Saturday, October 27, 2007


Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. You might take a fleeting glance at another woman, perhaps you've incorrectly answered the "do I look fat in this?" question, maybe you've even dared to disagree with the love of your life, but all of these crimes pale in comparison to eliminating your girlfriend from a £1,000 GUKPT tournament.

Last week, after pimping myself off to a few interested investors, I decided to take a pop at the penultimate GUKPT event and stump up the 1k buy-in. After a good performance at the Gutshot, I felt my game was in good nick and so fancied myself for a score here. Also, given that I can't afford to play the 3.5k Main Event, this was my last chance to give the Tour a crack before the inaugural season came to a close. The structure is excellent and it's a very affordable buy-in, so it would have been a shame if I hadn't graced it with my presence at least once this year.

I won't bore you with my own personal hand history of the event, but it may be worth retelling my double-up. Raising it up with A-T pre-flop, I was called in two places by Lam Trinh and Paul Dobson, only for all three of us to check a dangerous Q-9-x Flop. A King on the Turn, and after they both checked again, I thought it was worth a bet to try and steal the pot. Dobson folded, but Trinh was having none of it and called. I was expecting a tricky decision on the River, but the Jack that arrived kind of made life easier, and after Trinh had check-raised me, I re-checked my cards and pushed all-in.

At this point, Trinh dipped into the think tank for what seemed an age. The bloggers gathered round, Trinh fiddled with his chips, and I chanted "call, call, call" (not out loud, obviously). Clearly not at his first dance, Trinh even feigned a call at one point by sliding his chips across the felt and grinding to a halt just before the end. Some frown upon this and label it bad sportsmanship, but I don't mind it. Psychology is a big part of the game, and if you are foolish to reveal a tell in this situation, then you probably don't deserve to be called.

I don't know whether he saw something amiss, or just didn't see how I could bet an A-T on the Turn, but Trinh called in the end and looked understandably dejected when he saw my hand. The blogs all seem to have seen different cards in front of Trinh, but no one seems to have reported what he actually had... a pocket pair of tens.

This double up was all well and good, but as alluded to in the opening paragraph, the truly crucial moment was when I near ended my relationship with one Dana Immanuel. I'm very disapproving of softplay, so when Dana pushed all-in for 5.5k and blinds of 200/400 with 7-7, I didn't hesitate to call with my Pocket Queens. No Seven arrived and I was in big big trouble.

As she offered her hand in defeat, I felt a slight twist in what was a firmer than normal handshake, and it was then that I realsied I'd be sleeping in the bath tub for the rest of the week. All I can say is, thank God it was my birthday, it gave me a little leeway in that all I wanted as a present was forgiveness.

What really unnerved me was when she said, "I don't mind you knocking me out, as long as you win some money." Gulp. At this point I knew the smiles were only temporary, and that the pressure was now double what it was before. Cash and lose the dosh, or cash and lose a testicle. Crikey, it's a lose lose situation, but I'd rather hand out some money on a platter rather than a love sphere.

Perhaps this is what spurred me on, because although I struggled to find any hands or opportunities on Day 2, I did just about enough to make it into into the last 36 for what was a 3k payday. I finished Day 1 well above average, so was a tad disappointed to have not extended on that, but still, I would be returning for Day 3 nonetheless with a shot at the 120k first prize.

Day 3 arrived, and when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, I finished in 19th place. Out of circa 430 players, 19th is pretty commendable, and at least provided proof that I was capable of going deep in these comps. Unfortunately, I just couldn't find the vital double up when I needed it, otherwise I really think I was in with a shout. However, I didn't get Aces, Kings or Queens once in those final two days, and when very few flops are being seen, you need to find a hand at some point.

Anyhow, what it has done is make me hungry for more. I'm working the Dublin EPT, but when I return I'll be playing Waterford and pencilling in a few dates on the UK calender. I like the look of the 50k GJP event, and Season 2 of the GUKPT is sure to tempt me, so hopefully I'll make a big final table in the near future. I'd better escape that doghouse first though, I can see the door, but have yet to get through it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


During the World Series of Poker Europe, I recall one surreal moment when a line of celebrated poker authors crossed my path as I sat perched at my laptop. Grouping together on the balcony, it was as if they'd momentarily found common ground and formed their own little book club for them to discuss how they made their name in the industry armed with nothing but a pen.

