Saturday, May 26, 2007


It’s been pretty slow going for me recently with very little in the way of excitement. I did pop over to Paris (not my favourite place in the world) for the Grand Prix, but with the WPT cameras barred from the premises, there was a subsequent lack of ‘name’ players, and who wants to hear stories about nobodies?!

Bruno Fitoussi did manage to pull in Freddie Deeb, Steve Zolotow (I’m sure he was my chemistry teacher at school) and Jason Lester from across the pond, not to mention Jeff Lisandro, Mads Andersen and Pascal Perrault. However, that was just a handful, only several Brits bothered with the tournament and even the Scandies, who I thought would have been wetting themselves at the ‘value’, failed to make the trip.

Instead, the comp was pretty much made up of French players, who many consider to be the worst in Europe, and it showed as not one of them made the final. Incredibly, two of our tiny army, Paul Gourlay and Ram Vaswani, made the last day, but took early baths, Ram’s A-Q being cruelly outdrawn by Will Ma’s (yes, the Flinstones’ gags were in full flow) A-9, all-in pre-flop for a massive pot.

One interesting comment that I prised out of Ram, who is normally incessantly quiet, is that he never wears an ipod at the table because he doesn’t want to miss anything. I commented that he looked so bored all the time and questioned his actual attention spam, to which he replied, “Yep, I am bored, but I’m still watching everything that happens.”

Anyhow, as usual, a North American, Will Ma, took down a big European comp (how the feck do they do it?!) and the 420k first prize (not bad considering the size of the field). As is always the case, the youngster didn’t look too bothered, seemingly accepting victory as if was ‘just another win’.

Outside of the Aviation Club, which, annoyingly, made me do 6 days of live updates in smart but exceedingly uncomfortable shoes, we didn’t veer too far off the Champ Elysees, our free time being spent in restaurants and nearby bars. One Chinese restaurant in particular is of great amusement to me as not only does it have a fish tank underneath the floor, but one of the fish is a dead ringer for Mickey Wernick. Put a beard on it and you honestly wouldn’t know the difference.

We did pop into one nice bar with Ramzi Jelassi, Mark Teltscher, Johan Storakers and co. The music was crap, but they had a colourful selection of fun cocktails, one in which we forced Swedish player Samir Shakhtoor to blind pick. Fortunately, mine came back relatively masculin, whilst Samir managed to pull out the girliest drink, and glass for that matter, possible.

Back in the good ol UK, I’ve been snowed under with a new project, which hopefully you will see soon. It’s called ‘blondepedia’ and will be the world’s largest bio and gallery database. It’s been a 24/7 task, but at least it’s something different and I’m looking forward to releasing it on the general public. I just hope they like it and my time hasn’t been a waste of well.. time.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Continued from Goo Goo G'Joobing With The Eggman In Vegas...

Another character who likes to make his voice heard is that of the Poker Brat Phil Hellmuth, who just missed out on the big money after he was unable to fold Jacks to The Eggman’s Aces on a raggy Flop. Inevitable ygraceless in defeat, Phil tried his best to leave without complaint, but couldn’t resist commenting, “Unbelievable, knocked out by a guy who plays 9-6.”

There was another hand prior to his exit that saw Hellmuth spurt out some classic lines. Shawn Buchanan raising pre-flop, betting the flop, and hitting a pair on the River with K-7, leading to Hellmuth vomiting lines such as “Great bluff on the flop, genius!’, “He probably can’t even spell poker”, and “I bet he doesn’t even make it to the end of the day.” Well, the first two might be bollox, but the final prediction ultimately came true. What a burk though. I asked Pauly if Phil really was an idiot or whether it was just a part of his game or self promotion: “Well, he’s a real family guy and often misses big comps to spend time with his family but yes, overall he’s still a sausage jockey.”

Before I return to the poker, a quick mention on the Bellagio, which I was making my first ever visit to. If you haven’t been, then you really should, if only to see the incredible fountains dancing in time to the classical music being played over the loudspeakers.

Inside is equally impressive. Pristine conditions, lots of norkage and even a chocolate fountain – something for everyone! There’s also a garden in the lobby area, the mixture of overhead fountains, butterfly sanctuary and giant watering can, slug and ladybird creating a surreal cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Edward Scissor Hands’ back garden.

