August 08, 2007

Back in the Loop

£500 Double Chance Freezeout, Luton G Casino
This was my first taste of live action since Las Vegas so it was good to be back on the circuit and catching up with the familiar faces. The new G Casino is actually pretty cool and has a nice large poker room, a big improvement on the previous casino.

It wasn't a great start to the tourney, my first big hand there was a limped pot where I had 77s and limped myself. It came down 532 with 2 spades, and being last to act I pumped a bet out but got re-raised. I didn't want to commit my first set of chips on this tricky board so I layed down.

At the 2nd blind level I made one of those calls where you know they have it but you just can't seem to lay it down. Maybe the last month of playing heads-ups and few multis contributed, as you couldn't get away from this hand heads-up, but in a multi you could. A couple of late position limpers and I'm in the small blind with T4 off and come in. It comes down TT8 with 2 clubs, so I check, 1st limper checks and the button bets 400. I flat call and first limper raises to 1000. I call, not thrilled about my hand but aware he could have some kind of draw. When it comes down a blank 5, I check, he bets 2/3 of my stack. I contemplate for a couple of minutes, I really should lay-down here but I keep thinking he could have the draw, or it's possible he is playing an 8 aggressively with this turn. I move-all in, he calls and has TJ, and I'm kicking myself for not trusting my instincts. 1 set of chips down, 1 to go.

Nearing the first break I have a mini-rush but make no cash. Two limpers to my right and I make it 4x the BB. Somehow everyone on the table manages to fold, unfortunate as I had AA. I then limp with Ac 9c and flop a flush draw. I bet out and the button calls. I hit the flush, check it, but he checks too. I make a pot-sized bet on the river and he passes.

After the break the table then got a bit more interesting with the arrival of Stuart Rutter who is a really nice guy on the circuit. Chatting to him help tighten me up which was necessary with my stack. In this level I had a tricky hand, picking up AsKc in late position. There was a raise in early position to 500 by a lady I know to be very tight. Going all-in for 5000 didn't make much sense and I didnt think I could make a standard raise with my chips so I flat called. It came and awkward JQ2 with 2 spades. She bets 500, to which alarm bells go off in my head: has she got a monster? I can't not call here but the turn is a blank 6. She bets another 500 and I comment she is "bleeding me dry" and make the pass.

Down on chips, my tournament life ended up coming down to two coin-flips. A raise in early position by a tight player and I find AQs on the button. I'm not thrilled about it but I have to move all-in. He makes the call and I'm probably in the best position I can be, he has TT. I win this one and double up to 5000 or so.

A couple of rounds later I pick up AJ. The guy 3 to my right makes his third 3x raise in a row, and I feel I have to shove in here as he could pass to the raise, and I'm probably in reasonable shape. He quickly calls me with 99, and I lose this coin-flip and bust out.

It goes to show a tournament can all come down to one decision, and mine to not lay-down trips early on turned out to be my downfall. Still it was good to get back on the circuit. Sadly I won't be playing the GUKPT main event this weekend as I promised to go to the Aston Villa vs Liverpool game with my mate Aston. I'm a Liverpool fan so I'll be sitting on my hands but it should be fun.

July 20, 2007

Heads Up Marathon Begins

Sadly I was unable to make the Newcastle GUKPT event this week, but I am fully intending to go to the Luton event in 2 weeks time.

Today is the first day of what I have labelled a 'Heads-up Marathon'. I'm intending to build my bankroll via Heads-Up STTs over the next few months. This is how I made my initial bankroll when I started playing, and after a period of 6 months where I haven't played all that much on-line, I figure it's a good way to get back into the swing of things.

I am planning to keep a daily blog of my results to help keep me disciplined in my quest. However, I think this blog should be left for live-tournaments and perhaps notable online wins, so I have set up another blog; if you are interested in keeping track of my progress.

Side note - Took 2nd in the $50 Deepstack Freezeout on today. Only out 0f 97 runners and for $950, but still a confidence booster after being away from the online scene for a while.

July 04, 2007

General Update

I ended up leaving Las Vegas a little early. I was by myself a lot of the time and had a couple of early exits on coin-flips and bad beats in the Venitican daily and Bellagio nightly tournaments on Day 9 and 11. I had a couple of days off of poker before I left and headed home.

I just bought a new car so I'm excited about that and look forward to picking it up most likely the beginning of next week.

I'm going to be starting a Heads-Up Mission in online poker. I'm going to see how I do online for the forseeable future playing almost solely heads up STTS. This is how I made my original bankroll, and I had a good run at it this time last year, so I'm going to be reporting daily on my results and statistics when I start that, which will probably next week.

I expect I'll be heading to Newcastle for the next GUKPT event in a couple weeks.


Las Vegas Day Eight - Hottiefest?!

Thursday 21st June

Tournaments Played: $1000 NLH Freezeout, Bellagio Nightly

I had a good session at $30/60, and was up about $1700 up over 6 hours. I was quite keen to stay at the table as there was a very pretty girl sitting opposite, she even sorted me out with some lunch; my kind of girl!

I decided to play the 8pm tourney again. My first table was really fun, with everyone chatting and having a laugh, which is exactly the way I like to play poker. Also there was yet another hottie at the table, (unprecedented!). I picked up KK under the gun early on, 2 callers. It came down King high, and I made a small lead out but of course they both passed! From there I was going good guns on this table, gradually building up to $12k in chips.

I was then moved to the very left of Vanessa Rousso. She's also incredibly attractive, but also she's very nice. I even stacked her chips while she ate a danish at one point. I was hoping we'd both go deep in the tourney! We were both well chipped so I was hoping we'd stay out of each others way, but of course almost everytime I had a big hand she was involved. A rather humours hand occured when she raised in mid position and I called with AK off. It came down an unattractive T72, check check. She then led out the 6 turn, and I made the call putting her on AK or AQ (hopefully the latter). The river was a 7, she checked and I made the comment "I think we have the same hand" as I checked. She said "I really don't think we do", and eagerly flipped her cards over. She had pocket sevens for quads!!! Boy did I feel stupid, lol.

I picked up a nice pot against a mid-position raiser when I called in the big blind with 95s. It came down A95 and she moved all in after my check, and I of course insta call. She had AQ and my two-pair held up. The next round Vanessa Rousso raises on the button. Once more I have AK, and raise it up. The big blind, who I have down as a very-tight player, then moves all-in. Rousso reluctantly folds. I do some quick maths and I'm getting 2:1 pot odds on the call. He has to have Jacks or better here but it's only a bad call if he has aces. I make the call and he flips QQ for a coin-flip, and it's a coin-flip which cost me a good chunk of chips. I manage to recover some chips in the next level picking up small pots, a friendly face Carlo Citrone joins the table, but we're soon to be redrawn for the final 3 tables as we're down to 27 players from 90.

I have about average chips on my new table. Every hand is being raised with 1200 in the pot each hand at 300/600 (50). The guy to my left loses about a third of his chips in a hand after he got rivered. He then raises to $2.5k the next hand, but it looked semi-annoyed and semi-reluctant. I'm sure this guy has a hand he can pass. So I move in for about $16k with Ah 9h hoping I can get him to fold. It folds round to him and he thinks for about 3 minutes. He then says "f*** it" and calls. I know this is a bad omen, he's blatantly made a marginal call which has left me in a spot where my best case scenario is a coin flip. I guess it's fortunate that it is an even money shot as he flips 88s. I'm so annoyed by this call, it's one he doesn't need to make: what are the chances I have 77s or 66s here? These thoughts are put aside when the flop comes down AKJ and I'm looking forward to doubling up. That is until the incredibly ugly 8 on the river.

I guess you're never happy when you bust out of a tournament, but going out on a good move where the guy should pass will never not me up!

June 23, 2007

Las Vegas Day Eight - Can't win the coin-flips

Thursday 21st June
Tournaments Played: $1000 NLH Freezeout, Bellagio Nightly

(Will do full blog later)

Had a day off from poker on Wednesday.

