December 31, 2011

2011 in review...

2011 was a very good year for me all in all. In poker, I had my most profitable year so far, and in my personal life I moved to a much nicer house, got married and found out I would become a father for the second time. However I can't help but feel, poker-wise, it could have been even better than it was. Both my results and my volume in the second half of the year were very disappointing, and I am really motivated to make up for that in 2012.

There were many stages I seemed to go through in 2011, so that is how I am going to format this review...

Stage 1
Going for SNE
1 January - 14 April

This stage was great for me. I was going for SNE and consequently was working very hard. I was doing very well in the games I was playing (almost exclusively 18-mans at this point) so I was being rewarded very nicely for the time I was putting in at the tables.

I did allow myself to slip away from SNE pace in February and March, but had accumulated 240,000 VPPs by April 14th so was within reasonable distance to still achieve my year long goal.

I can't remember a whole lot else going on at the time, I guess I was just too busy working!

Related Blog posts:

Stage 2
Black Friday & aftermath...
15 April -  8 June

Black Friday unfortunately put paid to my Supernova Elite attempts. There were a few days where there was a lot of confusion about what was going on and what was going to happen. I didn't want to work hard for no reason, and the traffic in all the games I was playing died to a point that staying on pace would have been insanely difficult. So after working very hard for the first 14 weeks of the year I essentially took the rest of April off.

Unfortunately May was hugely disrupted by the changes that PokerStars made to SNGs. They started off with an absolute botch job, but over the next couple of weeks they fixed many of the problems they had created/ Unfortunately in this time they were somewhat insulting in their attempt to pass off a rake increase as a rake decrease, and I further disappointed that they had chosen this direction (increase instead of decrease), especially in games that were already barely beatable. Nevertheless by the end of it all, order was restored, and for me personally, things virtually went back to how they were before the changes, just a little more organised.

On the plus side, the games were the softest they had been for a long time in the post Black Friday world, although this didn't last for too long, and games are back to being as tough as ever before now.I'm not sure how related it is to the best American players gradually relocating, but imagine this is a factor.

Related Blog posts:

Stage 3
Trip to Vegas & aftermath...
9 June -  28 July

I took it upon myself to have the most ridiculously short trip to Vegas during the World Series of Poker, just 6 days. I really wanted to go, having not been since 2007 and not really enjoying myself then and wanted to do it right. However, I didn't want to leave my then fiancée and son on their own for too long, so this was sort of a compromise. In reality it was too short, I was on my way home before I knew it, but I had a really good time whilst I was there. I only played four poker tourneys, and it would have been nice if I didn't get a ridiculous beat to send me packing in the 1 WSOP event I played, but nevermind.

The highlight of the trip was the sickest night out I had after me and Longy, who I was staying with, bumped into lil Dave in the Venetian. We went back with him to his sick pad where he was staying with Stu Rutter and other heroes, and proceeded to have an hilarious night out ending up in Surrender at Encore.

My play for the rest of June and July was sporadic at best. I did have fun being a guest analyst on Sky Poker in their live 4-hour show on a Thursday evening. I think I came off pretty well, and I'd say it's quite possibly the first time my parents have been proud of me job-wise. Hopefully I'll get another chance to do that again soon as they have said I'd be very welcome back :).

Related Blog posts:

Stage 4
Moving House, Getting married & Honeymoon...
29 July -  5 September

This was undoubtedly the most hectic time of the year for me where I decided to fit two huge life events into little more than a month. Literally the perfect house came up for rent very near where we were living, and we had to go for it. It has a double garage that has been converted into my 'grind-station'. and is just a really nice and big house with plenty of room for our family to expand. It's nice to know we're pretty set-up in this lovely house for the coming years.

Unfortunately, it was a rather stressful time, as moving house tends to be. On top of that it took me a ridiculous 6 weeks to get my internet sorted, so that put paid to any chance of me playing poker during this time.

Me and Liz got married on the 27th August after being together just shy of 4 years, and having got engaged in December 2009. I really can't envisage the wedding being any better than it was, it was exactly what we both wanted and it was a really special day. Having complained quite a lot about the expense of "just one day" in the lead up to the wedding, I am so glad that we did it and did it right, it's a day we'll never forget.

If you'd like to see the pictures from that day, they are all here:  worth a look if you like hot wife didn't look too bad either ;-)

After the wedding me, my wife and our son, who was just about to turn two, went on a family "not exactly a honeymoon" hoilday to Salou in Spain. We had a really great time to begin with, but unfortunately Clark got tonsillitis 3 days in which kind of ruined the holiday. We actually took him to A&E at midnight because he had such a high fever. I have to say I was impressed with the health care we got, they saw us very quickly and with the help of Google Translate (lol) they diagnosed him and he did get better shortly after we arrived home (standard sods law!).

Related Blog posts:

Stage 5
Death run in SNGs
6 September -  10 December

After a long absence to the tables, it seems I was rather rusty upon my return. It was my most testing time as a SNG player so far, as I endured something like a 7,000 game run of SNGs where I did little more than break-even. Much of this was attributable to running like death in my higher buy-in SNGs, with my very good return in lower buy-ins doing nothing but cancelling out those losses. The rakeback I accrued just about got me through this period without going completely insane, but being an FPP Pro is definitely not for me if I can avoid it.

As I'm sure I've mentioned many times in the past, understanding variance in one of the hardest things I think poker pro's have to combat. It's impossible to know exactly how much of a factor luck plays in your results, not only over the short term but the medium term as well. Trying not to concentrate on short term results is definitely something I intend to work on in 2012.

Related Blog posts:

Stage 6
Calm before the storm
11 December - 31 December
With my plan to go all out for SNE in 2012, I ended up taking a Christmas break a few days early. It was good to not be too stressed about poker, and felt like I reset myself which I think is good for my mindset going into 2012. I was able to spend lots of time with my son which was nice.

I went to see Liverpool (who I support) win at Villa Park which was cool, and I even saw a second consectuive home Aston Villa game as me and a bunch of other British Poker Pros had our "AGM" in Birmingham, going to watch the evening Villa vs Arsenal match and going out into town afterwards. Needless to say much drunkenness and hilarity ensuing, and it's always nice to meet up with the guys like this and get away from the computer monitors.

Christmas was very much a family affair as we pinged between my parents and my wife's parents houses but everything went really well, and Clark got lots of great presents and had lots of fun.

Me and my wife went out with 2 of our really good friends who are a couple for New Years Eve for a posh meal and a disco. It was actually the first time both of us had spent the night away from Clark as he stayed at his Grandma's! Aside from the fact we were the only people in the joint under the age of 40, it was a really nice evening, and although going into my SNE pursuit in 2012 with a headache wasn't the best start, it was well worth it.