Speaking in a more broader sense, the contrast between the taxi drivers back in Brum and the ones in Vegas is immense, the latter being made up of a wide range of nationalities spanning from Russia to the Philippines. I even encountered an Ethiopian Canadian who had spent 4 years in Italy but was now working in America – work that one out! Even though he had a Canadian passport, he was seemingly in love with America, saying, “I adore America. I’m officially Canadian, but in my heart I’m American. I earn 10 times as much here than I would anywhere else.”

On our last day, it was time for the final table, being held in the Convention centre of the Bellagio rather than the Main Casino. For those of you who’ve never experienced the full WPT Final Table experience, then don’t bother, it’s shite. Not only do they try and teach the crowd how to clap and cheer as if they were useless chimps, but they even force them into practicing the art of ‘oooooohing’.

What’s most skin crawling, however, is their complete disregard for the clock and, what had been up to that point, excellent structure of the tournament. Yep, instead of the clock increasing, it goes from 90 mins, to 1 hour, down to 30 mins and even hitting an all-time embarrassing low of 13 minutes, just so they can get the thing wrapped up and fuck off. At this pace, the shitty all-in fest is inevitable and you have to keep reminding yourself of how much they’re playing for.

When I watched it on TV, I knew it was a raise, all-in, call kinda show, but I just thought that it was an edited version. However, after watching the show live, you suddenly realise that it’s not too far from what actually happens. In fact, the whole thing would have been done and dusted in a blink of an eye if it hadn’t been for the heads-up confrontation, an unexpectedly lengthy exchange between Kirk Morrison and Carlos Mortensen which was only time-consuming due to a combination of passive play from the Kiwi and the shorter stacked player winning one of the many random all-ins. 600k and 1.2 million blinds with just 30 million in play – are you kidding me?? I guess that’s just business. The TV company want to get it over with as quickly and cheaply as possible, so you can’t blame them – why should they care about the structure? It’s just a shame when you hear the crowd booing (I bet that doesn’t make the cut) and the announcer trying to make out as if this was an epic final. Try announcing last year’s 7 hour H.O.R.S.E Final, now that’s was a fucking epic!

Anyhow, ranting aside, when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, it was The Matador (genius whoever thought of that nickname) who was left standing – a great performance, cringe-worthy acceptance speech, but who cares, he’s rich!!! Well, richer.

So that was it, the Card Player blogging team supposedly all quit (although I’m sure they’d changed their minds by Monday morning) and Mrs Sabina Gadecki was given the boot (I assume my source is not yanking my chain) for being shithot in the looks department, but just plain shit at everything else and simply not giving a toss about poker.

I’ll leave you with these words…

Bring back my Shana!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


This week sees the Great British Poker Tour, in association with Gala Casinos, travel to the Gala Casino in Nottingham. This will be the third stop on what has been a magnificent tour and a more than welcome addition to the poker calendar.

As I write, the players will be bracing themselves for action, ready to lock horns with an array of stars from the UK circuit, not to mention the odd celebrity in Douglas Henshall from ITV1's Primeval and The Bill’s Chris Simmons and Daniel Flynn – so no stealing their blinds!

Although currently enjoying the delights of Paris, I can’t help but feel homesick and somewhat envious of the fun they’ll be having at the GBPT Event. Of course, this is one of many stops for the Tour, but for me, the envy extends just that little bit further as Gala Notts (as it is more commonly referred) is my original hunting ground, and I fondly recall the fun times I experienced there.

Back when I was a student at Nottingham University – fresh faced, whiskers on my face and a yet corrupted gambling gene, I had the luxury (or burden depending on which way you look at it) of residing just behind the Gala Casino, a mere 5-minute walk away. After being introduced to the game by my brother and having spent many an hour wasting my student loan on a wheel and ball, I decided to take a punt at poker and trundle into the cardroom.

Of course, I’d wiled away the hours practising online, ensuring that I knew exactly what I was doing before I hit the ‘big time’, but this wasn’t online poker, this was live, face-to-face, seated opposite veterans who were playing the game before I was in nappies and eager to frown upon those ‘wretched young whipper snappers who were invading their game.” Yep, there’s no denying it, I was shitting myself, and shaky hands, trips to the loo and a flurry of questions regarding etiquette were frequent occurrences.

