Auf Wiedersehen

It was about 1pm on Monday when I returned to my place after nearly seven weeks in the town of hopes and dreams. It was about 7pm when the second lot of washing went in and I headed to the Vic. Some people might accuse me of being sick, but I was missing the place. They’ve spent 1.5 million on a refurb and I wanted to see the new mural and if the carpet was as bad as I’d heard. I also missed the people. Some of you may think the place is full of morose, moaning, grumpy old men. It obviously is, but I genuinely love most of those men (at least the ones that aren’t just miserable old tossers).

It was all very heart warming. The amateurs congratulated me on my 131st place finish in the Main Event. They were genuinely pleased for me and had probably got some pleasure from thinking that that could have been them. They’ve played with me before, I’m not that good, I make mistakes, I’d inspired them that they too could do well. The pros, those that knew what it felt like, gave me sympathetic glances. They knew how close I’d come, and the pain that had come with missing out.

The jet lag started to catch up with me and I went home for a quick sixteen hour nap after a volatile losing session. I woke just in time to watch the first hand of the WSOP Final. Seventeen hours later, a bloke called Jerry Yang, who played pretty aggressively, but didn’t appear to be among the best five of the last nine players, let alone the last 131, was waving a large chunk of dosh over his head. He spent a long time thanking Baby Jesus for taking the time to help out. You’d think, despite the omnipresence thing, that God would have enough to do watching over PLO games online, and He wouldn’t have the time to put into the live game. Another fourteen hours sleep was spent dreaming of what might have been.

A couple of people suggested I might like a nice break from poker. I had three different invites to pop down the road and watch the test match, in between showers, at Lords. I was struggling, in between bouts of narcolepsy, to focus on my game. My head just didn’t seem right and I had several bad losses just a few days after my return. Obviously I spurned the invites and set off to Newcastle for Leg Six of the Grosvenor Poker Tour.

With players suffering a combination of exhaustion and skintness after Vegas, and the fact that Newcastle isn’t very adjacent to London, the numbers were down. While helping Bluesquare with the odds on this event I found it hard to get a list of people who were committed to going. After the top ten names on my list I barely recognised anyone. With only around two hundred players and a lack of faces, maybe I could finally win one of these damn tournaments, or at least make a final.

Despite no sleep the night before I arrived feeling quite fresh after a nice train journey. I needn’t have worried about not knowing people’s names, as five of Bluesquare’s top ten favourites were at my first table. I missed a big draw against the only guy I’d never met before I got moved onto a table with the other five. If I was more superstitious I might regret my lobbying for the Vic dealers to be allowed on the tour. It wasn’t Tammy’s fault that I missed a massive draw on my second table though. Even with the fifteen minute break I’d spent longer on the train than I did in the tournament. Marvellous.

The only thing that could possibly cheer me up was a cash game with Paul Parker in it. The line-up wasn’t fantastic with James Dempsey, The Camel, Brian Johnson and Stuart Nash joining Paul and I, but we did manage a laugh or two while I managed to get the buy-in back.

Waking up ridiculously early (prior to noon) gave me no alternative. I would have to have a look around the City. It reminded me a fair bit of Liverpool, in that it had a fantastic array of shops, but not a single internet cafe where a weary traveller might glance over his Betfair account. I mooched around marvelling at the huge number of betting shops and pubs. The locals seem to have taken the smoking ban in their stride. Most of the pubs here had 90% of their customer base standing outside in the rain. This truly is a town where "Drink beer, smoke tabs" is the cheerful motto.

After another eight hour snooze I got up for an evening cash game. This one wasn’t quite so much fun for me. I lost a few quid without ever really getting into a big pot, or feeling I could "get the lot". I do find that the players in the North, who generally don’t pay fifteen quid an hour to play, are quite keen to head to the door as soon as they come round to collect the session fees – particularly if they’re winning. Although the games on the tour are also full of people who are predominantly tournament players, some of whom maybe steaming, the travelling pros are also generally looking to double-up, getting back their expenses for the weekend, before immediately leaving. When you add to that, the level of disorganisation from the staff – the lists are not well kept, players hop from game to game and just dare try asking for a ruling – I’m not finding it worth travelling just to play cash.

By Sunday I’d more or less seen all I wanted of Newcastle. A final quick walk while waiting for the train was refreshing in that it revealed the massively high percentage of under-14s who wear a Newcastle Utd strip. It’s practically compulsory uniform for kids here. As I passed Marks and Sparks and went through China Town I realised that St James’ Park is actually in the town centre. It wasn’t until I got to the station that I first saw a non-Geordie shirt. The Gooner in question looked a bit stoned and confused. He must have taken a wrong turning off the Holloway Road.

I knew how he felt. I felt a warm feeling of security as the train passed the Emirates Stadium and we were back to King’s Cross. By Monday I realised yet another benefit of finishing 131st in the Main Event. Those nice people at Matchroom now deemed me to be famous enough to give them $25k to play in the Ladbroke PokerMillion. I was only about the fifth reserve too. If I can just get rid of the jet-lag and remember how to play again by Thursday…

Neil Channing will be attempting to win his heat of the PokerMillion, as a warm-up for his upcoming trip to Luton. seem happy to help.