Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Tragedy in Rozvadov

"A glorified truck stop in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of petrol stations, three brothels, a McDonalds and a giant casino. The whole area is so grim they start telling you there's a McDonalds over 50 kilometres away".

That's how I described Rozvadov, where I'd never been before, to a friend who has also never been (and presumably never will after that description). To be fair, that's a very harsh assessment. People come to Rozvadov for the poker, but they stay for the.....well, they don't really stay. Apart from one Israeli billionaire that various people told me came a few years ago and liked it so much (or his dormant gambling addiction became undormant) that he never left. I didn't see the gentleman in question myself so the stories may be apocryphal, but it is said he haunts the halls of the casino by day, and the parking lot in a camper van by night.

Once you've cleared security and the grimness of the rest of Rozvadov has started to recede in your memory, the casino itself is actually one of the nicest I've been in. The only big thing that could be done to improve it would be to outlaw smoking indoors. The decor is classy, the slot machines silent and most of the space is devoted to the poker. The buffet is also not only free and open all day but the quality is exceptional by casino standards. Until last week the best casino dining experience I'd had was at the Wynn, but for 40 bucks less than the 40 bucks you pay in the Wynn buffet you get much fresher higher quality food all day. Maybe crazy camper van man isn't so crazy after all.

When I planned this trip originally, and realised there wasn't an airport within a hundred kilometres of the place so I probably needed a driver, I twisted Mrs Doke's arm and persuaded her to accompany me. Normally she wants either sun or culture and preferably both in a place before she agrees to tag along. Rozvadov scores a big fat null points on both those fronts so I was careful not to oversell it.

"I hear it's a kip but it's near Nurnberg so we can always head there after I bust".

She was living for almost a decade in Nurnberg when I met her and pulled off the most successful resteal of my life, it's where I first visited her, so we both have happy memories of the place. As it happened Keith Cummins was heading over on the same flight and volunteered to hire a car and split costs. By now flights were booked so Mrs Doke gamely tagged along anyway.

We had to go to the casino to find out which partner hotel we were in. Thankfully this turned out to be the Park Inn in historic city of Pilsen (birthplace of the world famous Pilsner beer, and European Capital of Culture 2015). Annoyingly we had already passed Pilsen on our way to Rozvadov, so we essentially had to drive half way back to Prague. Easier said than done in a fog that reduced visibility to a few metres.

Like most people Keith drives the same way he plays poker (fearlessly, with his foot on the accelerator) and it's fair to say there were some hair raising moments (I assume this is why he's bald) like the one where he decided to pass some trucks just before the road narrowed to one lane. To be fair, we made it with almost two inches to spare. Mrs Doke still hadn't fully recovered at breakfast the following morning so she took Keith to task again about his driving but he was having none of it. He pointed out he'd never had a major accident, a point he immediately undermined with a story that involved him flipping a jeep into a ditch and which he concluded with the words "it's a miracle we weren't all killed".

Keith is great fun to be around though so despite the palpable risk everyone takes whenever they get into a car with him, I decided it was a risk worth taking tagging along with him on the drive back to the casino. But not before tweeting the following, only partly in jest:

On the trip to the casino I learned that when a Corkman abroad rings his Dad at home while speeding down a motorway, they will spend almost the entire conversation talking about how much the call is costing them both.

Before I started I was chatting to the legendary KevMath, who told me this was his first time in Europe. I commiserated and assured him Rozvadov was not very representative. Hopefully his next visit will be to somewhere like Paris, London, Berlin, Rome or even Dublin.

My WSOPE main event campaign was pretty dull for the most part, and the excellent PokerNews team seemed to catch all the major hands I played on the blog, so I won't repeat them here. My exit was one of those comedy of errors where one player's lack of focus has a Butterfly effect that causes another's demise at the hands of a third party who shouldn't even have been in the hand. After a tough but ultimately prosperous day one that saw me bag up over 90k, I had a miserable day 2 where I couldn't seem to win a pot. That's generally fatal on a day 2 even in a structure as good as this, and a few minutes before the end I was looking down miserably at 8 big blinds. A few uncalled shoves later I was no longer feeling as low and with 17 big blinds, no longer just shoving or folding. My happiness grew even more when I looked down at Kings under the gun and opened, feeling better about my prospects of getting action than normal having only recently been moved to a table that just seen me open shoving a lot since I got there.  I started to think this wasn't going to work out when it folded round to the small blind, who attempted to limp. When it was pointed out that I'd already raised he elected to put more chips in to make the call, which of course meant the big blind was priced in with any two cards, so he called too. Anyone who has been around the game long enough knows what seems to happen often in these spots. Mike Leah who had just been moved to the table certainly did, joking "Gg Dara" before the flop was dealt.

The flop was 986 with two spades, and after the unfocused small band checked, the big blind led tiny. With a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach I decided to think about what this could mean. I concluded that I have the best hand far too often to consider folding, and with so many draws on board had to try to protect my hand against two players with almost random ranges, so I shoved. When the big blind snapped I got the bad news that I was up against 75o (no spade) drawing to various runner runners. None of these materialised, so that was that.

I was obviously disappointed not to cash my biggest buyin of the year, continuing a pretty lackluster year for me live. However, I always try to focus on the big picture, and think that as long as I keep myself in the game to the point I can go on showing up at these events, it'll click for me some day. The fact that I'm having my most profitable year online in several is also heartening evidence that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with m game a few crucial won flips wouldn't fix I have a few more live outings this year so I will be attempting to end on a high. Next up is a 5k in Punta Cana in a couple of weeks, and then Unibet Open Bucharest (my favourite trip of last year) and another Unibet UKPT stop in Manchester. It's fair to say I'm a much bigger fan of Bucharest than I am of Manchester, but at least it's in the nicest casino by far, Manchester235.

Unfortunately this blog has to conclude on a genuinely tragic note. At breakfast the first morning, we had been told that one of the other players staying at the hotel, Emma Fryer, was in hospital for reasons unspecified. Later that day we heard the terrible news that Emma had died after the car she was travelling in crashed on the same route Keith had driven us the previous night. I didn't really know Emma but several of my friends did and by all accounts she was a great person and poker player so my thoughts and best wishes go out to her family and friends, and as a more fitting tribute to her allow me to reproduce the beautiful heartfelt words of our mutual close friend Daiva Byrne who was quoted in the PokerNews piece reporting her death:

My heart breaks to hear the tragic news regarding Emma Fryer 💔 She was such a wonderful person and an amazing player xxx


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