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.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The poker wife

I married a treasure.

As much as I joke about her, I never lose sight of that. When I persuaded/tricked the world's least likely wife (who had rebuffed dozens of wannabe husbands before she unexpectedly agreed to marry me within weeks of meeting me) into marriage, I pulled off the coup of a lifetime. I got as a lifelong companion the funniest smartest most ferociously unique person I've ever known. I also got someone with a unique capacity to put up with and support my foibles eccentricities whims and mad notions.

In the run up to Vegas, her wonderful qualities came to the fore. I needed new clothes. Knowing my deep and abiding hatred for shopping, she went to the shop herself and got what I needed. The jacket wasn't right so she brought it back, and returned with two other candidates.

The wheels literally came off my bag on my return from Copenhagen. She went and got a new one. When I complimented her on how perfect it was, how easy it is to take my laptop out and put it back in, she said it took her a minute to choose and she was in and out of the shop in three minutes. I believe this as she is without a doubt the world's most efficient shopper, as David and Saron will testify. In Vienna recently she needed a new top. As we walked into the store, she announced she saw what she wanted. Before Saron even had time to start browsing, she had paid and we were leaving. I have traumatic childhood memories of following my mother from shop to shop for entire days only for us to traipse back to the first shop to buy something horrible, so there's no overstating how attractive her shopping efficiency is to me.

She has gradually turned my grinding room at home into the perfect place to grind. Once the desk and computers were set up, stuff gradually started appearing to improve my lot. A TV on the wall above the computer for when I'm down to my last few tables. A stereo to my left (I'm left handed). A coffee machine. A fridge with all of my favourite foods. Grapes and nuts (my snacks of choice) and cups of coffee appear as if by magic on my desk, and the dishes magically disappear as do the yogurt cartons and tubs of bustout ice cream.

Things are always a bit tense before my annual pilgrimage to Vegas for the WSOP. I'm at my narkiest, and also feeling guilty because I know how much she hates it when I'm away. So much that after a few weeks she can't take it any more and puts herself through the ordeal of Vegas. And it is an ordeal for her: she hates it like she hates no other place she's been, and probably more than any other person on the planet hates it. I hate being away from her as much as she hates me being away, but from a deep dark place in my psyche there's a demented insatiable desire to succeed at whatever I'm currently obsessed with. Her distress at my imminent departure manifests itself not in sniping or complaints but in manic restocking of my fridge. As I leave home it's filled with  yogurts ice cream and other treats that will have spoiled by the time I get home. This is one of the many things I still don't understand about her after three decades by her side. Is it denial? Is it a comfort to her after I'm gone? Or is it her way of reminding me that no matter how badly Vegas goes there will always be a fridge full of treats waiting for me at home?

Throughout my years as a fanatical Bowie fan, she followed me around the world from concert to concert. She hates crowds but she found herself in mosh pits. She found the fanatical fan type tough to be around but there she was. At least she grew to like the music.

Through my years as a journeyman turned international class runner, she followed me from race to race as my masseuse/coach/nutritionist/support staff. She hated travelling by now, not enjoying the experience of being herded around airports like cattle. But at least she enjoyed the races and the athletes. Her kind of people: self reliant, mutually supportive, healthy, uncomplaining, and even a little bit spiritual.

It's fair to say the poker phase of my life has been the toughest for her. She has no love for the game or most of the people it attracts. She hates the Get Rich quick it's all about EV mentality. She hates that the only real yardstick in poker is filthy dirty money, that the first question people ask when you win is "How much?" She understands it well enough to realise that winning a poker tournament is not really an achievement. Thankfully, she also understands it well enough to recognise that making a very good consistent living for a decade is a real achievement. When our bank manager expressed surprise at how much I make from poker she said in a rare expression of wifely pride "He's one of the best".

I know she hates all the attention whoring I do as part of my career. She's a hermit at heart, someone who likes her light hidden under a bushel. She never wanted to be dragged into this life, but she accepts it and supports me in every way she can. I think people sometimes think when I call her Mrs Doke that I'm being old fashioned or chauvinistic or patronising (and maybe I am unknowingly), that I'm reducing her to the wife of Doke, but I'm actually trying to put distance between the wonderful person she is in her own right and the character she is in my poker story.

The night before I left for Vegas, she packed all my bags with Alsatian efficiency as our shared sadness hung in the air. I told her that a few days after Vegas I'd be off again to Manchester for an MPN stop. She pointed out that if I made the final table of the main event I'd miss Manchester. Then she said something unusually poignant for someone so unsentimental.

