Steve, a couple of local lads, epitomized the philosophy behind an APAT event. Neither had played in a live casino environment before, and had barely a few months experience playing poker. I remember my first time playing poker in a casino, and it can be a very intimidating and daunting experience at first. One of APAT’s goals is to break down these psychological walls, and allow new players to feel safe and comfortable with their surroundings. It’s as much to do with people, as it is to do with poker. The tournament director, Mel Lofthouse, even provided instruction in cardroom etiquette for the uninitiated, prior to the event. You won’t find that kind of help if you enter your local re-buy tournament!

It’s fair to say that this was the most organised and well run event I’ve ever played in, and nothing symbolised it finer than the lack of any problems. Credit must be given to both APAT and Aspers Casino staff, and in particular the dealers, who performed an outstanding job. It’s a rare privilege to have a dealer at all these days, as most games are self-dealt.

The deep-stack format, starting with 10,000 chips and blinds of 25/50 meant there was lots of play in this game. Generally, in tournaments, I like to get stuck in early. It usually means I’ve either been very quickly knocked out, or won a huge number of chips. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t feel comfortable enough where I was sat to start any fancy play. I was right near the walkway, with people trying to squeeze past every few minutes. So I decided to play a pretty straightforward game. I didn’t hit any cards for two hours or so, which didn’t really affect my stack to much. Then I was faced with a decision against an experienced player who made an all-in raise with approximately 6,000 chips. I had roughly 9,000 chips. I knew he had a pair, most likely Jacks or Queens. Everyone else folded around to me, and I decided it’s time to make some in-roads into this tournament. I called with AK. Both my opponent and I shook hands and wished each other the best of luck. Tony Kendall came across with the microphone and commentated on the hand as it unfolded, which was quite a surreal experience! My hand didn’t improve and I managed to lose two thirds of my stack in one minute. Very shortly afterwards, I was knocked out of the tournament holding 10 6 suited. I was the big blind in an un-raised family pot. The flop came down with nothing higher than an 8. Small blind make a smallish bet for 300 chips, and I decided to push all-in. I did have some outs with a straight draw if I was called. Everyone folded to the small blind who made a bizarre call instantly with 10 9. It’s one thing to push all-in with nothing, but to call with nothing just seemed implausible to me. I felt like I had just been disembowelled. APAT has started off a tradition where each and every person who gets busted out gets a terrific round of applause. It certainly made the pain a little more palatable. After completing my walk of shame in true weakest link fashion, I grabbed a pizza and made my way over to the Grosvenor. I heard from one of the regulars that there was a £10 re-buy tournament starting at 7:15pm.

If I had to compare the Grosvenor to Aspers, it would be like leaving a fine restaurant to go and dine at McDonalds. Not that I have anything against the Grosvenor chain (or McDonalds), but they have the uncanny knack of looking different, but feeling exactly the same, no matter which one you go into around the country. The sticky chips were slightly worrying as well. Between hands, I would stack all my chips together and lift them using just the top chip, which amused me for a while. Needless to say, it was a bit of an anti-climax. I decided I’d had enough for the night, and had a few pints at the bar instead.


After arriving back to a very blustery Lancashire the following day, I played the $2,500 guaranteed tournament on and finished in second place. (I came very close to winning the tournament outright.) Coupled with my recent ring game results, this should keep my bankroll hanging by a thread..... at least for a little while!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Community Cards

15th November 2006 - The River Card Club, 29-33 Church Road, Stanmore, Middlesex
£20 No Limit Hold Em + £10 Rebuys + Optional Single or Double Add-on
The Eric Entwistle Benefit Tournament

Once you've learned to ride a bike, you can never forget. The same is simply not true with poker. If you have any aspirations of improving, then only with diligent practice have you any hope of succeeding. I have remained stagnant for far too long.

My intention when I started this blog, was to write only when I have a strong opinion on something , and as a diary of my live sessions. After my last visit to Salford casino, I had become very disillusioned with playing live, even though I managed to make my first final table. So I hid away in the insipid realm of online poker, only my screen name betraying that I even continued to exist. I had to do something to break the spell, to break this monotonous routine and start enjoying life again!

I knew that this night was going to be special for many different reasons. This tournament would be the furthest I've ventured from home in order to play a game of poker. The River Card Club is located in Stanmore, Middlesex, which to my surprise isn't located anywhere near the middle of the country, but in the North part of Greater London. (I was never very good at geography). I decided to stay in Edgware in the Premier Travel Inn, based on Joe Beever's recommendation on The Hendon Mob forum. The room was excellent. They even included coffee and biscuits!

Setting off at 9am sharp, I made good time from my native Lancashire homeland down the 200 miles or so to London, and arrived at 2pm, despite a horrendous traffic jam on the M62, and three pit stops along the way. After checking in, I decided to explore Edgware. After walking around for an hour, I wish I hadn't, because there was nothing of interest, except for the "Change of Hart" pub. After carefully managing to miss my mouth and spill a quarter of a pint all down my jeans (this being my first pint in case anyone thinks I was drunk at this point), I decided it was best to retire to my room. I'm currently reading "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley so I got stuck into that. An interesting book, considering when it was printed, but not a scratch on George Orwell's "1984", which I consider the best piece of literature ever produced.

Soon it was evening and the card room was beckoning. Being a relatively new establishment, having only opened in January, the taxi driver was having a little difficulty finding the River Card Club. It made matters worse as I could barely understand his fragmented English. Still, I know Stanmore quite well now as we drove up and down it several times before stopping to ask for directions...... right outside the club! I thought these guys were supposed to have "The Knowledge". Here's me, not knowing my backside from my elbow, trying to direct a taxi driver around a town I had never been to before in my life!

