Leading from the front, getting it in behind

Experience has taught me at least one thing: it always take me a while to re-adjust to playing live in Ireland after Vegas.

Doke's PocketFives Poker Player Profile

Click image above to check out my PocketFives player profile

Do you wanna be in my gang, my gang?

As you may have read elsewhere, I've been appointed the new Team Irish Eyes Poker captain. Click image above to find out more.

The end of the dream.....for now

Maybe I should stop writing mid tournament blogs as it never seems to end well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Running through airports

The wheels on the bus go round and round.....

At least til they don't any more. So, we are on our second day in Morocco, on a shuttle from Casablanca (where we spent our first night) to Mazagan (home to the latest MPN stop). Mrs Doke and I have Saron and Mr Saron (aka David "Gobshite" Lappin) for company, so it's all going swimmingly after an unforgettable start to the trip. It turns out that Gobshite's response to a crisis (in the form of a mosquito in the shuttle) is neither fight nor flight but flail and flap. In the course of flailing and flapping at the mosquito, he first removed the annoyance of the coffee he was (in Gobshite's own words) "quaffing" (pretentious Gobshite) by flinging it all over the person in front of him. Me as it happened.

As I sit there soaked in pretentious quaffee thinking it can't get worse after such a start, the shuttle putters to a halt on an upslope. Apparently we have a flat tire. So there we sit, literally teetering between a packed motorway with cars chaotically careening by to one side, and a ditch that drops down to a rocky field on the other. The driver is very adamant that on no account should we get out. He does at least open the back door for us, so that for the 45 minutes it takes to sort out the tire, we all get to inhale the sweet perfume of motorway traffic fumes.

Can't be too careful when Chantler's about

So we made it to Mazagan, who it turns out have the kind of security you generally only see at airports. Reassuring in a sense though, given the threat that Gareth Chantler (who is currently rumoured to be in the nearby village of El Jidadi) might materialise at any moment.

The resort itself is pretty luxurious, the kind of place that makes you think a quick bustout that allows you to enjoy the facilities free of poker commitments might be the smart play. Obviously this means I instead lingered as long as was humanly possible without actually cashing.

Gobshite who was on the worst run of his career live bust before me, and announced himself done with poker for this trip at least. So obviously a few hours later he's cajoling me to enter the High Roller with him. We do, boosting its numbers to 14. My tournament followed the not unusual trajectory of me slowly losing my chips until none remained. However, I managed to lose them slowly enough that by the time the last of them were pushed to Gobshite after he busted me, only two others remained, and I had cashed.

Gobshite went on to win the tournament and end his recent bad run. So well done Gobshite. Also well done Clodagh the MPN tour manager and Nick Diaz (32red) for a most enjoyable stop.


After getting home, I made my full Twitch debut on the partypokertv channel. They asked me to kick off their new School Night series aimed at providing some free training content to players of differing levels. My brief was to aim at beginners, but I also figured that most of the people tuning in from my Twitter following would not be beginners, so in addition to some stuff on opening ranges and position. I thought long and hard about what else I could cover that would be useful to beginners but also players of all levels. I was very pleased with the feedback which suggested I managed to pull this off. The replay is available at https://www.twitch.tv/partypokertv (click the Follow button to access the replays) for a limited time.

I will admit that I found the experience downright weird at first. I basically felt like I was talking aloud to myself in an empty room in front of my computer. While I could see that people were watching and read their comments in the chat and therefore knew on an intellectual level that I wasn't actually talking to myself, the lack of any sounds other than my own voice still made it feel like that. My previous guest appearance on Twitch was on my friend Christin's channel, and I had Gareth Chantler sitting beside me to share the talking duties. Similarly when I've done live commentary or podcast appearances, I've always had one or more people to bounce off. Despite what you may think, I have very little experience of talking to myself.

Overall though, I greatly enjoyed the experience, particularly the interaction with viewers, so I'm looking to do a whole lot more Twitch in the near future.

Why does it say RyanAir?

After a few days grinding at home, it was time to head to London for a long weekend chilling with my study buddy Daiva and her husband John. We cut it a little fine getting to Dublin airport safe in the knowledge that security queue times at the European Airport of the Year are always minimal. We got in the slowest queue but still had loads of time. After clearing security, I scanned the screens for the gate.

My heart sank when I saw that the 6.30 am flight to London was leaving from gate 102. Regular visitors to the European Airport of the Year will know that as fine an airport as it is, it does have one baffling quirk. For reasons best known to itself, it insists on pretending that several gates that are actually in Terminal 1 are in Terminal 2. It compensates in part for this by allowing you to walk to the gate from terminal 2, but it's a long walk that feels all the longer once you realise how unnecessary it is.

I'm about to break the bad news to Mrs Doke (who hates a good unnecessary walk as much as the next person) when I notice that the 6.30 flight to London is going to Stansted, not Gatwick. Phew. I scan further down and notice another 6.30, this one to Gatwick, leaving from......gate 105. Scratch that phew.

So there we are in terminal 1 at the back of the queue boarding the 6.30 to Gatwick when Mrs Doke, who knows our flight is an Aer Lingus one, asks suspiciously "Why does the screen say Ryanair?"  A panicked run to the nearest Departures screen reveals the answer to be "because there are two 6.30 flights to Gatwick, and the Aer Lingus one leaves from gate 416 all the way back in (actual) Terminal 2". Mrs Doke takes this news as badly as you can imagine, while I exhort her that we should at least try to get to the other gate in under 10 minutes (the signs are cheerfully telling us it's a 25 minute walk).

As we weave through the hordes coming the other way, I'm quite certain we are drawing dead (I'm already trying to decide which coffee place we will regroup to so I can stave off the divorce demands of a distressed Mrs Doke and book us new flights) but too stubborn to admit it, so we press on. I figure there are two slim hopes: the flight might be delayed, or I might somehow get there before it's closed.

Buoyed by the second possibility I abandon my beloved and go into full sprint mode, figuring if I get there first I can stall til she arrives. I get there a couple of minutes before takeoff. An Aer Lingus angel is closing a rope that symbolises the end of boarding. She pauses from her task to look at the panting mess that is standing before her, a manstanding in front of a woman, asking her to let him board a flight. And also his wife, absent.

She takes my boarding pass.

"Go on then"
"Um....my wife....is.....just behind"
She thinks about it, then shrugs. The good kind.
A minute later, Mrs Doke has failed to materialise.
"You said just behind"
"Is that her?"
She points at a woman who is making haste in the distance. It is not Mrs Doke. That much I know. I also know that revealing this knowledge is not optimal in this spot. Time to improvise (or in non poker player speak, lie).
"That's her"
For a good minute we share the illusion that the woman is Mrs Doke.
That illusion is sadly shattered when not Mrs Doke hurries on by.
"You said...."
I see Mrs Doke, gamely sprinting into view for all she's worth.
"That's her"
The Aer Lingus Angel looks at me suspiciously. Then shrugs again. The good kind. The kind that could never get a job at RyanAir.

Mrs Doke takes a remarkably benign view on the fact that I made her hussle the entire length of the airport. Unnecessarily. Twice. There isn't even any talk of divorce. I remember why I married her (because she is literally the only woman on earth who would put up with all my bullshit).