2-8pm Won $1700 at $30/60 limit

8-12pm Played Bellagio tourney. Lost huge coinflip with AK vs QQ which would've made me chip-leader, then made great move with 3 tables left, all-in reraise with A9s but guy made an odd call with 88. Ace on the flop, 8 on the river.

June 22, 2007

Las Vegas Day Six - Heads Up goes Tits Up

Tuesday 19th June
Tournaments Played:
$5000 NLH Heads Up Championships, WSOP Event 31
$1000 NLH Freezeout, Bellagio Nightly

I wasn't intending to play the $5k heads up due to the large buy-in, but apparently my heads-up reputation precedes me as Rob Sherwood and his mate Dubai were willing to give me $1k each for a 20% stake each. I was very grateful for this and took the opportunity to play.

The organisation of the Heads-up tourney turned out to be an absolute farce, with an individual drawing taking place "FA Cup style" for 390 entrants, which took at least an hour, with the tournament starting two hours late. I couldn't complain too much though as I recieved a 'bye' into the second round. This meant I only needed to win two matches to make my first WSOP cash, and this seemed to be the best opportunity.

While the first round matches took place I went back to the hotel to chill, and came back to find my opponent was someone I didn't know, which I was quite pleased about having heard many pro names in the earlier drawing. I took an early lead and climbed steadily for the first couple of levels. Sadly this tournament is no-where near as well structured as the Barcelona Heads-Up Tourney, as the blinds went up every 20 mins. It was soon 300/600 and I was up $26k to $14k when I picked up 88 on the button and raised it up. He called and the flop came down 389 with two spades. He checked, I bet out 2k, he raised to 6, and I thought it was okay to move all-in here as I thought he was committed and calling. He flips over a red TJ, I'd certainly prefered to have seen A9 here! I'm calling for it to boat up on the turn, but it comes an ace; then the horrifying Q river giving him a straight. Those beats sure hit you in the guts.

Down to $12k I pick up AK off on the button at 400/800 and raise. He calls and it comes down KQ3 with two hearts. He checks, I bet, he calls. The turn is the 4h and he quickly plonks down $10k in chips, enough to set me all-in. I look down and find no Ace of hearts, which could well have led me to call. I have to make the pass here, assuming he has the flush, and flip my cards face up. He shows me Q4 of clubs for a turned two pair, another harsh outdraw then. I'm down to $7k and make an obligitory push with 89suited from the button, he calls with A6 off and there's an ace on the flop. I shake his hand, he was a nice chap and we'd been talking all the way through the heads up (until the 88 bad beat which shut me up a little!), but leave feeling rather agrieved.

(Note: The guy that beat me ended up finishing 3rd in the tournament, I don't know if this makes me feel better or worse!)

I decide to head to Bellagio to head to the nightly tournament which I was 2 for 2 in. On my first table there is a mid position raise, the cutoff calls, I call on the button with 6d 9d and the BB calls. It comes down 9 high with two clubs; potentially my worst flop. The cutoff bets out and I call to see what happens on the turn. The BB then makes this big, almost all-in raise. The cutoff folds begrudgingly. This is usually a fold, but my instincts told me this guy had a flush draw. I thought for a while and move all-in, stating my feeling out loud, hoping not to look stupid when he flips over an over-pair or something. But sure enough he had the Ac 8c for a flush draw, and my pair of nines held up. Quite proud of myself I manage to build to a little above double starting stack, including taking a couple of pots off the gentleman who knocked me out of the Barcelona Heads Up Championships last month, which was quite satisfying!

I'm then moved tables, and pick up JJ in mid position. There's an early limper so I make it 1500 at 200/400. The big blind calls, the limper folds. It comes down 579 with 3 hearts (I have no heart). He checks, and I check, intending to bet on the turn if it comes down a non-heart. It comes the 4s, and he bets 1400 into me. I quickly make the call and the river comes the Ace of clubs. He bets 2000. I figure he wouldn't bet this ace if he didn't have me beat as it's very possible I have an ace here. But I can't put him on an ace and I don't think he flopped the flush so I make the bad call. He flips over 56 offsuit for a straight. I hadn't considered this hand because of my reasonable raise pre-flop, I comment it was an odd call preflop and he muttered "well I had the chips". I'm now down to starting stack ($5k).

There's then a hand that really pisses me off. I wasn't involved, but I made an absent comment when two guys were in a hand and the board read A8A8A. The guy said "either you've got quads or you've got nothing". I said something like "well that's not quite true, he at least has a full house". I realise that I shouldn't have made this comment and that it was bad etiquette. I apologise to the players in the hand after the dealer tells me off. I know my comment was stupid and unnecessary, but so was the reaction from the rest of the table. In the middle of this big hand most of them go ape-shit, calling the floor over to try and get me a 20-minute penalty. This was from players except the two that were actually in the hand and may have been affected by my comment. The floor simply give me a polite warning which I take on board. I don't understand why these players would go out of their way to try and get me penalised, because I can't see how they would benefit. The blinds are 200/400 so they aren't exactly going to be making a whole load of chips from my absence. Anyway much to my satisfaction the player who was complaining the most went out a couple of hands later with AJ against AQ, what a shame!

After this debacle I'm in a hand where there is a limp in early position. I'm in mid-position with 99 and limp hoping someone raises so I can move all-in behind. My wish is their command as the BB raises to 2k and the limper passes. I move all-in pretty quickly and he makes the obligatory call, flipping over AQ off. The board comes AT223 and leaves me to walk off pretty disappointed with my day. Still, I believe I made all the right decisions in the pots I'd played today, so at least can feel happy that I'm playing good poker.

June 21, 2007

Las Vegas Day Five - Unable to outwit the donkeys

Monday 18th June
Tournaments played: $2.5k NLH Freezout, Bellagio Cup III

I wasn't awake for most of Day Four, I was catching up on sleep! I woke up early today and had a morning around the pool. I decided to try my luck in what I thought was the $1.5k tournament at Bellagio at 1pm, which turned out to be the $2.5k tournament at 2pm. I was unsure whether I wanted to pay this buy-in, so I went to the cash tables for an hour to dwell on it. I played some $30/60 limit and was about $1k up after an hour, so seeing as that made up the difference of what I was expecting to pay, I went to buy in to the tourney.

This didn't appear to be quite as soft as the nightly tournament, as on my table was a guy wearing a WSOP 2006 bracelet, David Williams and Mike "the Grinder" Mizrachi! Needless to say I played pretty tight to begin with. I watched Mizrachi go out on a cold deck, holding AJ on a J75A board, against a guy holding pocket fives. Not long after Williams made a raise to 300 in the 2nd level, the small blind called and I called in the big blind with JhQh. The flop game down Js Qs 7d. SB checks, I check, Williams bets out. The SB then raises to 1500. I contemplate raising but want to see if I can get Williams involved so flat call. Williams moves all-in for 5200, the BB moves all-in for 6000, and I call (I have about 5400). Williams flips AQ, the SB flips Ks 9s. I'm happy to be ahead but not thrilled at the number of cards that kill me, but somehow my JQ holds up and I treble up.

I pick up another nice hand on this table, flopping a flush with Jd Td in the big blind, managing to get pocket tens to push in on a 9-high board when the turn came the 9c. Not much excitement for the next 2 levels, but i wasn't complaining as I had such a large stack at this point. I picked off a bluff with JJ on a full board which included a K and Q. Around this time I noticed that players were dropping like flies. By level 5, approximately 2/3 of the 80 strong field had been knocked out. I still had a larger than average stack, but not as large as I would have anticipated for the hands I had picked up. I was moved tables again and dipped a bit over 3 or 4 hands where I missed, but made it all back and a little more in a limped pot holding 77 when the flop came down an ideal QQ7. I get it all in against JQ on the flop and hold up.

