Tuesday, December 05, 2006

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 www.apat.com)

"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 www.pokerstars.com , 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 PokerStars.com 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 www.pkr.com 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!


Blogger Felicia :) said...

great write up :)


5:21 pm  

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