Lazarus in London

After getting to Daiva's place and allowing Mrs Doke some nap time to recover from the ordeal of being married to an idiot, I had to face the ordeal of accompanying the two ladies to High Tea. Tough gig, but somebody has to do it.

Afterwards we met up with John and walked around admiring Christmas lights in central London before arriving serendipitously in Heddon Street (scene of the iconic "alien in a London phone box" Ziggy Stardust album photo) for some cocktails.

The following day we headed to Lazarus, the musical. I'd purposely read as little as I could about Bowie's farewell work so as to keep an open mind. However, mindful of the fact that Mrs Doke hates musicals the way rednecks hate Hilary, I did tell her that reviews were at best "mixed" and the main word bandied about in them was "weird". This made her much more optimistic about it all (she's nothing if not contrarian: if I'd told her it was basically a Bowie version of Mamma Mia and reviews were ecstatic she'd certainly prehated it).

I was frankly overwhelmed by what was very much an emotional experience for me, a sort of final farewell to my hero that reflected all his wonderful eccentricities. Mrs Doke loved it even more than I did, loudly proclaiming it to be the best thing ever. Much more surprisingly, Daiva (who knew little or nothing about Bowie's music) also loved it, despite the fact that Bowie remained true to his own contrariness in his selection of what songs to include. To say he erred on the side of obscure is an understatement: as I said to John and Daiva afterwards, with over 50 hit singles to chose from, Bowie decided to use just two of them (and none of his number one hits), instead filling it out with album tracks.

On Sunday we went to meet Sameer and Fran, and Monday was all about walking around London and a frankly harrowing photographic exhibition in the Royal Festival Hall. I had a bit of a sweat to make my flight thanks to the train strike and a couple of boarding passes that Computer Said No to, but made it home in one piece.

Patron saint of international travellers

"I checked in online. Machine wouldn't take boarding pass on my phone. So I was told to go back to Aer Lingus desk. They gave me this boarding pass. That doesn't work either"
"One minute"
Scans pass
"Says invalid flight"
"... "
"Where are you trying to fly to?"
"Dublin. Look. It says on my boarding pass. Both of them"
"Is that home?"
"Conor McGregor"
"Do you like Conor McGregor?"
"Yes. I like Conor McGregor"
"He's my hero. Cocky bastard though"
"Yes. But that's good. Cos he's Conor McGregor"
"I want to go visit his gym but he'd probably beat me up for being English"
"I doubt that"
"Sure. It's not really grounds for a beating. Even from Conor McGregor"
"Cool. Go on ahead"
"Huh? Really? Why?"
"Because I love Conor McGregor"


I have a week and a half at home before I head to Bucharest for the Unibet Open.

While we were in Mazagan, Gobshite and I dropped into the livestream to do some guest commentary. I always enjoy that sort of thing, especially when the company is good. I've been fortunate enough to commentate alongside some real masters of the medium (Jesse May, Neil Channing, Padraig Parkinson, David Tuchman, Mike Leah, Jen Mason, Marc Convey, Nick Wealthall and Emmet Kennedy to name but a few). Like many other things I deserve no real credit for, I always try to take credit for Gobshite's commentary career, as he made his debut several years ago at an Irish event where I dragged him into the box to commentate with me. Since then he's become a sought after commentator (drawing particular plaudits for his work at the Irish Open a few years ago), but somehow we've seldom shared a commentary box since. So it was nice to do so in Morocco, and even nicer that we have both been hired to do commentary for Unibet in Bucharest. I'm also looking forward to playing the 500k guaranteed main event while I'm there, and seeing Bucharest (and my friends Dani and Toni). I may also have persuaded Daiva to join the party.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Losing Battles in Malta

When I was a competitive distance runner, I learned that occasionally races are won or lost in the latter stages. More frequently, they are lost earlier in the race, when you either go too hard or not hard enough. But most frequently of all, a race is lost before it even starts. Your training or preparation simply wasn't good enough, so you got to the starting line drawing dead. Or the results of the genetic lottery were such that you never stood a chance in the first place. Runners learn to accept that some races can never be won, but only after the event. There's little to be gained from going into a race thinking it can't be won.

I went to Malta brimming with confidence on the back of a few very good months live, feeling that a lot of hard work done in the first six months of the year when I was running bad was now standing to me, and translating into results. I also went there happy to be there. Some of my closest friends in poker live there, so it was a chance to catch up with them. Malta is also a pleasant place to spend 10 days, especially at this time of year as the Irish winter starts to close in.

Unfortunately the poker part didn't work out (I bricked everything) but that's ok. It happens. Most of the tournaments I played followed the same script: I never really got going, lingered as long as I could, and bust close but not very to the money. For the most part I was happy with how I played. I felt my day 1 of the EPT was as good as I've ever played, with some good calls and great folds maximising the stack I took into day 2. I was less happy on day 2 at probably the toughest EPT table I've ever been at (it included Stevie Chidwick, Fabrice Soulier, Benny Spindler and some other very good regs) but I didn't make any big mistakes (there were a couple of very unclear spots where there was probably little difference between two plays but I unfortunately chose the lesser of the two in game). My exit was an unavoidable flip against Fabrice which given stack sizes and positions was probably always going to be my exit.

Nevertheless I enjoyed my time on the island. I stayed with David and Saron who are always great to spend time with, and was also lucky enough to spend time with Jason Tompkins, Daragh Davey, Daragh Davey, Nick Newport, Andy Hills and George Danzer. I got out for a few runs, one with Gareth Chantler, and was lucky enough to catch up with Tony and Gillian Baitson who very kindly invited me to their great place in Swieqi. I spend so much time in the company of people who are jaded with poker that it's always a refreshing pleasure to break pizza with genuine enthusiasts. I went to their place intending to spend an hour there before going back to David's to grind online (any pain I might have felt about running bad over a sample size of half a dozen live was assuaged by sneaking in a few very profitable online sessions that included a win in 32Red's Mosh Pit and a fifth in Party's Sunday major), but before I knew it six hours had flown by and people were starting to think I must be dead because I'd stopped tweeting.

After the disaster that was Barcelona organisationally, it was a relief to see the 10 am starts and refund min cashes scrapped. Apart from a few quibbles (again, some very substandard new dealers: why with such a big pool of world class dealers with proven track records do I see so many new dealers I've never seen before and for the most part will never see again on every stop all of a sudden? I understand having to cast the net wider and lowering standards in places like Barcelona and Prague due to player numbers, but don't get why I have to watch inept inexperienced dealers make simple errors time and again while I wonder why so many top notch dealers who used to be on every stop aren't there any more), this event was very well run to the high standards that used to be routine (but none the less welcome) at Stars live events. The programme of side events was a lot better and aimed more at recreational player budgets than the one in Barcelona.

Yet numbers were well down. Not just on Barcelona (which was to be expected) but in previous Malta stops. The EPT main event dropped from 651 last time to 468, a pretty disastrous drop of 30%. The drop in side events aimed primarily at recreationals was even more stark: the €300 buyin multientry Cup shedded over 50% dropping from 894 to 416. The IPT main event dropped about 20% from 947 to 775. Events aimed at special demographics were heavily hit too: the Seniors dropped from 106 to 71, and the Ladies from 55 to 50. And even the High Rollers were heavily hit (the 25k shed over 20% dropping from 63 to 46).