"I hope you win the main event this year because then you could quit poker and we could spend more time together"

I married a treasure.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Handbags and confused Danes in Copenhagen


Friday was 1b, which meant a day off, from playing at least. After breakfast, David and I did promo video for the Chip Race (Ian was there too, kind of). Daiva and David filmed interviews. Daiva wandered off after hers, leaving her handbag behind. David, miked up for his interview, started complaining about a crushing headache and asked me to retrieve some headache tablets from Daiva's bag. It's fair to say I'm as clueless as it gets when it comes to inter gender etiquette, but even a bewildered buffoon like myself was pretty sure that rooting around in a lady's bag is not really acceptable, so I was more than reluctant. David and the film crew assured me it was fine, so I eventually caved and gingerly lifted the flap of the bag to see if the pills were on top and could be retrieved unintrusively. As I did so, Daiva arrived back and Lappin obviously shouted "Look, Dara's rooting in your bag!!!"

"How are you going to explain this to me, Dara?"

Daiva's words, but thankfully not on this occasion (she actually said it to me a few days later in our next study session when I reported some rather unexpected analysis of a hand by PIO). Fortunately Daiva is the polar opposite of a drama queen, so she brushed off the bag invasion without having a fit. We should all be blessed with female friends so reasonable.


"Hvem Helvede er den fyr?" 
"Og hvorfor I alverden er der et filmhold som filmer ham?" *

We all headed back to the street food market with Daiva and John. The film crew showed up and I disappeared off with them to a suitably picturesque location to film my ambassadorial interview. It was a little distracting and a lot funny to keep seeing confused Danish faces looking at me thinking "Who the Hell is that guy and why on Earth is a film crew filming him".

After that I headed back to the hotel with David, Saron and their infant son Hunter Sebastian Kilmartin Lappin Harford. David and I jumped into the commentary booth to relief the A team of David Vanderheyden and Marc Convey so they could go to dinner.  It's always a good laugh with David and even if most of the content was Ian Simpson trolling we did do a little analysis too. You can watch it on replay here.
(We come in around the 4 hour 48 minute mark)

Day 2

I was the only ambassador back for day 2, but with my sub twenty big blind stack I was hoping to get going early. I lingered around for a couple of hours surviving on uncalled shoves. Before I knew it I was down to ten big blinds and couldn't get a decent spot to get my chips in. As the blinds escalated about 25 places from the bubble, my stack dwindled to five big blinds. With little or no fold equity it was now a case of waiting for a spot where I was either priced in or better yet ahead. I found one shoving queen ten from the small blind over a button limp, but wasn't able to hold against nine four. Suited.

Once my bustout blues had cleared I went with John and Daiva to Tivoli, one of the few (I imagine) city centre entertainment parks in the world. Espen and Chris showed up to do some filming and I told them the story of my unlikely victory over Firaldo in a drinking contest in Prague two years ago (relived in the latest episode of The Chip Race).

American inhibitions

That out of the way, John and I scooted off to find a sports bar to watch the FA Cup final. We gained admittance to the downstairs part of The Southern Cross. The formidable lady in charge of admissions made such a point of how we could under no circumstance access the upstairs portion (for which people were backed down the stairs) that I started to worry that the downstairs part might be a bit of a dungeon. But it was perfectly fine and thankfully not overcrowded.

Most of the people in the pub were Arsenal fans (myself included: as a United fan John was there as a neutral observer), including one very vocal young American. I quickly got the feeling that a big part of the appeal of watching English football for him was it is one of the few milieus in which it is socially acceptable to throw off the American norms on swearing and cuss words, and he didn't restrict himself to swearing at opposition players ("CLEAR IT, YOU SHITHEAD").

My speculations on the psychological and cultural reasons underpinning his love of the Gooners only grew when John asked him what brought him to Copenhagen, and he admitted rather sheepishly that he was on a cruise with his Mom. As John remarked later, if that's the truth of the matter, maybe you should be making up a lie.

Late night dining Lappin style

After another brief stint in the commentary booth (we come in around the 8 hour 15 minute mark), it was time for the players party. But first,  Lappin was hungry.

Inside the club the first person we ran into was the wonderfully warm Viktor Blom. Lappin and I followed him out to the smoking area where we chatted for a while about everything and anything, including Viktor's latest protege five time World of Warcraft champion Alan "Hotted" Widmann. Alan is already a formidable poker player (he won the Esports sit n go in London), and Viktor was fulsome in his praise of his natural talent and potential.

