September 25, 2009

Poker & Parenthood...

In my latest column for UK Pokernews I reflect on how becoming a poker player has, and will, affect my poker play.

Please check it out by clicking here

Am just starting to get back to the tables after my "Paternity Leave." Have had a stab at the current SNG race on Poker Heaven, but it's not really going as planned, and the software is tilting the crap out of me. I think I might retreat back to PokerStars asap!

September 22, 2009

Shortstack survival in the EPO...

Apologies for the delay on updating, things have been pretty busy with the baby, as you might imagine. The only poker I've played since he was born was at the inaugral EPO last week.

I met up for a meal with Tom Rutter, Stu Rutter and Mike Miller before kick-off which psyched me up for the tournament nicely. I took to my seat just a couple of minutes late. I was pretty happy with the draw as the only person I recognised on the table was Scott O'Reilly, an old mate who knew all my Uni mates that played poker. It turns out I accidentally sat at table 36 seat 7, instead of table 37 seat 6, and in doing so ducked a table with Annette Obrestad and Praz Bansi on it! I didn't even find this out until the break, and by then they'd worked around it.

I was a little unlucky early doors, the only time I picked up Aces in the whole of the tournament was in the first level. I c-bet a J78 flop after being called on the button. He raised and I called. I then check-folded face up on the Jack turn, and he showed me AJ. In the third or fourth level I then had the unthinkable happen. Surinder Sunar, potentially the slowest acting person in the game, called the clock on me! This didn't exactly help me make what I think was the wrong decision to fold to a third barrel on a T8xKx board that was effectively for my tournament life (He bet 4k, I had 6k back and it was a 6k pot) having called an UTG raise with JJ whilst 1+UTG. I really, really wanted to call, as it looked like either nuts or air...with a very real possibility of air...but I just couldn't quite do it.

This was the last point in the tournament I ever had the chance to be above average chips. From this point I went on a somewhat remarkable run of being the short-stack, but doing just enough to survive. Once the 200/400 level hit. I rarely had more than 12 big blinds to my name. The MTT SNGs I play rely heavily on push-fold strategy, and I was very confident I could make my short-stack count, or at least make the correct plays at each point in time.

I picked my spots carefully, trying to avoid having to face an all-in showdown. Upon moving tables to eventual runner-up Michael Tureniec's table, literally every hand was open raised (mostly by him) and I just couldn't find a spot to shove. I'd look down at 44 or KTs and be rubbing my hands in glee at being able to shove the button, but that opportunity never arose and I'd have to fold to the open raise. I remember picking up 77 and thinking, finally I can re-shove on this guy...only for it to be opened and 3-bet infront of me!

Upon noticing my grind through the levels, always at the bottom of the pack but somehow avoiding elimination, people said to me I must have been really lucky, as I must have been all-in so many times. Whilst it's true I shoved in rather a lot, I was actually only at risk of elimination 6 times throughout the 2 days I survived in the tournament (which was 18+ hours of play):

Day 1
AJ > T4 at 300/600 (I shoved 3.8k from early position, big blind called)
AQ > A5 at 400/800 (I shoved the big blind after the small blind raised, he called)

Day 2
Q6ss > KJ on Ks 8s 6c at 1200/2400 (I check-raised shoved the flop from the small blind after UTG and the button limped preflop)
QQ > AK at 2000/4000 (I just about 4-bet shoved, he called the little bit extra)
AT tied AT at 4000/8000 (I shoved the button for 9 big blinds, big blind called)
24s lost to A6 at 5000/10000 (I shoved for 45k 5 handed UTG, fairly standard...)

My peak in chips was comically about 90,000 after I won with the Queens (there was 2 million in play, and at this point we were down to 2 short-handed tables, and this represented the first time I was slightly better than half average chips at any point in the tourney other than the early going. Consequently I couldn't be too disappointed that I bust in 10th place (out of 213 runners), although naturally it did kinda suck to miss out on the final table. I bagged £9k for the win, although having sold a fair proportion of myself I only took £3k of that. Still, this came at a very opportune time with the birth of the baby, and not having the time to play at the moment. I'm happy with the result, especially clinging on the way I did for so long.