I have no idea what conclusion Stars will draw from this decline. While I fully accept they have more relevant data than I have and are better placed to come to meaningful conclusions, I do hope the lesson they take is not the one I heard murmurings of from Stars personnel (that Malta simply doesn't work as a stop). I personally see no reason to believe that Malta is a tough destination to sell at this time of year, even to people without lots of friends on the island. This week's Battle of Malta is expected to be a big success for 888.

I've been told by people inside Stars that the concerns and criticisms raised by myself and others after Barcelona were listened to. That's nice, but maybe Stars would have been better served making some sort of public nos culpa statement after Barcelona that acknowledged that mistakes had been made and endeavours would be made to prevent them being repeated. Actions may speak louder than words, but sometimes we want to hear those words too. So many regs and recs who said "Never again" after Barcelona were notably absent from Malta. It's nice that Malta was a much better run affair, but how are the people who didn't show up to know that?

I believe that if Stars think the "failure" of Malta (and I heard from several Stars people it was seen as such, to the point that we will never see a Stars event on this scale on the island again) is just "because Malta", they are totally missing the point. I fully believe if they just shuffle the tour stop destinations they are running a fools errand, a race that can never be won, a race that was lost before the starting gun even sounded.

Friday, October 14, 2016

UKIPT Memories

Season 1

December 2009. Galway. Nobody is really too sure what this UKIPT thing is. As far as we are concerned, we are playing the IPC (Irish Poker championship). The first ever UKIPT is won by an Irishman (Parky) and I chop the very first UKIPT cup and collect my first and only UKIPT trophy.

February 2010. Over 500 runners in Manchester. Looking like this new tour is taking off. Rooming with Nicky Power and finding out he snores, but nothing like Mick McCluskey (but then who does?). Getting peer pressured into credit card roulette and maintaining my perfect Losing record (one which continued afterwards to this day). My excuse to Mrs Doke ("Nicky made me do it") resulted in her somehow locating Nicky Power's number within minutes and texting him a piece of her mind.  I brick everything. Jogging laps around a big ghoulish Victorian building. Being told later it was Strangeways. Wondering what any watching guards made of me lapping the joint.

April 2010. Less than 400 runners in Coventry. Maybe this tour isn't taking off after all. One of the worst trips of my poker life: I brick the main, the sides are ridiculously withered, I'm stuck at the venue between a motorway and an industrial estate all week waiting for a roommate who never shows up, living on pizza, and to top it all I almost get stabbed one night coming back with my pizza. Sharing a cab to the airport with Toby Stone and telling him better side events needed after he asks what needs to be done to get the tour off the ground.

May 2010. Enjoyed Coventry and Manchester so little I decided to kick my new UKIPT habit, at least the UK legs. But I relented and ended up going to Nottingham. Judging from the blog I wrote back then, I was still hating this new tour. A fact not helped by bricking everything, and sharing a room with world champion snorer Mick McCluskey.

June 2010. Killarney. I wasn't there. I was in Vegas, in a room in the Gold Coast with Rob Taylor, watching as his then girlfriend (and now wife) Cat went deep yet again (she'd already final tabled Galway). There was another Irish winner, Femi Fakinle, sadly no longer with us. RIP Femi.

I stuck to my guns this time and didn't travel for the next two legs, Brighton and Edinburgh.  So Dublin in September was my next stop. My abysmal UKIPT record continued as I bricked everything. Meeting Tom "Jabracada" Hall for the first time and getting knocked out of the main by him. Some lad that nobody seemed to know anything about other than that he worked for Full Tilt ended up winning the main event. Max Silver, that was his name. Wonder what ever happened to him.

I skip the last leg of the first year in London.

Season 2

I finally break my main event duck with a 13th in the first main event of Season 2, in Galway. Inclement weather conditions mean Stars have to delay the start by a whole day. To prevent rioting among those who had made it there, they put on a 10k freeroll. I get knocked out of this again by Jabra, who asks "Are you SlowDoke?" before he shoves. Stars have decided the best way to get this fledgeling tour off the ground is to start televising it, so the TV cameras are there 2 tables out as I tell Andy Grimasson on my right that the lad who 4 bet shoved against the polite Canadian on my left (some lad called Nick Abou Risk who also worked for Full Tilt: what ever happened to him?) had done so blind. Nick ends up winning. Another Nick (Wealthall) ends up making a lifelong enemy of Mrs Doke when he compares my appearance to that of a badger on national TV. 

With my first main event cash under my belt, I was encouraged to travel to Nottingham a couple of months later for the next leg. By now both the tour and my record in main events was getting into its stride. I notched up my second main event cash, as records were broken with over 1000 runners.

I failed to make it three cashes in a row in Manchester, but did final table the cup. At the next stop in Cork I not only bricked everything but managed to bust up my ribs (the result of a rather ungraceful attempt at a swan dive down the ramp in the hotel.

Cashing the first events put me in contention for the new UKIPT leaderboard. Bricking Cork made chasing that a forlorn hope, so I skipped the rest of the season except for Dublin. Having breakfast on day 2 with one of the overnight chipleaders Breifne. Giving him some tips on how to play his stack, then discovering to my horror he was on my table. Bricking everything again.

Season 3

Returning to Galway for the first stop of the season. Bricking everything again. Railing the blog reports of an all Irish headsup battle between Mully and Gilly on the train back to Dublin.

Skipping the next one in Nottingham. To Citywest next for Dublin. Bricking everything again but railing Smidge who we'd recently started staking on the final table. Fergal telling me there was a Online qualifier leaderboard with a prize for whoever won the most UKIPT seats this season (first I'd heard of it). Given that I hadn't bothered playing any satellites for Nottingham, I'd effectively given Fergal a headstart, but I had a whole season to try to catch him so...

Deciding to go to Newcastle because it was always my favourite GUKPT stop and I now have the additional Online Qualifier leaderboard incentive. Bricking everything again. Listening to Lappin complain when the steakhouse refused to do his steak blue. Watching Lappin wheeze and whine his way up the hills when we went running. Chatting to Martin Mulsow about long barren live spells on the walk back to the hotel. Getting messages from Lappin entreating me to come rail him on the final table of a turbo side event. Eventually relenting and walking back up the hill, only to find him sulking after busting. Trying to cheer him up. Quickly shutting up when it became apparent that anything I might say would be seen as deeply unhelpful.

Being pleasantly surprised at how pleasant Bristol (somewhere I'd never been before) was in November. Ending the longest barren cashless spell of my career by final tabling the cup yet again, and getting a tweet from Lappin that read "Congrats to @daraokearney! Your Henson mob no longer looks like that of someone who died in July."

Finally making it to Edinburgh for a UKIPT in January 2013. Visiting Camera Obscura with Lappin and Rob. 

Late night dining with Jabra, Kevin Williams, Jamie Burland and Hefs. Trudging around in the snow on the last day with a very unimpressed Lappin.

