Friday, November 23, 2007


As I write, I am currently watching the final of the Midlands Masters in Walsall unfold. As with the Grand Prix, the final is being played in a yet to open sideroom that Grosvenor are planning to rent out for £75 squid an hour. People will be able to play a cash game, STT or whatever with big screen TV, dealer and waitress service. Also, there's an expensive soundproof door that can be pulled across if they don't want people to know what they're up to.

But back to the Main Event, this has to be one of the toughest line-ups I've ever seen including Mickey Wernick, Paul Jackson, Marc Goodwin, Harpit Gurnam, Martyn Cavanagh, Steve Jelinek, Rob Reece, Chicken Joe and Dave Colclough. In fact, the whole field was tough, and although I assumed that I'd have a 'I know their game better than they know mine' advantage, I think it would have been better saving my dosh for a GUKPT or something instead.

I did decide that it would be good experience and somewhat of a challenge, but that only comes into effect if you actually get further than a few hands. To be fair, I made it about half way, but only through grinding a shortstack and never getting above my starting stack.

This was due to a couple of mistakes, apart from actually playing the comp in the first place. Ironically, although I was sat at a table with Thewy, El Blondie, Woodley, Herbert and Singleton (who, for some unknown reason, turned into a raising machine), the player who took most of my chips early doors was the lesser known Tony Fellone (gotta love the cool gangster name!).

I called a raise with 8c 4c (it was a loose table, as you can imagine) and bet out 500 on a 5c 2c 5d Flop. Everyone folded except Tony. Check, check on the Kc Turn, and then another check from Tony on the 4d River. I bet out 1.5k, and Tony made it 4.5k.

Against anyone else, I'd fold, but Tony seemed like a rash, loose player lacking the calculation of someone who'd check-raise the nuts on the River. A straight or flush would flat call my bet on a paired board, and I eliminated all possible house hands: he was uncharacteristically passive on the flop with draws out there if he had the 5, Pocket Fours would fold the flop (and I had one!), Kings would have raised pre-flop, and he surely wouldn't check 3 times with Pocket Sixes. Also, I'd just seen his poker face when he had a hand against Woodley, and this time he looked different.

So... going with my belief (which I try to do to avoid playing scared poker), I made the call but was shown Ac 8c, which was a mighty surprise, but proved that I'd somehow managed to outthink myself. I never tilt, but I rued my decision for a good while and later deemed it to be a terrible call, if only because I forgot to consider the amount of bluffing hands that he could have held, which is very few. However, in hindsight, it only cost me 3k, and if I hadn't been knocked down to 4k, then I wouldn't have doubled up off Julian Thew's flopped two pair with a flush and straight draw as my card didn't arrive to the River, by which time, and with a deeper stack, he probably would have pushed me off the hand.

My next mistake came a couple of levels later, looking down at As-Ts in early position, I decided to limp and see a Tc-Ah-Qh multiway Flop. Everyone checked and Chicken Joe bet 700, which was check-raised to 1,600 by Z Mirza who'd limped in early position too. I dwelt up for ages before calling, believing Joe was going to sense danger and step out the way whilst also giving me position on Mirza to see what he did on the Turn. Hands I was worried about were K-J and A-Q (he would have raised a set up pre-flop), yet he could still have A-J or below (Joe is a loose player) or even the draw.

Anyhow, a raggy heart came on the Turn, and after Mirza checked nervously, I decided to represent the flush to either stop him rivering another heart if I had him beat or get him off the straight or two pair. So, I popped out 2.5k, but he quickly called and we saw a blank River. At this point I knew that (1) I'd made a mistake in betting the Turn and (2) that he had me beat, most likely with the straight, and probably holding a heart.

If a heart had hit the River, then I would have grabbed my balls and pushed in either hoping he didn't have a heart, or that he'd fold the Jack. However, because it wasn't red, and although I contemplated an all-in, I decided against it and checked. He showed Kh-Jc and said he would have called, and I believe him. But I had 6k and was still in with a shot, which isn't bad considering that if there'd been some pre-flop action I might have done my whole stack.

On a sidenote, I was made to show my hand here after trying to muck, which I hate. Apparently the rule here, which isn't applied consistently, is that all checked hands on the River have to be shown. Not only is this time-consuming, annoying and unnecessary, but it gives away a lot of information in a game that should be about deception. Paul Jackson detested this rule too, and claimed that if people wanted to collude, then they could just muck their hand before being asked to reveal and there'd be nothing the dealers could do.

