December 02, 2015

New look, and yes I'm still alive!

It's been rather a long time since I posted on the blog, almost 18 months, and in truth I haven't really been active for about 3 years. I don't have an especially good reason for the absence except that I'm a fairly busy person, and the time I don't spend either playing poker or studying poker I try and spend with my wife and two children. On the other hand, half an hour here or there isn't exactly a huge commitment! Given the amount of hits the blog still gets (I surpassed one million hits earlier in the year, having hit half a milly in July 2012) it would be a shame to just let it die.

So whilst I had a couple of days spare with the PokerStars strike going down at the moment I opted to completely revamp the design of the blog. I must have had the old design for about 5 years, and a lick of fresh paint seems like a nice motivator to post a bit more often.

So my last update was my Aussie Millions report from 2014. I've managed to go on a few other poker trips since then. I went to Vegas last year, in which I got my first two WSOP event cashes, but unfortunately my 208th and 604th place finishes didn't exactly set my world ablaze.

I attended the Aussie Millions for a second consecutive year in January this year having won another satellite on PokerStars. Unfortunately I bust the Main Event pretty quickly, and I think I set a record for least time spent in Australia as I left 3 days after arriving! Yes, this meant I was in the air nearly as long as I was on the ground! This might seem kind of silly to many of you, but I was on my own, had already done a bunch of stuff the year before and wanted to get home to my kids. I'll actually be returning for a 3rd time next January, so hopefully next years exploits warrant a longer trip!

Me on the Melbourne Star, Jan 2015

I've also been on two poker trips this year with my old friend Dan Carter, who I actually met on a final table back in 2005, and another mate of ours JP. We went over to Marbella for a few days for the Estellas Poker Tour event there in June which was very nice.

Dan, JP & Me, Marbella, June 2015

Ultimately though it was our latest trip that proved to be the most successful. With Dan living in the Netherlands at the moment, the Master Classics of Poker festival in Amsterdam caught our eye, and Dan managed to win the 2nd event (€770 8-max) for a nice score. He even got a novelty cheque (helping him transport this home was a fairly comical scene, featuring a random lady on the tram asking to take his picture with the cheque because her son liked poker, lolz!).

Dan is victorious, November 2015

The week looked to be something of a wash out for me except for the small % I had of Dan, but in the final event (€825 NLH) we were going to play I managed to pull a 3rd place out of the bag for my biggest score since my final in the Monte Carlo tournament in which I also came 3rd nearly 2 and a half years ago. It was a somewhat disappointing result as I began the table chip leader but lost all my important showdowns. Most notably with 6 players left someone decided to make an ICM-suicide jam with AJos when I had Jacks. This was for nearly half the chips in play and would have put me in a great spot to win, but alas he got there. However I could easily have finished 6th at this point so laddering up to 3rd wasn't a bad result in the end, and of course I had run well at times earlier in the tournement to make it to the final table.

Online poker has been ticking along for me. Lately I've been reducing my table count to around the 8-9 mark which I'm finding quite enjoyable. I'm also playing a few less turbos these days. It is unquestionable that poker is gradually getting tougher, so it is imperative to stay ahead of the curve. Also PokerStars is doing its best to squeeze out as much money as it can out of the poker economy, with Spin & Go's seemingly its main focus these days. So I'm trying my best to make sure I can still earn money from this game which I've been playing professionally for about 10 years now!

May 01, 2014

Aussie Millions & general update...

Right off the bat in 2014 I had some rather odd fortune. I played a feeder satellite into a satellite that looked like it was going to get cancelled (so I played get the Tournament $ if I won. I won. Sweet! Except, it didn't get cancelled. So in I go to a $700 Aussie Millions Satellite with 1 seat. I won that too. Sweet! But now I have to go to Australia at the beginning of February.

Now that sounds pretty awesome, but it was a bitter-sweet feeling for me as I'd be leaving my 2 young children behind for the first time, with my wife having to cope with the little monkeys. My compromise was to only go for a few days. I actually only ended up being there for 6 days, which is a bloody long way to travel for such a short time!

