11/04/2007

My first ever visit to Dublin was for last year's Irish Poker Open. I enjoyed a lovely Easter weekend meeting old friends, eating, drinking and socialising as well as exploring this wonderful city. The well run tournaments, contested by total lunatics, for enormous prize pools, held within the fabulous hotel were just a bonus.

After a stressful time squeezing moving house between trying to play some hours at the Vic, where the games have been unbelievable lately, I was ready for a nice relaxing trip and a chance to get some sleep. It was a completely knackered and beat-up Bad Beat who got delayed for 2 hours at Heathrow.

My late arrival meant I'd cunningly avoided the super-satellite crapshoot and could dive straight into a cash game. With the games here wild and crazy it was important to get into a good one.

Also important to anyone looking to pay an enormous W9 rent, was the need to be aware of the most dangerous opponent in all the games here. The rake here is taken from each pot until the equivalent of a half-hourly session fee per person is collected. At this point they should stop raking until the start of the next half hour. The problem is the house have asked dealers to just carry on to make up for any quiet half-hours. Dublin doesn't really do quiet half-hours though, and so the already high charges are just quietly increased by this method. Luckily for them most of the punters don't know or care, and they only have one pain-in-the-arse cockney who keeps making them return any extra to the game.

In the end I find a nice deep-stacked 250 PLH game, which looked quite beatable. I would have done my conkers to the rivered two-outer whatever the rake was.

Stopping at 8am and sleeping until 3pm means a perfect arrival time for the main event. Not too much time to listen to Liam repeating the rules at an ear-splitting volume/just enough time to trade percentages with a large group of people who either can't have seen me play lately, or think of me as a charity case.

I squeeze in time to say hello to around 150 of the 708 players. I have to say I get a kick out of the way I seem to be a small poker celebrity here. Obviously poker celebrity is total bollocks, they're just ordinary people who happen to gamble on TV, most of them don't even win on the year. However, when I'm getting the recognition and adoration I love it.

People I vaguely remember, remind me of enormous pots we played, and things I've said during them. I can't really remember the pots, but they sound like the sort of things I might have said. They ask me what I had. I tell them I was probably at it.

Afterwards it strikes me that well over half of the people who have approached me have said nice things about my writing, which is sweet of them, but few of those people have referred to my being a poker player. One said

"You're so funny. You're the bloke who never wins anything."

Cheers.

I set off to the tournament determined to prove a point. I have woken up with a question to ask myself in tricky situations. I think it's gonna help me.

"What would Lucy do here?"

I enjoyed the early part of the tournament playing with people I know and respect. I made a few moves on Katherine Hartree, Ian Dobson and John Kabbaj that I couldn't have risked on lesser players, and I cruised to 18k.

Faced with a difficult situation in a pot with Dobbo, I asked myself the question. I knew what the Stoke Dynamo would do and the chips went in.

Some people share the Phil Hellmuth view that you should avoid confrontations early in the tournament. I'm starting to move towards the idea that the tournament winner always does well in the 50/50s, and you should embrace and relish them. If you're going to take one on then picking someone as unlucky as Dobson can't be bad. The smart money was on the dealer winning it.

As I walked back to the cash area I noticed Lucy wondering about. She'd have been proud of me.

That night the cash game was good. I played NLH with 5/10/25 blinds and by the end Shaf and I had all the money so we played heads-up for the last two or three hours. I nearly got him twice but he's a hard man to pin down and we had a tremendous tussle, before Robbo came over and polished him off.

Saturday was a quiet day of football betting and dinner with Des Wilson. We talked about the new book and he became about the fifth person to suggest we start work on my life story. I suggested that I'm still just starting work on my life.

Sunday's tournament wasn't much fun. I was the only player to play less pots than my good pal Bo Sehlstedt on my first table. Just as my rock image had been created I got moved to another table and got busted inside five minutes.

It took a while to find a good cash game but I did manage it. I'd already made a good start when a very drunk John Magill approached the table. Last year's 12th place finisher in the WSOP (copped for $1.2million) announced that he'd drunk 16 pints of Carlsberg that night. He played like it was seventeen.

A typical pot would be $10 blind, $25 blind, $50 straddle, $300 to go, all-in $3000, call. (K9 v A6). We played until they kicked us out.

Monday had a bit of an end of trip feel to it. On Sunday I'd placed four bets outright with Paddy Power and with just five left in the event I had runners at 50/1 and 100/1. It would be nice to get one up on the Paddy Power odds compilers and give me something fun to watch. In between watching I was playing the 200 Euro rebuy. With rules that you had to go broke to rebuy and there would be no add-on it was hard to go really mad, but I was pleased to see a small let-off steam tournament in the schedule. In the end I went out 50th just as the tournament was reaching a great crapshoot climax. The 10,6 and 6,4 hands I turned over surprised the guy opposite me so much that he just talked right over me to my neighbour.

"What is that he has there? He's got nothing. I just don't understand. He had a load of chips. I guess they just play so many of these things they don't care. How could he go in with that?"

I smiled sweetly at him before departing.

My bets had managed only fourth and fifth and I lost interest after the money got chopped.

The final night cash game got a dose of Mad Marty. I won't remind him here of what happened but I would say that he caused me to have to miss my flight and pay for a new one two hours later. Maybe this week I'll get some sleep.

Neil Channing will be providing £1000 of dead money to the prize pool at the Grosvenor Poker Tour in Manchester, thanks to the good people of PokerVerdict.com