How sick it would have been to win though. Not just for the £70k of the £210k first prize I'd have shipped, but also to see Mick McCool's face upon me putting a cheque for £50k in his hand, all because he asked me to help him out with his blog a couple of weeks back!

Me with Andy Greekfish

September 15, 2009

Ship it! (the baby that is)

For once I have a decent reason for not updating the blog recently, beyond "I can't be bothered" and "I'm running bad so lets wait until I run good again to post and make myself look infallible" (sad but true).

Yes the missus finally dropped the little-un (read on before you call social services), and gave birth to our son Clark Robert David Atkin. He weighed in at a fairly hefty 8lbs 1oz, and we are very lucky in that he is perfectly healthy and mega cute!

She went into labour at about midnight, and I watched a bit of poker on tele and pretended it wasn't happening whilst she went to have a bath downstairs. I dozed off, and she was rather considerate given her current state (I certainly hadn't been pre-warned about her being considerate in labour!), and
waited til 7am to wake me up and tell me to get my arse in gear as she was in sufficient amount of pain to go to hospital (a much better measurement than time between contractions if you ask me).

They showed us to our room at the hospital (admittedly it wasn't the Ritz,
but it wasn't too shabby at all), and 3 midwives, a snooze each (aided by diamorphine...hers not mine unforunately...though this was the only drug she had at all and was solely to allow her to sleep in the still fairly early stages, brave girl), and a good 2/3 of a John Grisham novel later (if I hadn't finished the book, I do wonder if I'd have been much help towards the end of labour!).

As a guy you almost feel guilty for how much you are doing when your partner is putting in so much effort and going through so much pain. It's almost like you're on a motorbike with a megaphone shouting "you can do it, keep going" whilst tailing someone running a marathon. Obviously not guilty enough to give her the motorbike (thank God this isn't possible, metaphorically speaking). So I got my pom-poms out, told her she was doing awesome (which was no lie, infact it was more of an understatement) and held her leg back as she laid on her side pushing for all she was worth.

"Oh my God, Oh my God, I can see the head, I can see the head, it's got a head Liz" was something like what I said shortly after. The actual birth is so surreal and inexplicable really. I am the most squeamish guy I know. I was sent home from school age 10 because I went pale as a sheet when our teacher told a story about her boyfriend's glass eye falling out. I was sent home from Sixth Form age 17 (yes, 17) after I got a splinter from a pencil I was using in English class right under one of my fingernails and
eyewitness reports suggest I literally turned green. However I went through the whole birth without batting an eyelid, even cutting a cord and taking the obligatory glance at the placenta (you tell yourself you aren't going to look, but you just can't help yourself). Admitedly I wasn't hugely pleased when I discovered blood all down my shorts and all over my favourite trainers, but I really wasn't bothered either. The joy of seeing your own flesh and blood safe and sound on your missus's chest is like nothing I've ever felt before, it really isoverwhelming.

It's all been a bit hectic since then. We've had tons of visitors and went for our first walk with the pram today. So far he hasn't been too much trouble, although with Liz breastfeeding she might tell you a slightly different story as getting up every 2 or 3 hours during the night can't be all that much fun.

I was expecting things would have settled down by the time it came round to me playing the English Poker Open, but with Liz being 11 days overdue it's fallen a bit on top of everything. It starts tomorrow and I'll be hoping that Clark can be that lucky charm to help me take down the biggest tourney I'll have played for a couple of years now.

September 08, 2009


How profound the words in my last post "a nasty downswing seems inevitable" were. I guess it's partly my fault because I decided to take a shot at the higher buy-in 18mans over the weekend when they had some traffic, and general standard of play appeared to be worse. However I have run really gross at the $25+2 and $55+5 games, and this has contributed to a $1k downswing and has killed my ROI and winrate. There's nothing wrong with taking shots sometimes, but I think this one came a little early.
18man tournaments
Having analysed my stats I'm still crushing the $15+1 games for a 17% ROI over 1100 games. There is a lower ratio of rake (6.25%) in this game over the other buy-in levels (8%), I'm not sure that makes all that much difference, but I think they may get less regs in as well, as the $25s+ perhaps get the regs playing 9mans filtering some 18mans to their play.