Actually, though, I didn't find the journey too painful. When you have two kids you never really get the time to just sit down and do nothing. So I was actually pretty happy getting to sit, chill, do some reading and watch a film or two that weren't made by Disney for a change!

I was regged up for 1C the day after I got there but fired away at 1B on the day I arrived instead, which was a bold move but I slept really well on the flights and felt like it would be fine.

I actually took what I consider to be the worst beat of my poker career.  Maybe not equity wise as it was still early on in the tournament. However, this was the biggest buy-in tournament I'd ever played, I just traveled 24 hours solely to play it and just a few hours after landing I get this beauty:

Tim Slater (a British reg) of all people opens from early position in Level 5. 778 rainbow flop. Oi oi! Tim bets, I peel, BTN peels. Turn is a Jack. Tim checks, I check, BTN bets, Tim folds, I raise. He tank calls. River is a J. I put him all in for 1/2 ish pot. He calls with J9os. FML. That crippled me, but I managed to spin back up and finish Day One with about a 2/3rds average stack. Unfortunately a couple of hours in to Day Two I got it in with a combo draw vs 2 pair and didn't get there.

So the Main Event didn't go according to plan, and unfortunately nor did the $1k Super-KO, the $2.5k 6-max, or either bullet I fired at the $1k re-entry. It made sense to take a shot in a few tournaments while I had the opportunity in soft fields given that I had traveled all the way to Australia, but after not having the best 4 months online prior to this the bankroll depletion wasn't particularly well timed.

The few weeks after Oz didn't go particularly well either, which equated to about a 6 month spell of suckiness, by far the worst run in my poker career. Fortunately April was kind to me and things finally started to pick up, so hopefully I have turned a corner and I won't have to go job hunting just yet.

Here's a few pics of Australia. I enjoyed the few days I was there, although being on my own was a bit of a bummer. Melbourne is a really lovely city though, I enjoyed the touristy bits that I managed to do and it was pretty sick going for a morning jog alongside the river.

Sick view from my room!

Chocolate & Headphones in exchange for rake!

My jogging route

December 31, 2013

2013 in review...

Professionally, I'm really not sure how to feel about 2013. I could certainly consider it to be a successful year; it just eked in as my most profitable year as a poker professional. However this was largely attributable to a live tournament score which I really only consider to be a lucky bink. My online results for the year were decent, but I earned less than I did in both 2011 and 2012, so in that sense they were a little disappointing.

I got out of the blocks nicely in January, and managed to bink a $109 turbo early on, which unfortunately would turn out to be my only outright win in one until November, which certainly had some impact on my yearly results as they tend to me my biggest buy-in game.

My daily grind stayed somewhat consistent throughout the year, playing mostly MTTs with some 18, 45 and 180 man SNGs thrown in. I did begin the year mixing in non-PokerStars sites, but they gradually got phased out as I wasn't sure they were worth the extra focus that multi-tabling different software requires.

Our youngest, Alaina, turned 1 at the beginning of the month. They go from being tiny-babies to monster-toddlers so fast! Poker wise it was certainly not the best month as I broke even, but at least I managed to start digging myself out of a downswing somewhere around my 28th birthday.

I got off to a flyer in March then it steadied off. We took the kids to Disneyland Paris for the first time at the end of the month. Although it was bloody freezing, we really enjoyed the few days we spent there. I was really happily surprised by just how much the kids got out of it. They both absolutely loved it, and Clark was still talking about it months later.

After taking up running in September 2012, I ran my first race at the beginning of April, which was the 10km in my home city, Lincoln. I was aiming to pass the finish line in under an hour and managed a shade under 57 minutes so I was pleased with that,. Hopefully I can improve on that time next year.

Poker wise, April began uneventfully, but then I just went and binked 3rd place in a £1k tournament, from which I netted £36k. I won't go into details as that was one thing I actually blogged about this year (see: "Monte Carlo"). I allowed myself a bit of time off as a reward, and we booked a weeks holiday in May to Ibiza. It was a nice break, but perhaps a little early in the season as it wasn't all that sunny/hot.

After playing for such a vast amount of money at the Monte Carlo final table I found it tough to get back to grinding it out online, and barely played a hand of online poker in May, which was a bit of an excessive break.

