I put it in the title of this post, but I just gotta type it again.... UK Amateur Poker Champion!! Wow that feels good.
Arrived at Walsall on Saturday with the usual mix of nervousness and excitement going into an APAT National, and unlike previous competitions where I had set my goal at making the dinner break, I was a little more ambitious this time and decided I wanted to get to day two. The new slower tournament structure certainly helped that ambition as 47 people made day two, as opposed to the 23 that would make day two under the previous structure.
I had a gameplan that I stuck to right from the start. In previous APAT Nationals I had played far too tight, and was definitely playing scared of an early exit - this time I accepted that I could be out early, but if I was, it would be through playing "proper poker". During the first two levels I probably played around 30% of hands, opening with a raise for most of them. Did the new loose "Gus Hansen" style work? er...... well 7 hours after the tourney started I managed to increase my stack back up to the dizzy heights of my starting stack!!
BUT, then it happened.... for the first time in seven hours I was at risk, with my AKo getting all in preflop against QQ, and also called behind by another AKo.... oops, looked like being home in time for bed...... until the 4 outer hit, the QQ was out, and the two AKs breathed a sigh of relief. For the first time I was above my starting stack.
Lift off!! Didn't look back - pushed on to around 30k chips, had a great read on the whole table, and was taking charge. "Big Blind please" said the TD - bugger, that's me, and I was off to a new table.
In keeping with my new found loose style, I simply had to open for a raise UTG in first hand on new table with A10 - didn't really like getting a call though. An Ace on the flop looked nice, but the hand got a little scary when my lead out bet was called. Turn checked, and then without knowing where I was, a little stopper bet on the river felt right..... scared to death that I would be re-raised, but thankfully a flat call from another A10 - pot chopped. Whew!
Courtesy of winning a race with AA v flush draw, had a tasty double up to over 60k, and feeling very strong now....... so, time to move tables again. Saw the evening out at the new table, and finished day one as tournament chip leader with 84k - feeling great about life right now.
Home to bed by 2.30am to lie in the dark seeing hearts and spades, chips and cards, and listening to ghostly voices raising and calling. I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes at one point - not really sure.
Sunday - 13:00 arrived at the casino to drink coffee and watch the football..... eyelids already heavy, and we still have 90 minutes til day two starts!
We're off and running - just need to push on with my chip lead and put msyelf into contention for the final table...... just need a hand now........... any hand with a picture card will do............ any hand higher than a 6 will bo ok.............. OK this isn't funny - two hours in, and hardly played a hand - that was definitely not the plan. All change - moved tables, thank god for that. No disrespect to Alan Armitage, but I really did not like sitting on his right with his monster stack staring at me!
New table, new dealer, new cards - much more like it. Pushing on again. New player at the table after an hour..... Alan bloody Armitage!! Slowed down again.
Sitting in the small blind with around 240k - somewhere near the chip lead. All fold round to me and I look down at A10 - time to make the easy steal from the big blind - all in........ big blind insta calls and shows AJ oooooooooops - that was not the plan! Looks like I will be down to 80k and amongst the short stacks. Oh well - still time to recover. We both missed the flop - I asked the poker gods for a 10, and the turn was a glorious and beautiful 10 of clubs..... suitably humble, I shook the guys hand and mumbled something about being sorry (of course I wasn't sorry!). Up to 400k, and significant chip leader!
All fairly standard from here to the final table, and landed with 458k - second place had around 260k. Oh my God - that presenter bloke from Sky Poker just came over and asked for an interview....... I'm gonna be on Tele!!!
So, big stack on final table - shall I sit sight and wait for the big hands? Will I heckers like!! 8 high looks good for a first hand raise - pot taken. Couple of hands later on the button to Noe's Big Blind and I look down at 55..... standard 3xBB raise to look like an obvious button steal, knowing I was insta-calling if SB or BB shoved.... Noe called. First card on flop was a 5... Noe checked, and knowing she only played big cards, I thought a small steal type bet might induce action, but sadly Noe lost faith in her AQ and let it go :(
Here starts the roller coaster - from big stack to middle stack to small stack to big stack again - that was my final table story as other players dropped out along the way. Down to last three, and SirPercival is micro-stacked..... so I decided to double him up. Then, having given a dangerous player some chips to play with, I decided to double him up again, and give him a proper stack that he could damage me with - not my best move of the weekend!!
SirPercival all in with AK - me calling with 99, and a 9 on the board, and Tod and I are Headsup for the title. How the hell did I get here? What was going on? Someone pinch me and wake me up.
Tod playing a little more aggresively headsup than he had in past half hour - needed to be careful here as I didn't think I would be getting any bluffs though. He looks tired and will probably call me down with any picture card..... standard button raise from Tod and I find 79 suited - perfect hand to shove all in and try and take the pot away from Tod....... hang on, didn't I just say he would probably be calling me light? Oh yeah - and guess what, I got called..... he showed KQ. Oh well - racing, but starting somewhere behind the start line. Flop 28Q - not good, hands on head, crowd chuntering, tv camera zooming in - this is the moment when it all finishes. I need a miracle, and a big one at that - I need running cards to save this one. Turn...... J!!!! Ok now I have 4 outs. I decided once again to pray to the poker gods for a 10, and just like last time they duly complied!! (reminder to self to make sacrifice to poker gods to thank them for their generosity!)
So, Tod down to under 200k, and I have 1.8m - just a matter of time. My button next hand and I look down at 62...... fold. Next hand Tod shoves with 93 and I call with two 85 - Tod wins and is up to 400k.... must make sure I don't double him up again. Next hand I look down at my first card which is a Q - don't need to see the second card... All In...... Tod calls and shows J6 - I hope to see something big with my Q.... sadly only a 3, but I'm going to the flop in the lead, and when two Qs hit the board........
.....and after 22 hours of poker, I am UK Amateur Poker Champion!!
What a weekend!!
Many thanks to APAT, to Des, Tighty, Tikay, to the guys from Sky Poker, and to everyone who entered and helped to make this such a memorable weekend for me. I had a blast guys!!
Onwards to Cardiff for the Welsh National Championship in April.