Results for the Year
I was rather pleased to ship my first platinum stars on Sharkscope, especially being the most profitable $16-35 SNG player in 2011. I was obviously very pleased with my overall results for the year, if only I'd worked harder in the latter half :)

# Games Played: 26,000
# VPPs earned: 433,000

Profit: $58,500
Rakeback: $33,000
Battle of the Planets Prizes: $3,500

December 11, 2011

(Another) one on the way!

I've been keeping this under-wraps for quite a while, but think it's about time I mentioned it to everybody! Me and my wife are expecting our second child at the end of January.

I'm not quite as terrified as I was the last time around, but there are a lot considerations I have right now. How will we cope with two children? (Considering how much of a handful just one is!) How will it affect our little boy Clark? Is it realistic to attempt to go for Supernova Elite in the same year as having a newborn baby? Although I do worry about these things, I think it's simply a case of taking them as they come.

Preparing for our second child whilst still only 26 years old makes me think about how unorthodox my path in life is for a professional poker player. Of all the twenty-something poker players I know, I can only think of one other that has a child. One out of many.

It does have a certain impact on my on-line play that other on-line grinders wouldn't have to contend with. I tend to play during the daytime, out of peak hours, to make my working life more normal. After being someone who could never wake up in the morning for much of my life, I actually like this schedule though. Getting up at 6am feels like a much healthier lifestyle than waking up after 11am.

It definitely eats up a majority of my spare time, as the time I spend away from the tables tends to be with my family. This does make it harder to see my friends and go out, but I still do my best. And it's not as if I'm losing out on enjoyment here, I love spending time with Liz and Clark.

However with all the success in British Poker, most recently James Dempsey's recent bink in a WPT, I do occasionally give a thought to all very successful young British guys that go out on the circuit, like Flushy himself, Jake Cody, John Eames, Toby Lewis, Sam Trickett, Rupert Elder, Stuart Rutter, Dan Carter, Dave Nicholson, etc etc. All these get to travel the world playing poker, and it's hard not to be a little jealous of their lifestyle and their success.
Dempsey wins WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic
With few responsibilities they seem to be able to go where they want when they want, but I'm pretty much restricted to staying at home for the most part. I would just miss Clark and Liz too much. My trip to Vegas for 6 days in the summer showed me I just wouldn't be capable of going away without them on anything like a regular basis.

However I always come to the same conclusion. It's silly to be jealous, even fleetingly. I am very lucky to live the life I do. I've found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, and have a child I love more than anything in the world. Becoming a father was the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I can't wait to have two under my wing.

My apologies if this announcement. has turned into a glorified brag post by the way. I'm not even sure I could hack the poker superstar lifestyle anyway.  For a start I don't profess to have anywhere near their talent in poker, and it's very possible I wouldn't even be able to do what they do and be particularly successful. Also, being the variance nit I am, as well as someone who likes being "home" (I live 5 minutes away from where I grew up ffs!), it's probably not the life for me. I should just be thankful that I am able to make a solid living at a job I somewhat enjoy, and that suits me well, allowing me to spend plenty of time with my family. I've managed to find my niché in poker, and I should just be pleased to have one!

Being told of Liz's first pregnancy was the spark that led me to be a disciplined grind-horse, and I think the responsibility of being the sole provider for two children might help give me the motivation I need to make 2012 the year where I work the hardest.

It was quite interesting reading through an old article I wrote a couple of months after Clark was born called "Poker and Parenthood". In that I wrote:
I'm just happy that the missus didn't go into labour whilst I was playing a SNG session, and me having to tell her "Not now dear, you'll have to wait until I've finished all these games!
With labour taking much less time in your second birth, I'm funking pretty hard for her not to go into labour whilst playing :)

I couldn't help myself posting up a little home video of my son Clark. He's only two and a quarter and he's the brightest little boy you could hope for :)

November 25, 2011

Dear Father Christmas...

It's been a while since I updated. About a month ago I decided to move over to 45-mans and 180-mans after having my soul crushed in 18-mans. I've gradually been weaning 18-mans back in for a number of reasons.

  1. I think they are my best game
  2. I am currently #1 in the 2011 Sharkscope leaderboard for "All games $16-$35", and would like to ensure I ship the platinum star
  3. I am at almost certain I am going to pursue Supernova Elite next year, with 18-mans being the main game I plan to play.

I think dipping my feet into some 45-mans and 180-mans has helped freshen up my game a little bit, and it's been good to avoid seeing the same regs at the tables every day, but I feel comfortable enough to pick and choose which of these games I want to play dependant on how I'm feeling each day.

If you have been following my blog recently, you will know I've really been struggling over the last few weeks.
After a 6 week break over the summer in which I moved house, got married and went on my honeymoon, I have had my most testing time in poker ever.

The funny thing is, if you look at some of my results since Sept 1st 2011, you might wonder WTF I'm complaining about, as it would appear I am doing very well:

Unfortunately, that isn't the whole story. I'm on an insano-brutal-getthefkouttahere-death run in $60 and $100 18-mans, and am on an ever-pleasant 200 buy-in downswing in $15 180-mans:

I really don't understand how I can be such a consistent winning player in the lower buy-in 18-mans but be dying a death in the higher buy-ins 18-mans. I don't believe myself to be playing them any differently, and I don't think they are particularly tougher. Is it really possible to be running this far below expectation?  I'm not so worried about 180-mans as there is no way I'm not beating those games, and 200 buy-in downswings aren't out of the ordinary. It doesn't make it any less painful though.

You might wonder why I am continuing to subject myself to the pain of the higher buy-ins when I can apparently do perfectly well for myself in the lower buy-ins. I think it's mainly because I refuse to give in to variance. I'm trying so hard not to be results orientated. I know I'm not a -12% ROI player FFS. That would make me a fish. Even if I had many leaks I couldn't be doing that badly.

I've found myself hunting through hand histories, instilled with paranoia that I'm somehow getting sat out on random tables and that's why my win-rate is so disastrous in places, but I haven't been able to find anything like that.

All I can do is work on my game, try and put as much volume in as I can before Christmas so that variance evens itself more quickly, and pray to the Poker Gods that my luck changes.

Dear Father Christmas,

For this Christmas, I want my sick graph back.

Pretty please,

November 08, 2011

24,000 SNGs in one month?!!

I belatedly came across a prop-bet that occurred in October where SNG grinder Martin Phalaz, from the Czech Republic, had a sick task on his hands. Under his PokerStars screename 'phasE89', he had to play a massive 24,000 SNGs in one month and make a net profit (not including rakeback) during that time. The odds were 3 to 1 in his favour (if he was successful he would win 3 times his bets)

To date, I myself have played 23,000 SNGs in the whole of 2011, so playing this amount of SNGs in just one month sounds completely insane to me. When I first heard about the prop-bet I assumed he must have been playing Hyper-Turbo SNGs, but it was actually all done playing Fifty50 SNGs. I was surprised that these games were popular enough to allow this kind of volume, especially at high stakes, but with an average buy-in of $51 over the course of the bet, apparently they are!