At the beginning of June I traveled down to the unprecedented ISPT to play on the pitch at Wembley, which was a pretty surreal/cool experience, but alas I busted the tournament fairly early and in unspectacular manner. After slacking off throughout May I finally got back in the groove in June and posted up some nice results and for the first time in the year was pleased with the volume I managed to put in.

I continued to put in some decent hours in July and and was in straight up God Mode all month, which meant July was my best month of the year by some margin!

Although not quite in the God Mode of July, August ticked along very nicely. Right at the very end of the month we treated my parents to a family holiday to Salou in Spain, a resort they took me to many times when I was little. The hotel was really nice, the food was amazeballs and the weather was beautiful, which led to a lovely holiday. The nearby theme park Port Aventura has a Sesame Street World which was perfect for the kids (who in very modern fashion like to watch Sesame Street videos on YouTube), and there was also a funfair near the hotel with a Spongebob bouncy castle, which was perfect for Clark who at the time was Spongebob mad. Having my parents there to help with the kids on occasion gave me and Liz a chance to have a few moments of relaxation, which is pretty rare these days!

After we got back it from our Aug/Sept holiday, it was my son's 4th birthday, and he had a blast at Playzone with his friends. Me and Dan Carter had decided we would go on a small poker excursion in September, but with Dan running a little bad at the time we ended up going for the budget option which was GPS Stoke! Not very glamorous to say the least, but we did have a fun day out at Alton Towers, and I managed to have a little nostalgic look around my old University, Keele, which is just a few miles away. I had a pretty decent sweat in the tournament as well, finishing 16th out of 415 runners. Afterwards, I had a decent 2nd half of the month on the online felt.

October was by far my worst month since I became a proper grinder in 2009. I went on a hugely demoralizing downswing, and basically just lost relentlessly for the whole month. (I covered this in quite a lot of detail in my blog post "My biggest ever downswing")

November was essentially the complete opposite of October and I managed to dig myself out of the huge downswing. A $13k score, my 2nd biggest online cash, sparked my turn around in fortunes (again, covered in the blog post  "My biggest ever downswing"). I also passed the 1 million lifetime VPP mark towards the end of the month!

I always seem to struggle with motivation in December. I start thinking about my goals in the year ahead and psyching myself up for New Years Resolutions and such. This year I was almost waiting for 2014 to start. I also think the swings of October/November had an affect on me and I was a bit scared to lose. Methinks a re-read of the Mental Game of Poker books is in order as that certainly sounds like some Mental Game fishiness.

I played zero poker for the last week and a half of the year, which was nice as I got to spend a lot of time with my family. Christmas was lovely this year, my kids really got into it, and my wife Liz did a great job cooking her first Christmas Dinner. Me and Liz are getting a rare night out for New Years Eve which should be nice :)

2013 Overall:

So overall I had a decent year, it just got turned on its head by a $25k downswing towards the end of the year. Looking through my year review from 2012, I am a bit disappointed to be able to accurately copy and paste this: "I was disappointed with was my lack of volume. I don't feel like I put in a sufficient amount of hours over the course of the year...I think I could have grinded a decent amount harder". I did manage more hours in 2013 than 2012 but there was still too much slacking off for my liking. So I'm hoping I will be more efficient with my playing hours next year, and take planned breaks rather than slacking off, whilst still taking plenty of time to enjoy watching my young children growing up.

Best of luck to you all in 2014 :)

Online Results:

Live Results:
(factors in action sold etc)
My Investment: £8,000
My Cashes: £38,500
Net Profit: £30,500


Funny things kids say
I was looking through my Facebook statuses for the year, and noticed a few beauties from my son Clark which I thought I'd share:
  • Shows how often I wear a suit. Clark looks at me coming down the stairs and says "that's a funny costume!"
  • (A bee is still and I'm showing Clark) "Can you see his eyes Clark?", "Yes Daddy, I didn't know bees had eyes!", "All things have eyes Clark, that's how we can all see", "No they don't Daddy, ovens don't have eyes!" (Touché!)
  • I just called Clark a pain and he retorted with "Well you're the underwear person"
  • I was somewhat concerned when Clark told me he'd seen a black man he didn't like. Fortunately it turned out he was referring to Darth Vader!

