Having been on a major cooler since earning the title of APAT UK Champion, and having received much feedback about simply being lucky when winning in Walsall, I was determined to make a good showing in Cardiff at the APAT Welsh Championship, if only to demonstrate that Walsall wasn't just a weekend of luckbox poker.
I left in plenty of time to get to Cardiff for lunch, and decided to pop in to see my Dad on the way.... having been ill for some time, it made a pleasant change to find him in good spirits, and that set me up with a good mood for the journey to Cardiff. The good mood dissipated a little when my TomTom took me to a housing estate instead of a casino - perhaps I should have learned from the same mistake made last year!!
Arrived at the casino in time to grab a beer before seating began for the tournament.... but wished I'd had a few more when I saw that Gareth Ower and Darren Shallis (both APAT champs) were both sat to my left!! No hanging around today though - had made a conscious decision to play fast and aggressive from the off.
Toward the end of Level One I started to realise why I had the luckbox title - Darren Shallis raised under the gun and I called from the button with QQ. The flop was AT4... Darren checked and I checked behind, scared to death of the Ace, and ready to fold if Darren had made a c-bet. The turn was a J, and now Darren lead out for a bet sized at half the pot..... I decided to call thinking that as he had checked the ace hig flop, there was a marginal chance I was ahead, plus I was getting 3:1 on the call, and hopefully may get to a showdown fairly cheaply. The river was a magical K giving me the nut straight - Darren bet again, and even though there was four to a straight on the board, he couldn't possibly fold to the small raise I issued. So - chip leader at the table by end of Level One.
Within a few moments I had a similar river catch for another broadway straight against another player, and was tournament chip leader by the first break!! Woohoo - see, Walsall was not just a fluke!!
Stayed fairly steady during the second session, then managed to find myself in a monster hand just before the dinner break. Ger Smyth raised under the gun to 3xBB and with a caller in mid position, I was getting good odds to call from the BB with QcJc..... the flop came a rather tempting Kc Jh 8c giving me middle pair and the second nut flush draw. I checked to Ger who made his c-bet, and I figured I was against AK or AA, meaning at this point I was just about favourite to win the hand. I tanked and after having a clock called, decided to shove.... Ger called and showed his AA..... and I binked a third J on the river! WOOP WOOP!!
Chip Leader at the dinner break - see, told you Walsall wasn't a fluke!!
Continued to play well (and run well) through the evening session and stayed on or around the chip lead, and was starting to believe that back to back APAT wins was a possibility. Then, at around 11:15pm I got a horrible call from home - Dad had been rushed to hospital in an ambulance with chest pains and breathing difficulties.
A call to the hospital and a 20 minute conversation with the consultant suggested that he wasn't in imminent danger, and was being stabilised with breathing apparatus. I decided to continue playing, and to visit hospital in the morning, and then come back to Cardiff if things were OK.
Only problem was, when I returned to the tables, my 70k tournament leading stack had reduced to around 45k with antes and blinds being taken in my absence. My mind and heart were no longer really in the right zone, and I just sat and waited for a big hand, which didn't come. At around 1am, I was in a position where I was looking to return with only 35k on Sunday, and with blinds scheduled to start at 3000/6000 this was just too short to make the journey worthwhile under the circumstances. I decided to push all in blind on the last hand of the day in an effort to gain a playable stack for day two, or go home and concentrate on other things.... I lost the hand, but thankfully was left with 2050 chips in change which meant I could at least claim to have made Day Two of another APAT National Championship!
Got home at 2.50am, into bed at 3am, and the phone rang at 3.04. Dad had suffered a full respiratory failure and I was to get to the hospital immediately, and to expect the worst. When I arrived he was laying in a bed in Intensive Care, with tubes and pipes in every available orifice. A scary sight!! His lungs had packed up, and the machine was doing the breathing for him.
Thankfully two days later, his sedation was stopped and his lungs responded. He's now off the life support system, and back in a standard ward where he will stay for around a week.
For sometime now, my addiction to poker has over-ridden all other matters in my life. Last weekend brought it home that there are things in life far more important than poker!!
That said, my passion is not reduced in any way, and I can't wait for Dublin. Given that I won't be able to race home at the drop of a hat, I just hope and pray than things remain stable at home.