He ended up winning the prop bet with just a couple of hours to spare, playing 24,035 SNGs in the month of October, profiting $2,898. Over the course of the month he played around 750,000 hands!

Actually though his winnings were much more sick than that. He had wagered approximately $5k on completing the bet at 3 to 1, so won $15k in bets. Factor in roughly $25k in accrued rakeback, and we're talking over $40,000 in winnings. Not bad for a months work (albeit a ridiculously hard months work)!

However it wasn't all plain sailing, phasE89 got off to a horrific start, and at the halfway point of 12,000 games was $16,000 in the red, and running badly below EV. Fortunately for him, and to the chagrin of those who bet against him, he proceeded to go on a sick heater and pulled it out of the bag. You can follow the highs and lows of the prop-bet in the 2+2 thread. Below are some graphs and stats that phasE89 himself provided:

Games played total: 24.035 games
Number of hands played total: approx 750k hands
Total cashes: $1,277,676
Total profit: $2,898
Rake paid: $54,998
Rakeback (46%, based on 600k Milestone): $25,299
Total profit including rakeback: $28,198
Average duration: 27.2 min
Average Buyin: $53.10
ITM %: 51.2%
Number of hours: 385 hours
Hourly rate: $7.53
Hourly rate including rakeback: $73.24
Total bets made: $4,563 mine vs $13,689 bettors
Total earned (profit+ rakeback + bets): $41,889

VPPs earned: 302,558
FPPs earned: 1,058,953
phasE89 SNGs October 2011
Stakes - Games played / ROI / profit:
$15 - 3056 / 4.17% / $1.864
$30 - 9399 / 3.1 % / $8.754
$60 - 7524 / -0.6 % / $-2.463
$100 - 3158 / 1.5% / $4.669
$200 - 898 / -5.5 % / $-9.925
The Poker Gods were partially responsible for the prop-bet victory, based on that red line!
After earning 300,000 VPPs in one month, and holding 667,000 VPPs for 2011, phasE89's next aim is to make Supernova Elite by the end of the year, which requires him to earn 1 million VPPs for the year (or raking just over $180,000).

October 31, 2011

A change of scenery...

The last couple of months have been the most trying of the last couple of years. This is largely because I wasn't winning, and boy can poker be stressful when you aren't winning, especially over a long period of time.

It is hard to put my finger on exactly what was going wrong, and this can largely be attributed to variance, as the variance in poker gives you such problems when analysing your results over a relatively short period of time. Was I playing bad? Was I running bad? To quote Grandpa Simpson, I think it was a little from column A and a little from column B.

One thing that I'm pretty sure happened is that I became somewhat of a Mental Game fish. Those of you who are familar with The Mental Game of Poker will know what I mean by that, there were just certain things I was doing that are clearly not good for your frame of mind.

Worrying too much
With each day and week that I wasn't winning, I was becoming more and more preoccupied with my short term results. I think it is sensible to check your results as infrequently as you can manage, and I've only ever found checking them during your play to be counter productive. But I had gotten to the point where I was treating the refresh button on Hold 'em Manager as though it would give me a penny every time I did so.

Also, I had gotten to the point where I was much too emotionally involved in the outcome of every showdown. I was hoping the cards had magically inherited a memory to let them know that I had been getting screwed over rather a lot lately, and perhaps they should let me hold this one time!

The funny thing is, with the quantity of poker I have played over the last couple of years (and we're talking well over 40,000 SNGs here) I thought I had become immune to these kind of concerns. How can you care about individual showdowns when you have faced hundreds of thousands of them?

I guess I have been pretty lucky over the last couple of years to have not faced too many downswings, and I hadn't been through a period as trying as this for a long time, which instigated me taking so many backward steps in my mental game.

Although I'm not too sure how becoming a Mental Game fish impacted on my actual game, I do think I lost my 'mojo' somewhat. Winning breeds confidence, and I think the opposite is true as well. Although I couldn't give you any strategy specifics, I think you tend to play a better game when you are confident. You perhaps question your decisions less and find more excuses to raise instead of more excuses to fold.

The lack of confidence was seeping through to home life. I'd gone from being a world beater who was printing money, to worrying I was just a pretender who wasn't going to be able to pay the rent in a few months time! My wife was starting to get a bit concerned...

Juggling too much?
My aspirations to make Supernova Elite next year (whereby I was trying to sustain SNE pace in the hours I like to play to see how plausible it would be) had led me to take on a little too much. I was mixing 6-man, 9-man, 18-man and even the odd 45-man and 180-man SNGs into my sessions. All of these games have very different strategies, and although I felt like I knew what I was doing in all of them, there is a difference between being finely tuned in a game, and knowing roughly what you are doing. I think it's impossible to play such a variety of games optimally.

I don't know why I didn't recognise it sooner, I guess I was just being stubborn. I thought I was good enough to win at all the games. Also, I was game selecting so thought that would make up for my potential lack of sharpness in certain games. I had kept a similar schedule in May and had done well,

Also, I think the 6-max SNGs, which obviously require a lot of short-handed play, and therefore attention, were hogging too much of my concentration, which was impacting on my general play

One of the main things that was getting me down was that I was losing money at 18-mans, which I considered to be my best game, and is the type of SNG I have made the most money in lifetime.

Looking at my results it was really a tale of two buy-ins. I started off with my worst downswing ever in 18-mans altogether, however I recovered very well in $30 games, yet relentlessly plunged in $60+ games. I really can't make sense of the results considering I don't believe the $60+ 18-mans are any more difficult than the $30 games. I suppose the most likely explanation is variance, these are still small samples we are dealing with, but it just doesn't feel like variance when you're on a 110 buy-in downswing. It feels like anal rape (presumably...).

$30 18-man SNGs (1st Sept - 23rd Oct 2011)
$60 & $100 18-man SNGs (1st Sept - 23rd Oct 2011)

It looks like September and October are the months where I went from being one of the best SNG regs to an FPP Pro:
All SNGs 1st Jan - 31st Aug 2011
All SNGs 1st Sept - 23rd Oct 2011 (sigh)

Change of scenery.
It was a $2.5k losing session (right at the end of that graph) that proved to be the final straw. I was just blanking everything for fun and I decided that I couldn't continue on as I was.

I took a day off and I made myself a spreadsheet to track my progress for the remainder of the year, something which has always made me feel a little bit better after a downswing. I think it's because it helps me re-establish that it is the long-term that matters, and over the long term I am capable of playing a lot of SNGs, and (hypothetically at least) making good money.

