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.


Blogger KEDSTER said...

Hi Joe,
What a great report of your experiences at Cardiff and your kind words.It was indeed a great night and the pleasure was all mine.
Joe can you please email me as I have a few things to run past you.Please pass on our best wishes to MUM and how is the foot.

7:07 am  

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