Notching up my third main event cash the following month in Cork. Recovering from being crippled early to make a deep run, before busting in 27th.

Railing another Firm final table in the form of Nick Newport.

Heading to London for the last stop of the season, and getting my fourth main event cash (18th this time). Eating in a Greek resturant with Lappin, Chris Dowling and Mark Smyth. Attending the opening of the Hippodrome.

Almost not making it there after we made the mistake of assuming the London born Daragh Davey would be a good man to rely on for navigation. Plotting with Lappin to wrestle control of the map back from him after it became clear he hadn't a notion. Eating with Chihao while Lappin complained about how long it took to cook my well done steak. Watching Daragh, David and Chi play Open Face Chinese with Jesse May. Getting my UKIPT Online Qualifier of the Year trophy from Kirsty.

Season 4 (also known as the Neverending Season)

Heading to Spain for a UKIPT (this makes sense how?). Marbella to be exact. Getting my 5th main event cash (19th). Meeting Ludovic Geilich (who won) for the first time. Thinking he was Northern Irish at first because of the accent and the fact he seemed to know me. Hearing someone at the party  was talking about me as "never shutting up at the table" (turns out they were mixing me up with Dave Masters). Realising for the first time that Willie and Dode Eliot who I knew independently were brothers, and hanging out with them. Complaining to Nick O'Hara how bad the local dealers were and being told they would do everything they could to use EPT dealers the next time. Driving around the hills on the last day there with Willie Eliot and Ian LeBruce.

Heading to Galway to play the so-called "Ireland v England" headsup challenge, a nebulous Fintan Gavin concept, along with Daragh Davey and David Lappin, lured there in part by Fintan offering us free accommodation.

Being told by Fintan when we get there "now it's not 5 Star, lads" and discovering what he meant by that was a place in Galway where they stick refugees. Losing my match to Jake Cody and heading back to Dublin rather than spending any more time in the hostel. Being driven back a week later dog tired after no sleep having spent the previous night playing and chopping Super Tuesday. Busting the biggest ever UKIPT in Ireland on day one but railing Daragh Davey all the way to the final table. Commentating on the livestream with Jesse May and Emmet Kennedy. Mick McCluskey befriending Isildur. Falling asleep in the passenger seat on the drive home, giving driver Nick Newport a sneaky photo op that became his Stars avatar.

Heading to London two months later for UKIPT/EPT. Staying in the pricey but kinda rubbish Russell hotel with all the lads.

Railing Clayton Mooney on the final table of the London Cup. And railing late night drunken Open Faced Chinese with the lads back at the hotel.

Sunday grinding in a hotel room so crowded that Lappin went off to grind sitting in the actual bath in the bathroom.

Later that month heading to the Isle of Man. Playing a turbo side event with a chatty Canadian reg who went around the table asking everyone their screen name, except me, presumably skipped on the basis that old guys don't play online (after I bust, he heard someone refer to me as Doke and the penny dropped, as he told me "You play....." and after a long pause "quite well"). Having a really bad start in the main and fearing the worst when I got moved to a table from Hell with firaldo, Nitsche, and Daniel Tighe. Realising Firaldo thought I was some random local businessman and then taking three large chunks from his stack to end the day as chipleader. Laughing my ass off when I got back to the hotel to find that he tweeted me to say "did not realise this was you....  Oh dear lol". Securing another main event cash (39th).

Securing another main event cash later that month in Nottingham (66th this time). Pleasantly chatting with my neighbour, an affable Cockney geezer. Phil Baker commenting on this photo that Russell looks like he is going to prison bitch me.

Heading to Edinburgh a couple of months later and coming away with only my smallest UKIPT cash ever (a min cash in a 100 quid side). The main event had a considerable overlay (this was the season of the overlays, I think this might have been the fourth in a row). Stars staff joking it was all my fault (by now I was runaway leader defending my Online Qualifier of the Year crown). Going for dinner with various Firmies, Dermot Blain and Liv Boeree.

Playing in the Mansion House a month later in what I guess is my favourite ever UKIPT. Great venue, great atmosphere, great banter. Tim Davie attempting to woo my daughter Fiona on Twitter.  Making two side event final tables and cashing the main. Being railed by Bucko and Cookie Jar on one of them while Cookie Jar played the Sunday Million on my phone (which he was convinced had superluck powers). Sending Dave Curtis a message to say one of the lads (Kevin Killeen) would be in late because his Mammy was making him do chores, so please put his stack out at the last possible minute. Railing Kevin Killeen all the way to the title surrounded by some rowdy lads in onesies.

Mammy Torino proudly shouting "Go on my son". All hell breaking lose and pints being flung into the air as Kevin sealed the win.

Bricking everything in Nottingham in May and spending 48 hours in bed as ill as I have ever been. Crawling out of my sick bed to go do some livestream commentary with Nick Wealthall as Willie Eliot went into the final table with a commanding chiplead. Getting there just in time to see Willie bust and then not letting on as I went back in time to the (time delayed) livestream.

Heading to Marbella the following month. Bricking the main but cashing two side events. Having a double birthday party with Nick Newport.

Going back to the Isle of Man (this really felt like two seasons rolled into one) with the Online Qualifier leaderboard wrapped up and in contention for the UKIPT leaderboard. Dropping out of contention in the latter as I bricked everything and Daragh Davey, Max Silver and TomasRa picked up points. Playing the first ever mixed chess/poker event with my friend Almira.

Heading straight from the Isle of Man to London for the last stop of the neverending season. Lappin finding us an amazing gaffe in Hackney which acted as our base for the last two weeks. Kevin complaining about the length of the walk ("Ah me legs..."). Daragh Davey clinching the UKIPT leaderboard. The three of us cursing Dave Curtis for extending the UKIPT side events into a second week, forcing us leaderboard chasers into a sick grind. Staying up all night with Lappin trying to work out fundamental Deuces Wild strategy (the only event I managed to cash). Going for dinner with Daiva and Marc Convey.

Contrasting that classy dining experience with Lappin's late night raids to Chicken Cottage...

....and being on hand to record his Elvis Presley late night dining.

Railing Daragh to his leaderboard win and Daiva to her Ladies event final table.

Collecting my second UKIPT Online Qualifier trophy and being told by Stars staff there wouldn't be a third ("We don't see the point if you are going to just win it every year"). The trip lasting so long that Daragh was turning into a Cockney geezer by the end of it, confusing us with talk of razzers. Spending the last night eating steak with Ian Simpson in the Hippodrome before walking to Liverpool Street for our train to the airport. Trying to convince Lappin on the walk that Tommy Lee really does have a Starbucks in his house. Announcing my retirement from UKIPTs after I got home.

Season 5

Skipping the first five stops before coming out of retirement to play Bristol as I like the place and my prize for winning Qualifier of the Year was one package so I chose Bristol. Trying to keep a straight face as Bertie Bayley asks another young guy at the table if he is SlowDoke online (he figured it out eventually). Cracking up laughing as Marc Convey wound Lappin up more than he had ever been wound up before by referring to him on the blog as my sidekick. Bricking everything so lots of bustout icecreams with the lads.

