My first outing for Unibet as an ambassador was Unibet Open London. Home to my favourite football team and birthplace to both my favourite singer and the first love of my life, London is a place I've been visiting all my adult life making memories. Some of the happiest from my early 20s are from a flat I shared in Hampstead with my first love Julie, and following her around the city like a lovesick puppy. After her untimely death, I found London a tough place to be, as those memories made me sad and lonely. In more recent years I've made some much happier memories, including coming second in the last ever UKIPT here. So no better place to make my debut.
First up on the felt was the Ambassadors SNG, a 10k prize pool freeroll being streamed on Twitch. We were up after another freeroll for Esports Twitch superstars. This kicked off in the afternoon, and the fact that they managed to get over 12k viewers at different points shows just how big Esports are on Twitch relative to poker (12k is a massive number for poker on Twitch: as a comparison one of the most popular poker streamers who is normally number one when he streams was number two with less than 4k viewers). Numbers dipped a bit for the ambassador SNG but we retained the number one spot.
I watched a bit of the Esports stream and had two strong impressions of the play. First, it was clear many of them had played little if any poker before. Second, despite this, they played surprisingly well, much stronger than a random selection of players of their experience. It seems that the skills that makes them world class gamers are transferable to poker, and I imagine that with minimal coaching most of them could play at a professional level. Chatting to one of them Thijs in the bar after, he said he had a newfound respect for poker players and the level of emotional control required.
The first SNG overran a bit which meant a bit of hanging around a bit. Once we got started I didn't exactly have the best seat sandwiched between the two favourites to win the event, Viktor Blom and Dan Murariu. I was unfortunately feeling under the weather and this coupled with me being card dead didn't make for particularly compelling viewing for the Doke rail.
The most interesting hand I played was against Viktor and Lappin. Viktor opened in early position and I elected to flat call with aks. Lappin flatted with Kings, at which point the Twitch chat was apparently divided into two camps, "What the Hell is going on here?" and "Why is this pot not bigger already?" So I guess I should talk about my decision to flat here. I would often raise in this spot but I decided to flat instead for a number of reasons:
(1) This early and deep, my hand doesn't feel strong enough to get the lot in, especially versus Viktor who had barely played a hand at this point
(2) the hand plays very well as a flat. It's not a disaster if it sets off a chain of flats. The fact that it's suited means it flops a lot better multiway than ace king offsuit
(3) having a hand this strong in my flatting range protects it from light squeezes. If the action goes open flat flat flat and someone I know likes to squeeze light in these spots, I have a hand that plays well enough to get in versus that range with fold equity and lots of dead money in the pot
(4) it also protects my flatting range postflop on ace and king high flops. Many people won't put me on AK in this spot
(5) I don't particularly want to build a pot against the best player on the table
I can't speak for Lappin's thought process but from my point of view his decision to flat is understandable. I think he felt both myself and Viktor would play correctly if he squeezed (continue with the hands we are supposed to continue with, and fold the rest) but more importantly he had the most likely players to squeeze light still to act behind him. By flatting he set up a potential dream scenario where, say, Ian or Charlotte squeeze.
As it happens nobody takes the squeeze spot and the three of us see a qj4r flop. Not the flop I was hoping for but I do have four outs to the nuts so I won't necessarily be folding just yet. Viktor declines to cbet, I also check, and David takes a stab at the pot. Viktor folds and I elect to call. I'm not calling here just to hit my gutshot (or ace or king which are tainted outs that improve some of Lappin's hands to two pairs or straights). If I do hit my gutshot that's great and I could potentially win a big pot as David may struggle to put me on ace king. Most of David's range at this point is marginal at best one pair hands like ace jack, king jack, and underpairs to the jack, which I feel I can bluff him off by either check raising the turn, or betting the river if he checks the turn. (As an aside, the fact that most of his range is weak on this kind of board is another advantage of his flat preflop: flatting Kings preflop means he can also have overpairs on this kind of board). The turn is a 2, I check, and David fires again. We have now reached the point where I need to decide whether to bluff or not: with one card to come calling isn't a great option. I watch David as I decide. He sees me looking at him and starts pulling theatrical faces. He looks very relaxed and he's not talking (something I've noticed him doing in the past when he's at the bottom of his range) so I decide he's probably towards the top of his range and it's time to abort the mission. After I fold he jokes to Ian "You ruined that hand" which puzzled me at the time but made more sense after my friend watching the stream told me he had kings.
I was pretty card dead for much of my time at the table. With seven left I exited shoving pocket 3's from the hijack. A lot of people expressed surprise that I decided to go with the hand. It is the rock bottom of my range and I would certainly fold it at an easier table with a slower structure. In this case the structure was fast and the competition tough, so I felt less inclined to pass profitable spots, even close ones. Another factor was that in the same spot one orbit earlier I'd opened AQo, Charlotte defended with 76o, and outdrew me. 33 is not a good hand to open when most of the players behind will threebet wide (it has to be folded to a threebet, and with two low cards and no blockers you will get threebet more often than when you have A3), and the blinds defend wide. So I thought the only way to play the hand profitably is to shove it hoping to get it through most of the time if the others don't realise I've been mostly card dead rather than just nitty up to this point.
Lappin tanks on the button and eventually made the correct call with AQs. I think most people probably don't realise that this is actually a very close spot. I ran the maths on the spot later, and AQs is only a slightly profitable call when you factor in ICM (AQo is a fold). When I saw David's hand I wasn't feeling too optimistic about winning the flip. Even after he bricked the flop and turn I wasn't optimistic as I have never won a major flip live against David and he's flipped me out of numerous tournaments. And so it proved once again on the river.
I was obviously disappointed not to go further but given the cards and spots I was dealt didn't feel there was much anyone sitting in my seat could have done. It was some consolation that David put my chips to good use coming third. Well done also to Viktor, undoubtedly the best player I've ever shared a table with and the most amiable and down to earth superstar I've ever met, who came second and Charlotte who continued a pretty sick record in these type of one table tournaments.
You can watch the entire thing on replay on Twitch with some outstanding expert analysis from Daiva Barauskaite on the early stages. If you enjoy hearing a pro level player clearly breaking down hands and logically explaining lines, do yourself a favour and listen carefully to Daiva's analysis.
Next up for me was a day off which proved to be more eventful than I imagined, before the main event, which will be the subject of part 2 of this trip report.