Chip Race and six five sooted

Another late night before another early morning to do some Chip Race interviews. David and I agreed the rough script over breakfast, and then went in search of our first victim Nick O'Hara. He was followed by another tournament director, one of the last ever November Niners, Kenny Hallaert. I don't want to give away spoilers before the interviews appear, but it was fascinating to hear Kenny talk about his preparation with Fedor Holz for the final table.  We were also hoping to interview Alan Widmann but he was either too under the weather after the party (my view) or he just big timed us (Lappin's). I'm still very hopeful we will get him in future as I think his is a fascinating story.

Next up was the only side event I found time for in Copenhagen, the progressive KO. I chipped up a little early on. It's fair to say the tournament had a refreshingly fast structure so even having chipped up I found myself with just under twenty big blinds pretty quickly. I thought I'd found a great spot calling a 20 bb shove under the gun with Kings. I was in good shape against the shovers ace eight off, but the small blind woke up with 65s behind us to claim a double KO when he rivered a gut shot. I went for a run to clear my head and then arranged to go for food with Timmy. Before that could happen, Davitsche and Marc needed dinner relief, which myself and Daiva were happy to provide. As my study buddy, Daiva is the person I talk the most hands with these days, so it was a bit like one of our weekly afternoon Skype sessions, but in person.
(We come in around the 4 hour 48 minute mark)

I spent the rest of the day socialising after deciding that the legal situation in Denmark made an online Sunday grind a little dicey, but was glad of that in the end with some interesting chats in the bar with the usual crew, Fredrick Bergmann who has a very interesting background and Gerry and Louise.
The company whittled down to a few diehards before I headed to bed around 4.30. Another early rise for breakfast and some more filming (me running in the park). I hope and pray they speed up the footage because as effective as my running style was for winning 60 mile races and breaking national 24 hour records, it isn't exactly poetry in motion, or even impressive viewing.

After that it was time for goodbyes, which were a little bittersweet as I won't see most of these wonderful people for quite a while again (proximity to my departure for Vegas forced me to skip the next event in Glasgow). A massive thank you to all the staff and players too many to name individually who made the event the most fun one where I didn't cash a tourney.

In the cab to the airport the cab driver asked me which airline. When I said Ryanair, he chuckled:
"This cab is gonna cost more than your flight".

Turns out that dry Danish wit isn't confined to petrol stations at 3 pm.

* Thanks to my Danish friend Niels for providing this translation of what I imagined I heard the locals saying

Monday, May 29, 2017

My new Danish pen pal (Unibet Open Copenhagen 2017)

In 2010 I spent some time with the late great Liam Flood at the Villamoura EPT, one of my first EPTs. Suitably depressed after getting knocked out a bit before the bubble by eventual winner Toby Lewis, I decided to spend the rest of the trip sulking in my room clicking buttons. Liam lured me out telling me he had swapped 10% with an inexperienced player who was running deep.  He said he was a bit worried that this guy might play a bit too tight in the latter stages, and asked me if I could have breakfast with them and give the newb some pointers. I reluctantly agreed to postpone clicking buttons that day and joined them for a late breakfast. The newb in question turned out to be Teddy Sheringham (the footballer). Shortly after I got there, Liam made his excuses and left us to it. I felt the notion of me dispensing advice to Teddy was slightly ridiculous, so I didn't bother. Instead I enjoyed a very pleasant breakfast talking about football, golf, sport and life in general. He asked me who I supported and when I outed myself as a Gooner grinned "you must have hurled abuse at me down the years then". No point in lying to the man: given that he played for Spurs, United and Engerland, he pretty much ticked all the boxes in that department. Hopefully cheering for him on the final table was some sort of amends (he ended up coming fifth).

As we were finishing our breakfast, we were joined by Tony Cascarino (the footballer). Teddy didn't hang around, and I decided just leaving Cas on his own might be perceived as a little rude, so I postponed clicking buttons a little longer. I decided to make the minimum of conversation that would satisfy politeness standard while he wolfed down his bacon, but not get dragged into another heart to heart that might go on until another ex footballer appeared out of the woodwork. Well, you can never be too careful, can you?

It turned out Cas was vaguely aware of me not just as a poker player, but as an ex runner. But only vaguely. Very vaguely.

"You're the former runner, right?"
"Yeah yeah. I remember you running in the Olympics".

My mind started evaluating the two possible lines I could now take. I could check raise him by pointing out that I never ran in the Olympics. In my experience though, people tend to get a bit upset when you check raise them, and they rarely just fold quickly and leave it at that. I anticipated being asked for clarification, which would lead to me having to explain that ultra running wasn't in the Olympics (and possibly why not, and maybe even a lengthy discussion about what ultra running even was). So I decided it was safer to just Call, and hope that ended the conversation.

"Yeah, yeah, I remember it well. Moscow, right?"
"Um.....well.....Moscow, yeah"
"So what was it like? Moscow?"