I now have 28k when the average is 16k. However, having had 3 beautiful flops, it's my time to have a bad run. I pick up several semi-premium hands in short sucession, raise them up, but miss every flop. Not one of my continuation bets got by and I was trying not to get frustrated. I picked up a couple more hands along the lines of Ad Jd, calling raises, but letting them go when I missed flops. I'm down to 17k now, just slightly below average, and vow to not let any more pots get away as I should have re-raising folding equity as I have let several hands go. I decide to use this when I see the established donkey of the table lose a large pot with A7 against AK on an AAxxx board. He used two different raises, a 1.5k raise and a 2.5k raise at 300/600 pre-flop. The A7 was a 2.5k raise, which told me these were his weaker hands. I knew he was steaming and would raise a lot of hands from the cutoff the next round. Indeed he raised, to 2.5k. I am now intending to shove any two cards here, but I take the obligatory look at my cards and find JT off. I dwell for a few seconds and announce I'm all-in. He INSTA-calls for all his chips, and flips over KJ offsuit!! I'm kinda angry with myself as I figure I've made a good play against the wrong kind of player. I don't draw out and get up to leave the table but it turns out I had him covered in chips and have 3k back.

I shove the SB, the button, the hi-jack and the SB when it comes back round. I now have about 6k and some reasonable folding equity. I pick up A6 1+UTG, and shove again. The KJ donkey flat calls on the button without moving his chips, and the way he called I'm actually feeling pretty good about my hand. He's made a fairly dubious call with pocket 33s so it's a coin-flip to be back in the tournament. However the flop holds a trey, so I indeed crash out.

The nightly tournament is about to start at this point, but having held so many chips in the $2.5k I didn't think my mind-set would be right to play a whole tournament, so I head back to the $30/60 limit game where I have done well so far. On the seat to my left is a guy who is absolutely TRASHED. Not only that; he had about $3k infront of him, all scattered haphazardly, and he's drinking alcohol-filled Mojitos. I eyed his chips greedily! Within a couple of rounds I've established he's playing 9/10 hands, often raising and 3-betting without even looking at his cards. I'm not thrilled about my position, but it's a great chance to make some cash. However I make a fatal flaw on this table, I play way too many hands. I don't pick up anything premium, or even-semi premium, and I'm playing some much too marginal hands, which of course are getting 3-bet all over the place. I hit very few flops. But this guy is so drunk (he even spills a whole Majito all over the table) I figure business will pick up if I tighten up. I fail to hit cards and it comes to the point where I'm $2.5k down after about 3-4 hours, rather a lot for 30/60.

Eventually a spot opens up two to drunk-guys left, and I snap it up. I do much better in this seat, and am back to $1.5k down when the drunk-guy has lost all his chips (having spilt a second majito all over the table in the mean-time!) and found his wallet to be all but empty. I actually do much better when he's gone, and over the next 60-90 minutes I get to break even point and leave the table.

I've never been in a cash-game with someone so pissed, but it has taught me a lesson to play suitably-tight in this situation, and not get too greedy in my pursuit of their chips!

I have a couple of drinks with Rob Sherwood, (who came 13th in the $2.5k tourney I was playing, unfortunately busting on a coinflip), and his mate Dubai; then head back to my hotel in the early hours, ready to play the WSOP Heads-Up tourney tomorrow.

June 18, 2007

Las Vegas Day Three - Another marathon session spells success!

Saturday 16th June
Tournaments Played:
$1,500 NLH Freezeout, WSOP Event 27
$1,000 NLH Freezeout, Bellagio Nightly

My body-clock is all messed up from the random poker schedule, and I found myself awake at 5am today. I took advantage of this by getting an early breakfast on the strip and spent the morning around the pool at the Monte Carlo.

I was torn between playing the $500 Freezeout at the Venetian and the WSOP $1.5k, as I was not too thrilled with the concept of a 3k starting stack. Mr Sherwood rang me 45 mins before the Rio event started and told me to get my arse down there, so I went with the WSOP event.

We actually ended up being at neighbouring tables, and was there to hear Rob hit a one-outer with 99 all in on KJ29 to find he was up against Kings and hitting the case 9! Crazy! I managed to build up to 6k in the first level. In one hand, having led the flop, made a good call down with bottom set with straights and flushes appearing all over the place (I had 44 on 4a 5c 7c Jc 9h).

However I was down to 3k by the first break and was voicing my displeasure with my play to Barcelona buddies Rob Sherwood and Heads Up champ Jeff Kimbler. In one pot a a tight player with only 850 chips raised to 300, the hijack called and I called in the big blind with 83s. The flop came down AT8 rainbow. The raiser went all in, the hijack passed, and I figured I had enough pot odds to hit what I assumed was a 5 outer here, so I called telling him he was miles ahead, although his AT seemed more like light-years ahead and held up. I also lost some chips making a late position raise with J5s, only for the big blind to min-raise me. I call but miss the flop completely. There was no-need to raise such junk at this early stage!

Anyway, after the break I picked up QT in the small blind in a limped pot. It came down QJ8 with 2 clubs and I checked ready to raise. It checked round and the turn was the 6h. I bet out, and the big blind called. The river was the Td. I checked it and the big blind bet out. I say "that's a pretty sick river card unless you have 9T" and make the obligatory call, since it didn't make a whole load of sense for him to have a straight. He flipped 8c 9c which made some sense of it. So I was down to 1500 chips and ended up shoving 66 to a mid-position raiser, who held JJ and the Jacks held up.

I went back to the hotel and had another hour round the pool. I then went to check out the cash-table scene at the Bellagio. I whack myself on the list for some $30/60 limit poker. I played for about an hour and ended up a pretty impressive $1200 up. Although I had no big cards, I had a great run with suited connectors, and was getting paid off left right and centre. It came round to 8pm and I decided to put my profit into the $1k nightly tournament where I'd chopped for 2nd two nights previously.

I flopped a set with AA on the first level but made at most 300 chips out of it. I managed to take an almost doubled up stack to my second table, a proportion of which was made when I bet out on a 4 flush completed board with the Qh (2nd nuts as one of the hearts was a King), was called in one place and a player I had down as a joker raised it up. I made the call and was good.

I was playing my 2nd table pretty well and built up to 12k with small pots. Then, a limp under the gun and I woke up with Aces. I raised it up and the big blind moved all in for a large over-bet. It took me a couple of seconds to call only as I was trying to comprehend the situation, and I shoved all my chips in as fast as I could. I flipped over the Aces and heard his disgust as he flipped over KK. The Aces held up and I had a nice stack. A couple of rounds later there was an under-the-gun raise and I had TT in the big blind. The guy had too many chips to raise here when I had him for a strong hand, but I didn't think I could open pass here with chips in the pot so I called to see what the flop looked like. T92 rainbow, I hadn't expected it to be that good. I checked it, he moved all in and of course I insta called. He had QQ and again I held up. I was running good!

Although I had this flourish I went card dry for a couple of hours. My turn and river bluffs got picked off by A2 when trying to represent the Ace on 998A7. Having been way above average I was now about average. At 300/600 a mid-position raiser was called in 1 spot and I had 2c 4c in the big blind and decided to call. It came down JT6 with two clubs. I moved all in for 12,000 chips on the flop on a semi-bluff hoping to take it down. The raiser made a (good?) call with KJ off but a club hit the turn, though it was the Kc to make it interesting. I doubled up. I then lost a fair amount on a another river bluff to get called by 2nd pair. And again I doubled up on a huge semi-bluff with Ac 9c. I raised in late position to get called by the big blind. It came JT2 with one club, check check. The 7c hit the river and he bet into me. I moved all in for 11k more. He somehow made the call with Ah Td but again I hit my flush and doubled up. Must be my lucky day!

It soon got down to 18 players, and similar to 2 nights previously I was hovering just below average for much of the time, picking up pots here and there when opportunities arose, and managed to knock a short stack out and almost double up with pocket eights after he moved all-in with AT off. I managed to make it onto the final table, but when I was forced to lay down AJ to an all-in reraise I was down to half-average with 9 players left. With the blinds at 1500/3000 (500) the final table was basically an all-in fest. I managed to double up with a Qd 8d shove vs AT, but for the rest of this level was more of a spectator than anything, getting dealt rags every hand.