In fact, as this was five years back before poker had truly exploded, I was one of very few young guns present (a real contrast to present day Gala) and this made me all the more nervous. Characters such as Ash Abdullah, Angelo Demetriou, ‘Bag of Bollox’ Ali, Peter (right) and Kim Costa and a youthful (yes, even more youthful than he looks now) Julian Thew wore the eyes staring back at me, and boy could their stares be menacing. A naïve young poker enthusiast nervously fiddling with his chips, they must have been salivating at the mouth as soon I walked through the door!

However, I wasn’t there just as tender meat for them to chew on, I wanted to show them what I was made of, that I could transform my online (although limited) success at the practice tables across to the live scene. Of course, I barely played a hand, and I even recall my running buddy, Stuart Smith, telling me beforehand that, “I just want to fold the first hand, I don’t want Aces”, but I had to get involved at some point, and I finally did, Turning (and trap-checking) a flush against some chap who was seemingly awaiting a telegram from the Queen. My first live pot ever – what a thrill, I could barely compose myself enough to stack my chips, which was demoralising because I was eager to retain my composure and look ‘cool’.

Unfortunately, although I took a few more pots, I soon met my demise, this time missing a flopped nut flush draw against two pair and being forced to watch from the rail. I may have gone crashing out half way through, but I was pleased with my performance – I had mixed it with the big boys and survived with my reputation in tact. The experience itself was evidence of success.

What I will always remember, however, is the fun I had playing at the Gala Notts. Ash and Captain goading each other with shouts of ‘Rebuy!’ when their nemesis went bust, dealer Oscar calling me ‘Rookie’ all night, Sean having a squillion buy-ins and the general banter that simmered around the cardroom – In truth, it was a hoot, and although I’d had a buy-in and spent a then seemingly expensive £40, I deemed it money well spent and couldn’t wait to return.

Perhaps due to the cardroom being cut-off from the rest of the casino, or maybe simply as a result of the clientele who frequented the joint, Nottingham is regarded by many, or it certainly was then, as a rather raucous casino, and one in which you had to be relatively hard skinned to enjoy. True, women are often isolated for sexual, but ultimately harmless innuendos, newbies aren’t given too much time to settle down and become accustomed with the pace, and the overall noise level of the cardroom is up to 11 on the ‘Spinal Tap’ amplifier with shouting, swearing and bickering a regularity, but these are mere blips on what is probably the nation’s most vibrant and energetic cardrooms.

Sometimes I wonder if I’d have started my poker career at somewhere like Grosvenor Walsall (where I later became a regular), whether or not I’d have become so dangerously addicted to the game and so quickly, because it’s not just the game I love, it’s the atmosphere, and Gala Notts has it by the bucket load. Unfortunately, although my first experience was enough to lure me in as a ‘3 times a week’ regular over the span of 2 or 3 years, that dreaded graduation got in the way and I have since moved away from the Nottingham, and thus the Gala region.

However, from speaking to the likes of tikay, Julian, LittleMissC, AdamM and co, and accruing observations from my last jaunt north a few months ago, the Gala Notts is still brimming with atmosphere. True, I may have missed certain characters such as Charles, an 80-year old (or there abouts) salesman who played almost every comp but pretty much never ever won, Eric, another elderly chap who was so poor sighted that sometimes he’d play a hand out and then ask what the board was, and Luigi, a bald Italian chap who incessantly moaned and grumbled his way incoherently through every comp as if he was the world’s unluckiest player, but some real characters still pitch up tent there – Chippie, Raj, Bash, Latif and that fella Maria, to name just a few.

For that reason I am exceedingly jealous of those lucky peeps playing the GUKP this week, not because they’re playing a superbly structured comp with mouth-watering pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, but simply because I know they’re going to have a ruddy good time in a lively cardroom seated alongside some of the best characters the game has to offer. We may be five years on, but some things never change.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


As mentioned in my last entry, this April saw me make my second visit to Vegas, and although I wasn’t covering an event quite as popular as the World Series, the WPT Championship Final isn’t too far behind and is held in higher esteem by many of the big name players.