A few pics from the year:

November 28, 2013

1 millllllion VPPs & My biggest ever downswing

Last week I passed the one million mark of VPPs earned since I began playing on PokerStars. Although there is no tangible reward, aside from my lobby and VPP count sporting the 1 million Hall of Fame badge (booooommmm), it's kind of a cool milestone to reach.

The good sports at PokerStars support provided me with a lifetime audit so I could work out a yearly breakdown of VPPs:

Reaching this milestone would have felt rather underwhelming had I not recently managed to dig myself out of my largest ever downswing (or at least after my high stakes cash game days pre-2008). It has been quite the most extreme ride on the variance rollercoaster over the last 2 months.

It all started after I binked a $109 turbo on the 4th of October. I have been doing particularly crap in $109 turbos all year, and this was my first outright win since January. Consequently I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I even made a couple of frivolous purchases; something I rarely do just because I happen to have experienced some positive variance. Little did I know I was about to be brutally punished for this. I went on an absolute death run in everything.

Those of you that have followed my blog (when I used to update much more regularly!) will know that I am generally somewhat of a variance nit. I was always pretty proud that my Sharkscope graph never shows me going on more than a $10k downswing. Still, I've taken a few swings that felt kind of rough before. Actually in October 2012 I grinded through a $7k downswing and wrote a small article about mental fortitude and such (see here). In late 2011, I asked Father Christmas for my sick graph back after a long break-even stretch, featuring a 200 buy-in downswing in $60 18-mans (see here). I've never experienced anything quite like this, though.

Perhaps I have been particularly fortuitous in my poker career to have avoided such a death run until now. I can't deny I have had the odd particularly lucky bink (Winning the Sunday Supersonic was ridiculous, so was my 3rd place in the Monte Carlo although it was kind of due but that's a difficult claim to make when it comes to live poker tournaments), but when you go on a death run, any previous fortune is quickly forgotten.

Epitomised life-time graph on PokerStars

Whenever I encounter someone who questions my job, or the ability to support my kids via gambling (a fairly common occurrence when speaking to those who know little about poker), I tend to throw them the statistic that I hadn't had a losing month in 4 years. I suppose I was technically stretching the truth, as I did actually have a losing month in February 2012. However I only played 500 games that month because my daughter was born then. Other than that though, it was true.

Monthly Profit Chart (does not factor in rakeback)

Well October changed all that. I sat down at my computer and just started losing. For the first few sessions it was a bit annoying (as anything other than winning tends to be!) but it was standard and to be expected. But then it kept happening. Repeatedly. Not just losing but on a complete free fall where I couldn't win anything. The more it went on, the more I struggled to believe it was possible to run quite so bad. We've all talked about the mythical "doom-switch", well I was starting to become a believer in its existence. Had someone at PokerStars read my petulant comments aimed at the  PokerStars SNG rep on 2+2 and pushed the button on me??

It's a common theme amongst recreational players to say that sites are "rigged". You see it all the time. The "Poker is rigged, collected threads edition" on 2+2 has 60,000+ posts and 2.5 million+ views. Obviously this is a completely ridiculous notion, and it's difficult to show anything but complete contempt for people that say anything like this. However, I got a glimpse into the mind of someone that does think like this last month. What I mean by that is, I am extremely well educated in variance, I have been a professional poker player for ~6 years, I've played more than 80,000 SNGs/tournaments. I've seen it all. Yet I ran so bad in October that I was seriously beginning to wonder whether there was some kind of virus on my computer or something! If a fish was to run anywhere near as bad as me over a short space of time (which is more likely assuming they are playing much worse than me...well, probably!), I can see where this unreasonable train of thought might arise.

$25k for the games I was playing was pretty ridiculous, with an average buy-in around the $35 mark. I wasn't doing anything too much different than I had for the previous couple of years. I guess the only thing which did change was I really went for it on each Sunday. Under the guise of working harder to try and grind through the downswing, I think I was looking for the easy way out. Just a quick-fix Sunday bink to get out of it.

Unfortunately Sundays went disastrously, and were pretty soul destroying. I kept getting to 2 or 3 tables out in huge fields where there were big prizes on the final tables, but I diddn't quite get there.