Gareth Chantler exploiting my kindly nature in getting me to agree to bring a bag of his back to Dublin. Almost fainting when I saw the size of it after he wheeled it into the hotel. Cursing him loudly as I spent a couple of hours and 55 quid in surcharges at the airport to get it on the plane.

Heading back to the Isle of Man for the last ever UKIPT there. Christin driving us around the island.

Getting three handed in a side event with two German lads who didn't realise I could speak German or understand ICM. Making the final table of the High Roller that included Liv Boeree and Chris Moneymaker, and getting three handed with Adam Owen and Daragh.

Lappin claiming the fact that he knocked Miss Finland out of the main event meant he was the new Miss Finland, but becoming alarmed to find that meant having to fob off male groupies like dawhiteninja.

Skipping the next stop (in London) but heading back to Edinburgh in November. Walking from the airport to the hotel (which turned out a lot longer than we thought) before following Daragh to the casino (or so we thought: Daragh awful navigational abilities meant we circled for ages before finding it, despite him having been there the previous night chasing leaderboard points). Going closer than ever before to making a main event final table (bubbling it in 10th), and later the same day cashing the last side event to become the first Irish player to have a century of cashes on the Hendon mob.

Skipping the next stop (another UKIPT Series event in London) before finishing the season in Dublin. Cashing the main (76th) and final table bubbling the Seniors event.

Season 6 (the curtain comes down)

Heading to London in low spirits in the middle of a barren live spell. Staying and hanging and brunching with Daiva for the week to revive those spirits. Going for some morning runs up Primrose Hill.

Going for ice cream with Aseefo, Sam and Fran.

Railing Daiva as she wins the Ladies event.

Going sightseeing and visiting the Tate Modern with Daiva on my last day. Almost missing my plane as a result.

After skipping Marbella, I played Lille (yes folks, in the weirdness that was the last UKIPT season, two of the 5 stops were outside the UK and Ireland, and two were in London). Bricking the main event but cashing the High Roller. Next up London, expecting a frosty or heated reaction after I'd blasted Stars on my Barcelona blog. Scraping through day one with 13 big blinds, which were whittled down further when I followed Daiva onto the wrong train on day 2. Eating lots of beetroot.

Finally making a UKIPT final table. Laddering to headsup with a big chip deficit which I was unable to overcome.

And last and sadly least, a rather whimpering end to the UKIPT in Birmingham, with record low numbers and side events that didn't even get enough runners to start. Having seen the tour grow from a shaky start into something special, it was sad to see it die so meekly. It was sad to see some great people who worked to build this tour up ultimately defeated by the negative sentiment Amaya Stars has engendered. Eating in Pizza Hut with Richie Lawlor and an unimpressed Gary Clarke. "The Big Cheese.....but that's just cheese". Gary packing up in the middle of the night, changing his flight, and departing with the words "There's only so much Star City Birmingham a man can take". Busting the main event early on day 2 and ending the stop on the last ever side event final table. Adam Owen joking from the rail that I'd just ladder to headsup and then lose. Pretty much what happened as I laddered from 9/9 to 2/2. Watching Dave Curtis having a moment as he snapped the room before the UKIPT banners came down for the last time.

All these memories will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Marc Convey asked me for a UKIPT memory for the Stars blog. After running through most of the memories described above, I settled on this one as my ultimate UKIPT memory:

"Edinburgh 2015. I've made the 5th last two tables of a UKIPT main event of my career and it's looking good for me to finally convert one to my first final table. Unfortunately things go pear shaped fast and on the FT bubble, with ten left I find myself sub ten blinds, a very distant 10/10. A5s in the cutoff is a shove in that spot, so I don't hesitate. My friend Dode Eliot hesitates a little in the big blind before making the call with pocket eights. I turn a gutshot and a flush draw but after bricking the river I shake hands with Dode and depart for the rail, where I am consoled by Dode's brother Willie. Part and parcel of poker is the fact that we often deal pain or at least disappointment on our friends, and as he whisks me away for consolatory ice cream, Willie remarks that Dode will be feeling worse about my knockout than I am. I fully believe this. The fact that Willie was willing to take time off from railing his brother on the FT to console me says it all. What made the UKIPT unique down the seasons was the incredible camaraderie and friendships it fostered between players. It broke down all the barriers between Brits and Irish, recreational players and pro, old and young, male and female."

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Duck bars


So there's this luxury pool aboard a cruise ship. It's a great pool, the best pool even, a pool that would impress Donald Trump bigly. Pretty much everyone who uses the pool has nothing but good things to say about the pool. The attendant facilities are top notch, as are the attendant staff.

Yet for reasons unknown, the numbers using the pool are declining. The staff have no idea what those reasons unknown might be. All they can do is keep on providing top class service to the (fewer and fewer) people who do turn up to use the pool.


After a night spent watching the first US Presidential debate between Clinton and Trump (which saw the Donald implode so bigly he must have wished he was at that pool on the cruise ship casting aspersions on the body shapes of beauty queens in bikinis), I head to the airport with another man who enjoys a good spectacle (when he's not making one of himself).

When we get to our hotel in Hamburg a few hours later, we are far too dog tired to shrug off the news that our room won't be ready for a few hours with "let's go for a coffee" insouciance. I watch Lappin start to bristle until we remember that all he has to do is point out the booking was for yesterday, not today. That allows us to grab a few hours much needed kip before day one of the High Roller.

I get through to day 2 with my customary sub 20 big blinds. Still feeling sleep deprived (my Sunday grind stretched into a nineteenth hour and was followed by less than three hours sleep, and as I already said, the next night was spent watching Trump sniff like a man who craved many lines of coke bigly), I tried to grab as much kip as I could before day 2.


In the early hours of the morning I made my fourth consecutive live full ring final table, but still hadn't cashed. Given the fact that we were on the exact bubble, and it was quite a significant one, and there were three sub ten big blind stacks, I was pretty much in an ICM coffin, unable to make any moves or play anything other than premiums until someone busted.

Unfortunately the bubble dragged on way longer than it should have, and the fact that I was dealt nothing better than ace Jack while it did so, meant that by the time it finally went two thirds of my stack had withered away. After laddering one more spot I got it in blind on blind in a standard spot and was out. Triple bracelet winner, Team Pro and all round great guy George Danzer put his chiplead, skills and Mohawk to good use crushing his way to the win (he came close to a truly remarkable back to back double when he also chiplead for much of the main event before ultimately coming ninth).


By now I'd finally caught up with my sleep to the point that I allowed Gareth Chantler to twist my arm into a run before we went to play day 1b of the main event. I struggled bigly on the run for reasons that would become clear later that day.

In the main event, I got off to a flyer, racing up to over two starting stacks before the first break. Unfortunately the rest of the day was a bit of a grind, and to make matters worse a cold I expected finally started to make itself known. When Lappin had turned up at our house a few days earlier sniffing like an ill prepared Presidential candidate I resigned myself to catching whatever he had, given how many hours we would spend in close proximity in the coming days.

By the end of play, I was just glad to be making another day 2, mainly because that meant I could take Friday off to struggle unmanfully with my illness.


I did just that, sleeping most of the day.