Suddenly, with no real idea as to why, I found myself backed into a tough conversational spot, having to describe what the Moscow Olympics were like. Despite never having been to the Olympics. Or even Moscow. But here I was having to talk about the weather there, the food, the women, the sights.

I had a somewhat similar experience on my flight to Unibet Open Copenhagen. As we were taking off, my seat neighbour turned to me and said something in Danish. Instead of doing what any normal person would do (make it immediately clear I don't understand a word of Danish), for some reason I smiled and nodded before returning my attention to my IPad. A few minutes later I became aware my neighbour was talking Danish at me again. Figuring nodding and smiling had worked so well last time, I decided to stick with a proven strategy. A few smiles and nods later, the IPad had my undivided attention again. At least for a few minutes. As I turned my face to Danish again, I started to question the effectiveness of this whole smiling and nodding strategy. But I figured I was now pot committed to the pretence that I understood Danish in much the same way as I had been to Cascarino's belief he had seen me in the Moscow Olympics. So I spent quite a lot of the rest of the flight smiling and nodding at my new friend.

This wasn't the most pleasurable in flight experiences ever, at least from my perspective. As we disembarked he insisted we swap email addresses. I fully expect an email in my inbox when I get home saying he actually realised I have no Danish and the whole thing was a windup.

On my first full day in Copenhagen, I walked with Daiva and Ian to the world famous street food market. Food trip reports are more a Daiva thing, so I'll leave the full details to her blog, but the food and company was excellent. On the way we passed a wishing tree. I rather selfishly wished for a WSOP bracelet, while my friends proved to be more selfless.

The following day was day 1a. I made a decent start for once adding 50% to my starting stack over the first few levels, before a combination of card death, escalating blinds and a light threebet that didn't work saw me dip below 20k. A much needed double up was secured when my jacks held all in on the turn against A4dd on a TT8hhd3d board. Our table broke shortly afterwards and I was moved to the feature table for the rest of the day. If you want to see what happened it's available here:

I come in around the 7 hour 34 minute mark. It wasn't particularly eventful for me personally but after a tough grind of a day I was reasonably satisfied to bag up just under 35k. Afterwards I stayed at the bar a while celebrating with Daiva's husband John and my future son in law Tim Davie both of whom I hadn't seen in a good while. Honourable mentions for bloggers Tom and Josh who I was meeting for the first time, voucher supremo Simon Steedman and Gerry and Louise from Scotland.

The evening culminated with a 3 am walk to the petrol station for late night food. The hot dogs there are surprisingly good, and unsurprisingly sold out at that hour. I decided to go with Nacho crisps to ease my hunger pangs, but John was keen on something hot. A poor crop at best was on display, so John sought the local knowledge of the guy behind the counter:

"What would you recommend from this lot?"
"I can't decide for you, mate"
"But imagine you were trapped in a petrol station at 3 am"
"I am"

Turns out Danish wit can be dryer than any Danish pastry you might find in a petrol station at 3 am.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Could be a stress fracture

Every time I find myself in Dublin airport on my way to a poker tournament with Mrs Doke, my mind flashes back a decade to when we would find ourselves on the way to an ultramarathon. As crazy as I am now, she had to contend with even more crazy during my days as an international runner. As my unpaid helper handler guru masseuse nutritionist psychologist, she was basically charged with everything from booking the flights, getting us to the airport on time, packing my bags, to dealing with my various neuroses and psychosis that always came to the fore as the stress of a very long run approached. 

She also had to deal with me whining and embellishing every little twinge I felt.
"I think my foot is broken"
"It can't be. You're walking fine on it"
"But it's sore"
"You always feel this way during your taper"
"It could be a stress fracture"

As a runner I was trained to nip injury in the bud by actively seeking out every twinge and RICEing the bejesus out of it before it became a proper injury. At least during training. On race day, I switched to completely ignoring all the pain and discomfort before it tried to nag me into stopping.

Looking back now, I feel that weirdly neurotic state I found myself in the days before a race was a vital part of the mental preparation. Running a 24 hour race is tough, no matter what anyone tells you. There's no point trying to kid yourself: your inner bullshit detector just won't let you. My coach used to say you needed to feel real and present dread when you stood at the starting line. That dread that swamped over you stopped you from charging off like a muppet because you have lots of nervous energy, at a pace you can't sustain for an hour much less 24. That dread sucks the pep from your step, pep that might cause you to pound the road a little too hard in hour one of the race causing you to pull up in hour eleven injured. That dread stops you getting into dumb "I'm in front for now" games when there are still 23 hours and 58 minutes to go.

