The APAT tour rolled on with the latest leg being played in Dublin. Having never gone abroad just to play poker, it was with great excitement that I started counting the number of sleeps til Dublin from about four weeks out - haven't done that since I was 12 and counting down to christmas!!
5am Saturday morning and the alarm went off to let me know I could get up - I would say "wake up", but to do that I would have needed to have slept. As for Saturday having a 5am - that was news to me!!
Bag packed and off to the airport - first challenge was finding somewhere to park. Having paid in advance for long stay parking, I thought this bit would be easy. Think again. 10 minutes driving round a seemingly endless array of parked cars in a space that would have accomodated umpteen football pitches, I finally found a space that wasn't a four day hike from the terminal building and squeezed in (literally).
Met up with my travelling companions Brian Yates (top bloke, Black Country Poker club secretary, and reigning APAT Welsh Online champion), and Maclolm Howells (new to APAT and eager to get stuck in). Couldn't wish for a nicer pair to travel with.
Next - the departure gate. Of course I was able to skip the queues at check in as I was taking hand luggage only, and had checked in online. As an infrequent traveller who hadn't botherered to read the small print about hand luggage contents, I watched in dismay as my entire toiletries bag was removed from my luggage and dropped into a bin by the kind lady behind the x-ray machine. Shower gel, toothpaste, anti-perspirant, mouthwash - all discarded by an apparently sympathetic person telling me that she had to do this in case I was making a bomb from the liquid contents. I'm sure that the gobfull of Listerine that was left in the bottle could have caused someone a nasty itch if I managed to get it in their eye, but not quite sure how I could have blown up the plane with it. Never mind - through departure and into Boots and purchased the whole lot again (at nicely inflated airport prices) and off to the gate.
Met up with a few other travelling APATers, including Stuart Langford who was shedding a tear having had to pay £20 for a reprint of his boarding pass (nothing fancy - just an A4 page printed from a website that he had already done once at home, but lost at the airport)! Sorry Stuart - but boy did we laugh at that one, particularly when Malcolm went to the same desk and managed to blag a reprint of his for free!! :o)
Uneventful flight on a plane with a vivid yellow interior. God knows what the RyanAir brand designer had been drinking when he came up with that colour scheme - I suspect it may have been Advocat!
Landed in Dublin and met up with Sam and Will - two brothers that Brian knew from previous poker outings - who were travelling from Belfast to Dublin for the tournament. The quiet journey in the car hid the weekend full of laughs that was to come from these guys. Note to self - don't ever make a 1 Euro bet with Sam - I cannot win!!
Having dropped the bags at the hotel, and taken a tram into the beautiful city of Dublin, stomach's were rumbling and the time was right for lunch - so off to Larry Murphy's for a couple of pints of Guinness in the sunshine. Food? For wimps!!
14:30 Saturday afternoon - excitement reaching fever pitch as everyone was seated in the Fitzwilliam Card Club, and the TD called out for the dealers to Shuffle Up and Deal. Hopefully I would get a good rush of cards, big pots, lots of chips, a few knockouts, and would be chip leader at the Dinner Break, just like Cardiff. Things didn't quite go as hoped, although I was never in trouble - just took down a few small pots, and kept my stack intact. A couple of pints during he dinner break, and I loosened up a little in the evening session, and managed to make day two with a 28k stack (blinds were 1500/3000 - so a little shorter stacked than I would have liked!).
Having won round 1 in Walsall, then suffered issues away from the table during round 2 in Cardiff but still scraping to day two, I was chuffed to make day two in Dublin and maintain my 100% record of day two progressions during Season 3's live schedule.
Back at the hotel on Saturday evening, some pillock (er, me) suggested a quick €10 sit and go - even though it was after 2am. With 6 of us playing, three of us took it in the correct spirit and donked our chips away as fast as we could so we could have a kip whilst the other three played as if it were the WSOP Main Event final table. Believe it or not - at 3.10am, they decided to do a deal and chopped up the €60 in a 3 way split!! I'm sure Brian would have seen the funny side of this and had a laugh, had he not been sprawled across the leather sofa snoring like a tractor.
Given that we didn't need to be at the Card Club until 2pm on Sunday, and we didn't get into bed until nearly 4am, we decided to not worry about the breakfast schedule, and just to sleep through for as long as felt good...... that was until Sam called at 7am to tell us it was morning and he hadn't been to bed! Cheers mate!!
Day two was going to be an interesting affair for me. I had committed not to let my short stack bleed away, and would be all in with any two cards in the first hand that folded round to me. It didn't take long to get my chips in, although with no callers - but the blinds and antes were massive in relation to my stack size, so two more uncontested shoves later, and I had some breathing space. Then, for the first time in the tournament I was at risk - I called all in with AQ against Will Young's (not that Will Young!) shove with 55, and hit a Q. Two hands later I was at risk again having called all in from the big blind with 99 against a button shove froma big stack with A10.... 9s held, and I was above average stack for the first time in the competition.
In Cardiff I was the big stack all day, right from Level1 until late evening when things away from the table turned sour. In Dublin, I had a completely different tournament, and nursed a short stack all the way to the brink of the final table. Unfortunately the wheels came off when my short stack shove with 33 on a 5 handed table was called by QQ (Will Young again!) and I was out in 10th, bubbling the final table.
Chuffed, elated, and gutted, all at the same time. Kind of wierd feeling.
The disappointment was soon forgotten as my travel companion, room mate, and good friend, went on to use his large chip stack to great effect throughout the final table, and to win the championship! Massive congratulations to Brian Yates. The timing could not have been better for Brian, having suffered a family bereavement a couple of days before the event - this win was dedicated to his father in law. Brian, if you read this, just know that he would have been watching from above and sharing your excitement and enjoyment throughout. You played it like a pro, and so deserved the victory.
So, with Brian, Will, Malcolm, and myself all making the cash, our party (7 of us) went to grab a quick beer before the pubs shut. It was around 11:30 as we arrived at the first pub, and thinking that we might only have a few minutes, the first pint and chaser didn't touch the sides before the next round was poured. Of course, we would have taken it slower had we realised the pubs would be serving until 3am!! There were several rather green faces in the back of the taxi minibus - I just had everything crossed that we would get to the hotel before the inevitable happened.
Barf. More barf. Headaches a plenty. Crappy overpriced hotel breakfast didn't help much.
Airport - need water. Buy big bottle. Off to departure gate to watch it thrown in the bin - flipping heck, don't we learn!! Unlike the mouthwash, I really don't know what injury I could cause with a bottle of cold sprint water, even if it did cost me €4!
On to the plane - Oh My God, remember the yellow colour scheme I mentioned earlier? It was bad enough sober, but with a stinging hangover........ Sat at the back in the seat nearest the toilet (just in case, you understand)
Landed, said goodbyes, found car, drove home, end of story.
A bloody marvellous weekend. Dublin is a helluva city, with some lovely people. To be in a foreign country but to made to feel so welcome by such friendly people was just awesome. Due to the poor £ to € exchange rate, the weekend was extremely expensive (over €5 a pint!), but well worth it.
I like to consider that the organisers and players on the APAT tour are included amongst my best friends. The tour rolls on to Edinburgh in July..... can't come quickly enough!