The blinds went up to 2000/4000 (1000) and I made a call on the button for all my 40,000 chips with 55 when the hijack moved all in. He showed J5 and I managed to hold up to leave him with 1, $1000 chip. He went on a sick run and got back to 50,000! In the process there were a couple of 3 way-all ins which knocked the table down to 7 players. I was only able to move all-in once at this blind level with everyone else moving all in before me. I managed to re-shove with AQ after the chip-leader raised it up to keep me in the game around the average mark. The guy that had built up from one chip then got caught out as the big blind made a good call with A6 vs his A2 and hit a 6.

With the blinds at 3000/6000 (1000), and at 6.30am, us remaining 6 players discussed a deal. Everybody was between the 80,000-130,000 chip mark and it was decided to do what was basically an even chop. The two largest stacks took $18,200 (one of which was ironically David Gross who took the trophy two nights previousy, this time he was given 2nd place), the three medium stacks took $17000 and as the shortest stack I was happy to take $16,000.

So I've benefited from two great deals over the last three days and I'm "2 for 2" in final table appearances at the Bellagio. This time I'd only had to remain awake for 26 hours straight(!) I'll have to see what time I wake up tommorow to see what I'm going to play as I would imagine the midday $1k tourney at the Venitian is a write-off after another marathon session!

Las Vegas Day Two - Sicked in my first ever WSOP event

Friday 15th June 2007
Tournaments Played: $2000 NLH Freezeout, WSOP Event #25

Having not gone to bed until 6.45am and having been awake 30 straight hours the previous day I was surprised to find myself awake at 10.30am and unable to get back to sleep. I was too eager to play my first World Series of Poker Event, so I thought "sod it" and went to play it. It was Event #25, $2000 NLH Freezeout.

The poker room in the Rio is so vast it's quite intimidating to think you have to go past all these people to make the money. Today there were 1600 runners and I was whacked into the pavillion outside, with little or no air-con! I actually started off really well, and got up to 12,000 chips (3 times the starting stack) by the 4th level, without ever being all in and with few
showdowns. Just how you want it. However I lost about half my stack when I rivered a flush, only to be beaten by a higher flush. The button made a 2.5x raise, the small blind called and I called in the BB with 9c 5c. It came down Jc Jd 7s and it got checked round. A 3c on the river and the big blind bet out. I had him for a 7 so called intending to take him off on the river if I missed my flush. But the big blind called also. In retrospect it makes sense that he had a flush draw here, but at the time I thought he was on something like AJ. The river was a low-club and the big blind bet out. I raised him with my flush, but the button flat called behind. The small blind folded and the button showed Kc Qc.

Soon after I was moved tables and straight away there was a short break. After that the blinds were now 150/300 and I had just under 6000 chips. Despite having lost this previous hand I was still very comfortable. On about the 3rd hand in thee new level I was dealt pocket Kings. Under the gun raised it up to 900, so I re-raised to 2500. The guy to my left took a while to think, but flat called. I'm putting him on a big hand here such as JJ or QQ. When the original raiser folds, I move all-in in the dark (I figure with the chip stacks I'm not going to be able to get away from it if he flops a set, and I didn't want to slow down if an Ace hit the board when I wasn't sure that was what he had). The flop came down what seemed a beautiful 9c 7d 3c. He's looking me up and down for at least 3 minutes. I'm doing my best to look uncomfortable without overdoing it. I'm not sure if it worked, but I managed to get the call and he flips over Ah Kh??! Sadly I don't have time to be too happy about it as the unlikely Ace hits the turn. Sick! I make a quick departure as the table continues to gasp. I got the standard "sorry" from Mr. AK. Why do people say this?! If I suck-out on someone I will say "bad luck" but never sorry because it would be lying!

It was 5pm and I headed straight back to my hotel to catch up on some sleep. My hotel phone awoke me at about the 9pm mark with Rob Sherwood asking me to join him and his mate for a few quiet beers, which sounded good to me. However the next thing I know it's 5am and I'm still in bed! Oops!! I guess that 30-hour marathon session was catching up with me!

Las Vegas Day One - Off to a great start

Thursday 14th June 2007
Tournaments played: $1000 NLH Freezeout, Bellagio Nightly Comp.

A reasonably uneventful journey (although there was an 'incident' where I managed to crack a flimsy Virgin Atlantic plastic cup while drinking it resulting in an orange-juice tainted t-shirt, nice!) and I was in Las Vegas. I decided to go straight to the Rio to register as a player to save time tomorow. I sat down at a $5/10 NL game and was surprised at how big and fast this game was. With an unlimited buy-in, my fairly respectable $1000 was dwarfed by the $4000-6000 stacks around me. The players seemed pretty good and the guy to my left is apparently the current Aussie rankings leader. It took me a while to get into the game and dipped $500 in the first 20 minutes. But I tightened up and left after a couple of hours about even, winning a nice pot on a 9T4AK board with 9T. I think I'll stick to the much softer 2/5 game from now on, or perhaps play some limit poker.

Rob Sherwood managed to persuade me to play the $1,000 NL nightly freezeout event at the Bellagio, even though I was pretty jet-lagged by this point. It was surreal how many English players there were out of the 68 runners, and on my first table was Praz Bansi and James Akenhead amongst others. 5000 chip starting stack and 40 minute rounds. I left this table down to about 3000 chips after missing a few hands and raising KQ to find a short stack shoving with AQ.

On my next table I managed to pick up a set against an overly aggressive player, doubling up on the board Jd 4d 5c 6d with pocket 44s against his Jc Td (had to sweat out that last card). Until it was whittled down to two tables I was essentially just below average chips most of the time, picking up small pots here and there but no big-pots. I became short-stacked on the final two. Not sure of the order but I was all-in four times, twice in re-raise pushes with QQ and AQ from the big blind, a button shove with A4s met AQ for the flop to fortuitously come K9K95, and I managed to double up with KQ against AT. There were two tables for an extraodinarily long time, as 13 players remained for 2 hours, the all-in shorter stack always doubling up.

When it finally did get down to the final table I was 8th in chips. I mostly stayed out of the way whilst the shortest stack (Englishman David Gross) at the beginning was picking up hands and went to knock a couple of people out. I mangaged to get a small rush at the right time, knocking a player out with AK vs AQ and shoving over the top of a big stack after I picked up my biggest hand of the evening (KK), sadly he was one of the better players at the table and passed 99. Once the rock at the table had been blinded away (he was literally only playing KK and AA but managed to pick them up back-2-back on the final table) it was down to five. The largest stack at the table had been much too aggressive in late position whilst it had been at two tables, moving all-in for 20x the big blind with any kind of hand. He got caught out with K8 earlier but sucked out, but the other big-stack (David Gross) managed to catch him out in the big blind with AK when the other guy pushed on the button with QT off to cripple him. I managed to finish him off the very next hand when I moved all-in with AK and he called me with AQ. We played 4 handed for 5 minutes then the blind level went up to 3000/6000 (1000).

It has to be mentioned that it was now 5.45am (the tournament had started at 8pm) which was pretty crazy considering there were 68 runners. I had actually been awake for 30 hours straight by this point. This blind level made it such a crap-shoot that the whole table was happy to do a deal based on chip stacks (although I'm surprised the two shorter stacks were, because of the jump in money they could get if they had a good run of cards). I got very slightly less than 2nd place money which I was very happy with. We asked if we could play for the trophy and set aside some money but they wouldn't let us. The staff wanted to go to bed too! I had 105,000 chips at the time of the deal; David Gross had 170,000 and the other two had 50,000 and 60,000. So two Englishman got 1st and 2nd, David Gross got $24,000 for his efforts and I took home $15,500. After a fairly dry spell in live tourneys, I'm off to a good start in Vegas!

June 16, 2007

Vegas: Quick Update

Quick update, I will write a full report soon.