My coach also used to say that best approach was to start as slow as you possibly could, and then try not to slow down too much during the race. Because no matter how slow you go at the start, you will slow down. I sometimes wonder if a similar approach to poker tournaments might be GTO. After all, more than 99% of the time it will end, if not in tears, then at least in mini death and disappointment. So maybe going in thinking positive thoughts is just setting yourself up for a fall.

James Stockdale ended his life as the seemingly senile vice presidential candidate to the positively nuts Ross Perot, starting his VP debate with words which did little to dispel his image as a bewildered old man ("Who am I? Why am I here?") But several decades earlier, he was a US war hero, whose experiences as a POW in Vietnam gave birth to what is known as the Stockdale paradox. 

Stockdale was one of eleven U.S. military prisoners known as the "Alcatraz Gang". Because they had been resistance leaders they were separated from other captives and placed in solitary confinement in a special facility in a courtyard behind the North Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, located about one mile away from Hoa Lo Prison. Each of the prisoners was kept in an individual windowless and concrete cell measuring 3 by 9 feet with a light bulb kept on around the clock, and locked in leg irons each night.

When author James Collins asked who didn't make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:

Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart. This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

This is a sobering message as we live in a time when a lot of nonsense is written and talked about the "power of positive thinking", with little concrete evidence offered as to its benefits other than giving us an unrealistic sense of well being. Yes, if you go into a poker tournament thinking positively that you're going to win, you might feel great. If nothing goes wrong and you do end up winning you'll go on feeling great. But in terms of preparing mentally for the battle ahead, how useful really is getting into a mindset that only works if nothing goes wrong?

Many poker mind game gurus recognise the power of pessimism. Jared Tendler has written about it. Dr Tricia Cardner talks about the power of the pre mortem. A pre mortem is like a post mortem (where you think about everything that went wrong after the event to try to learn from it), except you do it before, visualising everything that could possibly go wrong. By visualising problems and setbacks in advance, you can mentally rehearse your response to them, rather than fall to pieces in game because you expected nothing to go wrong.

I used to just turn up to a poker tournament (or turn my computer on) and play. That was fine when poker was new and fresh and less of a routine. These days I feel the need to do some mental warm ups. These generally take the form of meditation after I wake up, then a run to get the blood flowing while I listen to a poker podcast to start my brain thinking about poker, then some study, and I go on thinking about poker until I sit down to play. I try to imagine all sorts of horrible things. What if I take a bunch of bad beats right out of the gate? What if my internet or PC dies? What if there's a power cut and every alarm in the estate screeches to distracting life? What if I misclick early in my session? What if....

If you're going to have a lot of What ifs in your life, I feel it's best to have them before rather than after. Pessimism is a bit like Clonsilla, on the periphery of Dublin, where I live now. I hated it when we moved here first, but once I got used to it, it's not a bad place to live. The same is true of Clonsilla.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

LaDeborah, Staples v Perkins, Twitch, WSOP

On my last night in Brighton at the Unibet UK tour, Ian Simpson made the rather laughable (I thought at least) claim that while I might have more live cashes than him, he had more final tables. Of course, rather than just laughing off this outlandish claim like any sane person would, I immediately set about disproving it. Which I did by Hendon Mobbing us both on my phone, which revealed our respective live final table counts as 15 for Ian and 68 for me. So kinda  close then. The fact that Iany took this surprisingly well led me to suspect the whole point of the claim was to make me count 83 individual entries across our two Hendon mobs on my ancient Iphone.


Our final table waving contest attracted the reasonable derision of Mad Harper and Deborah Worley Roberts. Debs, who had final tabled the Brighton event, then switched tack unexpectedly from how pathetic our discussion was to "why haven't you ever mentioned me in your blogs, unlike the rest of your honeys?"

Firstly I would like to register my approval of the idea that I have "honeys" in poker, irrespective of how ironically it was intended. Secondly this was definitely not a deliberate snub, even if the course of affairs between myself and LaDeborah has not always run smoothly. She first attracted my attention by berating me at length over bad beats I'd put on her online (I never have any memory of these bad beats but have no problem accepting responsibility for them as the type of thing I do). Next, she set fracked a friend of mine out of a tournament while I was at the table (drew to and hit a set on the river with half the stacks in after the turn). On the other hand, she does hang around with the wonderful Kelly Saxby, and the absence of a Saxby restraining order must mean something. She pointed out that her record (two UKIPT final tables and a deep run in WSOP Ladies event) was worthy of recognition. It was at that moment I recalled that she was on the final table of UKIPT Cork. The fact that that event was a double disappointment to me presumably meant I was less than magniminious in my blog of the event in handing out congrats. I took a particularly bad one early in the main to be crippled but recovered into contention only to bust three tables out, and Nick Newport (who was staked by myself and the other Firm lads at the time) dangled the prospect of a big score in front of us but was devastated to bust first from the final table. So devastated he not only endangered us all on the tilt drive home, but also took this awful photo of me passed out in the passenger seat (and made it his Stars avatar meaning I saw it nightly for the next few years).