Several hundred players, 4 million up for grabs (well, 3.97 actually, but they resisted rounding it up), 90 minute clock, 50k starting stacks – who could resist? Well, former WSOP Champ Greg Raymer for one, not to mention the likes of Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson and Andy Bloch, all still boycotting the event due to image rights.

But who gives a monkeys about that when you have Goodwin, Ram and Fast Freddie Ivey in the same room, the latter two even sharing a table for a couple of levels. At the end of one night (9pm finishes made a refreshing change), I caught up with Joe Beevers at the bar. Although he was taking the piss out of my oversized girlie cocktail (no umbrella mind), The Elegance gave us the insight on Ram and his thoughts on the Golf Hustle.

“It’s a tricky situation,” said Joe, “both think they’re in the right so neither is willing to back down. Ram is a quiet reserved kind of guy who wouldn’t make a big fuss out of anything, but if he thinks he’s in the right, he’ll stand his ground. The problem is,” he continued, “is that it’s a question of morals, which in itself is subjective. Everyone has a different view on it based on what they think is ethically right. I can understand both sides of the argument.”

Meanwhile, back in the pokerroom, the few Brits who had shown promise (Marc Goodwin, Praz Bansi, Roland de Wolfe), were all starting to fall before the big money, leaving the enigmatic Thomas Wahlroos to fly the flag for Europe.

Down to the felt at one point The Eggman somehow managed to shoot up to the million mark in the blink of an eye after a series of scoops, the most crucial of which being a Kings v Kings v Sixes hand, Ram flopping a set but eliminated by the River when Wahlroos 4 flushed with the King of diamonds. At one point, I even overheard Thomas celebrating a hand by shouting “Goo goo, g'joob” in honour of his newly acquired nickname. I even suggested, “I am the Eggman, I am the Wahlroos” T-shirts, to which he seemed quite keen.

Although destined for final table fame, Thomas eventually met his demise at the bubble, making an all-in squeeze play after Paul Lee had smooth called Mike Wattel’s initial raise with A-Q. Somehow, the nonchalant Lee made the 4 million plus call for what was around two thirds of his stack and took down the pot, his Ace high holding up against Thomas’s A-Ts, even though the Fin flopped a flush draw.

In conjunction with what most of the bemused onlookers were thinking, a stunned Eggman later commented, “I can’t believe he called. I was planning to make the play with any two cards because I didn’t think there was any hand he could possibly call with in that situation, especially for so much of his stack.”

As one of Europe’s most confident, and perhaps arrogant characters, Thomas Wahlroos is a real Marmite player, you either love him or hate him. Either way, he’s jolly good entertainment, once caught saying that if you combined the skills of Juha Helppi and Roland de Wolfe, you’d have the ultimate player. “Technically, Juha is faultless, but he just doesn’t have the feel of players like Roland. Having said that, Roland lacks a basic grasp of the fundamentals,” he joked. “He knows nothing about stacks, odds and so on. He doesn’t even know how many chips he has.”

Although gutted to have missed out on his second WPT final table, Thomas did win a few hundred thousand and observed, “Winning this amount is worth more to me financially than winning a million last year because back then I would have given most of it back to the house.” When Jen left, she spotted Thomas playing Paigow at 1k per box. Oh the fickleness!

From young to old, the WPT attracted a few senior players, Donnacha O’Dea, Doyle Brunson, Captain Tom Franklin, John Bonetti, Tom McEvoy all showing their wrinkly faces. Dan Harrington was there too, and he was overheard saying, “This tournament is great for us older players. I love the Noon starts and 9pm finishes because it means I get to bed at a decent hour and can get up early to play.” Good to see the WPT catering for the Countdown audience.

Not as old and certainly not as tight is Brian Wilson, who had turned up for the WSOP circuit event being held at Caesars Palace. Although lacking sleep, he was still talking like his life depended on it and never short of an amusing anecdote. On hearing of The Eggman’s previous gambling tendencies, The Rookie said, “I remember when I used to play silly money on the house games. Dave (Colclough) was tutoring me and he said that if I wanted to throw my money away on Blackjack, we could forget about their relationship, because he’d seen too many good players not have a pot to piss in. And from that day on, I just quit the house games completely.” Gotta love the Rookie, especially when he comes out with classic lines such as, “When I won my bracelet, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing” which is easily a new entry into my top 5 all-time poker quotes.

to be continued...