Day 1 - In the nightly $1k tournament at Bellagio, we did a chip count at 6am (I had been awake for 30 hours by this point!) and I took $15.5k for 2nd place

Day 2 - Played my 1st WSOP event, $2k NLH. Got knocked out at 150/300 (25). Raised an UTG raiser in mid position, guy to my left called, UTG folds. I moved all in blind. Flop: 982 rainbow. He dwells for 3 minutes and calls. I flip over KK, he holds AK. Turn: Ace. Gutted.

Next tournament: WSOP $1.5k NLH at the Rio

June 10, 2007

Midlands Meltdown: Main Event

£1000 Double Chance Freezeout, Walsall - Saturday 9th June

I got down to Walsall nice and early ready for the buffet. I ate with Dave Colclough as I was asking him his experience of the World Series of Poker which I shall be heading to on Thursday, and he talked about his 2nd place finish in 2000 where he was the moral victor, taking most of the cash in a 3-way deal. Then onto the main event. 7500 chips with 7500 more to be taken whenever you wish in the first two levels and an hour clock, this looked like being the best structured tournament I had played in a long time.

For the third event in a row, Ash 'the Cash' is on my table, although this time directly to my right so I was less worried about this. It was actually very cool playing next to him for a few hours as he is a really sound guy. Also my former nemisis Tim Flanders (who knocked me out of a £1500 event last year leaving me in 5th place) was two to my left. On the first hand I am dealt pocket deuces. There is a limper behind me so I limp in mid position, and the button raised to 350. The previous limper called so I decided to go set-hunting and called. The flop came down 2h 3s 4h. Bingo! I can't remember the last time I caught a set with so much action, as the raiser bets 1500 on the flop and the limper calls. I raise it up to 3500, happy to advertise that I have a set on such a dangerous board. The raiser recognises this and folds (he later tells me he folded QQ) but the caller decides to move all-in, to which I instantly call. I'm not surprised to see him flip over Ah Th for the nut flush draw and gut-shot straight draw. The turn comes down a heart so I'm calling for the board to pair, but the river is another heart! There goes my first half of chips!

Not wanting to go out in two hands I took a time-out for a couple of minutes away from the table to prevent me from steaming. 7500 chips with this structure was still fine. Not too long after I pick up AK on the button and raise a single under-the-gun limper. The big blind and the limper call. The flop comes down KQ9 rainbow. They both check and I check behind, happy but not thrilled with this flop. A King on the turn, to which they both check. I'm a bit happier now but figuring I have the hand locked up I check here to try and get some action on the river. The river comes a blank. The big blind bets out 400, and big blind Tim Flanders raises to 1500! I was supposed to be doing the raising! I think for a little while but I have Tim on a steal here so I make the call. The small blind also calls. I jokingly say "Which one of you has JT," whilst Flanders just mucks (at least I was right about that), so I assume I'm good until the big blind says "me"! Thinking about this hand though I actually lost the minimum and could've easily been out right here.

I'm down to 4000-4500 chips, but after a couple of unlucky hands it's my turn to get lucky. I limp in late position behind 2 or 3 limpers with Kc 8c. It comes down Ac 4c 2d. A blind bets out and a limper raises to 1000. I didn't want to flat call here as I couldn't really afford to miss the turn and be forced to fold, so I move all in with the nut flush draw. The original bettor folds but the raiser calls me straight away with the nuts (He'd limped in early position with 35 off!). A big fat blank on the turn and I was getting out of my seat until a beautiful 8c hit on the river. Back in the game!

I've never yo-yoed so much in the first level as I manage to plunder back down to 5000 chips with this hand. 3 limpers and I limp in the cutoff with 8h 3h. It comes down 3c 5h 7h so I have a pair and a flush-draw. Tim bets out from the blinds and I raise him up to 1200. He moves all-in for about 4500 more and I quickly, though semi-reluctantly, make the call, largely because he has less chips than me and I have the pot odds as I have to assume I'm at least 50:50. I'm not thrilled to see his 5s 3s for two pair, but once I've raised the flop there's no getting away from this hand. I'm even less thrilled about his hand when he hits a 5 on the turn for a boat, and a 5 on the river for unnecessary quads!

There was then a television hand on my table. I raised under the gun with AK off. EVERYBODY on the table calls except for the two blinds. I check in the dark cos I don't want to get in trouble on anything but a TJQ or KKx board or somthing to that effect. It comes down Th 8h 7d, perfect for me (!). Three hands end up all-in on the flop. Js 9c for the nuts. TT for top set and Jh 7h for bottom pair, flush draw and inside straight draw. A seven on the turn gives the pot to the pocket tens, I comiserate with the J9 sitting to my direct left.

After a really crazy first couple of levels, things start to go more calmly. I manage to rebuild my stack. First, I hit a set on a raised pot with 9Ts on TTx but sadly the guy didn't have a pocket pair so I only made chips from his 2000 flop bet, as he folded my all-in river bet of 2500. I go onto make several solid river calls to big bets on the river, twice with QQ when an Ace hit the river having bet the turn on Jack high flops. And with KJ on JQQQ7 when I was bet most of my chips on the river. I'm now upto 16,000 chips, not far off average. What a roller coaster!

On the very last hand before our table broke I limped with A7 on the button, having dwindled to 11,000 chips over the last couple of hours, behind a couple of limpers. It came down K97 rainbow. A limper (Mr AhTh from the first hand) bet weak into the pot so I call to see how strong he is, and if he's bluffable on the turn. My strategy changes as the turn comes down an Ace. He bets 2500 on the turn. I seriously consider moving all-in here, as calling leaves me with 5900 behind. I'm not sure if he has a King or he's bluffing. If he's bluffing he might well put me all in on the river. If he has a King he probably won't call an all-in on the turn. So I smooth call. A raggy turn and he bets 5000. I instantly put my chips in, expecting an instant call for the 900 more. Shockingly though he mucks!!! A nice pressie for the next table.

I proceeded to go card dry for the next couple of hours. I made an etiquette faux-paus at my second table as I made a call with 78 on J27T thinking I might be good. Another ten fell, and when the guy across for me checked I checked behind announcing I have a seven, but not realising a guy behind me had also made the turn call! I try and regain some dignity saying that "There might be a ten with that seven" but I don't think it worked! Anyway, I ended up passing to phantom player's bet, and he showed a 5 high flush which he hit on the river.

With the blinds at 300/600 I make a couple of raises on my third table, but get made to lay down AT and KQ to big reraises. Down to 12,000 chips I raise J2 on the button when it gets folded around but I get the same treatment and instantly pass. Down to 10,000 and it's break time before the blinds go up to 400/800. Although the average is now 30,000 I'm still feeling okay, happy to play short stack strategy and hopefully shove it in at the best times. I manage to stay at 10,000 for the first couple of rounds, shoving all-in with ATs and AQoff. A guy that got shown a big bluff and is steaming then raises to 2200. I don't look at my hands when I'm in the big blind or small blind until it comes round to me, and with my chip on my cards I'm considering raising any two here from the small blind as I'm fairly sure he is very weak. I look down at Kc Qc which makes the decision for me anyway, and move in for 10,400 total. He thinks for about two minutes and makes the call, which is for half of his chips, with Ac 4c. I'm pretty sick about this call. I can't imagine what he's put me on. I guess this is the detriment of playing against steaming players sometimes. My thoughts are put to rest though when the flop comes down K88 and a blank turn. I say outloud "no ace, no ace" without really thinking about it hitting. Of course it did and I utter some curse or other. The table backlashes saying "well the best hand won". I hate that kind of thing because it's so ignorant, but I let it go.

It's 2am and I decide I might as well make the 2-hour-drive back to Lincoln rather than getting a hotel. Not the best 3 events results wise, but I feel I am playing well and can head to Las Vegas with a confident mind-set. I bust on a good bluff in the £300, a flopped flush vs a higher flush draw in the £500, and on a coin flip which was unlucky to get called in the £1k. I think I'm going to have a break from poker until I leave ready for the poker-fest that awaits in Vegas!