Apart from those hands, I didn't really hit much, and spent most of the time ducking and diving (even getting back up to 9k at one point) before cold cards allowed the 'cost of poker' to demolish me. With the blinds at 300/600 and about to rise, I saw one Ace and pushed my 4.5k in from latish position after remaining frustratingly patient through a seemingly endless sea of 8-3, T-2, Q-4, etc.

Of course, poker is all about timing (aka luck), and I ended up running into A-K and Kings behind me. Luckily, the A-K was pushed off the hand pre-flop, so I had a chance, but my outs didn't arrive and I was deservedly out of the door. Rob Reece was the chap that finished me off, and he seemed like a nice lad, even if he does look like Chris Moyles.

Bit gutted because I feel I spent £800 without gaining too much in the way of experience or enjoyment. Also, I didn't play particularly well and am begrudgingly sighing over a recent lack of cards and, more importantly, opportunities. I'm not playing amazingly, but solid enough and feel that I deserve the cards to run a bit better for me at those crucial times. Still, am remaining patient and looking forward to playing a couple of freezeouts at the Luton Christmas Cracker. Praying for a final table at the moment.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I haven’t been posting much of late, but that’s because I’ve been updating in Walsall and Dublin before returning to Ireland to play the inaugural Waterford Winter Festival. I have plenty of tales to tell, but that’s for another time. Before I do anything, I must backtrack a month or two and dedicate a few words to the incredible run of Julian ‘Yoyo’ Thew.

For those that don’t know (what rock have you been living under!), Julian won the Baden EPT in Austria last month. Not only that, but he also triumphed in the Plymouth GUKPT in September, not to mention a victory in a Walsall side event and a Broadway final table sandwiched somewhere in between. To say he’s hot after what was a turbulent (in poker terms) and exceedingly dry spell is the understatement of the year, and I think Julian now comfortably surpasses Mr Final Table himself, Ian ‘Invincible’ Cox, in the form stakes.

I first met Julian at the lively Gala Casino in Nottingham in June 2002 when I first entered the live poker foray. I don’t think he’d been playing too long himself at that point (perhaps just 6 months in Ireland), and he certainly wasn’t the full time sponsored pro he is now, but back then, he was fresh-faced, enviously younger looking than his years, and lacking the eye-bags that life in the poker fast lane is guaranteed to bring you. He was still as nonchalant as ever, not just in his cool, calm, collected approach to everything, but also physically, somehow striding into the cardroom each week as if he were on holiday in Cornwall, shamelessly donning cardigan and sandals.

What struck me about Julian was that he was one of the few genuinely nice guys in the cardroom, and someone you just knew you could trust your life savings with. I know it gets boring hearing every one say how he’s the “nice guy of poker”, but it’s true. He didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone, and he’d give everyone the time of day, even if you knew he despised them deep down.

In truth, that probably has its downside too, as I’m sure a few people would have taken advantage of his generosity and done him for a few bob. If you’re as amicable and successful as Julian, then you might as well have the words ‘Nip Me’ tattooed on your forehead. I don’t know for sure, but I’m hoping he’s prepared to tell people to feck off if need be, especially after recent victories.

Having said that, Julian has backed me a couple of times, and tikay makes no secret about how generous Thewy is in swapping percentages. When I offered to sell Julian a percentage of myself in the recent GUKPT, he didn’t batter an eyelid. I don’t have a particularly impressive track record in tournament poker, so the chances are that his investment would go down the pan, but he fancied putting a bit of faith in me. I didn’t come home with millions, but I returned him a profit nonetheless, and even though it wasn’t much, it felt nice to actually thank him in monetary terms for his support.

But that’s enough of the character assessment, what really intrigues me about Julian is not his kind-heartedness, but his continual success rate in side events. In fact, for a while, I was nicknaming him ‘the Sid Event King’, and if you check out his stats, you’ll see why. Apart from the odd score in Amsterdam and a distant win in Luton, the majority of Julian’s triumphs prior to Plymouth and Baden were in events of £750 buy-in or less. The £300 bracket in particular appeared to be Julian’s niche, and if he made the final, he was almost guaranteed to win it. I don’t think you’ll find any player in the world with a better final table win rate than Thewy.

I often inquired as to why he could only succeed in the side events, but Julian never had an answer. Although I assumed that he either froze in the big one, his style wasn’t as effective, or he just played better against a certain type of player, it would appear as though it was simply a matter of variance, as recent results, unless they were a fluke, have proved.

Julian’s playing style has always interested me – bamboozled me, to be more precise. How does he do so well? Does he read players better than me? Does he have better timing? Perhaps he changes gears at the right time? Or maybe he is indeed as lucky as people seem to think he is.