Sunday November 3rd seemed to be no exception. Except this time I was blanking everything. I had just a handful of tables left, and it wasn't looking good. My cashier balance was $25k down on what it had been just a month earlier, and I was psychologically preparing myself for a drop in stakes, and heading to Grindsville Central for the rest of the year.

Epitomised 2013 PokerStars graph
After a month of running like death, I finally had a turnaround in fortune, and managed to run really well in the $109 Cubed Turbo (not a tournament I recall playing before. I played it as a squared, but still, I wouldn't recommend flicking this one in, the field is ridic) which was one of the few tables I had left. Something strange was happening, I was winning showdowns, left right and centre. Even a couple where I got it in kind of bad! I could easily have finished 7th for $4k when I jammed A9 into tens, but I caught a miracle A on the river, which inevitably led to me finishing 3rd for $13k.

Although it only dug me out of half of my downswing, that bink was pretty damn good for morale, and was definitely a huge turning point for me. I had got to the point where I didn't feel like I could win anymore, and I certainly missed that feeling. That bink made me feel like I might actually win again. Although I'm sure that feeling doesn't help you actually win, coincidentally this time around I actually did start winning again. I'm not sure 'momentum' is really a thing in poker, but I seemed to have it, and November has ended up being really kind to me, and I dug my way out of my worst downswing ever.

Normally two months of breaking even would feel prettttty shitty. On this occasion though, I'll definitely take it. It actually feels like a pretty good achievement grinding out of such a hole. I definitely feel like I have learnt a lot from the experience. I think in the future I will be even more battle hardened against variance. I also learnt the perils of shot taking, something I tended to avoid most of the time, so I think I'll go back to being a more careful in this regard.

My online results this year haven't been all that spectacular, obviously this 2 month blip hasn't exactly helped, so I'm hoping I can end the year on a high note in December.

Win Coaching
Just quickly, on another note, I will be donating a couple of hours of my time along with a bunch of other UK Pros to raise money for the charity Crisis. It's £21.84 to enter the draw (which is the cost to give a place to a homeless person in a Crisis centre over Christmas) to win a couple of hours coaching with one of us. If you are interested, check out thread here:

May 14, 2013

Monte Carlo

I have yet to blog about my 3rd place finish in the Dusk Till Dawn Monte Carlo tournament in April for £45k, which is the biggest result of my poker career. Given that the big tournaments at DTD are my only real chance to play live poker without being away from my kids (it's only a 50 minute drive away), I tend to play the bigger tournaments there when I can. Having said that I was taking a bit of a shot buying in direct and not selling any action given that it was a £1,000+£100 buy-in. I also dropped $3k in my online games immediately prior to it, so it really felt like taking a shot, and given that I'm quite a huge nit, I could easily have decided not to play.

However, I did. I played the first live Day One, and bust out to John Eames in a standard rejam spot after getting short somewhere in level 7 or 8 or so. So that was Game Over. Except that there was a satellite for the second Day One (re-entry was allowed), where late registration was just about still open as I bust. There was some overlay in the satellite, so being the grinder I am I sought out the small amount of value there was in playing, despite the dejection from busting out and that inevitable feeling of just wanting to "go home" that I tend to get when busting a big live tournament. Fortunately I ran like God in the satellite and won a seat. I would have never re-entered the tournament if it wasn't for this!

It didn't look like my second shot was going to go much better. I was down to a 10k stack from 30k starting stack on the first day. Somehow though, I avoided an all-in showdown for the whole day, and grinded my way back to 50k. I really don't know how I went through so much of the tournament without being all-in and called. My only single all-in confrontation until Day Three was a double through AIPF with AKs vs QQ at the beginning of Day Two.

I played pretty solid without getting too out of line, at least as far as I recall. I do remember making a six bet shove with AQ from the button versus the big blind where I felt pretty sure he didn't have it, and he snap folded. I didn't get much going my way towards the end of Day Two and ended up coming back 25th/30 and about 18 big blinds.