June 09, 2007

Midlands Meltdown, Walsall

£300 Freezeout, Wallsall - Wednesday 6th June

After booking my trip to Las Vegas today I was quite looking forward to the events at 'Midlands Meltdown' in Walsall to get some live-poker practice in before I leave next week. I had a quick chat with Barcelona chums Dan Carter and Mickey Wernick before the event and went off to play. I recognised several players at my table, including Ash ' The Cash'; not quite the "all the good players go to Vegas in June" scene I had been anticipating!

I raised up AJ once and AK three times in the first level. Each time I got at least 3 callers and each time the flop came down a raggy, connected rainbow, so I just let those ones go. In the 3rd level I picked up AQ in the small blind and called a standard raise made in mid-position. The flop came down JT4. I knew this guy was gonna bet whatever flop came down as that's how he had been playing so far. I noted that he had about half of the chips I did so I made the decision to check raise here as there were plenty of chips to be gained, the risk wasn't too high and I anticipated having 10 outs if he called. Actually I only had 5 outs as he flips over KK and I don't get lucky.

I win a hand a round to keep me at half starting stack. The guy two to my right I have noted is limping with lots of average hands, so when he does this under the gun I move all in with 35s as the money in the middle was valued, if I get called elsewhere at least I have an un-dominated hand, and I was sure he was weak and would pass. He was certainly weak, but would he pass 9Ts for half his chips? Of course not! He won with ten high and I walked out confused by his call.

£500 Freezeout, Wallsall - Thursday 6th June

Dan hands me £23 exactly as I walk in, he came 14th last night and I had a 5% deal with him and apparently this was it. Better than nothing I guess! I take my table and I notice a guy on my table from the previous night wearing a flashy watch, but who wouldn't lay down to a re-raise pre flop and made some dodgy calls such as a big bet on an A8877 with something like A5. It turns out this would come to haunt me. I was pleasantly surprised with the 10,000 chip starting stack and 45 minute clock, plenty of play then...

Nothing spectacular happened in the first 3 levels and I'd dwindled to about 7,500. Then the big one. A limp under the gun by the guy with the flashy watch, a limp in mid position and a limper in the cut-off, I have Td 7d on the button. I limp, the blinds are in and it comes down Ad Kd 6d. It checks round to me, and I bet out my flush. Under the gun calls, and mid-position moves all-in for about 3,000. I move all in for about 6,500. Mr Flashy watch thinks for about 10 seconds, and throws in his chips. I figure for him to call he must have a made flush and I was worried I was beat. Of course I forgot who I was against as he flips over Qd Qs. Considering this was for 2/3 of his stack I can't believe he made this call the way the action had gone. Mid-position had much more respectable black sixes and called for the board to pair. Sadly for him the board didn't pair. Sadly for me of course the turn was a diamond and I'm out. I always think bad beats are exacerbated by bad calls. If I'd lost to the sixes, at least I can't blame the guy for his move. But calling with 3rd pair even with the nut flush draw when you have to be pretty certain 6 diamonds are already out? I was left to drive down the M6 and started to clear out my University room ready to head back home tommorow. I'll just have to take the £1000 event down on Saturday!

Barcelona World Heads Up Poker Championships 2007

Day One (Monday 21st May 2007)

A late evening flight from Birmingham Airport was made a little more interesting when me and my travel partner Dan Carter bumped into Mickey "the legend" Wernick, Dave "el blondie" Colclough and Paul "actionjack" Jackson as we were boarding the plane. Lets hope we don't draw any of them in the first round!

After a quick freshen up at the hotel, we headed down to the Casino to check out the draw and see the set-up. More British contingency to greet us as James "flushy" Dempsey tilts his glass towards us and we share a drink with himself and the aforementioned gang.

After a random Canadian approached us all saying we better be glad we hadn't drawn him, and Rob assuring him that his opponent had "won a WSOP bracelet", time for a quick cash game. Me and Dan sat on a 20/40 euro limit HE table for a quick session, happy that full handed we wouldn't clash too much. On a seemingly soft table I hit a couple of hands, but missed all my good draws (such as Kh 6h on an Ah 8h 6c board) and ended up about 50 euros up. Still enough to pay the bar tab for the evening.

I won't be playing my heads up match until Wednesday, but I was happy to find out it was against a super satteliter that qualified tonight. Tommorow I shall be cheering Dan on in his Bracket 1 match and entering the 1000 euro freezeout. Lets hope I can repeat or better my result from the same event last year, where I finished 4th.

Day Two (Tuesday 22nd May 2007)

A rather late night at the casino yesterday meant Dan's alarm going off this afternoon was rather unwelcome, but Dan had to be at the casino ready for his Bracket 1 match (I drew bracket 4 and play tommorow). After some trouble signing in (in which the lady who took in our drivers licences thought I was Dan Carter and Dan was James Atkin) I went onto watch Dan go onto an easy victory against his first round opponents. His oppenent decided to go all-in for 8,000 chips when the pot was 800 on a J85 flop with J2 when Dan had limped in with AJ and couldn't wait to get this chips in.

A 1,000 euro side event was up next, the event in which I placed 4th last year. Sadly there was no repeat performance as I was out early on a bad beat. In the 2nd level I called a pre-flop raise from the big blind with Q9. The flop came down Q9T rainbow. I checked to the raiser, and my eyes gleamed as he inexplicably bet 1000 into a 400 pot. I moved all-in for about the starting stack of 5000 chips. He called, and I commented "well, I'm ahead." It turned out I was right as he flipped over Pocket Aces. But before I could be too pleased about the situation, the dealer put an Ace to the felt and I was left to leave the table in disgust!

I spent the next couple of hours watching Paul Jackson play his heads-up match, which lasted well over three hours. Lets hope I dispose of my opponent quicker tommorow as I don't want to miss the Liverpool match! Paul was far superior to his opponent but his opponent turned out to be a card-rack and unfortunately Paul went out.

Onto rail Dan in the 1,000 euro. Dave "Devilfish" Ulliot happened to be on his table (unfortunately for Dan he was on his left) and kindly bought me a beer, though he said he wanted a Milkybar in return. Very funny Dave! I must say I'm not too upset the nickname "The Milkybar Kid" has already been comandeered by Ben Grundy.

I mangaged to gain back 800 euros in cash games throughout the day. Me and James "Flushy" Dempsy sat on 20/40 limit together and managed to do pretty well on a loose table. I actually managed to river my first 'live' Royal Flush, holding Kc Qs on Ac Ks Tc 2c Jc board. Dan went out on a bluff in the tourney and we went to grab some cocktails at the bar.

Bumping into Blue Sq sponsored Mickey on the way out of the casino we both uttered our sentiments about hoping to do well tommorow when we both play in the first round. We both play unknown players, who we assume satellited in, so we're hoping it's an easy ride.

Day Three (Wednesday 23rd May 2007)

Today was a day of highs and lows, Low because Liverpool lost in the Champions League Final; High because I won my first match in the Heads-Up competition.

As I was in the second set of matches I was spectating most of the afternoon. Sadly I saw pal James Dempsy lose his match after a very nice bluff didn't quite get through, and later losing a huge coin flip with AK against 77. Mickey Wernick faired much better, pulling off a huge river bluff to take a commanding chip lead. He seemed to be outplaying his opponent, which may have been what led him to move all-in with 67 offsuit for 10k (starting stack is 20k blinds were about 200/400) after Mickey limped with pocket nines. Mickey made the call and it came AKQ45 to take him through to the second round.

My match started at 6.45pm, disappointingly close to the 8.45pm kick-off for the Liverpool match. I took an early chip lead making some good calls with second pair. I don't remember many hands of note until the final hand, which thankfully came only 3 minutes into the Liverpool match which was nicely on a TV screen in the distance infront of me. At 300/600 my opponent made it 1800 from the button. I raised to 4000 with Ah Ks. The flop came down Ac 4c 5s, which I checked. He bet 1800, which I again made 4000. He moved all-in, I insta-called showing As Ts, and I took it down when two raggy cards game.