In my opinion, I think the key word is ‘gamble’. Although this is a word frowned upon by many poker geeks, gambling is a big part of the game and, if applied correctly, can be used as a huge weapon. For instance, Julian seems to have that magical ability to play a big stack better than everyone else, so if the opportunity for him to become big stacked arrives, he’s willing to snap it up in a jiffy, even if he isn’t the favourite in the hand. Of course, this strategy requires you to be a regular tournament player for rewards to be reaped, and Julian has had more than his fair share of fruitless outings.

In this sense, Julian is fearless, and is never worried about exiting a comp, whatever the level. Similarly, when he has a meaty stack, he doesn’t hesitate in calling down players. If he has the inferior hand, then so be it, but he’s not the one all-in, so he’s happy to take pot shots at people. Not only is there the chance that he might win the hand (2-3 isn’t that far behind A-K) and increase his lead even further, but it also sends people a stark message and one that they are unlikely to forget - mess around with Julian at your peril. He doesn’t even have to win the hand to implant that fearsome reminder in his opponents’ heads.

I could go on forever about the ins and outs of Julian’s game, but at the moment, it’s merely guesswork. He probably isn’t sure himself what the key to his success is, he just has a natural game that is working, and he’s understandably happy to stick with it, whether it makes sense or not.

Whatever you think of Julian and his game, the most marvellous thing is that he’s a nice guy that wins. People often mistakenly say that poker players are some of the most honest people you’re ever likely to meet. Bollox, from what I’ve witnessed over the last few years, it’s the complete opposite, and Julian Thew is the exception. It’s not true what they say, nice guys do finish first, and regularly too.

Friday, November 09, 2007


I don't know why, but I thought I'd mix it up a bit on the blog with a film review. I'm no Barry Norman, but let's give this a shot.

Saw Saw 4 last week after seeing Saw 2 and Saw 3 before I saw Saw 4... on the sea shore. The bottom line is that, well, it's more of the same really and doesn't really add anything to its predecessors. Whilst the first one had originality, tension, character development and a little mystery, this one continues the theme of the other sequels that 'more is more', when I really think 'less is more' in these situations.

In the right hands, rather than Beavis and Butthead, these films should have been one of the best collection of horror films ever made, but instead, we're arrived at a 4th installment which is almost a parody of the Saw film itself, and sometimes even manages to verge on comedy. A case example is the opening scene and the Braindead-esque (such an apt word) use of gore. Whilst you'll probably want to vomit into your popcorn on first showing, you'll be laughing about the ludicrousy of it all on the way home rather than having any unwanted nightmares.

It's clear to me that the writers have just been told by some big wig somewhere, "make lots of traps", and whilst this is entertaining for a while (I personally like the one where one is blind, the other unable to speak), it soon becomes rather tedious as the traps aren't particularly innovative anymore and there seems to be one around every corner. At least the victims of these devices are worthy this time though. Last time it was a depressed nurse and a poor fella unable to get over the death of his son (yes, great choice Jigsaw - punish them!), but now we're back to drug dealers, rapists, and so on, so at least there's a return of logic somewhere in the film.

What is probably the saving grace, and I'm not usually a great advocater of over-exposing the villain, are the Jigsaw flashbacks, which prove to be the most successful scenes, (1) because Tobin is the only good actor in the film and still manages to make the character interesting with that slight sense of 'he can flip at any given moment' and (2) it's the only time the film slows down, tries to add some depth to the narrative and actually avoid the nonsensical. The most intriguing thing about these scenes, is that it actually enables you to sympathise with the Jigsaw character, making him more likable than the other characters. That in itself is bizarre seeing that he is the antagonist and likes to send people to hell and back, but at least it's intriguing.

Whilst there are numerous other flaws with the film - the stupid camera effects that make the film hard to follow, too many protaganists, the failure to successfully intertwine the other films into the story, two new coppers that look the same, the illogical decisions of characters, the dreary, unoriginal settings - this showing is still an improvement on the third and possibly hovering around the standard of the second, mainly because, amid all its faults, it still has enough appeal, shock value and morality (making the guy try to see what he sees is the most fascinating part) to entertain for 90 minutes. However, I think this might be the end. The well set-up, but 'we don't care' revealing of the accomplice is clearly hinting at a Saw 5 to follow next Halloween, but by that time, I'm almost certain that viewers will finally turn away if the writers just churn out the same old tosh once again. If they kept the story simple, held back on the gore a little and focused on just a couple of key characters, then they'd be in with a shot, but somehow, I just can't see this happening.

I give it 3 stars. 1 for Tobin, 1 for at least making the effort to push this further than the usual dumb teen slasher, 0.5 for traps and 0.5 for baps. Hold on, there weren't any baps. Okay, gonna have to give it 2.5. What I expected, can't complain.