After paying most of my re-buy money in taxi fares, and wishing him all the best, I trotted off upstairs to the club. It's based on the first floor, just in case anyone else has difficulty finding the place. I was expecting to find some dingy, smoke-filled room with a few poker tables thrown together. Instead I was very impressed. Despite being a total stranger, I was greeted with a warm welcome. A lady who has a close resemblance to Sharon Osborne, took my details and filled in a membership form. That's it, I was ready to play! So much has changed since I last played live. No more waiting 24 hours after becoming a member before you can play, or having your photograph taken, or giving fingerprints and blood samples. Even the tournament clocks have changed. Now you can see exactly what the blinds are, what they're going to go up to and how long you've got left. Last time I played, you just had a counter which counted down to zero.

The club is lavishly furnished with approximately 12 octagonal tables (which if my maths is correct can comfortably seat eight players each), and two large kidney-shaped tables with bumpers. They even have several internet terminals for those who crave an online fix. A couple of nice touches are the bar, although I don't know if they serve alcoholic drinks, and if you feel the need to smoke or simply cool off, there's access at the back to some fresh air. It hit home that the last time I played live, this wonderful place didn't even exist.

Having arrived with plenty of time to spare, I had the opportunity to chat with a few of the other players, before we got down to the gritty business of playing poker. Although at times I can be very talkative, this doesn't come naturally to me with strangers. It's a personal barrier which I'm trying to overcome in time. I think playing live poker has a therapeutic effect on me. I always end up feeling alive and refreshed after playing. Today, one day after the event, all I've wanted to do all day is party and write!

One person who I had a good chat with was "Indestructable" from the Hendon Mob forum. Winner of the television game series "Casino Casino" and a huge sum of money, he is instantly recognisable from his avatar, although the dinner jacket and bow tie were absent! However, it proved more difficult for him to recognise who I was as I don't look anything like a huge, lidless, all-seeing eye stuck on top of a tower!

As I've stated earlier, this was a special night. It's not often a £10 re-buy tournament attracts the likes of Joe Beevers, Ram Vaswani, Ross Boatman (I assume his brother and fourth member of the Hendon Mob, Barney Boatman was otherwise engaged elsewhere), Victoria Coren, Paul Alterman, and countless other high stake and exceptionally talented players. To put things in perspective, my yearly salary would be the equivalent of a buy-in for some of these folks. So a good question would be why would they bother playing in such a small tournament?

The same could have been asked during one of my first online tournaments, which ironically was also a benefit tournament. This was an event to raise money for an Oceans 11 casino waitress by the name of Kori Tallman, who had recently donated a kidney to a fellow co-worker, Steve Strauss. Among the many donations, both Phil Helmuth and Annie Duke contributed. That particular event started at 3am GMT but I was determined to participate! Three hours later I was on the final table playing against Russ Hamilton, or quite possibly Russ Hamilton's aardvark, as this was online after all. The result of the tournament .......

Playing the game, who played what and finished where, wasn't important. It didn't matter at all. We were there, we played, and had some fun doing so! What did make a difference is what Kori did for her colleague Steve. Without receiving the new kidney, Steve would have spent much of the remainder of his life having quite a miserable time on dialysis. What we did for Kori paled in significance.

It must have been one of the few moments in online poker history where people from many different nationalities and cultures have worked together towards a common goal.

I found many similarities playing in Eric's event. I knew, long before the tournament had even started, that there would be little chance of reaching the final table against the line up of players before me. It didn't matter, because it wasn't what I was there for. I wouldn't say that my reasons for being there were completely altruistic. One reason, as I've already mentioned was to get back into the feel of playing live. Another good reason could be that I've got an important live event lined up in the next couple of weeks, and I need all the practice I can get. One thing I knew for sure that would happen is it would get me writing again!

Both games could have been played at much higher stakes. But what of it? Sure, it would have attracted the big names.... at the expense of the exclusion of everyone else, including possibly some of the club members who are close to Eric. One thing I love about poker is that it destroys boundaries. It doesn't matter about your social, political, ethnic or, in these days, your geographical position; if your prepared to put your money on the table, you can play. It creates a level playing field. You can look your opponent in the eye as an equal. The way both tournaments were set up meant that anyone who was willing to play could do so. With Eric's tournament, being a re-buy, it also allowed those who wished to contribute more, the opportunity to do so in a discreet manner, which I think was a very appropriate touch. Nearly £5,000 was raised in total, an outstanding effort.

Another commonality between both games is that I know neither Kori nor Eric personally. Factually, this is the limit of my knowledge. I know that Eric's a dealer at the River Card Club, and that he recently suffered a heart attack. After a major operation, he has also suffered from a stroke. He's now at home recovering with the help of carers, families and friends. I could leave it at that. But I can't. I tend to judge people on what I see with my own eyes.

Sometimes you have to look deeper, into a realm which may seem invisible at first. What I saw on that evening wasn't simply any old poker game. There was a certain mystical aura about the place. The room was filled with laughter and merriment. A stark contrast with my experiences playing in Salford. (I was later to joke that I’d be pretty miserable too if I had to live in Salford, which brought a chuckle or two at my table). People were pumping up pots, busting out and re-buying without a care in the world. Not because it was the right thing to do in a poker sense.... but it was the right thing to do in a more humane fashion. All I know of Eric is that he must be one hell of a guy to have such friends. If you get a chance to read this, I wish you a speedy recovery Eric. Laughter is probably the best cure in the world, and the River Card Club has bags of it to spare.

Further details of the River Card Club can be found on their website