First up, was Des Wilson, who was striking fear into my heart by telling me that the first chapter of his 300 plus page book that I had just started reading was the best chapter - he, in my humble opinion, was thankfully wrong and the rest of my read wasn't the downhill slide that I'd been threatened with.

Behind him, was a hunched Al Alvarez, the much loved-author of 'The Biggest Game In Town', but showing his age at 78 as he hobbled before me. A great man, according to my flat mate and not easy-to-please colleague, Jen Mason.

Then, beyond them was... er, hold on, who the eck is he?

"This is Michael Craig," claims Des as he attempts to introduce me to the third man.

At this point, there is an awkward silence. Before me stands a foreboding figure with a menacing stare. He is middle-aged, plump and balding; in fact, he looks like every other poker player I've ever met, and perhaps that's the problem. I recognise the name, but not the face, and as I try desperately to work out why the words Michael and Craig are familiar, Des and Michael await my response with somewhat baited breath.

"Er... hi ya, how's it going?" is the best I can muster as I continue to rack my brains.

Suddenly, a light bulb glistens in the labyrinth of my convoluted mind. "Hey, didn't he write something?" I ask myself. "Wasn't it that book about the banker, and the er... something or other?"

"You wrote er..." I hesitate embarrassingly.

If memory serves me correct, Des added "The Professor, The Banker and the Suicide King" segment of my incomplete question with a certain sense of suprise for my ignorance. Meanwhile, Michael's flabber is a little gasted and I can detect the words "How can you not know who I am?" dying to spurt from his lips.

In truth, as a journalist, I ought to know who our third man is, but I must confess to never touching his book. In fact, I'm not a big reader, and if I do delve into the world of poker literature, it tends to be within the realms of strategy as I look to improve my own game.

As it became clear that I wasn't particularly accustomed to the name Michael Craig and that I hadn't set eyes on his widely purchased creation, our limited 'Hi, how's it going?, "Fine, you?" dialogue soon ended and I tip-toed red-faced back to my computer.

What is most outrageous about this rather unfulfilling anecdote, however, is not that I didn't know who our dear Mr Craig was, but that he didn't have the foggiest who I was. Quite remarkable! I'm like bigger than the Queen these days.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


After reading Hellmuth's sorry excuse for a book (click here to see review), I thought I'd never read a good book on poker again. Recently, however, I found Des Wilson's 'Ghosts At The Table' lying on my doostep. I have no obligation to brownose anyone here, but this offering is a kick up the backside to the world of poker literature.

Here's the review:

With ‘Swimming with the Devilfish’, veteran author Des Wilson burst onto the poker literary scene quicker than a jet propelled whippet and could often be heard mumbled in the same sentences as Al Alvarez and Anthony Holden as one of the industry’s most intrepid observers.

Just one year on, and Des is back guns a blazing with his latest offering, ‘Ghosts at the Table’. Successfully melding together a historic and investigative approach, Des’ endless mission to unearth some of the game’s most intriguing secrets sees him travel to an array of legendary poker sites such as Deadwood, Tombstone and Mississippi before moving on to more modern locations like California, Texas and the home of poker, Las Vegas.

Commencing his journey in the gun-slinging town of Deadwood, Des wastes no time in searching for answers, his first foray into the mystical seas of poker ignorance seeing him pose questions such as who was Bill Hickok, what actually was the Dead Man’s hand, and did it even happen? It is this line of probing questioning that provides the spine for the entire book, Des not just trying to learn about the ‘Ghosts at the Table’, but also attempting to have a quick peak at the cards they held so close to their chest.

From here on in, Des has set the framework for his tale and travels to various locations across the United States armed with a dogged determination to explore every nook and cranny and challenge any supposed truths. Quickly luring you into the enviable romanticism of his adventure, you can’t help but share his enthusiastic gung ho attitude as he continues to question the very existence of some of these poker ‘facts’.

Although not the book’s largest chapter, the real meat of ‘Ghosts at the Table’ lies in the investigation of the Texas road gamblers, as it is here where Des’ true talent bobs to the surface, his ability to examine and evaluate the game’s characters being one of the alluring aspects that made ‘Swimming with the Devilfish’ such a hit. Still keeping one eye firmly fixed upon the historical progress of the game, what Des seems to revel in is breaking the surface of their legendary status and throwing yet more questions into the melting pot: What sort of man is Amarillo Slim, did Doyle Brunson cheat at poker, and why the heck does TJ Cloutier still play craps?