I travelled back to Dusk Till Dawn fully expecting to bust out in a short space of time, as I have done many times in the past. This time, though, I went into full on God Mode. When we merged into 3 tables I made a standard cut-off jam with J9s for 16bbs or so (antes were in play of course). In a spot of irony John Eames woke up on the button with Pocket Tens and was ready to bust me for the second time, but I managed to spike a Jack. 

I then (quite literally) went on to bust a couple of Fish. First, I bust the legendary Devilfish when he squeeze jammed the big blind after I had opened with 99. It was a pretty close spot, but I went with it. He had AK and I just boomed a door card 9, and had him dead on the flop. I then went on to bust local legend 'Rastafish', who had previously won this event. I 3-bet his cut-off open from the big blind with JJ, and he jammed over a c-bet on a 246 rainbow board with A7os. Rastafish has a reputation for running rather well, so I was somewhat relieved to hold there, even with ~85% equity!

I think it was the next orbit of the table where I opened the cut-off with Pocket Fours, and had John jam on me again for about 12bbs. I made the sigh call, and he tabled Pocket Sevens. I somehow got there again and bust out John in brutal fashion.

Now with chips, I sort of cruised through to the final table bubble, picking my spots with a decent chip stack to utilise. I then made a fairly standard rejam with 66 with 10 left, and managed to run into Aces. Nevermind though, a miraculous 6 on the board gave me the chip-lead going into the final table.

The final table was really tough, with 4 heroes (Kevin Allen, Richard Trigg, Ben Jenkins and Jamie Rutherford), and everyone else was pretty decent as well. I wasn't overly pleased with how it went, basically because I kept giving chips to Kevin Allen, who went on to win. On 3 separate occasions I called him down 3 streets and he just had me by the conkers each time. In each case I could have folded the river, as my hands essentially shrivelled up into bluff catchers. But he was opening so wide, virtually ATC at times, it felt so difficult for him to have the top of his range each time, but I guess I may have made a misjudgement about his 3 barrelling tendencies vs me.

Thankfully, to offset this, I was fortunate enough to run really well with the cards I was dealt preflop, I got in A9s > Q8s to bust 9th place. I picked up KK in a spot where I could have been abusing my chip position, and was able to 7-bet jam vs Trigg and pick up a bunch of chips. I also cold 4-bet AK and made Allen, who had opened, fold AK.

My luck sort of died out 4-handed. Trigg doubled through Allen with ATs vs KK, where if he bust in 4th it would have enabled me to come 2nd really often as the other guy (Rutherford) was short. Also a bit of a misunderstanding occurred at a bad time. A few minutes after my 3rd aforementioned 3-street call down of Allen, I was heckled by a DTD reg that I had played with a couple of times. What I heard him say was; "How could you call down there with Q9-off". This is the hand I was holding in the hand, and I assume he had seen the live feed. This was about the most brutal thing he could have said at that very point in time, and I had a pretty major rant at him from the table, and was pretty steamed. However it turns out that he couldn't possibly have known this, as my cards on this hand didn't show up in the feed. I saw him a few weeks later and did my best to offer an apology and explain what I thought he had said. It turns out he had said "How could you play Q5" or something similar, where he was jokingly referring to a completely insignificant hand in a different tournament he'd played with me where he though I'd played Q5 questionably. Oops :-/

I guess it didn't really affect things as I bust in a standard spot a few hands later, where I raise/called off about 20bbs with 55 3-handed. I couldn't hold vs Trigg's KJs and I was gg'd.

After I bust out, I was completely mentally exhausted. I'm not sure if it was the feed, the high pressure situation of so much money being at stake, or the quality of the final table, but I was completely knackered and almost in a trance.

As is generally the case with poker tournaments, especially those you go deep in, I was pretty disappointed not to win. I certainly had a very decent chance of it, and it sucks that a couple of questionable decisions I made perhaps restricted my chances. With the payout jumps being so massive (£120k, £70k, £45k) it's hard not to think about what might have been. On the other hand, I played great poker for 3 days and ran the hottest I ever have in a live tournament, and had my biggest ever pay day, so I can't really be too disappointed.

The live feed was uploaded onto YouTube if you're interested, but it's bloody long! (I join somewhere at the 2:12:00 mark, and it's 9 hours long in total!)