It always amazes me that those that live in England have to pay for the privilege of travelling to Wales, yet those in Wales are allowed into England for free. I suppose in that regard, England is following the general Euro mantra of freedom of movement and immigration, whilst Wales takes the more sensible approach.
Luckily for me, I live in a part of England that negates the need to pay the exorbitant bridge toll when I travel to Wales - I get to use the two lane racetrack that is the M50. Like the M45 in Northamptonshire, I've never seen a police car or a speed trap on the M50, and it's a great opportunity to test Peugeot's claims to the top speed of my car. For this reason, I like travelling to Wales. I'm sure there are other reasons as well, but as my Welsh wife no longer lives there, I can't really think of any other good reasons right now. What a pain in the ass it was on Saturday when I trudged along the M50 at 40mph through the seemingly endless single lane average speed check area with neither another vehicle in sight, nor any workmen to be seen behind the the cones. In fact, if it wasn't for the odd vehicle trudging equally slowly in the other direction, I might have thought I had entered some parallel universe devoid of life, yet still I crawled along at 40mph.
Still, at least I had the 40mph single lane trudge to look forward to on the way home at 1am.
I found the casino at the first time of asking. Now, given that I have TomTom in the car, this might not sound as much of an achievement as it actually was - on the two previous occasions that I've been to the Cardiff Grosvenor, TomTom has misdirected me to the point of being utterly lost (yeah I should have learned ahead of the second trip I guess) - however it seems a map update has actually put the centre of Cardiff properly on the TomTom map!
Back in 2008, in APAT's season two, I played my very first APAT game, and coincidentally it happened to be at Cardiff, which is actually quite lucky as if it was elsewhere, this whole paragraph would have been a bit pointless. I was completely hooked with the whole APAT live tour from the very moment that I joined that event in 2008, and what a journey it started for me. For that reason, I like going back to Cardiff to play.
On a more sour note though, Cardiff holds painful memories. In Season 3 in 2009, I was flying in the APAT event when I got the call that my Dad was in intensive care, and had to abandon poker to be at his side. Luckily he survived that scare, and lived more than six months afterward. It now holds another painful memory though. In 2008 the first player I ever played an APAT hand with was a guy called Rich Stevenson who was sat on my immediate left, and was my absolute nemesis for the whole day. I've met Rich many times since, and hugely enjoyed my converations with him - his humour and dry wit are just amazing. It was an awful moment just before the start of play on Saturday when Des announced the death of Rich. Although I never knew him well, I will cherish the memories of him.
The tournament was a strange one for me. Within two orbits I had caused the first exit, and was early chip leader. Having raised in early position to 125 with AQs, the button and blinds called, and we saw a flop of QQJ. Nirvana thought I. The blinds checked, and I elected to slow play and also checked, allowing the button to have a stab, which he duly did, betting 250 into the 500 pot - the blinds folded, and I called. The 5 on the turn was inconsequential, and I checked again - now the guy on the button was itching to get chips in, and I was quite sure when he bet 400 into the 1000 pot with shaking hands that he also had a Q... but I had the best kicker so was highly likely to be in good shape unless he had a full house already - and his demeanour was setting off alarm bells. For me now, the right play was to check call the turn with a view to doing the same on the river - far too early to get coolered unnecessarily. However, the A on the river just about gave me the nuts, unless he had a very unlikely AA. Praying that he did indeed have a Q, I tried to make my hand look like an Ax hand that just got there, and bet 3000 into the 1800 pot - and was then faced with an immediate min-raise! Stacks went in and he flipped QJ - unlucky for him, and very cold deck, but I'll gladly ship the early double up.
From that moment on, I never got involved in any significant pot, and my 600bb stack dwindled through the day until the tourney reached 50 players remaining around 11:30, and I was down to around 20bb. Raises were rarely getting through, squeezes and bluffs were always called, and the best hand I saw all day after the AQ was AJ, and that was only once! Never have I been so utterly card dead, and so completely unable to manipulate proceedings with chips rather than cards. Eventually I open shoved AKs for 15bb, and the young lad in the small blind then asked for a count and scratched his head and ummed and arred before calling with AA!! Yeah I know there was still a player to act in the big blind and the lad wanted the big blind to come along, however when the big blind insta folded, and the cards were flipped, it sure did feel like a horrible slowroll, and not a nice way to end the day.
On a more positive note, the APAT ECOAP (European Championship of Amateur Poker) is scheduled for August bank holiday weekend at DusktillDawn, and will once again be a four day festival. I've played for the England team twice before with varying degrees of success - a bronze medal in 2009, and wooden spoon in 2010. Having played before and so recently, I would not be applying for a team place for a few years yet - the English player pool is so huge that the opportunity should be spread around - however when Des asked for applications for country captaincy, I found myself responding and applying. This was done with the mindset that if one doesn't ask, one will never get..... and I certainly did not expect the application to be successful, however to my complete surprise (and I really do mean that!!!) a week later I was confirmed as England captain. It's actually quite hard to convey how proud that makes me feel - my vocabulary doesn't contain words that do the feeling justice. Selecting a team for this from the applications received is possibly one of the hardest things I've done in recent times - I hate saying no to people, or feeling like I've let anyone down, but the team can contain only four selections (the fifth player gets a place by default by virtue of online APAT league placing). Hopefully the team that I select will take up the challenge of taking England to glory.
No more live poker for a while - back to the online grind!!
Edit: Footnote. Congratz to JP Round on his runner up finish - would loved to have seen him win this, and am sure that one day he will. One of the good guys!