As Des effortlessly leads us from the rise of the Poker’s Godfathers, Benny Binion and Doyle Brunson, into the evolutionary surroundings of the World Series of Poker, the focus on characters and burrowing into their worlds still exists, Des utilising every text, contact and source at his disposal to learn more about some of poker’s greats. But still he maintains that relenting drive to re-evaluate the history books and blow dust off the pages that have yet to be examined thoroughly, his desire to learn more about what happened on certain occasions triggering a wealth of fascinating anecdotes, from the fixed main event in 1972, to Stu Ungar’s remarkable victory in 1997, right up to the triumph of Moneymaker in 2003 and the impending explosion of poker.

However, amid all these enlightening anecdotal jewels is a true gem, a chapter intent on finding a real WSOP mind-boggler in little known Hal Fowler. Momentarily spotlighted for winning the 1979 World Series Main Event in an epic heads up battle against Bobby Hoff, Hal seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth and was never seen again in the world of poker. Along with his knowledge of Hal as a drugged up amateur who didn’t seem to have a clue what he was doing, Des once again dons his long coat and trilby hat to hunt down the aforementioned enigma, this time even employing the help of a private detective!

After assessing some of poker’s biggest games (predominantly centred around the infamous Andy Beal), Des briefly covers the poker boom, thankfully keeping the section short so as not bore the reader with what they already know. However, this is all a prelude to the real treat that climaxes the book, Des providing his readers with a surprise delight and taking us through his own WSOP experience. Retelling his journey through the 2007 main event with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas Day, Des describes his hands, emotions and progress through the World’s biggest poker tournament and ends the book in fitting mood: one that perfectly expresses both the growth and popularity of the game.

With such a broad canvas creating so many potential pitfalls, repeating the success of ‘Swimming with the Devilfish’ was always going to be a tough task, but it’s clear that Des’ extensive experience in the journalistic field has served him well as ‘Ghosts at the Table’ is an undoubted delight and will surely be read for years to come.

On many occasions I have heard Des himself describe ‘Ghosts at the Table’ as a “history of poker”, but to simplify it in such terms just doesn’t do the book justice. As well as the endless Poirot-esque investigations, there is a certain charm that arises from the book, not simply from his fluid, passionate, easy-to-relate-to writing style, but from the many entertaining anecdotes that are prised from the various character assessments.

I often feel like I know a lot about poker, but when I hear of how Amarillo hid his money in a bowel of soup, Puggy Pearson was physically attacked by a dealer and her stiletto and after being told a game was crooked, Canada Bill replied, “I know, but it’s the only game in town”, you realise that there is a lot more to poker than just a timeline. The game is about people, the players, the characters who make poker the fun recreational activity that it is, was, and always will be. It is this segment of the game that Des so successfully brings to the table.

‘Ghosts at the Table’ both educates and entertains and is a must have for any self-claiming poker fan.

At the risk of being slated by the naysayers, I give it 10 blonde stars out of 10.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


The past week has been quite a surprise for me as a number of my readers (very few, I confess) have contacted/approached me to express their intrigue in my latest blog entry regarding Annette Obrestad. In this sense, it would appear that I have momentarily forgotten how lucky I am to witness these players in action and how exclusive it is to linger over their shoulder all day with a notepad and pen.

Although the World Series of Poker Europe, with its high concentration of big name players and segregated cardroom, allowed me to loiter around legendary stars such as Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu, the player I would like to focus my attention on this week is the 2006 WSOP Champion, Jamie Gold.

Born in August of 1969, Jamie Gold is an American television producer/ talent scout from Malibu, California who shocked the world with his domination of the 2006 Main Event. Armed with an army of chips and the gift of the gab, Gold was nigh on unstoppable and ploughed through the field like a knife through butter.

However, although he fended off the biggest poker field in history to win an unprecedented 12 million dollars with considerable ease, many critics hacked him to pieces in much the same way as Moneymaker three years before, the controversial word ‘luck’ cropping up in multiple comments.

