Fresh off a winning week of online poker, I thought I’d take my good form to Luton. I thought it best just to play a couple of events. With a festival around every corner, the costs can soon add up, and, although I’d had a prosperous start to my full-time poker career, I was determined not to become complacent.
First up was the £200 NL. Due to the restaurant remaining open for Christmas, the comp was limited to 90 players. Although this increased my chances of making the final table, I would have preferred more players due to the increased prize pool and the potential for a second day. As it stood, this was going to be a 1 night job. Pretty daunting as it meant that the comp was likely to be rushed, therefore removing some of the skill factor, although, in my case, that would probably be for the best.
With the exception of John Huston, I started on a pretty conservative table. Not too many familiar faces, but nobody was particularly willing to mix it up early on, opting to wait for the big hands instead. I had the honour of sitting opposite Mr Womble, Steve Walmsley, a truly pleasant fella who seems to get on with everybody. With that name though, I expected him to be playing garbage hands only.
I was fortunate enough to double-up early on. I’d decided to play pretty aggressively to accumulate my chips, but the poker Gods saved me the trouble. On about the 5th hand, Justin Turner, a Luton regular, raised to 250 from early position. Now Justin had just won a hand off Womble and, from my experience, most would rather stack their chips than start bluffing the very next hand. Therefore, I was pretty sure he held a couple of big cards. Everyone folded round to me and I peered down to see a couple of cowboys smiling back. In the knowledge that Justin had a big hand, and sensing that the players behind me were preparing to fold, I decided to flatcall to disguise the strength of my cards.
The flop came a very tasty K-Q-8. Justin checked. With that flop, I knew he had a piece of it, and was sure that if I bet he’d play back at me. There weren’t too many possible hands. He’d probably check QQ or K-Q into me. He wouldn’t raise 8-8, Q-8, or K-8 from that position. He could even have AA or AK. He can be very sneaky sometimes, and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t try to trap with a hand like that. The only other realistic possibility was JJ, but if he held this hand then I doubt I’d get any action anyhow.
Assuming that he had a big hand, I decided to bet 500 in order to entice a reraise rather than a cautious smooth call. As I had hoped, he stuck in 1500 putting the pressure back on me. I considered the flat call, but, at this stage, I didn’t fancy messing around so I stuck in my whole stack of approximately 4000. The added bonus being that he may consider this to be an overbet trying to push him off the pot. My thoughts were that if he had a hand strong enough to call a rereraise, then he’d probably call an all-in, especially considering he’d still have a few chips left from the hand he won off Womble.
Justin called like lightening with pocket rockets, obviously believing that I was either at it, or on an AK holding. Turn and river were harmless and I doubled up to 10k. If it were me, I’d consider folding his hand. He can be beaten by KK, QQ, 88, and KQ, all very possible holdings in this scenario, and so I’d say that he was slightly hasty in his call. What a great result, a dream start in fact. Whenever I double-up early on, I instantly feel as though I’m going to make the final table. I love being the chip leader on the table as it gives me the freedom to do what I want, when I want. So that’s exactly what I did…
I eliminated a fair few players with my newfound chips. John Huston, after he bet his bottom pair into my top two pair. Mateyboy when he made a preflop move against me with J4 against my JJ. Must have had a tikay moment there. And eventually Womble when his pocket jacks were outdrawn by my AQ. It was all going pretty well and I was quickly building a sizable stack.
One hand saw me raise preflop with 53 (don’t ask). Recent arrival Ariel Adda, who had never seen me play, dwelled and dwelled from the button. He counted out his chips, lined them up, and eventually flatcalled. Unless it was an Oscar winning performance, I assumed that this meant he had a hand worth reraising with, something like JJ, TT, AK, or AQ. The flop came a very tempting 346 giving me bottom pair with an open ended straight draw. Trap 1 checked to me, so I decided to check too and see what play Adda wanted to make. I didn’t see the point of betting into him. If he has the overcards, he’ll fold, and if he has the overpair he’ll bet forcing me to muck. This way, I can give him the once over and reraise if I feel he’s on a bluff. If he just checks his overcards, then I can get a free card and bet the turn if a blank arrives. Also, it will allow me to find out what the early caller has too without my conceding of chips. If he has trips, then he plays back at Adda and I get out cheaply.
