This week I made my debut in the fantastic Equal Chance Club in Walthamstow. This is what poker’s about. Forget your roulette wheels, pricey bar, uninterested casino staff and corporate heads, and so on, the future lies in the social clubs, not the casinos, well, I can only hope so anyway…
The suburb of Walthamstow may not look like much, and it probably isn’t, but just off St James’ Street lies a neat little social club. In true Rounders style, although lacking the cage and KGB host, I was buzzed in only to be greeted in super-fast time by (1) the lovely lass behind the bar (left) (2) her husband and club proprietor, Chris Karanikki (also left) and (3) friendly Scot, Billy Whicher, whose equally accommodating son took an impressive three levels to win a hand – all keen as mustard to meet, greet, and chat with me even though I’d never stepped foot in the place before. Made me feel highly welcome!
Anyhow, a bit more about the place – 2 pool tables, about a dozen free computer terminals with unlimited internet access, several poker tables (although plenty of space for more), three eating booths, comfy leather sofas – okay, admittedly it’s not the Ritz, but when it comes to a fun night out, what more do you need? A pack of cards and friendly smile is all I ever ask for, and both were in abundance here.
What’s most important about the Equal Chance Club is that it is, and I apologise for quoting an overused cliché, ‘for poker players by poker players’. It is crystal clear that both Billy and Chris are huge poker enthusiasts and have a genuine passion for the game. Of course, as we have witnessed with all these recent clubs, this makes a massive difference and allows poker to emerge as the number one factor rather than having it swamped down by any corporate or monetary issues.
Although money is obviously an important factor, I don’t believe it is the number 1 priority here. Playing poker and having fun is furlongs ahead, and that’s what makes these places so refreshing.
As with everyone else in attendance, I wasn’t there to spin a roulette wheel or waste my hours at the Blackjack table, I was here to give the £200 Freezeout a shot – a quite splendid tourney which, with blinds starting at 50/100, offers a 10,000 starting stack and 25 minute levels. Although I had my reservations about the clock, the comp has one night to reach its conclusion, so you can't be overly generous with the structure. In fact, I doubt there are too many comps where you get this much play for one night’s worth of entertainment – if I was heading for the exit early doors, it would probably be of my own doing, and that’s kind of what happened.
Out of the blue, I cut my stack in half, twice (well, I guess that means I 3/4ered it)! I raised from late position with J-9 suited, the button called. I then check-raised a 9-7-2 (two hearts) flop, to which he smooth called. Confident that he was on a flush draw, I bet the black 6 on the Turn, but, to my chagrin, it was met by a brisk all-in.
Now, I don’t like folding top pair with so much invested in the pot and one card still to come, but, fresh off a season of watching Micky ‘The Worm’ Wernick, I knew I wouldn’t be dead if I folded. And seeing as how my opponent had played so few hands, I opted for a fold, sure that his all-in was a signal that I was in hot water, perhaps even drawing completely dead. He knew I only had 3k left behind, so I doubt he expected me to fold, which, in my experience, means I’m in trouble.
After doubling up soon after (my J-J vs Ks-Qs survived a bowel-encouraging flopped flush draw), I rose back up to 8k. But alas, it wasn’t to be and, with the blinds threatening to eat me up, my Q-J failed to outdraw my nemesis’ A-2s and I was a gonna – disappointed, but not too miffed.
Meanwhile, Jen (above-left), who deserves a win, made it all the way to third place, at one point holding the chip lead with just three left. However, she didn't quite take top honours but did manage to scoop a handy 1,100 squid for her troubles, which should afford her a few more pink cardigans for the collection.
The eventual winner was James Arkenhead, a young fellow who has one hell of a game. Always searching for opportunities, his constant aggression reminds me of one Stuart Fox, raising and re-raising in relentless fashion and constantly putting pressure on his opponents, whilst fully prepared to let go of his hand when he detects he’s beat. One to look out for the future, that’s for sure.
But my biggest praise must go out to The Equal Chance Club and the cracking atmosphere Chris Karanikki has created. It reminded me of the good ol’ days down the Gala, Notts. With the cardroom cut-off from the casino, there was a smashing atmosphere down there too, and plenty of characters to boot. Equal Chance is no different – a quick scour of the room and you’ll witness a larger than life Ade Bayo entertaining the onlookers with his table antics, a sick Dave Penley multitabling six high stakes tables at a terminal after returning from Vegas just hours ago, and the highly humorous quips of Jym Jam, an amusing fellow you won’t forget in a hurry.
So, on that note, I urge you to lend this club, and all those of its ilk, your much needed support by wandering down to The Equal Chance Club in Walthamstow. If not for the night’s entertainment that you’re sure to encounter, then at least to take advantage of their 10k guaranteed £30 rebuy, a comp which, as I’m reliably informed, recently created a pot of 21k – how about that for value?
For more information, please feel free to contact them on 020 8521 2121 or, alternatively, trundle down to The Equal Chance Club personally at 74-76 St James’ Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 7PE