With his favouring of verbal persuasion, not to mention the ensuing court case regarding an alleged pre-comp ‘deal’, Gold’s integrity and character was continually questioned, many suggesting that he was one of the least dignified winners in recent poker history.

With the aforementioned in mind, I thought the inaugural WSOPE in London would provide the perfect opportunity for me to form my own opinions on the man and witness first-hand what he was like beyond the picture painted by the blood-thirsty media vampires.

At first glance, Jamie Gold is one of the most confident, relaxed players you will ever see at a poker table. Chris Moneymaker may claim that dispelling the ‘fluke’ accusation doesn’t add pressure, but with Jamie Gold, I genuinely think it’s true. Of course, he is keen to triumph, but he doesn’t play a tense game, and the foreboding shadow of all and sundry expecting him to fail doesn’t seem to faze him.

His game appears to be an aggressive one. Whether he’s got chips or not, he likes to play hands and is one of those players who could have the chip lead one moment, and be bust the next. When that dry patch occurs or he’s required to grind, you can see him visibly itching to play a pot.

Gold seems to be an impatient chap and one who likes to fill the tedium of deep-stacked tournament poker with table talk. In this sense, he is very sociable, and was forever communicating with his neighbours, John Tabatabai being his final companion.

Gold also enjoys talking to those around him and likes his voice to be heard. In fact, I think he’s a good laugh and vastly charismatic. I recall one moment when he asked me for a piece of paper (possibly to make a note on an opponent) and I replied that I didn’t want his autograph. He took the gentle mocking prod with a smile when others may have snarled.

However, whilst there is this childlike, highly endearing side to his character, a certain lack of etiquette simmers on the surface and often slips out without an inch of hesitancy. One instance in particular sticks in my memory, Gold’s two pair outdrawing Matthew Hankin’s flopped set in what was a massive pot. In my Pokernews report, I commented:

“There was a bit of uncertainty regarding who had who covered, but it was eventually unearthed that Gold had his man beat. He didn't say it to the entire table, but I shall report it anyhow, but as Hankins' chips went sailing away, Gold commented, "That'll teach him for playing like an idiot earlier on." He then turned to the table and added, "See, that's justice."

Although discourteous, I don’t believe he means to offend, it’s just that he can’t help but say what’s on his mind, however disrespectful. In a later hand, he admitted to the rest of the table that he was playing like a fish. Later still, he would huff and puff after being re-raised and share his disheartenment of being constantly pushed around. If he thinks someone’s an idiot, including himself, he’ll say so.

As Jamie departed in 35th for £27,150, he took one final bite of a kebab he’d ordered and left it behind, the food obviously not tasty enough to complete in its entirety. One of my major accolades in life is managing to get a picture of Jamie’s kebab onto the Pokernews update, and I was even prouder when I was allowed to report the progress of that said food item. Had it been taken away? Had Jamie Gold returned for it? Was it even a kebab at all? These are the questions everyone wanted to know, and I’m pleased I was able to answer those queries.

When it had been confirmed that Jamie Gold was no longer interested in the kebab, I snatched up my opportunity to etch my name in history and become the first, and perhaps only man in history to have a bite of a World Champion’s kebab. I considered auctioning it off on ebay or simply confining it to my mantelpiece as a souvenir, but to say “I ate Jamie Gold’s kebab” was an opportunity that I simply couldn’t resist.

The result wasn’t good. By now, the kebab was cold and very dry, and its chewy texture made me grimace in taste-bud hell. However, this wasn’t about enjoying the kebab, it was about notching up my first notable achievement in poker journalism. It is something that I will be forever proud of, and no one can ever take that away from me.

But meaty savouries aside, what did I conclude in my limited experience of our 2006 World Champ? Well, it’s quite simple really. I like Jamie Gold. I wanted him to win so he could stick his middle finger up to the poker world and say, “Fuck you”, if only because I knew he would given half the chance. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite happen, but what he did do was entertain and play with a smile. Yes, he may have run well on one special August week, and yes, his immature tendency to insult is an annoyance, but he’s fun to watch and is ultimately rather harmless.

His record is currently littered with tumbleweed, but I hope he wins something major soon, not because I think he has the game (this I am in no position to decide), but because I want him to prove the naysayers wrong. So what if he was lucky, this game needs an injection of fun and personality, and Jamie Gold brings that element to the table whenever he plays.