I decided to move over to playing 45-man SNGs, 180-man SNGs and turbo MTTs. I had been contemplating this for a while as I had been finding it difficult to put in two sessions a day with the schedule I was keeping. I'd either have a depressing morning session and not want to play in the afternoon, have a good morning and try to protect the win and not play (see, I was a mental game fish), or just be so burnt out from the stress caused by the emotion I was investing in my morning session that I felt I couldn't deal an afternoon session. By moving over to games with sync breaks (sync breaks wiiiiiii!), I could instead play one long session, as I had done for most of 2010.

I also thought it wouldn't hurt to lower my average stake, and figured I would be able to cope with the downswings better if a $2.5k losing session were an impossibility.

After grinding mostly 18-mans for the last year, I thought the change would do me good. It would also give me the chance to reset and start from 0, rather than always trying to dig myself out of the holes I had fallen in through September and October. Also, it feels like a new challenge, which is somewhat motivating.

So although I was aware that I could be making a decision that was based on incomplete information (ie. reading too much into variance), and moving over to games I might have a lower hourly rate in the long-term,  I felt like there were too many positives related to mindset to not go with it.

I've been keeping this new schedule for a week now and I feel much better for it. I've only checked on my results two or three times. I feel much more accepting of the daily variance involved. I know that you can go on runs where you blank 50 180-mans without doing much wrong, so it would be silly being concerned with how you are doing on each individual day. Having a nonchalant attitude towards showdowns and results is definitely much healthier!

I also really like the 5 minute break I get every hour. It seems to make the day go faster as often a break will pop-up and I'll be surprised it's rolled around already. It's also good to get your eyes away from the screen for that time, and I think it allows you to stay "fresher" throughout the session. I've also been putting in good volume, playing a good long session each day I play.

It doesn't hurt that I've got off to a good start, but more importantly I think I've got my mojo back :)

October 20, 2011

Ideas for improvements to PokerStars...

I recently had the chance to go and meet up with the PokerStars VIP representative for the UK & Ireland, Johnny C. I actually travelled down to London soley to go out for lunch with him whilst he was covering EPT London. It's pretty sweet that it only takes 2 and a half hours to get from my house to the middle of London, given that it's 150 miles away from me in little old Lincoln. Drive to Newark, train to Kings Cross, tube to wherever. Bink.

He ended up taking me to this Lebanese restaurant. The availability of Lebanese cuisine in Lincoln is rather limited (there is none), so it wasn't something I had tried before but turned out to be really good food and I had a really good time effectively talking about poker for two hours. Anyone who knows me know I could blab on about poker all day! Yes, I'm one of those annoying people! I actually remember him from his Dusk Till Dawn days, and we got on well.

I was kind of pleased to be given the opportunity to speak to someone from PokerStars in the flesh. I'm not sure I gave the best impression of myself earlier in the year when the SNG-changes and rake-changes were implemented. I was rather opinionated on the subject at the time, and although I think we helped iron out the situation out at the time a reasonable amount, it may not have been in the most gracious manner. Anyway, it was good to be able to show at least one PokerStars employee that I'm actually not a dick :)

He gave me the opportunity to talk about things that I would like to see on PokerStars, so I thought I'd explore some of the things I said that I might like to see, some of which I discussed of at the time, some  came to mind afterwards, and some were hijacked from the "PokerStars software improvement thread" on 2+2.

Filter Bookmarks
I'm not claiming this suggestion as my own, as it has come up a lot in the 2+2 thread, but I do think this one is a no-brainer for Stars and imagine they will incorporate it in a future update.

At the current time there is no way to save searches you make through either the Cash Game, MTT or SNG filters. You have to manually click everything. So say I want to play 18-man Turbo SNGs in my session, as well as $74 Hyper-turbo satellites, I'd have to keep making multiple changes to the filter each time.

A feature such as one illustrated in the picture below from this post would do just the trick:

I suggested they could add some (or all) of the functionality of TableNinja. From a selfish perspective I already own TableNinja, and should perhaps want to keep my advantage over those who don't know about it or can't afford it. But meh, if PokerStars introduced some of it's functionality I imagine it would be much less buggy. Also, the recent reaction of the TableNinja guys to a multitude of requests to support the recently introduced Nova Themes leaves little to be desired.

Ironically, when I checked the aforementioned 2+2 thread shortly after going to London, I noticed that such a feature was already in development, and has since been released in beta mode in the new client as announced here.

I would like to see them add as much of the functionality of TableNinja as possible, such as SNG betting and auto-timebank (if this specific feature could be automatically disabled during sync breaks, even better!).

Battle of the Planets
The Battle of the Planets leaderboard is a long established promotion on PokerStars, but it is also one that hasn't had been altered for a very long time.

I suggested perhaps some separation between the types of game that are offered, such as a different leaderboard for 6-max SNGs, 9-mans, Fifty50s, 18-mans, 45-mans and 180-mans. Currently 45-man and 180-man tournaments aren't rewarded by this promotion, and given their popularity, and the fact this is where much of the 9-man traffic have defected to, I think it would be reasonable to include them in some manner.

There would be lots of things to consider, such as how the whole prize-pool would be distributed, how the low-orbit and high-orbit would work, how points would be awarded across the different formats, as well as how different buy-in levels would be considered. Although I have no real problem with BoP as it is at the moment, I think there is potential room for improvement. (Of course, they could just quadruple the prizes =)

Easier background changes
Because I play mulitple formats of SNG, I like to be able to differentiate between them as much as possible. It would be handy if it was easier to change the background colour of a table. Currently it takes 8 clicks to do this (View Options --> Table Themes --> Background --> Enable Custom Background --> Select it --> Ok --> Apply --> Apply to current tournament), and it would be great if it was just one.

Perhaps some sort of automatic different background for Final Tables would also be a good option (similar to what Full Tilt had). Being able to automatically detect/set different backgrounds for different games would also be pretty cool.

Sync Breaks
It was mentioned to me that Stars were considering bringing Sync-Breaks into 18-man SNGs. All I can say is YES PLEASE!! I would not be opposed to sync breaks being incorporated into any kind of SNG. I've been a big fan of them ever since they were introduced. Playing intense 5 hour sessions with no breaks, as playing non-sync-break SNGs basically require, isn't all that healthy. A five minute break every hour is the nuts, and in my experience allows me to play more games as I can put in longer sessions.

The argument against sync-breaks largely stems from them being unappealing to recreational players who don't want a 5 minute break in the one 50 minute long SNG they are playing (for example). I think this could be at least partially avoided by incorporating my next suggestion...

I'm Ready
An "I'm Ready" button for when sync breaks come into play, but you want to continue would be a great addition. It can be pretty annoying when you're playing heads up in your last game of the session, you have one big blind left and boom, there's a sync break and you have to wait 5 minutes to be put out of your misery.

Again, we saw these utilized on Full Tilt, and although it would probably be wise not to use too many of Full Tilt's ideas(!), I think this one is a clear winner.