Adda opted to bet the pot. Trap 1 mucked, and, sensing a bluff with overcards, I decided to push all-in. If he has TT or JJ, then he still may fold, but, either way, at least I’m putting him to a decision for all his chips whilst still giving myself outs if he calls. To my chagrin, however, Adda calls in a flash. Then he turns over AK. I couldn’t believe it, he’d put his whole comp on the line calling with ace high. My only guess is that he put me on a weaker ace or KQ, but even then he’s being slightly optimistic. Anyhow, 2 blanks came and I added another 10k to my stack, possibly making me chip leader again.
Before I know it, we’re down to 2 tables and I’m still one of the chip leaders with around 50k, perhaps only pipped by Tikay who had somehow built up a monster stack after previously being down to the felt. To my immediate right is Stuart Nash, my first time playing this fellow, and to his right, Tom ‘RED-DOG’ McCready. Now this was going to be tricky. Some good solid players, bigger stacks, and a few players who I don’t really know. I decided to tighten up a bit and see how the table was playing. With my stack, I didn’t see any point in getting too involved.
After a few of my marginal preflop raises were reraised, I finally found a quality hand in AQ. Then RED-DOG, who was pretty low stacked, moved all-in. I flatcalled to be met with Tom’s AJ. Great, I thought, especially when the flop came Q-9-rag. However, I tend to refrain from counting my chickens until the hand is over, and, this time, my eggs failed to hatch. Turn = T, River = 8, making Tom a straight on the river. My stack had been seriously dented, but at least they went to Mr DOG rather than a random player.
The very next hand I received JJ. I intentionally overbet the pot, hopefully to attract a reraise from someone who thought I was steaming. Luckily, the big blind moved all-in with QJ off and my jacks held up. Phew, a bad beat there would have hurt.
Soon after, QJ was to prove the demise of Tom too. I reraised his preflop raise with A9. Tom dwelled momentarily before deciding that it was worth the call with the chips he had left. In true poker god style, the board teased me with both an queen and an ace on the flop. Tom was out and I’d moved back into a strong chip position.
Before I knew it, Stuart Nash was eliminated by the ‘Silent Assassin’ Maurice Nicholson and we were down to the final nine. Remarkably, Tikay was still in, although he no longer had the chip lead. This honour was now in the hands of Maurice.
To cut a long story short, I couldn’t buy a hand on the final. The blinds had risen dramatically to 6k and 12k, and all the play from the game had evaporated. Few could bet the pot without committing the rest of their stack, and so it was a case of nicking the blinds and praying for a big hand to double up with. I did my best, but eventually found myself in boiling hot water when my all-in move with 62 found the small blind with pocket sixes. No help on the board, and I was a gonna, leaving the game in the capable hands of Tikay, who had a real chance of taking that 7 grand prize.
I was pretty gutted. I’d worked hard all day and played pretty well, but alas, I arrived at another bingo session. Suppose that’s what happens on a 1-day event, but, even so, it’s disappointing for a festival comp to end as such. When I give people my honest feeling regarding my 5th placing, I can feel them saying inside, ‘Greedy git. You won £1100. How can you be disappointed?!’ This is probably a fair comment, but I strive for that 1st place as soon as I sit down, and anything less is a failure in my eyes. That’s just my personal method of motivating myself. Also, when the structure is so top heavy, it’s immensely frustrating to take 5th prize when several grand is so close. 6th was £700 and 1st was £7400. That’s a mammoth difference of £6700 and way too much for my liking. Has that 1st placed finisher really played that much better than 6th to warrant such a gap? They played for 10 hours, yet it could have been one outdraw in the final table lottery. In my opinion, a flatter structure is required, nothing too drastic, but something needs to be done about what I consider to be a ridiculously top heavy pay-out. They flattened it last time, and from what I recall, it was perfect.
Still, I was overjoyed for Tikay who took just under 4 grand, not to mention the coveted title of festival champ. Also, for me, it was my hatrick of cash finishes from only 3 comps, so I have to be pretty chuffed with that record. A few more points and Micky Wernick will be looking over his shoulder, although I feel I may be running out of time this year.
So, all-in all, a successful week. I played the next night in the £200 PL, but received no cards and probably wasn’t as fresh as I could have been. I had a smashing time doing the updating for the main event. Tiring but fun, and it was terrific to see Foxy and Micky take home the big bucks. The bright lights of Luton had lured me in for the week, and I was happy they did. You can’t spend your whole time online, you need to get out and about to avoid becoming a permanent hermit. My only hope is that my winning days continue. I’m showing a nice profit so far and having a blast, so I guess I don’t regret my decision to play full time. How could I?