I'm a little bit worried I've picked up some bad habits, perhaps becoming too shove happy, so I am hoping to do some sweat sessions with some SNG pros over the next few days to make sure my game is up to scratch. Speaking of sweat sessions, I did a session with Matthew Pitt, who's blog I regularly follow, to help him with his game and prepare him for a staking deal. I think that was very productive, and he writes about it in his blog here.

Still no sign of the baby, the missus is now 8 days overdue. Sadly it looks like I'm going to miss Blonde Bash this weekend, which I was really looking forward to having never been to one before. But either the baby is only just going to have been born or will be being born over the weekend, and I don't think my girlfriend will let me miss the birth to go and get pissed and have a good time in Leeds. At least everything should have settled down by the time of EPO next week.

September 04, 2009

Crushing SNGs right now, and looking forward to playing the EPO...

I really don't want to 'bok' myself by posting this, but I'm just running sickly good at the moment. A nasty downswing seems inevitable. I'm running at a 20% ROI in 18man tournaments, mostly $15+1 buy-ins with some $27s and $6.50s mixed in, over almost 1200games. Not only that, but the first 200 games or so I think I was playing badly because I was integrating them with 45s, and struggling to keep track of the different strategies because of
playing so many tables. Now I'm playing exclusively 18 mans, which I will be doing at least until the fairy tail comes to an end!
18-man tournaments
Anyway, enough bragging. In other news I've recently taken on a couple of students and will be staking them in $6.50 games. Hopefully they can earn me some bucks while I sit around watching tele :) I'll be giving them some mentoring and hopefully they can replicate my recent good fortune in MTT SNGs. I've had bad experiences with staking in the past, but these guys pass my high requirements on the "don't-get-grimmed-o-meter". They've actually made me think about doing some coaching in the future. I think I need to prove myself a bit more results wise before I do that, but I think I would be really good at it. If anyone might be interested in this, whack me an e-mail or leave a comment, just so I know it's something that might be plausible.

Looking forward to playing the EPO in a couple of weeks time. There are a bunch of pros signed up, so there will be some toughness in the field, but I imagine the internet qualifiers will even that out. Just picking out the people I am familiar with there are a bunch of strong names:

Andreas Johansson, Andrew Teng, Annette Obrestad, Tony Cascarino, Chad Brown, David Tighe, Desmond Jonas, Doyle Brunson, Eric Liu, Gurpreet Nagi, James Akenhead, James Keys, James Mitchell, Joe Beevers, Karl Mahrenholz, Mo Muse,
Marc Goodwin, Michael Greco, Liv Boeree, Peter Charalambous, Phil Hellmuth, Richard Ellis, Rupinder Bedi, Sam Trickett, Sida Yuen, Stuart Fox, Toby Lewis, William Martin.

That would be an intimidating table draw if you had 8 of those guys sat with you! However with $1m guaranteed, it's sure to get more than the required 200 runners (to meet the guarantee), and fortunately I don't think they can all be of that calibre!

Still no sign of the baby, that makes my missus 4 days late, but that's not unusual with a first baby (she assures me she hasn't previously had a love-child). So my world isn't upside down yet!

September 01, 2009

Selling % of myself in the EPO & my gf still hasn't popped!

I have secured my seat into the English Poker Open today. I have had a surprising lack of interest in people wishing to buy a piece of me, but I guess it is a large ass buy-in ($5000+300). I was originally relying on this to be able to play the tourney, but with doing well recently I've decided to take the risk of not selling my action and playing whatever happens. If you are interested in getting a reduced price seat for the event, check out this page.

I'm selling at a $400 for 10%, $40 for 1% rate. This is effectively selling at a mark-down of 0.75:1 . I've sold about 25% so far, and am willing to sell up to 35% more. Whack me an e-mail or leave a comment if you are interested.

It will be really cool to play such a big event, it's been a while since I played a noteworthy tournament. There are a few big names being mentioned will be present, Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson amongst them, but I'll be more bothered about getting a table full of qualifiers than playing with name players.

My girlfriend's due date was yesterday, but no sign yet. I am happy we hit September 1st because I was hoping he'd be the oldest in his school year as opposed to the youngest. It's a weird feeling waiting for something that you don't know when is going to happen. It's kinda like waiting for the toaster to pop, and if I'm around her when her waters break, I'm sure I will shit myself in the same way that I do when I'm around the toaster and it makes me jump!