A hi-5 to Mickey and Dan Carter and I was straight to the nearest bar to watch the footie with the boys. They all took advantage of my confidence in Liverpool bringing home the trophy as I had 100 euro bets with Paul Jackson, James Dempsy, Rob and Jeff that we would do just that. They offered me a get-out of 90 euros each at half-time after Milan's jammy-as-hell first goal. I politely declined, saying how we were 3-0 down at half-time two years ago and would probably win 3-1. It didn't happen and after crying into my pint for a couple of minutes I hand over the 400euros I owe in lost bets. The cheeky bastards then announce it's also my turn to buy a round! Talk about kicking you when you're down!!

Despite Liverpool's loss I had a good evening drinking at the bars along the port with the boys, and new arrives Dan Carter, Mickey and Dave Colclough. By 3am I was completely trashed, and after having some munchies in the casino (I chose a tuna baguette for some unknown reason!), went back to the hotel to sleep it off before my match the next day.

Day Four (Thursday 24th May 2007)

Well I'm pretty gutted as I was knocked out in my second round match. Having woke up feeling rather rough, the day perked up as Brits Jeff, Rob and Dan Carter all won their matches. After a couple of coffees I was ready for my match against an unknown Russian.

It turned out to be a 4 hour epic match. This was partly because my opponent took years to make every little decision. I'm not being bitter but it was enough to drive our potential 3rd round opponent away who had come to scout the match! We yo-yoed for the chip lead for a long time but neither of us went below 15k in the first couple of hours.

Having played lots of small pots, two big pots took place in the 300/600 level.
In the first, my opponent raised to 1800 on the button and I called with pocket 5s. Bingo on the flop as it came Qc 9c 5d. I checked, he bet 1700, which I raised to 4200. He dwelt for a good five minutes, and I was hopeful I could scoop the match-up right here, but he folded.

A couple of hands later I got my first big hand, raising to 1600 with QQ on the button. He re-popped me to 4000. I thought for a minute before moving my chips in. Another epic dwelling session, which told me he had no Aces or Kings so I knew I was ahead. Once again though he eventually passed.

I made a good fold soon after, passing Ac Tc to a 4000 reraise, after I raised to 1600 from the button. He showed me Jacks.

On a neighbouring table I see Mickey Wernick shake his opponents hand in defeat. I'd seen him yo-yoing in chips throughout the match. Dan tells me he went out with KQ all-in preflop against A4. That was a bummer and I was hoping not a bad omen to Blue Sq players as we both went out in the same round (3rd round) last year.

However, I was feeling pretty good now with 25k, but he had a session of hitting lots of cards and winning small pots. It's now capped blinds at 500/1000. I missed an up-and down straight draw having called a bet on the flop, but he called my 2k river bluff with his flopped top pair, now 2nd pair, and had me at 18k.

I then defend my big blind with 8s 9d when he raised to 2.5k. The flop comes down Jc 8c 4d. I check, he bets 2k, I call. Turn is the 10h. I seriously consider check-raising here but flat call his 2k bet. The river comes the Jd. He bets another 2k, and I pass. He shows Q9! Good job the river wasn't a 7! But now I'm on the backfoot.

I proceed to have a sick run of cards. I can't hit a flop with any of my rags, and he raises a couple of pots from the button whilst I have 25 and 27 etc. Now he has a 2:1 chip lead. He now starts moving in every hand from the button. The best hand I folded when he did this Qd 7d, mostly it was J2, 46, 34 etc. I shoved in with hands like Ks 6s and picked up Ac Jc once to keep from drowning completely. One time he limps I shove with KJ off. More all-ins, more folds with me not finding so much as a King in the big blind. I pick up QQ on the button and suspiciously min-raise but he doesn't fall for it. But he shoves in from the button a couple more times to make up for it. I show my T3 and J4. I'm now shoving pretty much any two, although I pass an 83.
He now has me down to 5k. He shoves in one more time and I call him blind as I calculate I can't afford to fold and he's obviously going in with any two cards. This time he has A7 off. I flip over 84 off! It comes down 457, leaving me calling for a 6. Turn: 6!! I'm celebrating as he has no cards he can hit to win. River: 8. Shit. I didn't think about that. Sodding split pot! I announce I'm moving all-in blind from the button and do so. He calls with Q9 off. I'm happy to be ahead with K4 off. Flop KTx. I chant for a Jack. Fortunately it doesn't come and I have 8k. He keeps up his all-in record from the button, and I look down at 33. I figure that it's so unlikely I'm behind and there's a reasonable chance he could have a 2 or 3 in his hand, so I reluctantly call. He actually flips over 47 offsuit. Of course the 4 is the first card out and I can't find a crab to keep me in the game.

I shake his hand and am comiserated by the spectating Rob, Paul Jackson and Dan Carter. I go to discuss a few hands with the victor. He obviously likes me as he gives me his phone number in Russia rather randomly?! Then it's off for some food and back to the hotel to rue my luck. I guess it's onto thinking about the 2000euro event on Saturday night...

Day Five (Friday 25th May)

Didn't play much poker today as I was mostly watching Dan destroy his opponents in his two matches. He's through to the Quarter-Finals to play the Devilfish which is great news. All I played was the 300euro satellite into the 2000euro main event the next day. I raised up QQ early on, the big blind calls and it comes A38. Check Check, turn is a deuce. Check Check. River was another Ace and he sticks all his chips in, to which I insta-pass with my cards face up, he shows me A2. I don't pick up a hand until JJ which I raise up and the flop comes down Q85 with two spades. The big blind moves all-in, I think for a while and deem that he doesn't have a Queen and call. I was dead right, he had 55. I pay Mickey Wernick, sitting to my right, 50euros on a side bet for who would last longest and head to the bar!

Later on that evening myself, Rob Sherwood, James Dempsy and Dan Carter head out to the bars along the port having watched James win a seat in the satellite. We are joined by the Devilfish, who we assume wants to get Dan drunk and scope out his Quarter-final opponent! We end up on the spirts and are spending 50euros a round but have a good time of it all. Devilfish uses his stature to get us served food at the casino just as it is closing, sweet! Then to the hotel to sleep off the impending hangover.

Day Six (Saturday 26th May)
Another lie-in and it's soon down to the casino to play the 2000euro event. I rush around trying to get someone to lend me the cash 10 minutes before it starts because the cash desk apparently doesn't cash travellers cheques, which is pretty much all I picked up out of the safe, and the machines apparently don't like my Maestro and Mastercard either! Me, Rob Sherwood and James Dempsy manage to draw the same table somehow, having agreed a 5% deal with each other just before the draw, is that good or bad? James donks his chips with a huge semi bluff on Qd 9c 3s 7d board with 9d Td, not getting KK to lay their hand down. Soon after our table gets split and I take up my new seat to the right of the Devilfish. Great!

The other players on the table are complete donkeys, and I watch Ulliot pick off a bluff with Ace high, calling the guys TJ almost perfectly (he had 9T). I raise up 66 and lead out on a 277 board, but with two callers I give up the pot on the turn. One of them had A7, the other turned a flush. The game soon becomes mega-frustrating once antes are introduced, with everyone on the table having to be reminded each hand. One the 150/300 (30) level we played just 11 hands, 40 mins a level. I've dwindled to about half starting chips and limp on the button with Td Jd. Ulliot calls, and the newly chipped big blind plonks in some high chips. I tell Devilfish, he has a low pair and I need to take the 50:50 on. Fish folds and I find out I'm basically right, though he was a little stronger than I thought, holding 99. The flop comes down, 9Q2, which I'm not delighted about, but I manage to river a straight with the 8 coming down.