Improved hand histories
Currently rebuys and knockouts aren't correctly counted in Hold 'em Manager, as the hand histories PokerStars produced don't allow it (afaik). There is a fairly long winded workaround (posted here) to allow accurate records to be kept, but it would be great if this was unnecessary and the information was available through HEM.

180-man Rebuy
It would be great if more 180-man turbo rebuy tournaments were offered. Since being featured in the "Tourney" tab as well as the "SNG" tab, the $3.50 Rebuy 180-mans have proven to be really popular...even more so than the $8 and $15 turbo freezeouts . It would be excellent if we could see a higher buy-in offered (~$10), and I think perhaps even a smaller buy-in (~$1) would prove to be popular.

Auto-Rebuy (for tournaments)
Most good players will always choose to play with a full stack in a rebuy tournament, and thereby always auto-rebuy before the tournament starts. This requires pressing a couple of buttons, which might not seem all that difficult, but when playing a lot of tables, you can often not notice you haven't re-bought until you are dealt a good hand, when it is too late. If there were an option in the client to always auto-rebuy when a rebuy tournament starts, that would be fantastic. An option to always rebuy / double rebuy when you lose your stack would also be very helpful.

This idea doesn't come without a couple of issues. For example, whereas I always double rebuy in $3.50 180s when I bust, I often choose not to in  2x Turbo or 3x Turbo tournaments, where a double rebuy might only represent a couple of big blinds. Also, what about the $2 Rebuy grinder who decides to take a shot at the $100 Rebuy for one buy-in, but forgets he has made these preset options. He auto-rebuys when the tournament starts and spends $100 he didn't mean to. He then busts, and spends $200 that he wasn't intending to auto-double rebuying!

A potential way around this would be to create detailed options, detailing what buy-ins and speed of tournaments the settings apply to, but of course this makes it more difficult to program. Nevertheless I still think it's a really good idea, and one that is quite often demanded in the 2+2 thread.

Dual Colour Notes
This was actually suggested to me by Jonny, the VIP rep, a few months ago and I think it is a really good idea. It would be great if you could mark people as 2 different colours. This throws out so many more options for colour coding people. I tend to mark terrible players bright green. With this option I could mark them as "Terrible, tight", "Terrible, loose" etc. Half the circle would display one colour, and the other half would display the other.

"Rush Poker"
This isn't really a suggestion, but I thought it was worth mentioning...

Last month PokerStars announced that it is "developing a fast moving ring games product" which they "expect to be available for public beta testing in a few months".

Personally, I'd prefer not to see Rush poker, or a similar product, released on PokerStars. I think it teaches the fish to play tight, which can't be a good thing. (the Rush Poker tables on Full Tilt were renowned for being nit-fests). Also, I think I'd be unlikely to play this, so I'd prefer not to see any traffic being taken away from the SNGs I do play.

But that's just my personal opinion, we'll have to wait and see what happens.

16:9 Tables
Personally, I'm not hugely fussed about this new feature, as 9 tables fit perfectly onto my 30" monitor, but it seems like a reasonable option. Some regs are calling for 16:9 tables as well as 4:3 (as they are currently). It might allow more HUD space which could potentially be a good thing, and would allow for tables to be a better fit on certain monitor configurations.

Run it Twice
Being a SNG player, this doesn't affect me, but it seems like a good idea, and allows those who want to reduce variance to do it. Adding a Run it Twice feature (which you can enable/disable dependant upon your personal choice). The illustration below points out in how it could be done without it having any affect on the speed of the game (see this post for more).

So lots of things for the guys on the Isle of Man to be getting on with :)

To be fair, PokerStars is clearly the market leader when it comes to improving their software. Every couple of months they seem to add new features. To keep up with the updates, you can always check the PokerStars software improvement thread on 2+2 for announcements, and you can see what changes have been made on the PokerStars Software News page.

October 06, 2011

Sunday Million runner-up loses his $148k winnings in just 5 days!

I was intending to write a detailed blog post on this, but had second thoughts. Just yesterday I was discussing the negative effect that sites such as Sharkscope and PokerTableRatings have on online poker, and I felt like it would be a bit brutal/unethical to go too indepth into it.

Nevertheless I decided I was shameless enough to try and get a few blog hits from an eye-catching title :)

So if the blog title interests you, I suggest you check out this thread for the full story:
2+2 Thread: "This week's Sunday Million Runner Up has questionable bankroll managemennt"

Cliff notes:

  • Player Won $148,300 finishing 2nd in the Sunday Million last Sunday (2nd Oct)
  • Proceeded to lose a majority of it in $5,000 Heads Up SNGs
  • Played various stakes Heads Up Hyper Turbo SNGs, and ended up playing $15 heads ups with the remainder of his roll.
  • Busto, and resorting to playing FPP satellites :-/

One has to feel sympathetic, I can't imagine he is feeling too good right now (ldo). Although probably not to this extent, I imagine most people who play poker have at least some experience of degeneracy, and can also empathise with him to some extent.

Considering how many big money winners there are every Sunday, and the number of satellite entries, it's a little surprising that you don't hear about this kind of thing more often. The last time a player gained this notoriety was perhaps 'bommel222' who won $30,000 by finishing in 2nd place in the Guinness World Record breaking largest online poker tournament ever held (which had just a $1 entry fee, and over 149,000 entrants), and proceeded to lose all his winnings in just 67 hands playing $200/400 FLHE and $25/50 NLHE.

One feels compelled to remind everyone of the excellent Gaming Controls available on PokerStars.

You can self-exclude yourself from playing above a certain limit in cash-games, tournaments and sit and gos.

If that isn't sufficient, you can also completely self exclude yourself from PokerStars for a set amount of time (there are 12 and 24 hour durations, as well as 7, 30, 60 and 120 day durations).

Both of these processes are irreversible. Find out more here:

September 22, 2011


After an enforced 6 week break from poker (I moved house, and it took me this long for somebody to provide me with broadband, 3rd company lucky), I came back from my honeymoon (where me, my new wife and our son went on our first holiday away as a family to Salou in Spain) super-motivated and ready to get back to grinding on PokerStars.

I planned to start with good habits not check my results until two days after they had happened, wake up nice and early and put in a solid two sessions a day. I tend to find it much harder to not check results when I can tell it's going particularly badly, and somewhere in the middle of day three I gave in and had a look. I wished I hadn't, it was going terribly!

The most surprising thing to me was how badly 18-man SNGs were going. Prior to this month I had played 22,000 of them and always sustained a solid graph, and had been fortunate to suffer no worse than an 80 buy-in downswing in that time.

By the end of my 7th day of play since I got back, I was an unbelievable 130 buy-ins down. I had bubbled more times than I thought possible, and finished 1st less times than I'd finished in any other final table position, which seemed unfathomable!

