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Barny Boatman
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Warning: May Contain Poker Stories

The WSOPE is a great event and everything, don't get me wrong. Well organised, great staff, top field, good structures, central location... but: They've got to do something about the venue.
In the main event I was wedged under the stairwell, back to back with a blackjack table with the six-deck automatic shuffler rattling like a maraca in a spin-dryer inches from my right ear. On my other side the dealers would occasionally ring a cowbell because the normal hiss to summon the pit boss could not be heard above the excited squawking from the huddle of punters, which transported me back to weekends browsing Hong Kong's busy markets. Add to this hubbub the bank of billion watt bulbs rapidly melting my eye balls along with the polar ice and it all amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. I would not want to trivialise the suffering of the victims of 'enhanced interrogation', nor offer excuses for any questionable plays for that matter, but a few more hours as a prisoner on table 11 and I would have been ready to confess to having started the bacon flu.

And I did make a dodgy play. Mark Teltscher had raised from early and I called from the small blind with fives. The flop was J, 5, 4 with two spades. I check raised and Mark started talking. “So, your brother came fourth in the PLO right?”

I had already been teasing him for the ham fisted way he attempted to engage players in conversation every time they raised him. One Australian bloke had been asked his name every time he three-bet Mark, which was a lot.

Mark is a friendly chap who clearly loves the game and likes to talk about it, but somehow taking the piss out of him always seems like a victimless crime. He was dressed like a circus acrobat in a liquid-shiny red satin shirt and white Daz-advert suit which looked like it needed signing for chariddee. To be fair he did say he was wearing it because he'd lost a bet, but judging by what he normally wears I'd say his bookie isn't starving. He made the call and I hoped he would put me on the nut flush draw and call every street with one pair.

The turn was the queen of diamonds. I bet, he called. Now I started to think maybe he had the nut flush draw and was wondering if I would be able to induce a bluff if he missed the river. The river. The last card I expected to see: The ace of spades. It crossed my mind to make a small bet, but I opted for the check.

Fair play to Mark, he made a good sized bet and I made a king sized error. OK, I knew he knew I didn't have a flush, but I mean really, what was I beating? Two black kings? Six seven? No, this was a flush or, much less likely, a bigger set. I think if a different spade had come I would have found it easier to put my hand down. He had bet 12.5k into twenty and I called just so he could show me the six seven of spades.

'Would you have called an all-in?' he chirped. While WSOP player of the year Jeff Lisandro helpfully informed me he had folded fours and would have got it in with me on the flop. If that's true, I'll eat his silly little pork pie hat. Well, it could be true I suppose, but I'm right about the hat.

Oh and yes, Ross did come fourth in the PLO. And what a great night we had afterwards at out mate Chris's cash game in Covent Garden. It occurred to us that night that everyone of us guzzling red wine and triple straddling in six card hi-lo Omaha had been mentioned in Vicky's brilliant book 'For Richer For Poorer' (available in all good book stores, although in Waterstone's you have to look in the Indoor games section!) But the really amazing thing was that every last, lazy semi-literate book-dodging gambler at the table had read the book from cover to cover in a day. It really is that good.

That pot had left me with about 17k, twelve of which I immediately lost in a cold deck. Down to five, I dug deep (OK my aces against Mark's kings helped,) and was back to about twenty three when the lights went out.

For some time now I've been expecting veteran poker players like me to be subject to those new government background checks because we seem to spend so much time with children these days; but it wasn't a fifteen year old inter-kind who mugged me for my lunch money, it was the wily silver-haired Barry Shulman, much underrated father of the soon-no-longer-to-be-underrated November Niner Jeff Shulman.

I called an early raise with fours on the button and Barry came in from the blinds. A flop of Qd,4d,6h and I bet a bit less than the pot when it checked round to me. Barry called and the turn brought the seven of hearts. When Barry checked a voice in my head told me to check behind. Honestly, it did. But I stuck a bet in and the Card Player supremo beat me in with his whole stack.

Now I paid a bit more attention to the little voice, which almost got a quick fold out of me. I was getting less than two to one and it felt like Barry was protecting a made hand on a draw heavy board. It was easy for him to give me a small set, a fold was quite possible. And yet. What did he have? A set of sixes was very feasible, he could have flat called the flop hoping to get at least a call from the pre flop raiser. But somehow I felt he would have played a set faster, either led out or re-raised. A straight then? Again, why not. But would the seven have made his hand? All I really wanted was to put him on a hand I was beating so I decided he could be holding the five and seven of diamonds, or - less likely - the six and seven. Silence little voice of doom. I call. As it happened the turn had been a perfect fit with his five and three of hearts and in my determination to build a decent stack I had called with the wrong price to house up, knowing in my heart that I was going to need to.

On the plus side though, it was an early reprieve from the notorious table eleven and a short step to the blackjack table where I could drink Tsing Tao and yell for cards in Cantonese.

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