My first Unibet Open was in Citywest in Dublin in 2011. Looking back six years later, I have four abiding memories:
(1) It was the first time I played a tournament where I felt like a foreigner in my own country. Exactly how much the collapse of the Celtic Tiger and subsequent austerity affected the Irish poker economy was made clear that there was a tournament in Ireland that got less than a dozen locals to buy in.
(2) It was around this time I started staking a young Irish player nobody had heard of at the time called Daragh Davey. As I recall, Daragh and I ended up chopping the Last Longer for Irish. Daragh seemed a little hesitant to chop presumably on basis that he fancied himself to win it outright
(3) I spent part of day 1 on the feature table. When I got home IrishPokerBoards was ablaze with some comments the livestream commentator (a well known local pro) had made about me, or more precisely the size of my head which, with just a hint of exagerration, he suggested could be seen from space. I laughed the comments off and then started answering the numerous texts people were sending me asking me about them
(4) The following day, I scooted off to Lemongrass with Daragh at the dinner break. We were three away from the bubble and I was, surprise surprise, short. After being shown to our table, Daragh brought my attention to a nearby table where a friendless commentator sat alone (the same one who had described my head as a celestial object).
"Do you see....?"
"Yes. The man himself"
"So you heard....?"
"Yes. Not a big deal in my opinion, although it does seem to be a minority opinion"
"Not a big deal Daragh"
Daragh seemed a little surprised by my reaction or lack thereof, and did what any good friend would do in the circumstance: glared disapprovingly at the man himself. Or maybe it was just his natural scowl. This was pre happy Daddy Davey: he had not yet worked out which facial muscles were required to smile.
A few minutes later, the man himself dropped over.
"I hear you are short and not to jinx you or anything but if you do happen to bust, I was wondering if you might join me in the commentary box"
Daragh's mouth was wide open at this stage. After the man himself had returned to his table:
"What the Hell?"
"The brazen faced cheek of...."
"Not a big deal, Daragh"
"You did hear what he....?"
"Yes. At least 20 people told me"
"Not a big deal Daragh. Just banter. Banter is good"
After scraping across the bubble, I did find myself in the commentary box: a fun end to a fun weekend. It turns out feeling like a foreigner in your own land doesn't have to be a bad thing, if the atmosphere among the visitors is as friendly as it was at the event.
Fast forward five years and I'm in Bucharest at the biggest ever Unibet Open. The first thing that stood out was the friendliness I'd seen in Dublin was there still in abundance. In the intervening five years I'd grown accustomed to less friendly and more testy atmospheric conditions surrounding live poker, so this felt like a refreshing return to the good old days of live poker. I was also surprised how many faces I recognised from Dublin: Unibet had clearly done a better job retaining players than other sites and operators. After shooting the breeze with some of the Unibet staff, it was easy to see why. The whole ethos and culture of the company is geared towards the recreational poker experience. This is something that ties in with my view of how poker should be. It should be fun for the so-called fun players: if not what's the point? Live poker in particular shouldn't be 9 robots sitting at a table wearing hoodies shades and Beats grinding GTO ranges. Unibet clearly recognizes this, which is why I'm delighted to announce that I will be representing them as a brand ambassador alongside my good friends Ian Simpson and David Lappin starting at the Unibet Open in London. Watch this space for more announcements as to what that will entail.
First up, we all get to play an ambassador sit n go on Wednesday evening at 7. I believe it will be streamed on Twitch. If nothing else, there should be some good banter. David has already gone on record pointing out he's played more stts than the rest of us put together: he seems to believe grinding out a solid 0.2% ROI over a couple of thousand 6 max hypers will give himself a decent edge over the rest of us. And Ian has taken to the social media to point out that being English makes him innately superior and the only conceivable outcome here is Paddy Englishman will box the two Paddy Irishmen around.
We shall see.....