Wednesday, 29 August 2012


When I was invited to select and skipper the England team for this event, it was a surprise and a shock, even though it was I that had proactively taken the liberty of applying for the role.   That was several months ago, which left a huge time gap for the initial shock to die down, and a feeling of excitement and anticipation to brew.  I've played for England twice before, so I guess I had gotten over the usual excitement that comes with representing one's country - but this time it was different, and much more intense. I was so determined that England would do well on my watch.

Having invited and received many applications (28 in all), I made three selections based on criteria that I had decided upon in advance - 1) Results in and around APAT, 2) Results away from APAT, 3) General contribution to APAT.  I think the selections I made all conformed to those criteria. The fifth member of the team was decided by his position as the highest scoring English player in the APAT national online league - and having scored to highly in that event, his place on the team was hard earned and well deserved.

So the team to represent England at Nottingham's DuskTillDawn was:
  • Me
  • Richard Baker
  • Alan Armitage
  • Dan Patterson
  • Tony Trippier
With hotel booked well in advance, and living relatively close to Tony, I offered to share transport and hotel room. This was my first negative EV move of the whole escapade. What I had failed to recognise is that despite my avoidance of excessive alcohol during the festival, my game would still be hampered by lack of sleep - the 1 metre gap between the beds just wasn't enough to the stop the vibrations caused by Tony's snoring!

For our team, the structure would be four players playing each round and one person on the rail. So - with running order in hand showing who would be asked to play which round [1: HLNE STT, 2: PLO STT, 3: NLHE HeadsUp, 4: NLHE STT, 5: NLHE MTT], we hit Nando's for lunch. Now, I've heard so many people, including my own kids, telling me how great Nando's is. For what it's worth, I disagree. The food was dry and tasteless, and I won't be back.  Frankie and Benny's is next door, but the food was a million miles away from Nando's.

Once the cards were in the air for the first round, I really started to the feel the pressure. The last time I played in this international team event format, I crashed out first in almost all of the games, and with my team mates fairing no better, we finished near the bottom of the pile.   The pressure was relieved before too long when I called a raise on the button in the first level holding As2s. The Italian in the BB also called, and the flop came down 3c4h5d. The Italian lead out, the initial raiser folded, I raised, the Italian shoved - I sigh-called expecting to see 67..... but he showed 6c8c for an open ender. The turn was another club to increase the sweat, but the river was friendly to me. From that point I just never looked back, and went on to win the STT beating Franke Baille of Ireland headsup.  With a couple of mid place finishes from the others in the team, we were placed a healthy mid-table after round one.

Round two was Pot Limit Omaha, which I tend to favour, albeit I prefer the play Hi/Lo. I fully expected to do well in this round, so getting it all in with KK78 on a K69 flop might have seemed ok, that is until the other guy's flush draw came on the turn. First out for zero points. With very few points scored overall in this round, England was now second from bottom of the table and in trouble.

As the HeadsUp round started, it was clear that we needed to do well - I told the team that nothing less than 100% winning record in this round would be good enough. So, huge credit to the guys that delivered six wins from six games. Back up to mid-table for us.

Bouyed by the HU successes, we returned on day two to play round 4 - another round of NLHE STTs.  Another amazing round for us as we took maximum points in two of the four games. My own win came after another headsup victory against the Irish, albeit NI rather than the Republic this time.

Having been second from bottom of the table after the first two rounds, we now found ourselves entering the final MTT round in third place, just 4 points behind Ireland, 1 point behind NI, and just 1 point ahead of Wales, with Italy and others very close behind. It was all to play for in the final, and with scaled points for the  last 18 players (18 for 1st, 17 for 2nd, down to 1 for 18th), the winning country would likely be the one that carried the most players to the final table.  With 14 players left, the gold medal was going to either Ireland or England - we both had three players each remaining.  As the structure was shallow and fast, hand ranges were quite wide at times, but ICM was becoming a major factor to shove/calling ranges for all those teams in the medal hunt.  I found myself UTG with 9xBB holding A8dd - not the best shoving hand, but early position shoves were generally getting more respect than they probably deserved, and I didn't want to let the blinds go through me with this stack. My shove was called in mid position by an Italian holding a stack of under 20xBB - I figured he must be massive to be flatting in this spot, so was pleasantly surprised when he flipped KJo. The two diamonds on the flop were massive blockers to protect my hand, however the black jack on the river was a gut wrencher. With only two English left, our challenge for gold effectively died in that moment - to say I was gutted is an understatement. If I had won that hand, I would have fancied the England chances.   Alan crashed out in similar style shortly afterward, leaving us needing Tony to finish 5th or better, or to outlast one of the two remaining Italians, to secure silver. With 7 players left, including Tony and both Italians, the tension in the room was immense.   Two quick bustouts, 5 left, and Tony still in, and the silver medal was ours.

Playing alongside the team event were the Stud and 6max side events, both of which I would have played if not part of the team event. Day 3 of the festival was next, and the 300 runner Main Event - for me, it was a heck of a come down after the previous day's efforts and became a turgid affair of crap cards combined with  distinct lack of focus and energy.  My starting position was awful, finding John Murray on my immediate left, following by Andy Duncan on his left, followed by one of the Italian team on his left - a pretty horrible spot.  I crashed out after 6 hours of play, having never got above my starting stack.

The final day was all about the Pot Limit Omaha tourney - one that I previously looking forward to, but with the major come down after the team event, and the lack of sleep, both Tony and I would have been happy to just go home early. We committed to each other to play it hard and fast, and either be massive, or out.  Six hours in, and down to 30 runners from the original 100, we were both still alive!  Tony busted and went to rail Brian Yates who making a valiant attempt at the main event and was just hitting the final table.  I figured I wouldn't be much longer as I had just lost a hand and was UTG with 4.5k whilst blinds were 1k/2k.  I shoved my 2.5xBB stack, and got 5 callers - and binked the river to get a quintuple up. By the end of that level, around 10 hands later, I had 188k and was chip leader.   The wheels came off with 16 left when I got a one orbit penalty for folding out of turn (the guy on my right kept picking his cards up off the table and leaning back with them out of sight - I saw empty felt and played my turn, four times ffs!  The guy lifting his cards got a warning, but still persisted unpunished). Returning from my penalty a little tilted, I called a raise in position with KQJTds, which caught some draws on the flop, but ultimately bricked out - down to 140k. Next hand I called a raise in position with AKQTds, and got 60k in on a AK2 flop - the other guy had AA. So from 188k, down to 80k in two hands, straight after a penalty. TILT!    Got it together, and survived to the final table and the payouts, finishing 7th for just under £200, and my 3rd APAT PLO final table in the last four E/WCOAP events.

And that was all she wrote. The weekend was over in a flash.  Great to see all the old faces, and to meet some new ones. Chuffed to bits for Carl Pilgrim to take down the Main Event - justly deserved.

Congratulations to Ireland on their team gold, and to Italy on their bronze.  I get on really well with the Welsh team, but it was nice to see someone else in the winner's enclosure for a change!

Massive thank you to APAT for the chance to lead the England team. A very proud moment.

The guys on the England team all justified their selections. Alan was strong and scored well in all rounds having declined beer all the way; Dan was new to APAT but fitted right in and played a great game; Rich was so unfortunate and ran like a duck with no legs every time he got in as a 70% favourite; I won two of the three STTs I played; and it was Tony's final table heroics in the MTT round that completed our campaign and secured our silver medal.

It was an absolute privilege and an honour to lead this team.

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