Showdown: A Tour is born
When I was a toddler I came down with chicken pox measles whooping cough and pneumonia all at once. The doctors told my parents this would either kill me or make me strong, so I'm not quite sure what happened. In it's infancy, the Showdown Poker Tour has also had it's baptism of fire; and survived.
The tour was delayed due to teething problems – all now solved - and so the opening event became the main event of the Gutshot European Open .A clash with the Blackpool main event meant that the timing wasn't ideal for attracting bigger players from the UK, but super satellites during the Gutshot festival would generate players to join the dozen or so on line qualifiers, those who had a good week might be persuaded to buy in and all this in turn would encourage others to come.
A few days before the festival the Gutshot announced that they would be running another £500 'main event' with added money alongside the Showdown tournament; and that the satellites would now be for this tournament. I'm sure they weren't trying to sabotage the new tour, but it would have been a great way of doing it if they were. No doubt those nice people at Gutshot had their reasons. They had never hosted such a big buy-in event and were perhaps unsure how well it would go. But in the event the Showdown tournament was, in all important respects, a great success. And I don't just mean because I got a draw!
The Gushot have taken the lease on the place next door, so instead of the old distressed bunker we were on ground level enjoying space, natural light and a great bar. And, partly because of the other event, there were a huge amount of people milling around which will have helped make a great atmosphere for the TV.
The Eurosports cameras where there from the start, filming featured tables on day one and the final table on day two. The slow structure meant there was a lot more poker than you normally get in a final, so I expect a particularly good show to come out of it. Having Matt Savage as tournament director is a huge plus for the Showdown Tour. He’s just about the best tournament director in the world and even if he hams it up for the cameras he does make great rulings as well as great TV. Now that he is involved I'm sure there'll be more big names from the US and elsewhere coming to future Showdown events.
Matt has made sure there’s a very slow clock, which means the Showdown events play out like the early stages of the really big buy in tournaments like the WPT at the Bellagio. And this continues right the way through; Even in the heads up there’s a lot of play in the chips. That suits me, because the strongest part of my game is in the early stages – that’s when I almost always gather chips. Or to put it another way, my bottle goes when the stakes get too high! In this event I was able to play my kind of game right to the end.
Having said that, I had my back against the wall from the start. At the first level I got a re-raise in with aces against Dave Colclough. He called and flopped a set of tens on a ten-high flop taking three-quarters of my chips. I probably should have given up on the river. I was down from 10,000 to 2,500 and this was where the structure of the tournament came in; with the chips I had left, I was able to play myself back into the game (an immediate double up didn't hurt) although for the most of the first day I was below average in chips.
Day one ended with pleasing symmetry - for me -. I found aces again, and got it in pre-flop against Dave Colclough's jacks. Unlike me in that early hand, Dave had no opportunity to escape. The aces stood up, and so having been under it all day, I finished quite comfortably – third in chips.
Day two was a long one. Nine players came back and it took a long time to get down to eight for the televised final table. From there it took almost a whole level to lose a short stacked Dave Colclough. As well as the rest of the Mob, the small but well formed field had included the likes of Andy Black, Ben Grundy and a bunch of scary Swedes. With Dave gone I felt I had seen off the toughest of the opposition. That shows how much I know!
When we got down to four players. I shared most of the chips with Dan Wicks, a local Gutshot guy who had won his seat for twenty quid, the two Swedes were very low. Everything was going smoothly and I hadn’t really had any nasty accidents. It's easy to feel invincible when everything is going your way. But when we came back from the dinner break, there was a change of pace. The two Swedes had obviously decided that they had to come out fighting. Mats Gavitan winner of the EPT in Dublin, was right down to 3,200 when he went all in with A-5 against my queens. He hit an ace and a five on the flop and from that point went on an extraordinary rush of cards that wiped out the other two and gave him a big chip lead.
During this phase I made a decision to play a hand against him in a certain way, and put myself under pressure as a result. Mat raised on the button with what I believed to be big cards. I had a pair of sevens and decided that, from the way he was playing, if I was to re raise him, he wouldn’t put his hand down; he’d more likely make a big re-raise, because he felt he had the momentum. I didn’t really want to gamble against A-K or A-Q, or AJ. I wanted to see a flop, and take it from there. I called and got a lovely flop: 4-5-5. I checked with the intention of raising all in if he bet. But the slippery Swede checked behind me! The turn came a nine and now I knew I was winning. I bet fairly big, and he called me. I felt he was calling to hit something, and if an ace came, I was going to give it up. It came a queen. I checked and now he put a big bet in. Now it was just a toss up between whether he’d bluffed or held a queen. Although he didn't feel weak, I went with the plan rather than the read. I called, and he showed me A-Q. Marvelous.
That was the biggest pot I’d lost, and I’d put myself under pressure for the first time since day one. I got tangled up in another pot with him heads up that I decided to play in a similar way. I had fives and I wanted to trap him, but he ended up calling a bet on the turn when a deuce hit and then betting on the river when it came a jack. It turned out he had J-2. So again I could have taken it on or before the flop, but it was very hard to put him on J-2, and I couldn't see how the card on the end had helped his hand. That little gamble took another big chunk off my stack. I was under real pressure now, and although I got the last of my chips in as a slight favorite the damage had already been done.
Mats played fantastically well throughout the tournament. He just never gave up. He went right down to the floor and came all the way back again. He just pushed and pushed and did exactly what you have to do in that situation, making the very most of whatever luck he had. He’s a great tournament player, and you can’t begrudge someone a win who makes a comeback like that. So although I was disappointed not to have won when for most of the final I really thought it was mine, he deserved the victory for the strength of that comeback.
I kind of feel the same way about the ShowDown Poker Tour. It survived a difficult period, went short stacked for a while, and now is on a rush which will see it going from strength to strength.
Luke at the Fitzwilliam is running satellites for the event in Dublin next week, there will be a strong Scandinavian contingent including a longboat full of Danes, Matt Savage - the poker pied piper- is working his magic with the Americans, the Mob will be there (so there's your value!) There'll be a fair few Internet qualifiers, and as far as I know there's no other big event in Ireland next week; so I expect the world's greatest pokering nation to come out in force as well.
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