Both Lappin and Gareth had reentered on 1c, and both made it through. Gareth with exactly the same chip count as me, David with a little less. With three short stacks still a long way from the bubble, the most likely outcome was that only one of us would make it to the money.

Gareth got off to an unlikely flyer when his queen Jack hit running jacks to dog queens all in pre. I'd also folded a jack, but no bother to him. David hung on gamely before losing a race, and I doubled in a race. About a dozen from the bubble I found myself short enough to have only one move, and when I executed it with king eight suited in late position, I ran into Herr Danzer's dominating king queen. He told me later he felt bad knocking me out, a nice thing to say, but if someone had to do it, I was happy it was the best player in the field and my favourite Team Pro.

So my back to back sequence stopped at four, and I suddenly had a day to kill. Lappin and I decided to recreate our stroll around the centre from last year, and photo (a couple of rats outside the Rathaus):


We both had all of our remaining equity in the main event wrapped up in Gareth Chantler, so we kept an eye on the blog updates. It proved to be quite the rollercoaster as he moved into the chiplead near the bubble, before stone cold bubbling in memorable fashion with an ace high triple barrel call down for all the bread.


Lappin and I played our last event, the 550 Deepstack turbo. Neither of us cashed, and we decided to skip the last side event the following day in favour of some more sightseeing.


At breakfast, Gareth tried to persuade me to take some luggage of his back to Dublin. Remembering the last time I agreed to do this, I didn't entertain the idea for very long.

George had suggested St Michaels church as a sight worth seeing, so we walked into town to do so. George met us there and was our most gracious guide. Faced with a choice between a tour of the crypt or the tower, we went the tower route. First, we looked around the main church. I think this was only the second Protestant church I'd ever been inside in my life (the first was for my bridge partner's wedding over 25 years ago). What immediately struck me was how much brighter and less gloomy it was than your typical Catholic church. And how much bread was on display. There was bread everywhere, in the pews, on the altar, hanging from the lights.

As we started the ascent to the tower, George asked "Elevator or stairs?"  I saw that David was distracted by a phone call, so seized the opportunity to have some fun at his expense, nominating stairs. David was already pretty tired from the walk into town, and huffed and puffed his way up what seemed like at least thirty flights of stairs, stalling every so often to declare a profound interest in whatever we came across ("oh, look at that fire extinguisher. What a marvellous fire extinguisher that is. Let's stop and look at it for a while. What year do you think it's from?"). He struggled to the top in such a funk he didn't even notice the elevator stops at several points.

The view from the tower is pretty amazing, and we had a pretty surreal encounter with a couple of nice Southern boys from the US who turned out to be Mormon missionaries before George offered a variety of dining suggestions. The first suggestion, Portuguese, seemed like the GTO play, given that George's upbringing in Portugal has given him a fine appreciation of all things Portuguese.

At the restaurant David went in whining about his poor calfsies which were still seized up from the stair climb, and George asked him why he hadn't taken the elevator. Cue the anticipated Lappin apoplexy.


Miguel and Lisa Marie from Stars came sauntering by and joined us for one of the most awesome meals I've ever eaten in my life. A meal so reinvigorating that David recovered enough for a short stroll around the harbour before it was time to head back to the hotel for a cab to the airport.


David and I headed to Hamburg last year not really sure what to expect. We ended up very pleasantly surprised by how good the casino, the staff and everything around the event was. So we came back this year expecting more of the same, and were not disappointed. Dave Curtis, Miguel, Lisa Marie and everyone else involved did sterling work to make the event fun. If anything, this year was a little better than last year (more chilled security staff, better hotel, better free food options).

While I was very critical of another recent Stars event, I'm more than willing to give credit where it's due, even when it comes to Stars (to whom there is a lot of bad will right now as they seem to have tipped over into unashamed profit gouging). There are still a lot of great people working for Stars, some of the people who made them the best in the business, and it's to the credit of those people that even when faced with all the negativity and hostility being directed at Stars from poker players, they go on doing their jobs as best they can, and delivering top notch events within the confines of what their new corporate masters allow. The only disappointment (apart from the wifi) I took from Hamburg was that despite the greatness of the event last year and this, and the great overall player experience, player numbers were way down.

As tempting as it is to gloat that Stars may finally be reaping the fruits of the bad will they have sown so flippantly in the past year, it's hard not to feel a little sorry for the front line staff. They're like the pool attendants on that cruise ship, who go on doing a great job against the demoralising backdrop of diminishing numbers. Like the rest of us, they can but speculate without actually knowing why the numbers are in free fall. Maybe the cruise ship is sinking and people are too busy scrambling for the lifeboats to go for a dip in the pool. Maybe global warming has caused water levels to rise to the point that the last thing people want to spend their vacations in is a boat. Maybe the boat's new owner Bavid Dazzof always intended to scuttle the boat and collect the insurance (insider trading profits). Or maybe the foul mouthed captain Rick Tollreiser has pissed everyone off to the point that they are all looking at other boats. The first three people I asked if they were going to the last ever UKIPT in Birmingham later this week gave the same two word answer.

It rhymes with Duck Bars.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Back to back to back

When I got up on Sunday morning to do my run, I couldn't find anyone to do it with. The previous day I'd run with Padraig "Smidge" O'Neill and Gareth Chantler, but Gareth was in the last hyper flight of the Grand Prix and Smidge was still sleeping. So I went to breakfast instead, and by the time I'd eaten that, Gareth had busted, so off we went. I told him we wouldn't go as far this morning, as I was hoping to have a long day at the tables. I wanted to get the oxygen flowing to the brain, not tire myself out before I even sat down.

Survival of the fittest

I've spoken before on the blog about how much emphasis I put on fitness since my return to live poker 15 months ago. When I decided to go back to Vegas last year for the WSOP, I didn't want to just show up in mediocre shape and see what happened. So I returned to training with an intensity I hadn't seen since I retired from competive running over 5 years earlier. My weekly running schedule went from 4 or 5 miles at an easy pace 3 or 4 times a week to 6 runs a week, nothing shorter than 7 miles, one or two speed runs, and one 30 mile run every Wednesday. I felt this enhanced fitness was a major advantage, particularly towards the end of long live sessions.

The problem with this is it's virtually impossible to maintain on live poker trips away. With the best will in the world, there generally isn't the time or the facilities to stick to the training regime. I lost a lot of fitness in Vegas and haven't really got it back since. The day before we headed to Killarney I did my longest run since Vegas (18 miles) with Gareth, and for the first time ever got destroyed by a poker player on my run. But at least I got through it.

Live multitabling

I first tried live multitabling a few years ago, and didn't like it much. I was chasing live ranking points at the time and decided to give myself two shots at the scoreboard. I quickly learned it was a miserable experience of sprinting between two tables missing hands on both, so I decided never to attempt such a thing again. I stuck to that even when I had a shot at the UKIPT leaderboard with a significant prize a couple of years ago.

Nevertheless I found myself inadvertently multitabling in Prague late last year after I regged all the flipouts and won the first two. This meant overlapping final tables. Again, this was an experience not to be repeated.

