So having counted down the hours, minutes, and seconds until the big day, it was suddenly upon me, in the wake of a sleepless night spent tossing and turning, and dreaming of what might be.
Ever since the moment when my selection was announced, I found myself doubting my ability, which tinged the excitement with nervousness about whether I would fail in the competition. I know there are many people in APAT who are far better poker players than I, and who probably felt they were more deserving of a place (and I would probably agree).... however my run this year has been good, and it was me who had secured the place in the team.
So we hit Luton's G Casino filled with a mix of eager excitement and apprehension - however all the apprehension about my own playing ability was about to be expunged with an extraordinary first day.
The competition was made up of several mini tournaments, mixed between 6 handed single table tournaments, and HeadsUp (1 v 1) tournaments. Each member of our 4 man team played 2 STTs and 1 HU on each of the two days.
My first table provided a pretty exciting start for me, with most of the players seeming equally apprehensive about busting out early - and between myself and Jason Jones (Wales), we ran over the table for most of the game. I did have a decent slice of luck in the midst of the game when all in with 10 10 v the very short stack's JJ and a big stack's AQ... I just needed to hold up against the AQ to profit, and the 10 on the flop gave me a monster stack that I was able to use to good effect and to close out the tourney for maximum points.
A better start than I could have hoped and prayed for - I just wanted to score a point to settle my nerves - all 5 points was a bonus!
Second table was much the same, and when I beat a French players Heads Up during the evening, I had concluded day one as only one of two players on maximum points! Even better - England were at the top of the table, albeit things were very close with just one point separating us from Poland.
Day two started equally well with a Heads Up round, and given my form of day one, I was paired with the Polish player...... a reasonably quick and straight forward game, and England were pulling away at the top!
Sadly, that's where it all started to go wrong - points were dropped throughout the rest of the day and England slipped off the top, and were looking like losing any hope of gaining even a bronze medal. Thankfully, my travelling companion (Brian Yates) was in even better nick than me by now, and scored 19 out of 24 possible points (I ended up with 16 - only 4 from day two having had a couple of yucky beats in the day's two STTs!), and his performance in the final session was enough to see us hang on to third place! Having said that, for the record it has to be noted that Brian did in fact lose headsup in STTs against a German girl..... twice!
France and Poland ended up tied at the top, and played a set of Heads Up deciders for the championship, with Poland coming through victorious.
In my opinion, Poland were very worthy winners, although it would have been nice to see the trophy go oversees into Europe - the Polish team are all resident in the UK, not that this really matters in the grand scheme of things I guess.
All in all, it was a magnificent experience, and I was just so chuffed to come away with a medal on behalf of my country, and even more chuffed to have played so well for most of the competition.
During the next two days, the Individual European Championship tournament was played out - I had the opportunity to score points for the rankings here and close out the 2009 rankings as winner. Sadly things didn't go quite as planned and I busted out 86th having never really got into a challenging position. Luckily, two of those in the chasing pack (Brian Martin and Andy Duncan) who made day two with commanding stacks, did not score sufficiently to overhaul my position at the top, and I was confirmed as 2009 APAT rankings winner. Put that with my England medal, and it was a pretty damned good weekend.