Of course to be doing this badly (I had a -16.4% ROI over 600 games) I had to be running like death, and I was. But the problem with poker is that running like death can make you think that luck is solely to blame for your downswing, when in reality you might be playing poorly as well. A fish who repeatedly limps QJ offsuit UTG, gets repeatedly jammed on for 15 big blinds, and calls only to always be up against pocket tens and repeatedly lose will likely blame rotten luck for him losing all the time, when in reality his bad play is largely to blame.

I did a couple of review sessions within my downswing, and checked some trouble hands each day. There were definitely a couple of things I was doing wrong, which I blame on being 'rusty', and I think I am gradually playing better each day. Jared Tendler wrote an interesting article which explains that:
"One of the unknown problems you face after a break is remembering all the new things you had learned prior to the break, those aspects of your game which you hadn't mastered yet"
In retrospect I think I dived headfirst into playing too many tables, and playing too big a variety of format (6-max, 18-mans, 45-mans, 180-mans etc) than I was able to cope with.

The last two weeks has been the toughest spell I have had since I started playing MTT-SNGs in mid-2009. I worked really hard every day, putting in 9-10 hours at the tables, only to be continuously anally raped. Putting in that amount of time is hard enough when you're making good money, but when you're losing it, it's quite soul destroying!

As you may have guessed from the fact I am writing a blog post on it (something which is so much easier to do when things are going well as opposed to badly!), things have started to go better, and after 2 weeks and 90 hours at the tables, I am just about break-even before rakeback in my SNGs, and have reduced my 18-man buy-in downswing to 40 buy-ins.

So I'm feeling a bit better about things, and lets hope I can push on and actually earn some money for the month! Below are some graphs from September:

epitomised, 18-man SNGs 6th-14th September (by buy-in)
epitomised, 18-man SNGs September (by buy-in)
epitomised, all SNGs September (by $ amount)

September 17, 2011

My Wedding Day...

My apologies for the length of time between posts recently, I've just been ridiculously busy. Probably don't move house and get married in the same month if you don't want to be ridiculously busy!

Me and my new wife got married on 27th August, and the day went about as well as you could ever expect it to, so I was really happy. We ended up being really pleased to hold it all at The Bentley Hotel in Lincoln, who did a great job, and it was so easy with everything being all in one place (the ceremony, the meal, the reception and a place to stay that evening).

There was a little bit of panic before it all got started. There was a crash on the bypass in Lincoln in the late morning, and gridlock on the damn roads I was travelling on and knew people coming to the wedding would prefer to be clear! After dropping Clark off at the Bentley in the morning having looked after him that evening, I picked my best man up and fortunately he has some supreme knowledge of all the back roads around here so we could get ready in time.

Panic number two was that Liz hadn't ironed my shirt! Apparently she didn't want to take on board her wifely duties a day too soon! The thing is I have probably ironed about 5 shirts in my entire life, I'm a "let the creases fall out while it's hanging in the wardrobe" kinda guy. I gave it a go, but was scared of ballsing it up, and with only 90 minutes to the wedding I made the rather shameful decision to take it to my mum for her to iron, lolz.

Everyone had been asking me for months if I was nervous about the wedding. I always thought this was a bit of a silly question as me and Liz have lived together for 4 years and have a two year old boy, I think we had already done the commitment side of getting married. Nevertheless I was getting butterflies the hour before the ceremony.

Liz looked absolutely gorgeous walking down the aisle to this really beautiful Alicia Keys song:

The ceremony was quick and went without a hitch, although I was rather thrown off when I was told to put Liz's wedding ring on her right hand ring finger and not on the finger with her engagement ring on it. This is because the wedding ring goes underneath the engagement ring (Liz informed me after, thanks for the heads up!).

Liz had allowed me to name the tables after wrestlers, wiiiiii, so after the ceremony I went to sit on Shawn Michaels. Let's hope that's the last time I say that. After a really nice meal it was time for the speeches. I was actually pretty nervous about my speech, although obviously it's the best man has the main speech. Being the exceptionally organised person I am, I had written it the night before, so it wasn't exactly memorised though I did have my flash cards to guide me along.

Apparently my two best poker mates who came to the wedding, Dan Carter and Stu Rutter, had a prop-bet on how long it would be and they had the under/over respectively at 11 minutes. It actually went really well, although perhaps I was a little self-indulgent after they told me I had rabbited on for 16 minutes! They also had a drinking game going where whenever I said "Liz", Dan would have to down some drink and whenever I said "Thanks" Stu did. Trust poker players to do something like this at your wedding lolz. They actually called a truce half way through as they were both getting crushed!

My best man, Aston, did a really good job with his speech, he got a lot of laughs, and although he brought up a fair few embarrassing stories, it was all very funny (except perhaps for the embarrassing photo of me wearing only paper pants at a Spa in the Dominican Republic that he had somehow gotten his hands on and put a copy of on each table, gfdhsgfgdhgjsdf!!). He ended the speech with a joke that got a lot of laughs: "Somebody told me today that James is going to Spain for a week for his honeymoon. This confused me, as I thought he was going to North Wales after I spoke to him and he said he was going to Bangor all week!"

The whole day actually flew by, as I was basically talking the whole time to different people. I did my best to speak to everyone that came, but we had ~80 guests so it wasn't all that easy dividing my time up. Although it was difficult I did really enjoy it and it was really nice to have all my friends and family in the same place at once. Ironically the only time I really got to spend with my new wife was during our first dance!

I didn't end up having much to drink as I was just so busy talking most of the time, but that's probably not such a bad thing! I was absolutely shattered by the time it all finished at midnight. Me and Liz had the honeymoon suite at the hotel, but let's just say Clark slept between us! Although actually that was really nice, as he had been the most amazing little boy all day. He was really well behaved and had such a good time playing with all the other children that came to the wedding.

We haven't got the official photographs back yet, so I have just added a few that other people took, and below are a few video clips that my Auntie and Uncle kindly took throughout the day...

August 24, 2011

British Poker Awards 2011 nomination. ORLY?!

I am very pleased to have been nominated for the "Best Blogger" award in The British Poker Awards 2011.

I was even more pleased before I checked out the other categories and nominations. I mean just lol at some of them:

Roland de Wolfe is nominated for "Best Cash Game Player" and "Best Poker Personality". Roland seems a very likeable guy, but I think "nicest donk" would be a more apt category.

"Best PLO Player" sees the Devilfish and John Shipley get nominations. Perhaps these nominations are retrospective, seeing as the British Poker Awards are only in their second year, and they are making up for not existing in the year 2000?!

"Best Social Media User" sees Keith "the Camel" Hawkins get a nomination. I like @keiththecamel, but even he has probably had a laugh about this one. A solid 90% of his tweets are about football ffs! Even more comic is Sam Trickett's inclusion in this category. @Trickett1986 has made all of 119 tweets, and only 57 people like his Facebook Page! To be fair he is probably too busy making shit-loads of money to use Twitter or Facebook much.