Now with 9k I raise up 44 to 1200 (blinds 200/400 [40])in the cut-off. Devilfish moves all in for about 4800. I tell him I have to call cos it's a coinflip and I have the odds. He claims he has the best hand and I don't have to call. I do anyway and he flips AQ off. Flop: AQJ and I don't improve. The guy to my right says "nice call" which is of little consolation! A couple of hands later I pick up AQ off myself and move all-in for my 4000 chips. Devilfish says he'll "let me have this one", i see him muck 88s and everyone else passes. 2 hands later I'm under the gun and the blinds have gone up to 300/600 [60], so I'm thinking about pushing any two cards. I look down and find Ah Jh, bonus! I move all in but know I'm in trouble when the button moves all in. He has Cowboys and no Ace or hearts takes me out the comp. At least the 50 euros on a side bet with Rob Sherwood for who last longest pays half the rake!

I go and hang out with Rob and James, the events manager of Mansion poker and Tony Champman's wife in a local resteraunt, and we end up spending most of the night drinking in the casino along with Mickey Wernick, Dan Carter, and the victorius Jeff Kimbler chatting away. We were intending to head out to some local bars but it was always "after the next drink" until it was too late. Nevermind!

Day Seven (Sunday 27th May)

Dan wakes me up nice and early in preparation for his Quarter-Final with the Devilfish. We head to the casino, and I head off to play some 20/40 limit as Dan is busy taking interviews and things, and I assume his match will be delayed based on Jeff Kimblers 7-hour wait for his match yesterday. I leave the table 400 euros up as Dan's match is starting. I see him take down a nice big pot, trapping with AA and let out a whoop which Devilfish gives me the harshest look for, I feel bad straight away as I have gotten on well with him this week so I dash off before I piss him off anymore. With my profit from the cash game I decide to play the 400euro Omaha. I was quite impressed to last 2 hours because I didn't know too much off what I was doing!

Dan comes along and tells me Devilfish was an "easy win", good work Dan. We now get to spend an extra day in Barcelona, which Dan will pay for as we made a deal if we had to stay longer, the person that was the reason for that would pay expenses. I kinda wish it was me having to cough up but nevermind! I end up getting Pot committed pre-flop in the Omaha in a 3-way 12000 pot with absolute rags (As 3s 4d 5d) and miss completely against the other two raggy, but superior, hands. I'm left with 1400 chips and manage to get it in on the last hand before the break with more rags, but don't hit. So it's off to the buffet to have dinner with Mickey Wernick. We have a good chat about Dan's chances of winning and about Mickey's notorious past experience of poker. He has me encapsulated in his stories of playing Johnny Chan and Stu Unger for ridiculous amounts of money. After our chat I head back to the hotel to sort out flights and hotel with Dan for our longer stay. I expect it's back to the Port for a few drinks tonight, then I'll be cheering Dan on in his semi-final match tommorow. I'll probably take the opportunity to play the 500euro event because the fields are so weak. The British contingence can't believe they haven't cashed here as every one of us seems to be so much better than a large majority of the players here. C'mon Danny Boy, take it down!!

Day Eight (Monday 28th May)

After a very good night talking about previous World Series of Poker events in Las Vegas and the like in a couple of bars with Jeff Kimbler, Rob Sherwood and 'Legend' Mickey Wernick, I wasn't too happy to hear the phone ringing at 12.30pm asking why we hadn't vacated our room. So I had to stumble down (in bare feet) and explain to them (as I had done the previous evening) that we needed the room another night. I sorted it out and fell back in bed, why did Dan get the easy job of sorting flights while I got stuck with the hotel, argh!

Me and Dan headed down to the Casino ready for his semi-final. He was playing perhaps the biggest joker in the world! This guy just could not sit still! I think he was loving the cameras a little too much. Dan looked well in control of this one, and made a great call all-in preflop with AsTs when the dude had shoved over his preflop raise with, you got it, 7s 4s. Of course he hit the 7 and Dan was on the backfoot. But karma sorted out the cards as Dan got all in with A3 off when this guy picks up KK. I had to read the flop 5 times before I truely comprehended it! "Is that 245? Is that 245? Yes?!!"... Bang!! Mickey punches me on the shoulder as I shouted for no pair on the turn so the KK couldn't boat-up. It didn't and Dan's flopped straight doubled him up, back to about even. Not long later Dan made the quickest call in history after limping with TT to hear the guy go all in with A7, and Dan won the match right there. Sweet!

A celebratory meal with the winner and Rob in the bar, and we went to watch the remainder of Jeff's match. He was playing well with some nice raises, and was fortunate enough to get all the money in with 93 on a 933T board against his opponents J3. More cheering from the English camp, and it's an all English final, guaranteeing the first English winner of this event!

The less successful me, Mickey and Rob went to play the €500 event. My table seemed alright, 4000 starting stack seemed good. I watched a guy lose most of his chips all-in against a made flush, but with a draw to the nuts. The very next hand I raise it up with AsQs, to which he moves in for about 900. I figure he's steaming and pushing any semi-decent hand so I call. Of course he has Ace-King. You know you're having a bad week when that kind of thing happens! I play a few pots but manage to hit nothing so I'm standing at about 2000. 2 people limp into a pot and I make up the small blind with KQ off. The big blind then moves all in or 5000 chips. The others fold and I'm left to think what the hell he'd make this drastic move with. I asked him if he had a low pair, but he wasn't kind enough to tell me. I called him to take on the coin-flip only to see Ace-King turned over once more. Roy Brindley on my right obviously thinks I'm a donkey as I leave my seat! Rob and Mickey faired much better but didn't manage to make the cash. As with Dan, Mickey lost on a bad beat with AT vs A9 but didn't have any chips left for karma to return him the favour this time.

The rest of the night was withered away in the Casino bar with the English possé, and me and Dan went back to the hotel slightly earlier than usual ready for the Final tommorow.

Final Day (Tuesday 29th May)

I finally went to see some of Barcelona today! Having checked out of our room at 12pm, me and Dan went to check out the well known Las Ramblas. The human-statues seemed much less impressive than usual, as I saw someone simply dressed as a Cow waving at people, and another with a couple wearing suits made of fruit to try and make money?! This was until the final statue at the beginning of the street. This guy was simply awesome. We stared at him for a good few minutes and didn't see him blink. I felt this was worth a euro, so I whacked it in the hat infront of this guy's platform. We continued to watch for a sec only to see a bemused spectator go up and pat this guys hand. No wonder the statue was so good, it actually was a sodding statue!! I decided to leave my single euro to someone more needy, but couldn't help feeling a little violated!

After a nice walk along the beach it was back to the casino for the final. It was weird to see two guys, who had been hanging out all week, playing for the most bizaare of trophies having said they'd "see each other in the final" having checked out their quarter-final drawing! The final was a little bit of an anti-climax and didn't last all that long. Jeff Kimbler picked off a bluff from Dan but the rest was just solid-standard stuff. Until the main hand which saw Dan check-raised when he bet on a Ks Qh 2d Ts board. Dan re-re-raised for a lot of chips. Jeff pondered for a while and called. The river brought the 9s, and Jeff bet out about 1/3 of the pot. Dan struggled for a long time but eventually called, only to much upon seeing Jeff's 7s 2s. Dan has been cursing this hand since as he said the only cards he loses so many chips over were the 9s and the As (he had the straight). Super-chipped Jeff went on to take the match. The English gang congratulated the World Heads Up Poker Champion and comiserated with Dan who nonetheless had a great showing and was taking home a great pay-packet.

After Jeff and Dan did all their press necessities, I went with them, Mickey Wernick and Rob Sherwood to be treated to a meal by the finalists. Well that was until I lost €50 playing rock-paper-scissors with Dan which more than paid for my meal. Mickey wasn't happy as he had taken a €20 euro bet with Jeff with 2-1 odds that I would win. I thought they were paying for the meal?! Anyway that was very pleasant along the seafront, then it was onto the Airport with Dan and Mickey to fly home.

Next stop: I shall be playing most of the Midlands Meltdown events next week, then onto Vegas for at least a couple of weeks soon after.

Barcelona wasn't particularly successful poker-wise for myself, but I had a fantastic time with the English lads, and it was great to see Dan and Jeff do so well. Hopefully I can repeat some of their sucess in the World Series of Poker!

Thanks for reading,
James Atkin