For winning the 2009 tour rankings, I was awarded a £1070 seat in a 2010 Grosvenor UK Poker Tour Main Event. For reasons of posterity, I chose Walsall as my target event as that was the scene of my UK Amateur win (plus the fact that it's only 30 minutes from home and being a tight git, I didn't want to spend money on hotels etc!)
Whilst the tour isn't attracting the numbers that it did last year and the year before, there were enough entrants to develop a prize pool in excess of £200,000, with £55,000 to the winner. Almost as important from my perspective was the fact that it attracts a whole bunch of faces I know from TV, and not just from poker circles. (Remember Beppe?)
There were a number of other players from the APAT tour who had won seats for various accomplishments through last season, plus a couple of APAT players with deeper bankrolls who had bought in directly. It was great to have friends around to relieve the stress and tension (which was not insignificant!).
The first thing I did when the table draw was published was see if I recognised any names at my table, and figure out who I should be wary of. The best part of my first table was the inclusion of Tony Trippier (APAT and BCPC player) - was good to have a friendly face there. On my immediate left was a name I knew from the recent Poker press - Jake Cody... a 21 year old online pro who recently won the EPT event in Deauville for €750,000. and on Jake's left was Chaz Chattha, and a couple of seats further round to Stuart Rutter. Sigh!!
I had intended to follow the example set by Alan McBride at Luton last year, and record every hand I played for a write up afterwards (a la Gus Hansen's book), but the problem with this is that my approach to the early stages of a deep stack is to play lots of hands - hence simply no time to record details. That said, there were a few hands of note that stuck in my mind that I can share.
I had decided I was NOT going to play the first couple of hands as I just needed a moment to settle the nerves, and watch things go round for a fiew minutes. However, first hand on the button, an early position raises, and 4 people call.... I look down at 7c9c (my absolute favourite hand - ask Tod Wood!) and make the call. The flop comes 568 (rainbow) - WOW! Initial raiser makes the continuation, and Stuart Rutter raises..... Now comes my first mistake of the day.... rather than flat calling to try and maximise the value, I got over-excited and re-raised - both players insta-folded. ho hum - at least the nerves were settled, and I already had a good table image growing.
It was a relief when our table broke after about an hour - and even more of a relief when there were no big names at my new table. However, one young lad hiding behind his hoodie, proceeded to give me a lesson for four hours in the art of aggressive poker. I subsequently discovered him to be Tom MacDonald - a 19 year old with two decent wins to his name already. A little while later, Praz Bansi arrived on my left, and I had thought he would slow Tom down a bit - not to be.... in fact, Tom completely owned Praz (several times over!).
During that table - two massive hands of note (massive for opposing reasons).
1. With several limpers, I limp on the button with 3h5h. Flop was Tc 9c 5s. It checked round to me, and I bet around half the pot. A guy in the SB called so fast he nearly burnt his hands on the felt - and his hands were shaking like, well, like very shaky hands shake! All others folded. the turn bought the 5d, and the SB guy bet out about a quarter of the pot - I raised with my trip 5s, only for him to re-raise around half his stack. So, having played a raggy hand and made a very strong hand out of it, I was faced with a decision for my tourney - I knew that if I called here, I would have to call the rest on the river..... so my only option was to shove all in now, or fold. I didn't particularly want to shove my stack when I could be drawing dead to a made full house, so folded. I was desperate to see his cards, even if it was a weak hand or a bluff - so I showed my 5. He mucked, and the whole table, and a player on the next table, berated me for a terrible fold. I still maintain it was an ok fold at the time, and under the circumstances.
2. Shortly after that hand, and while people were still talking about me being a complete nit, I raised UTG with AQo. 2 callers. Blinds fold. Flop 345 (rainbow). I c-bet a third of the pot, and get one caller. Whilst the turn card was dealt I was watching his face, and his whole demeanour sank when a 7 was dealt - I just knew he hated that card so much, and figured he must have had an absolute monster - either A2 for a flopped straight, or a flopped set, and was now scared of the four to a straight on the board. I checked and he bet the pot - I knew now I was going to take this away from him, but figured that if I raised here he would call to chase his full house, so flat called (could see that he hated that too). When the river came a blank Jack, I insta-shoved with my Ace high. Nearly 5 minutes later I wanted to ask the dealer to call a clock, but didn't dare speak for fear that my voice would quiver and give my bluff away, so sat in silence...... eventually, he folded 33 - he did indeed have a set of threes and was miles ahead of my paltry AQ (I showed him the Q for good measure, just so he knew he had been taken off the better hand). For me, that was probably one of the best hands I have ever played - and would have been impossible to play online.... for probably the first time ever, I knew from body language exactly where he was, and how to play him off his hand.
So, another table broken and time to move to pastures new - with a decent stack of 40+ big blinds now. The best bit - moving away from Tom MacDonald. My new table had Brian Yates on my left, and I had to take seat 5 (seat 6 was also empty). Looked around at the stacks, and the only stack bigger than mine was on my immediate right - perfect. No sooner had I hung my coat on my chair, the other vacant seat on my immediate left was filled...... by Tom MacDonald. FML!!
Things were going well for a while though, and I grew my stack to over 70 big blinds, and was joint chip leader at the table, and in the top 10 for the tournament overall.
Don't know if it was tiredness, or just blind ambition, but the train fell right off the tracks. I raised UTG to 2.5xBB with AK, and the only other player at the table with a big stack re-raised to 10xBB. He was an extremely active player who had just fluked his way to a big stack by calling an all in shove with AQ v AK and spiking a Q. There was no way I was folding to this raise, but didn't want to make a standard re-raise as I couldn't see him folding, and I would then be playing the rest of the hand out of position. My gut was telling me to shove, but my head said shoving 73 big blinds at this stage was just spewy. I elected to call, with the intention of check/folding a flop that I missed, or getting it in if I hit...... flop was KQQ. I checked with the intention of raising........ but he insta-shoved for around 3x the pot. I thought for about 0.3 seconds, before making the call. What a donk! Clearly there was very little that I could actually beat here - had had AQ. On reflection my call was very poor, but I think his shove was so odd that it just threw me off track, after all who in their right mind would shove 3x pot with what is practically the nuts?! Still it worked for him, and he took my chips all the way to the final table for a decent payday.
I look back at that hand, and consider that if I had indeed shoved my 73xBB preflop, assuming he folded his AQo (of course he would, wouldn't he?), I would have been vying for the chip lead, and cruising to day two.
All in all, it was a fantastic day out, which has given me a wealth of new experience, and I am extremely grateful to APAT and to BlueSquare for the opportunity.
Back home, still feeling a little hollow, I wanted to play a decent tourney on Sunday night, and made a deposit from the bank account to allow me to play the PokerStars Sunday Warm Up ($215 entry, 4000+ players, circa $155,000 to the winner). This is something that I've absolutely never done before, and felt the pressure from the off - I was using housekeeping money to play poker - bad move!! Confidence was high though, and after the first hour I never dropped out of the payzone - made the money, then proceeded to bust out shortly after the bubble. But at least I recovered the housekeeping :)
Also, in the meantime on Saturday night, had managed to gain my first points of the new APAT season in the Welsh online championship event, finishing 12th from 144. Let's hope that's a sign of another good APAT season to come........