I'm thinking my edge in the "Best Blogger" category might be the fact I am on the only nominee who has a dedicated RSS feed for their own content! "Really Simple Syndication" apparently isn't so simple after all!

Conspicuous by his absence in the Best Blogger category is the author of the self-proclaimed "Best Poker Blog in the World™" Daleroxxu, who apparently isn't even the Best Blogger in Great Britain! Or even one of the top 5 for that matter! Unlucky Dale. I hope you ship the Best Social Media User award though. I was going to vote for you, but I swerved at the last minute and decided to vote for Keith Hawkins. I mean, I'm quite a big football fan myself after all!

Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the award ceremony as I shall be on my honeymoon, but I'm sure I can conjure up a YouTube acceptance speech! So if you'd like to make that a possibility, vote for me @ :)

August 15, 2011

Dusk Till Dawn facing €100,000+ overlay...

Dusk Till Dawn, not only my local poker-room but considered by many to be the best poker-room in the UK, is facing a killer overlay in its €250,000 Guaranteed tournament, which began on Monday 8th August and will finish on Sunday 21st August 2011.

After breaking the record for the biggest poker tournament held in the UK this May, with 1564 players taking to the felt in the €50+10 tournament, DTD almost immediately afterwards announced their highly ambitious follow up, another €50+10 tournament which would be guaranteed at a massive 5000 entrants. The way they set out to achieve this was to have 20 Day 1 'flights', 10 scheduled on-line and 10 being held live at the club. The top 10% of the field would make it through to Day 2 where everyone would start with even stacks, and players could enter as many Day 1 flights as they desired/required until they made Day 2.

It isn't hard to see that the Day 1s are really glorified satellites into what is effectively a €500 tournament, albeit one in which you are guaranteed some money back (as all those making it through to Day 2 will receive some pay-out). Perhaps it is this format which some have been either deterred or confused by. Some have argued that the beauty behind the previous Grand Prix tournaments that DTD have run (this is their fourth) was that they were pitched perfectly for the recreational players to have a one-time punt on a tournament with a good structure and a big prizepool. I think even the fishier players could be wise to the fact they are mathematically likely to fire multiple bullets to stand a decent chance of making it through to the 'real' tournament on Day Two, making it potentially out of their bankroll.

So whilst DTD regularly attract 300+ players for it's monthly £336 tournament, entry to this similarly priced €500 tournament isn't available by direct buy-in. They have also made it so that you must buy-in for the live tournaments through their online software, in order to promote their online poker-room and gain sign-ups. Both of these things may end up costing them a fair few entrants.

Although the format has come in for some criticism, a very similar format has proven popular Stateside, with the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles running two small buy-in $1,000,000 guaranteed tournaments so far this year; one in May/June, and one that finished just a week ago. They also had 20 Day 1 'flights', where you could also play as many Day 1s as you needed, and in which you could re-enter to the same one for the first 4 levels if required. Their version differed in that only the top 2% (in the May/June tournament) and 4% (in the July/August tournament) of the Day 1 field would go through to Day 2, and retain their stack size, and the remainder of the top 10% would receive cash payouts. So it was no less confusing then(!)

Although a whopping 9328 entries were made in May/June, and a $67,200 overlay was incurred on the prizepool, this was more than covered by the rake, and was deemed enough of a success for them to repeat the tournament just two months later, albeit with a couple of tweaks. They made the July/August tournament,which was attached to the WPT Legends of Poker festival, a $125+25 buy-in, and allowed each entrant 1 optional re-buy. This ended up attracting an absolutely massive 13,178 entries and $1.45 million prize-pool.

So the evidence suggests such a format could work, so perhaps if DTD were to tweak a few things, then Grand Prix V (should they choose to run it), could be more of a success than it appears IV is going to be. Perhaps they could also allow for an optional rebuy next time, and perhaps merging the online and live domains for one tournament wasn't the best idea...although extra online tournaments are now vital for reducing the potential overlay as much as possible.

The figures for the Day 1 flights at Dusk Till Dawn, and on their online site, have been disappointing, and have obviously fallen far below what they were anticipating given the huge potential overlay. Based on the numbers they have so far, a €120,000 overlay is being projected. Not exactly what owner Rob Yong wants to hear whilst trying to enjoy his holiday in the Caribbean!

In an attempt to reduce this potential overlay, DTD have added 24 extra Day 1s on-line, so are now running four tournaments in the evening at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm for the rest of the week, until Day 2 commences on Saturday 20th August. They have also made all the remaining Day 1s (live and on-line) available for re-entry into the same flight.

Yours truly was fortunate enough to qualify for Day Two in his first attempt in one of the online tournaments (wiiii I got a sick brag in). Technically it would be within my best interests for the overlay to be as big as possible (as this would mean I have to fight through less opponents for the same prizepool), but I have no desire to see Dusk Till Dawn fail, and for them to be stuck with a huge bill. Ok, you could argue that it is their fault for being overly ambitious, but it is for this reason that the venue even exists, and why it has raised the bar in terms of poker in the UK. Although I'm mostly an on-line grinder, it's nice to have such a great card-room within an hours drive.

Depending on your interpretation of the tournament, you could say with 100% satellite entries, this could be the softest €500 tournament field you are likely to ever get, so if you are in the UK, support Dusk Till Dawn and check out how you can play here.

August 13, 2011

Moving House & internet woes...

I just checked and it's been over 3 weeks since I wrote a blog post! Not only that it's nearly 3 weeks since I even played a hand of poker. After a hectic period of time moving house, I'm now gradually going insane waiting for internet to be properly installed in my new house...

Moving house at this point in time wasn't really in our plans, we thought we'd stay put for the time being. Me, my bride-to-be and our near 2-year old son Clark had only been living in our previous house for about 18 months. However we saw this really nice 4 bedroom house to rent that would set us up for the next few years in the village we lived in. We applied for it, got it, but it fell through and the letting agents tried to find us another similar place a little further away. We weren't too interested, that is until we saw it. It's a really nice 4-bedroom house on a virtually brand new estate, but the coup de grâs is that it has a double garage that has been converted into an office, which is so perfect for me!

So we decided to go for it, and started moving our stuff at the very end of July. Being only 5 minutes away, we decided to do it ourselves, renting a big van for day and doing the rest in car loads. I didn't realise how much bloody stuff we had. The whole process was pretty epic and there was a fair cross-over period in which we were moving stuff, and trying to get both houses looking nice (one for living in purposes and one so we get our deposit back!).

Unfortunately in moving I made a bit of an oversight. When I checked to see if we could get fibre-optic cable our address wasn't listed, but the house right next door was, so I idly assumed I'd be able to get it. Apparently not. The cable is a few meters away and they are only willing to go up to 3m. I tried my best to explore the options, and asked for a quote to get the work done, but haven't received it. With good internet being so important to my job this was a rather stupid oversight. Okay, I've got the perfect house with a sweet office, but losing that 50MB broadband connection which was so reliable/awesome really isn't good. Especially when it turns out my house is a rather-large 2 miles from the exchange, and that's as the crow flies, not considering cable length.

