10/05/2010

Conscious of the fact that recent diaries may have not been, in my mind, “up to scratch”, I just looked back at last year’s Monte Carlo diary. It told a story of me arriving there with no sleep, playing two pots in the Main Event and being unable to settle into anything for most of the week.

It was a year ago that Black Belt Poker launched as a social network and I spent at least 24 hours in my room writing on people’s boards, welcoming them to the site and making buddy requests. In between that, I slept for 12 hours at a time and lived on the world’s most expensive room service.

I was determined to attempt to enjoy it a little more this year. At one stage I even suggested it could be improved if they moved it to Luton.

I was certainly helped this year by getting a room in the Monte Carlo Bay hotel. They may change the room service menu on the week of the tournament (they take things off to make it “easier” for poker players, leaving cheeseburgers and chips and club sandwiches and increasing the prices of these items); they may charge about £20 a night for the Internet and, on the occasions it doesn’t work, claim, “There are a lot of people logging on at the moment;” and Twixes in the mini bar may cost a fortune, but, despite those things, you still can’t beat being on site where you are playing. I would almost pay the money just for the view and the balcony.

I did plan to visit the great looking gym and spa at least a couple of times during the week. That sure did happen.

The Main Event was fun this year. It really does show you the importance of table draws as the biggest piece of hidden luck in tournaments. When people are busy cornering you to tell you exciting news of how their kings got beaten by some guy with A-8, they really ought to consider a change in focus and moan about what a bad table draw they got. It really is the most important thing.

I started the last level of the day with 175,000. It probably made me the chip leader in the room. After a slow start I’d had a few hands, but it was incredible how people were just giving it away. There were still a few who looked like they might be hoping to dump the lot before getting a bit of sleep. It was that feeling that put me on tilt. Simon Munz joined our table. He’s an excellent young German player and I felt sure he’d appreciate that the correct thing to do was to play lots of hands and take it in turns to exploit the few remaining weak spots.

He didn’t have the same plan as me though. He preferred to take as long as possible on every decision and to challenge me out of position wherever he could. We dropped to about 17 hands an hour pace. I steamed a little and lost around 25,000. I then lost a race with A-K for a further 35,000 and finished the day on 106,000.

From then on the tournament was pretty up and down. My second table on Day Two was full of people who obviously thought they were the bee’s knees. They all had enormous stacks, they all took an age over even the simplest decision and they all over-analysed everything, around 100 percent wrongly, after every minor pot.

We probably played 11 hands an hour for 4 hours. I didn’t see any of those people in the last 40 players.

Eventually I went low on Day Three and managed to find a way to go bust in 74th position. I posted my interesting hand on Black Belt, but I was generally OK about busting.

Five hours later I was sitting in the €5,000 six-max event.

I always enjoy the six-max game and I revel in playing it in a totally different way to the Internet kids. One guy had been on the table for three minutes with his massive stack when he felt the need to announce: “I’m currently eleventh in the world for MTTs online”.

Nobody had even asked him to put his big chips in front or where he was from.

He seemed very upset when I simply called his squeezy looking raise with position causing the whole table to now build a massive pot.

“Nobody ever folds live,” he moaned. I decided not to ask him why he raised then, if he was uncomfortable playing a large pot out of position against five opponents. I didn’t have a chance to mention it later as I’d knocked him out before it seemed the right moment.

I was quite happy having 58,000 with 40 people left against an average of 32,000. I was really happy that the first prize was going to be 170,000 Euro and that this guy seemed to think that a massive five-bet overjam with A-K of diamonds was going to be a good idea. With blinds at 150/300 we both put in 43,000. I was going to have average chips for the last two tables.

I think that bloke finished second. He’ll be all right.

I was a bit unsure about playing the High Roller event. There might be better ways to spend €25,000, but I’m certain it was great value. There were a lot of local business people and some really bad pros.

None of them were on my table though, which is why I decided to go for it. I made a squeeze that I wasn’t sure about at the time, which I quite like now. It might have worked if the geezer didn’t have aces. if you’d like to tell me why it was wrong it’s on Black Belt under the ‘hands’ tab.

The final event for me was a €1,000 six-max turbo event. All tournaments should be six-max turbo in my opinion, although with the prices in Monte Carlo they may need to up the buy in if the idea is to give us all a chance to smash out of trouble.

I was chip leader with 25 people left and was just wondering if I could spin this into at least one magazine cover when I got knocked out in twentieth. It was a shame as it was great fun.

I didn’t manage a final table, or a profit, I didn’t massively enjoy the PokerStars party, but I didn’t hate it quite as much as most poker parties, I didn’t play any cash games where they rake you around seven times more than is reasonable, but which everyone says are great, and I haven’t elevated the venue to my top 20 on the circuit.

If I don’t go to Monte Carlo next year it’ll be because the event has been moved. I hope it is. They deserve to lose us, they didn’t seem to ever want us and I’m sure we can happily spend our hundreds of thousands somewhere else.

Neil Channing will be warming up for the WSOP with a couple of TV events and the Oxford Cup.