When I played an online leg of GPPT Killarney on my last night in London I was aware of a potential clash with day 3 of the WPT. But it seemed like such a long shot as to not being worth worrying about. I'd have to make day 2 of the GPPT (which was playing to the money on day one) and day 3 of WPT (which would be near to final table). Making the last five to ten per cent of the field of one tournament is tough enough: it didn't seem very likely I'd do the double.

The online leg I played only got 19 runners, so I ended with 19 starting stacks. When I then made day 3 of WPT I was under the impression I could try to multitable, but this was cleared up the following morning: I had to choose one or the other but couldn't jump between the two. I was allowed to play the GPPT only on breaks from the WPT, meaning my stack in the GPPT would blind off in the meantime. Annoying to think I might have to relinquish a lot of equity in the GPPT (which at 19 starting stacks was worth over 2 grand at that time), but rules are rules so I just had to get on with it. I decided to concentrate on the WPT and put the GPPT from my mind until my work there was done, and only worry about the GPPT on breaks. The only minor strategic readjustment I had to make was I had to take closer spots in the WPT. For example, if I judged a spot to have an expectation of minus 500 euro, I'd normally pass, but here I'd take it knowing that if I bust I got to realise my full 2k in GPPT equity. I'd also need to adopt a more gambley high variance approach as I had to acquire chips to stave off blinding out completely.

Gamble gamble

By the time I got to my GPPT stack (thanks to Marc McDonnell for finding it for me so I could get to it as quickly as possible) I'd blinded off about a quarter of it, down to just under 300k. I did some gorilla maths and figured I needed to get to at least half a million to have any chance of surviving to the next break. What's the best way to double your stack in twenty minutes when everyone is playing cautiously? I could open shove every hand, but even if they all folded every time, that wouldn't get me there. And obviously if I got called I'd almost always be in wretched shape. So I decided to just play a lot of hands keeping the pots small and try to win a big one postflop.

With just over 2 minutes left on my WPT break, I had nudged my way back towards my starting stack, but I knew that still wasn't enough. It was touch and go as to whether it was worth sticking around to play another hand and risk missing one in the WPT, particularly since I was utg, but I decided to stick around. I also decided to split my range between raises (anything reasonable) and limps (everything else). Folding wasn't an option. As it happens I pick up tens and raise. I watch in horror as everyone folds to the blinds, and now I'm sorry I didn't limp.

Thankfully both blinds call. The flop comes t76 and they both check. Top set, but how to get paid? Check. Turn is a 3, small blind checks, big blind bets, I call, small blind calls. River is a 3 and the small blind unexpectedly leads. Big blind calls, I shove, small blind tank calls. I can't stack the chips fast enough to race back to the WPT.

Back on the WPT final table, I make a close call I wouldn't have made if I didn't have a stack of almost a million in the GPPT (about 5k in equity now) blinding off about 25 euro a minute in equity. Larry Ryan has just been crippled, I open aq, get shoved on by the second shortest stack, and after running the mental maths I decide I'm not quite getting the right price to call (his range has to be much tighter than normal with Larry so short) but it's close enough than when I factor in my equity in the GPPT I think it becomes a call. He has a monster as expected but I get there against his kings. Doubly unlucky on my opponent not just to get sucked out on, but also I wouldn't have made the call if I wasn't still in the GPPT.

I get back to that stack to find I've blinded off slightly more than the half a million I estimated. Once again I'm in a spot where I have to gamble or face the prospect of blinding out when I disappear off back to the WPT final table. My stack has been moved to a new table, but thanks to Ian Simpson finding it in advance for me, I get there just in time to defend my big blind. I make a loose and normally bad call with 44 versus an utg open, not so much set mining as set gambling. I am rewarded with a qt4 flop. After check calling the flop, my opponent decides to protect his overpair on the turn by shoving and I double. I win a few other small pots to nudge my stack up past the million mark before I have to go back to the WPT.

I bust that in fourth reshoving kq over a Richie Lawlor button raise and not getting there against ace king. No time to feel sorry for myself, straight back to the GPPT to find I've blinded off another half a million or so.

Back to one tabling

I'd spun up a bit when I was moved to the feature table. I was a little apprehensive for once about exposing my game to a livestream audience as I was aware I was as tired as I ever have been at a poker table (and starving: with no breaks I hadn't eaten since breakfast other than some fruit Ian and Gareth kindly brought me),

Since the rest of the tournament is captured on livestream, I won't go into a detailed description. Some great commentary and banter from Padraig Parkinson, Jesse May, my driver and roommate for the trip Nick Newport, Paul Zimbler, Fergal Nealon and Richie Lawlor. I appear around the 1 hour 38 minute mark.

What I will do here is answer the most frequent questions I was asked afterwards.

Why were you not excited when you tripled up?

A spectacular hand for sure, but similar to my hand in the main against Bob Tait the day before where my aces hit a runner runner royal flush against his set of kings, and the blog noted I seemed the least excited person in the place, I focus all my energy on getting decisions right. I don't waste any emotional energy on outcomes or runouts. Getting aces in against Bob's Kings was a routine decision, as was getting my ace king suited against two other ace kings. Obviously I'm happy I won, but there's nothing to be gained from celebrating good fortune or bemoaning bad luck while you're at the table. No matter what happens, any time spent thinking about the last hand is time wasted that would be better spent thinking about the next one.

On commentary Nick joked he wouldn't hear about anything but that hand on the drive home. Parky nailed it though when he said he didn't think so, as it was just a standard hand.

I was particularly conscious of the need to conserve energy on this occasion with no proper meals since breakfast and very few breaks, so on the few breaks I got I scampered off back to the room. Lots of people wanted a word on the way, which is great (I'm a social animal and the main thing I like about live poker is the chance to catch up with people) but on this occasion I was keen to maximise down time so if I was a little curt with anyone, I apologise.

Why did you fold an ace in the small blind to a limp and a call?

This surprised almost everyone who knows me as it's clearly a profitable call and an obvious squeeze spot. I considered both options before deciding to fold.

My overall strategy in tournaments like this (late on, fast structure, shallow stacks and I feel I have a decent edge over the field) is to keep out of murky spots and preserve as much fold equity as possible. Software tools like Holdem Resources Calculator have revolutionised how wide people defend their blinds. It's now relatively easy to plug in a spot, click a button, and have the computer tell you exactly what range can be profitably defended.

Once I'd played around a bit with HRC and got a sense of profitable defend ranges I started defending as wide as everyone else until I heard Doug Polk suggest on a livestream that people tended to obsess over tiny edges preflop that pale into significance compared to the big mistakes you can make post flop out of position with crap holdings. This caused me to go back and review my online database. I quickly found out that while defending the bottom of the range might be slightly profitable in theory, in practise I ended up leaking some chips post flop. So while defending a6o (which is the very worst ace really) might make you 0.03 big blinds or whatever in theory, in practise you stand to lose a lot of big blinds in unclear post flop spots,  and when you factor in ICM and the advantages of fold equity, these trump the theoretical 0.03 big blinds you give up by folding pre. Not all equity is created equal: fold equity is always better than any other kind, particularly when ICM is a factor.

Another small factor is the big blind had a reshove stack. Having ruled out the call for these reasons, I also ruled out the raise. With recent history and table dynamics I didn't think the squeeze would get through very often, and more often than not I'd be sat with a horrible hand out of position to one or more players.