I had to wait until the 8th August for Virgin to come and install the ADSL, and I was sweating big time what speed I was going to get and I was anxious to get on PokerStars and start grinding 20 $1 tables to see how it coped. Unfortunately, it seems that they didn't install it correctly (or at least BT didn't on their behalf) and here I am 5 days later still internetless (my spell-checker informs me I may have just invented a word). I'm relying on my mobile dongle for internet access but with no 3G connection, I'm not trusting enough of it to 20-table with no back-up, although it's starting to look like I might have to experiment with it in all fairness. Anyway, I have cut Virgin loose and have got Sky on the job, who are supposed to offer slightly better speeds due to LLU, I just hope they get it sorted ASAP because I am starting to go insane not being able to play poker.

I have all these house-related outgoings, not to mention my standard out-goings, and I have to pay off the last bit of my wedding which is in two weeks, so I really could do with earning some money right now to at the very least make me feel a bit less stressed out. But not only that, I know I am going to be unable to play whilst on our honeymoon and presumably the wedding will eat up a bunch of time as well. So the whole of August looks set to be a wash-out, and considering how much I was crushing January-March, it feels like I've barely earnt anything over the last 4-5 months.

I have to look at the positives, and realise that I'm essentially set-up here for the next few years, until I perhaps have a shot at getting a mortgage. In the long-term BT infinity should be brining their 40MB broadband in about a year. So as long as when I get the internet finally sorted it is sufficient for me to play, and I absolutely grind my arse off for the remainder of the year after the honeymoon, I will feel better about things. But I'm really anxious to get back to the tables after such a long spell off.

In my lack of blog posts I have missed a few things I'd like to talk about, so I will do some short and snappy (an optimistic claim for blabby old me, I realise) posts on these topics over the coming days:

  • My Sky Poker TV appearance
  • My nomination for "Best Blog" in the The British Poker Awards
  • Daleroxxu
  • The DTD €250,000 Grand Prix (I kind of lied, I played one lone tournament the other day and managed to bink a day 2 seat)
  • My Poker Set-Up 2011 (will post up some pics of my new office when I've tidied it up a bit)

I've actually posted this video once before, but it's still awesome/very applicable to the last couple of weeks for me!

July 21, 2011

Television appearances + PokerStars Speed

European Blackjack Open
So last week I went to film the European Blackjack Open in London after being invited on a freeroll by Poker Heaven, where I used to play poker a couple of years ago. It turned out to be a really fun day. There were 14 other entrants, and I was pleased to discover they were mostly on a similar level to me, where they had read a few charts before hand and perhaps vaguely understood tournament strategy, but not too much beyond this.

Most of the players played poker so we had plenty to chat about. I think I was knocked out of my heat in about 6 hands (you only played 10). Sigh, I lost 4 "flips" out of 6 so no shot at the €5,000 prize for me. Ironically the guy that ended up winning was the only player I noticed who lacked any knowledge of blackjack strategy, ie. he did stuff like standing on 15 with the dealer showing 10, and hit on 12 with the dealer showing 6, not to mention his betting made no sense, he had a chance to bet the minimum and go through the heat as best runner up, but he decided to bet a random amount and fortunately for him he won. Skill game then!

After a few drinks at the Casino at the Empire, where it was held (where they still have WSOP-E posters plastered all over the place, might want to take those down now chaps. How they ever held this tournament here is beyond me, it's bloody tiny, the whole casino is probably 1/10 the size of the Amazon Room at the Rio), we headed out for this absolutely lush meal at a French Restaurant. I was a little bit cheeky ordering the Fillet Steak, with Poker Heaven picking up the tab, and we all seemed to have more than our fair share of red-wine, but it was trés bien!

After the meal we all drunkenly headed to this karaoke place called "Karaoke Box". You all get put in a large booth and they bring drinks to you when you push the button (I need to get one of those installed at home!) I kind of like karaoke as it gives me a chance to rap, I tend to roll out one of the classics (This time I gave Boom! Shake the Room a twirl) and then freestyle the last verse. It went down pretty well, although freestyling is a lot more difficult when you're wasted, so I'm sure I jumbled my words here or there.

After the karaoke bar I headed off with one of the guys, called Karim, and we ended up getting on a bike-with-a-carriage to take us to the bar he was taking us to (sounds kind of gay now I'm typing it, but it wasn't!). A couple of minutes later these two European guys came up to us and started drunkenly hugging us. I was thinking "this is a bit weird", and the next thing I knew Karim was chasing after them down the street. I padded myself down and nothing was gone, and he had his laptop with him but it was in the carriage which held on to, so I was a bit confused. It turns out they nicked his £3k watch though, sigh. On top of that he had a gash in his leg after hitting a car whilst chasing them. So he called the police and we had to give a description of what happened and stuff, and he ended up having to take an Ambulance to get stitches in his leg. So a bit of an epic fail of an ending to the night, and I feel bad for Karim, but I still had an awesome time all in all (I didn't feel awesome the next day, ugh!).

Sky Poker
Later today I'm heading back down to London to appear as an analyst on Sky Poker's "Sky Roller" show at 8pm. It's a 4-hour long live show, so I'm pretty nervous, but I'm looking forward to it! I believe I'm essentially analysing hands from two MTTs that are being played at the time on Sky Poker, with random chat and banter inbetween.

Anna Fowler and Tikay will be presenting which is cool because I actually met Anna at the EBO I talked about above, as she was presenting that too, and she's really nice and we got on well. I've known Tikay since I first got started in poker, and it's always good to chat with him, so it should be good fun.

If you are interested in watching it's on Channel 865 on Sky, or you can watch the channel via this link from the Sky Poker website.

PokerStars Dealing Speed
It looks like some good changes have been made to the PokerStars client, which have sped up dealing time in SNGs, MTTs and Ring Games.

The start time for 2-18 man SNGs has also been reduced. Regular and Turbo SNGs with these number of entrants now begin after 20 seconds, a big decrease from the 60 seconds they were before (Hyper-turbos now start in 10 seconds). I'm definitely happy about getting rid of this dead time, as those 40-seconds for every SNG soon add up.

The increase in dealing speeds should also mean getting in extra hands per hour, which should be a good thing in relation to increasing ROI a little, although I'll be keeping an eye on how many tables I can manage at the new speeds!

It's quite weird watching all-in showdowns for the time being, as I became so accustomed to their previous speed. Now the turn and river just go boom boom. At least it speeds up the pain when you get sucked out on, much like pulling off a plaster. In truth, watching showdowns is a waste of time an emotion anyway, so this is definitely a positive change.

Read the full announcement about the changes here.