If it's any consolation Debs, I seem to remember there was much discussion of you and your play in the car before I passed out, and hopefully this overdue shoutout on the blog makes amends.

Staples bros v Perkins

This prop bet has generated a lot of polarized opinions since it was announced that the Staples boys are going to try to get to the same weight (give or take a pound) in the next year. If they manage to do so, they will relieve Bill Perkins of a drop (150k) in the ocean of his wealth, while if they fail to do so they have to add a droplet (3k) to Perkins ocean. Most of the views I've heard are either "piece of cake" or "not a hope". I'm somewhere in the middle: I think it's going to be tough for Jaime to shed enough pounds to get within Matt's ballpark, and even tougher for weedy little Matt to gain enough weight to give Jamie a decent target to shoot for (there's a reason why lightweights in boxing don't bulk up to heavyweight in chase of the big dollars). Tough, but not impossible.

I'm particularly surprised to see numerous people suggest that the "within a pound" stipulation is the toughest part of the deal. The idea seems to be that even if the two lads manage to meet in the middle somewhere, manipulating their weights to within a pound or less would be the toughest part. I personally don't see it. Fighters make weight at weigh ins by dehydrating themselves. This means that on fight night boxers often weigh up to a stone heavier than they did at the weigh in the night before. So if the lads are within a stone or two of each other this time next year, then I humbly suggest it will be relatively easy to calibrate their weights by manipilating their liquid intake. Just dehydrate Jaime while Matt glugs down a gallon or two of water.

Feeling Twitchy

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is "When are you going to start Twitching?" Early this year I used to answer "Soon", because I expected to sign with Unibet and start Twitching for them as part of the deal. I did indeed sign as an ambassador, but unfortunately it turned out I couldn't start Twitching for legal licensing reasons (Unibet is not yet licensed in the Republic of Ireland). I'm hoping it will be sorted out later this year or early next year, but in the meantime I suggest you get yourself over and watch the streams of my Chip Race cohorts Ian Simpson and David Lappin. They work well as a duo as they love to take the piss out of each other, and Lappin's anti-Iany rants are the funniest things I've seen on Twitch.

I predicted in advance that Lappin would be perfect for Twitch, so if you want to watch someone who plays very similarly to me but is way more entertaining, tune in. It hasn't all been plain sailing though: his first stream was a memorable shambles as I explained to Jake Cody before we interviewed him for the Chip Race.

In Brighton, David and Ian were kind enough to help me out on commentary on the Irish Open Online event. It's fair to say copious amounts of wine were consumed and we perhaps weren't taking our commentary duties as seriously as we generally do, but the fact that we still managed to get over 1000 hits on Youtube for an online event that attracted 48 runners suggests people may have enjoyed it more than they should have. On the night we struggled to maintain our meagre live viewership in the face of direct competition from the Hall-Dentale grudge match. Our cause wasn't helped by David constantly reminding people what was on on the other channel. Every time he did so our viewing figures dipped, but hopefully he learned a lesson from that. Not sure though: the last time I tuned in to his Twitch channel he was talking up the appeal of the DTD Million final table and recommending people go watch it.

Vegas plans

With my WSOP plans now finalised (I'll be there June 6 to July 17) the plan for May is to prepare as intensely as I can. Physically I feel I'm back in peak shape (this blog is being written after I completed a 30 mile long run), I've put a lot of work and study into my game this year, and the plan is to keep the foot on the gas on that front throughout May. Just fun live poker trips planned before Vegas: MPN Malta this weekend, and Unibet Open Copenhagen at the end of May. Then it's off to Vegas to try to give myself another shot at a bracelet. As in previous years, I will be selling some action to reduce my exposure and variance, so if you're interested in a Vegas sweat, watch this space (or rather Twitter) in the coming week or two.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Fresh Open memories

Sam Grafton bouncing around the place in dungarees like a man whose cultural research on how to dress in Ireland only got as far as a viewing of a Dexy's Midnight Runners video. 

George Devine bringing me a thoughtful present (David Bowie commemorative stamps). 

Feeling relief that "Norwegian Donald Trump" Espen behaved himself in our place and so didn't get killed by Mrs Doke. So relieved I give him a free run through a satellite hand history of mine. Enjoying his consternation when I fold kings preflop.