It's definitely a close one though, and I think I'd have defended almost any other ace (except maybe a2o), and a6s.

Why are you always on your IPad?

A lot of people give out to me for being on my iPad constantly, suggesting I'm distracted and missing action. First thing to say to that is I can assure you I'm not crushing candy or faffing about on Facebook. What I am doing is being fed information by what Parky calls my bench on what they can pick up from the livestream, dissecting hands after the event, and taking notes. I've found when I don't do this I actually miss more at the table as it's a lot easier to lose focus.

I know some people who can maintain 100% focus while staring intently at everything, but my mind tends to wander unless I force myself to take notes. I also think that people are much more likely to give away physical information if you don't make it blindingly obvious you're watching them.

Parky alluded to the fact that having what he called a strong bench could be seen as an unfair advantage. I can definitely see the argument there: it's undoubtedly an advantage to be able to call on top class professional players who know what to look for and communicate back to me. I'm fortunate enough to have several such guys on my bench (big thank you on this occasion to David Lappin in particular), and as long as it's not against the rules it's an edge I feel I have to take. I guess it could also be argued that in the same way we are rewarded for hours of study and hard work away from the table with an edge over our less hardworking opponents, one of the rewards for a lot of time and effort spent cultivating friendships with other players is they can be called on to pitch in on these occasions.

On the subject of the rules, I was told at one point that I couldn't actually be on the iPad at the table, so from that point forward in the livestream you'll see me stepping away from the table a lot to check.

Are you ever folding nines against Eoin Starr's jacks?

No. In those seats at those stacks we are both always getting it in with those hands. The only way it can play out differently is against a tighter big blind I might just shove hoping to fold out some flips. Knowing as I did from the bench that Eoin had ace seven off in the hand where he shoved over my late position raise (with king queen), and given our history stretching back years, leaving Eoin room to shove a wide range of hands that nines dominates is a much bigger consideration than folding out a handful of flips.

Pretty sickening beat for Eoin obviously, but one he took with great grace. As Nick noted on comms, Eoin was a bit of a raw diamond when he first appeared on the scene a few years ago but after a few years in the online mines he's a much more accomplished player technically these days. He didn't put a foot wrong all day and had his jacks held there would probably have gone favourite to win.

Did you lose your mind when you shoved ten eight suited?

No. While my preferred strategy headsup was to keep pots small preflop to maximise play postflop, to his credit Peter wasn't really allowing me to do this. He was opening and threebetting a very wide range that stretched all the way down to 53o and using a big sizing preflop. He wasn't going to allow me to grind him down and we'd already been all in three times preflop. So I've got him down to 15 big blinds and I'm looking to either whittle him down more or deliver the knockout blow.

When he again raises to 2.5x (he didn't seem to adjust his sizing as his stack dwindled) and I find ten eight suited, I figure folding isn't an option (given he's raising down to 53o) so I just have to decide whether to call or shove. If I call, I'm usually going to have ten high and have to give up on the flop, so we need to make done assumptions and do some gorilla maths to see if the shove is good:
(1) Judging from his opening frequency and the fact that the range goes all the way down to 53o, it looks like Peter is opening at least 90% of hands
(2) Even if we assume he will call a shove super wide, say any ace, k6 or better, q9 or better, all pairs, jto and some suited connectors, this is still only 30% of the hands he opens, so he folds to the shove 70% of the time
(3) Our equity against that calling range with T8s is 40%

So when we shove, there are three possibilities:
(1) He folds (70% of the time) and we pick up his 2.5x open and the big blind. This is a net gain of .7 times 3.5 = +2.45 big blinds
(2) He calls (30%) and we lose (60% of that 30% so 18% of the time) the 14 big blinds we shove. Net loss is 0.18*14 = -2.52 big blinds
(3) He calls (30%) and we win (40% of that 30% so 12% of the time) his 15 big blinds plus the one we posted. Net gain is 0.12*16 = +1.92 big blinds

So if our assumptions are correct, shoving is a plus Ev play of 1.85 big blinds. It's difficult to imagine calling wins us this much on average.

Were you playing to win, or ladder? How important was the trophy?

This came up in the commentary too. Nick obviously knows me very well as he nailed it when he said that I'm primarily a professional poker player, so the money is the main motivation. But he added that I'm one of the most competitive people he knows (a fact I underlined when I saw him after listening back to the stream and the first thing out of my mouth wasn't "Thanks for the nice words Nick" but "You said I don't have many wins on my Hendon mob! I have eight! More than any other Irish player!") and therefore wanted to win.

And that's definitely true: I did want to win. Not for the trophy (lots of those at home already), but not just because first pays more than second either. But the main thing that gives me satisfaction from poker is coming away with the feeling that whether I won or I lost I gave my best and made the best decisions I could make. In terms of results, I have always valued long term consistency and endurance over short term form. Had I hit my eight or nine to win, I wouldn't have played any better or worse overall.

Paul Marrow sent me a congratulatory message afterwards. When I said I'd have preferred to win, he hit the nail on the head.

"Cash is Cash mate, after a week trophies only become clutter....."

But enough about me

This was easily the most fun event I've attended in Ireland since the legendary UKIPT Galway in 2013. Credit to that goes to everyone involved. To Fintan Gavin and Parky who travelled the length and breadth of the country spreading the word. To Rob Yong and Party Poker for setting aggressive guarantees and pulling a large crowd from overseas. Party's staff and ambassadors did everything they could to add to the craic. In particular, shoutout to Natalia Breviglieri who I'd only met once before briefly in Vegas when railing Daiva in the ladies (which Natalia final tabled) and who charmed everyone she interacted with in Killarney. To the bloggers Paul and Marc who provided top quality work as ever, and to everyone already named involved in the livestream. And to all the recreational players who turned up and provided that friendly atmosphere unique to Ireland. It was great to see so many faces I hadn't seen in years who I feared might be gone from poker forever. And on a personal level, thanks to my study buddy and constant poker confidante Daiva. I don't think it's a coincidence that I'm playing a lot better and have a more positive mindset since I teamed up with Daiva as study buddies.

Well done to Richie and Peter, the winners of the two events. I've known Richie from the start, and it was great to see a class player and a great guy finally get the score he deserved. I'd never seen Peter before but as was noted on the commentary, he was the one guy on the final table who went for it. Some players freeze on the big stage but Peter stepped up to the plate and deserved his victory. Also a special mention to father and son Ray and Dave Masters who final tabled the WPT.

Back to back to back

After I final tabled UKIPT London I assumed that would be the live highpoint of my year. If you'd told me I'd final table my next two tournaments, one a Grand Prix with over 2000 runners and the other a WPT, both on the same day, I wouldn't have believed you. Obviously there was more than a small amount of luck involved, particularly in the GPPT where I got the needed double and treble ups to stay alive at the breaks. In that tournament, I blinded off over a million in chips due to my involvement in the WPT, which is over fifty starting stacks (and 5k in equity), so it's not something I'd ever attempt again. But it ended up giving me a day I will never forget, the day I went back to back to back and made two final tables.


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