Back Down to Earth

When I finished fourth in the £1500 nlh event at the WSOPE I won £44,588. That is, at least, what it says on numerous websites and in most of the enormous number of poker magazines. In none of them does it say that I swapped 3% with five different people, four of whom doubled to 6% shortly before their untimely exits. There’s also no mention on any of the sites, or in any of the magazines, of the seven people I staked in this tournament, all of whom gave me nothing but a disappointing and uninteresting story of their early demise.    

My diary for that week reveals some rather hairy swings in the cash games, eventually resulting in a healthy profit, news of which hasn’t, until now, featured in print.    

With the games at the Vic playing so big at the moment, it’s quite possible to win or lose ridiculous sums, without anyone really noticing. I upset one player, whom I much respect and like, when I showed a slight lack of tact at around the same time that he lost £25k. My defence was that I thought he’d "only" lost £8k that night.    

It seemed strange then to settle into the 36hr Party Poker Poker Den cash game with the knowledge that all results would be publicly scrutinised. I also knew from last year’s game that the hands would be analysed, and in some cases over-analysed, on Internet forums and by people of my acquaintance. On top of all that I’d set myself a target of playing throughout the entire 36hrs.    

In the end the game was great fun, I felt like I played ok, my invention of the "Party Pot", (Party Poker randomly put $1000 into one pot an hour), seemed to get things going nicely, and I’m sure I would have lasted the distance if I hadn’t had to rush out to dinner three hours from the end. In fact I KNOW I’d have lasted the distance as I went straight from my dinner to the Vic for a quick five hours.    

The Poker Heaven cash game I played next week for the Poker Channel was nowhere near as much fun. The game had a much less interesting mix of players, was all over in a third of the time and I suffered from a poor run of cards. I also made the mistake of not bringing enough money to play properly. In the end it was thoroughly frustrating and disappointing. The food was WAY better than the stuff at The Den though.    

With the insanity of the WSOPE and EPT festivals behind me what I really needed was a holiday. I planned a relaxing trip to Dublin to take in a couple of tournaments and catch up with some of my favourite people.    

The International Poker Open was an incredible tournament. My former flat-mate Paul Spillane is now running Boylepoker and has moved them over to the iPoker network. In order to celebrate this fact, he thought he’d organise the largest live poker tournament ever held outside the US. I haven’t stayed at The Regency hotel since the Irish EPT in 2006, when the hotel failed to provide hot water to any room for the duration of the weekend.    

If you’d have told me that Paul was going to get around fourteen hundred people to fly to Dublin (440 from France and 97 from Holland as well as large groups from Luxembourg, Belgium and Scandinavia), stay at The Regency, play a 150 Euro tournament and experience a weekend that people would be talking about in years to come, I would obviously believe that to be possible, having known Paul for many years. If you’d have told me that it would proceed seamlessly and that everyone would have a wonderful time without any hitches whatsoever I’d probably say you were barking mad. He’s very lucky to have such a great team.    

The thing that Paul did best was to get lots of fun people to come. Each of his VIP players wore Sunderland shirts, (Boyles sponsor Sunderland), and it was great to look around the room and see Jesse May, Jeff Duval, Mad Marty, Katherine, Rory Liffey, Andy Ward, Padraig Parkinson, Marty Smyth and Ian Frazer as well as sports stars like Ken Doherty and half the Irish hurling team wearing the colours. Even though the buy-in was only 150 Euro, (I nearly put Patrik Antonious into this one due to a confusion over decimal points), I was still totally gutted when my shirt was won by a friendly French player wielding an AJ near the end of day one.    

I stopped sulking and drinking long enough to play in a couple of fifty euro rebuy side events, one of which I went quite deep in after I managed to bust a guy’s QQ with my Q6. Luckily for the ears of the spectators around the final table, I was out in time to replace Mad Marty as the commentator, a job I held down until 5.30am. I had been quite nervous about describing events to an audience of around a hundred, as well as the participants, but the presence of a few friendly faces turned it into a fun experience.     

Lots of people were surprised at how many players, who wouldn’t normally cross the street to play a tournament this small, had taken the trouble of flying over for the weekend. They didn’t realise that the feeling of fun you can have in poker, and the chance to get back to what it used to be like before all the madness took over, was what we came for, and we were all glad we did.    

After a few days of rushing around London I was back in Dublin for the Paddy Power Irish Winter Festival. This 1500 Euro event was held at the CityWest Hotel and as well as sharing the venue with The Irish Open it also shared the excellent structure and tournament team. It was weird and nice to go back to that room, where they had TV screens showing my final table everywhere.    

I’ve seen Donal Norton a few times since Easter and he’s always been tremendously friendly and doesn’t seem too upset at his second place in the oldest tournament in Europe. After my massive squeeze play with the Q7 that ran into his AhKh resulting in a runner-runner gutshot straight with the seven his patience may now be wearing a little thin.    

I’m sorry to say I couldn’t do anything with the large stack that gave me and I ended the weekend playing three long days in two tournaments for no cash.    

Other people’s holidays may include white beaches, sun, clear-blue water and tropical cocktails. My two weekends of Guinness, rain, people and poker were grand though, even if I came back feeling more exhausted than before I left London.      

Neil "Bad Beat" Channing will be off to Blackpool with the Pokerverdict red shirt on next month.