Sameer arriving the next day and instantly making a more favourable impression with a very well chosen bottle of French wine. Doing some PIO work to prepare for the next day. Playing my first bullet at a table that includes Griffin Benger. Enjoying the reaction at the table when an angelic blonde dealer smiles at me and says "I remember you from Prague". Busting shortly after Griffin does in a flip against Espen.

Sitting in reception recharging my phone and my spirits hoping the hotel staff leave me in peace without trying to sell me a beverage. Looking blankly at the face of the hotel girl trying to work out what she is trying to sell me. Realising eventually it's not a hotel huckster but my friend Elena "The Groupie" Stover who has flown in to play and is about to late register.

Having more luck on my second bullet and bagging up a bit more than average and a day off. Celebrating a bit too long in the bar with Sameer, Elena, Fintan Hand, John Keown and Keith Cummins. As we finally leave hearing Griffin Benger (who everyone would be talking about by the end) say "Everyone is talking about The Dokester and there he is". Crawling out of bed the next morning and persuading a very ill Sameer to come with me for a three hour walk around Phoenix Park. Filming how unimpressed he is by the herds of deer.

Making a good start to day 2 getting up to close to 100k.  Changing tables 7 times in the day as it slowly goes pear shaped. Shoving queen jack over a small blind limp about 70 from the bubble and losing at showdown to ace ten. Late regging the JP Masters while keeping an eye on my swaps Sameer and Smidge as they navigate through the main event bubble. Bagging up a little more than starting stack. Spending a little too long at the bar with Sameer and Smidge making day 3. Depositing the proceeds of my satellite winnings in my green bag. Paul Carr joking that he was going to rob the bag. Settling a bet between him and Weesh as to whether his exit in the main was a shove on the bubble. Meeting Bridie Gribbin and Barry Foley and getting their feedback on the return of The Chip Race. Discussing six big blind shoving ranges with Sameer in the cab home. Grabbing a few hours sleep and running some simulations over breakfast with Sameer.

Busting the first hand of day 2 JP Masters to confirmed nemesis Espen. 

Getting the rubdown photograph taken as I slunk away. Finally getting to see Alex (Daragh Davey's baby son). 

Getting a brain teaser from Emma Simpson (both the brains and beauty of the Simpson marriage which was famously proposed at another Irish Open).

Getting a free hotel room from Paul H who won a package but is going home early (thanks Paul, was a lifesaver). Late regging the Liam Flood Memorial (appropriately enough a 6 max turbo). Mick McCluskey asking me how much I had with 18 left.

"14 big blinds"
"Not really. I'm chipleader"

Losing a flip with ten left for a lot of the chips. Railing Sameer who has survived in the main on fumes all day and is now closing in on an improbable final table, and Fintan who is proper beasting. Being joined on the rail by Elena, Christin, Espen and Canadian "Energiser Bunny" Giancarlo. Buying Elena a Cute Hoor because she feels self conscious about asking for one. Walking out after Sameer has made the unofficial final table telling him to smell the roses as we don't get them very often in life. Him taking it rather literally and asking me to take a photo.

Talking 9 big blind strategy with an understandably excited Sameer before catching a couple of hours sleep. Running some more simulations after we wake (What if it's folded round to me first hand? What if Griffin opens first hand? What if the first spot I get is over a Griffin button open? How much are ranges affected by ICM and how does it change them?) meant skipping breakfast and heading straight down to the commentary box. Commentating on the full final table alongside Parky, which was an item ticked off the bucket list. Feeling nervous given how dog tired I was after a few nights of sleep deprivation, but feeling reasonably happy afterwards with how I acquitted myself. Thoroughly enjoying spending 7 hours alongside Parky (nine, counting the dinner break). Feeling very proud of Sameer who short stacked ninjaed his way to sixth, and another player I coach who also performed brilliantly on the final table.

Seeing Chris Dowling walk away from the table as I went into the commentary booth (we were in a thirty minute delay).  Feeling very sad for him as I know how much he would have loved to win. I've known Chris for my entire poker career and we've had our ups and downs but there's nobody I'd root for more in an event like this.

Having a celebration drink with Sameer. Meeting lots of my favourite people I haven't seen in ages, and boring some of them to sleep. Maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was my talk on optimal three betting frequencies, who can tell.

Looking forward to next year's event already.

Related viewing

  • The full final table (commentary by me and Parky) 
  • Highlights on TV3 - available only in Ireland (commentary by me and Parky) 
  • Irish Open online livestream (commentary by me, Ian Simpson and Ian Simpson) 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Born on a school bus

The world's oldest continuous foot race is the London to Brighton ultra. When I moved from "normal" marathons to ultras, I therefore always assumed I'd one day get to Brighton on foot from London by whatever route the race took that year (it changes for some reason). My career as an ultrarunner ended up being more successful than I could ever have imagined, but also briefer. Two years into it, a new obsession was taking control of my soul: one which involved late nights and long periods of sitting (not conducive to the ultrarunning life and training regimen).

It's perhaps fitting then that when I finally did arrive in Brighton, it was on a train quaffing coffee with a pudgy poker player rather than pouring isotonic drink down my throat with other ultrarunners. I was there for the Unibet UK poker tour leg. The aforementioned pudgy poker player Lappin was looking a little less pudgy than when I last saw him in London, a result of a disciplined regimen of exercise and diet.....wait, that's not it. He'd lost weight because he followed up a bout of food poisoning with the unusual step of licking ant poison he found on the window sill of his bathroom back in Malta. It's a measure of how well I know Lappin that when he told me this the night before, I was neither surprised nor incredulous. Lappin gonna Lappin.

After checking into the studio where we intended to start recording for our new podcast, and the hotel, we went for a wander on Brighton Pier. It felt like a trip back in time (a motif reenforced by this Unibet clip) to when I was a kid and school educational trips took the form of trips to place like Tramore or Bray where the kids in my class learned to operate slot machines while eating their body weight in candy floss and rock.

It's a testament to how well Lappin knows me that our relationship has moved through three stages of anecdotage:
(1) I told him all mine, until he'd heard them all several times
(2) his patience with the Doke rerun channel broke and every time I cleared my throat to ask "did I tell you about the time..." he shouted yes
(3) after a period of moody silences during which I sulked about having nobody to tell my stories to while he tried to develop an appetite to stomach my reruns (he never got there) he came up with the novel idea of telling my stories back to me, presumably in the belief that I might not remember them any more, or the view that anything was better than having to listen to me telling them again, followed by a short review: "that's not one of your better stories" or "you should put that one in your blog".

After I remarked it felt like a trip back in time, he seized on the opportunity to tell me the story of how I used to become the most unpopular kid in the whole school by the end of each trip. He followed it with a "one for the blog" comment so if the rest of this blog bores you, send your complaint to Malta.

School trips were a big deal when you grew up in a small town in Ireland and the only other excitement was wondering how many slaps of the leather strap the Christian brother would give you for displaying intellectual independence. Kids saved up their money for these trips, or tapped up their parents. I saved up my money too, but had a very different approach to spending it.

Ok, first let's talk about what every other kid who had been given spending money by their parents did. Knowing that once they got to Tramore or Bray every remaining penny would disappear into a slot machine, they'd spend some of the money on presents for their family, and themselves. The idea was to prevent themselves from blowing all their dough in the slots and returning home empty handed to angry parents and siblings. A solid plan theoretically, but I saw an exploitative strategy.

When the bus pulled up outside whatever shop had been designated as the one where gifts would be purchased, all but one of the kids piled off. I alone remained behind on the bus, ignoring the looks of disapproval and comments like "O'Kearney is such an asshole he doesn't even buy a present for his little brother". Even at age 8, I had realised that most games are the long game.

Eventually they all returned to the bus laden down with goods feeling morally superior to Scrooge O'Kearney, and the bus headed on to the slot machine arcade. When it got there, the kids would pile out with indecent haste to lose every last remaining penny. While they did so, I wandered about the arcade keeping all of my money in a prissy little purse, guarding it like the Crown Jewels. Wind forward an hour or two and by now most of my classmates had gone full slot machine addict, and burned through their entire roll. This was the point at which O'Kearney slithered into action. Sidling up to a classmate looking hungrily at a slot for which he no longer possessed the pennies needed to keep playing, negotiations would start. What can you sell me to get more money to play? How desperate are you? How little will you accept just to hear that sweet sweet whirring noise of the slot machine wheel one more time?

Sufficeth to say the terms I offered were never generous. That nice 5 pound watch you bought for your mother? I'll give you 20p for it. That chemistry set for your brother worth 8 quid? Mine now, for 20p.

I sat alone at the front on the long ride home, fully aware of the pure hatred being beamed at me from almost every other seat on the bus. I didn't care if nobody wanted to sit beside me. It meant there was more room for the bag of cheaply purchased goods I had recently acquired. I was the poorest kid on that bus, from the most indebted family, and my little brother and I may have been born to stressed out parents who didn't love or even like us, but for at least one day in our year, we were no longer losers, and we had more toys and trendy trinkets than all the rich kids.

I may not have learned the rules of Holdem for another 35 years or so, but looking back I realise now that the mind of Doke the poker player was born on a school bus.


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