10/03/2009

Every year, after my long summer trip to Vegas, I return with jet-lag. Worse than that though, I suffer torpor, a sense of sluggishness, I'm sleepy, and the last thing I want to be doing is playing poker. For years I thought I could just play through it and I'd soon return to normal, but I've finally realised that it's potentially a very damaging and expensive state of mind. When I return now I take a break.

Having had a lovely trip to the other side of the world, a relaxing week on the other side of London might be in order. I set off for Three Mills Studios in Stratford to play in the European Open V.

I've had better weeks.

It was fun to win my heat, I played pretty well and then got super-lucky on the final hand. It was fun to spend fourteen hours chatting to Jesse one day, even if the commentary box is in a trailer which made people go outside to warm up. If the commentary days are all going to be like that one I'm going have to increase my meagre fee.

It was fun to just KNOW in the semi-final that I was in total control. I gave them my A-game and I'm sure that nobody else that day could have got the result with the cards I had.

The final was going so smoothly. It's a tricky one. I guess if I'm Marc Goodwin and that Channing bloke is raising his fourth consecutive hand, it's also his seventh raise of nine hands, and I've got 190k and reckon he can't keep having the goods and that I can get him to leave 27k behind and pass, then I'd probably push all-in with A10. He's not to know I've got pocket kings. He was unlucky really, the best hand I'd had up until then was A8.

The exit interview was thirty minutes later. I prolonged the agony by getting my five big blinds back to an average stack before walking into hand. Never mind, at least I had some side bet money to come as long as anyone bar Roberto wins...D'oh.

The following week I busied myself with Black Belt Poker. The social networking site, editorial and blogs are going live in April and I wanted to really start moving things forward. I employed Snoopy as our editor and Jen Mason as our player liaison person. We got ourselves an office and things finally started to happen. I carried on going from meeting to meeting, making endless phone calls and getting lunch and dinner every day for a week.

In between meetings I was continuously organising money to go from my bank to the sticky little fingers of a dozen hungry poker players who could think of nothing more pleasurable to do than spend a fortnight in Birmingham. I was delighted to see two guys go deep in the main event at the Broadway and even happier that I didn't have to go there myself.

In fact I was hoping to extend my run of not playing any real poker a little longer, but an accidental visit to the Vic ended that and cost me £6k. It was weird to think that it was only my second session there since November and I didn't really enjoy it too much. All I really served to do was help fuel the rumour going round the room that I'm now completely skint. I walked home moodily through the pouring rain.

The following week's diary was full of even more meetings, conference calls, lunches and dinners. I'm now running and cycling as well as swimming at the gym but I'm going to have to up my sessions if I'm going to not become a fat businessman.

By Friday I couldn't resist it any longer. I just had to play poker. I'd put ten people in the GUKPT Walsall event so I might as well play it myself.

I relaxed into the tournament by having a really long massage. I was enjoying it so much that Carolini, Sam and I went for a curry midway through it. I resumed play half an hour into the post-break session. My new table seemed easier than my first one but I suffered small setbacks when a guy made a slightly odd move on me and then another guy pushed and I passed in a spot where I probably should call. Within seconds I was getting it all in with kings vs AK and making myself available for a fun five-hour cash session.

By Sunday I was pleased to be out. I had way too much to do and was happy to catch up on phone calls while watching the team on the ‘net. A couple of people asked me who I wanted to win and I answered that I couldn't honestly decide. I know I was gutted for Jerome when he rung on Saturday night and I was equally sick for James and Mickey on Sunday. They all wanted it so much and they played great. I don't think anyone in the tournament played as well as Sunny though, and finally it was his day.

A little while ago I was asked by Sky Poker who I thought was an up-and-coming young player who would break through in 2009. I didn't hesitate and I didn't need to qualify it by talking of young, emerging players. I simply told them that Sunny Chattha is a class act and a great player who would undoubtedly be around for many years. I watched him suffer cruel luck several times in 2008, none more so than in the WSOP $2000 hold’em event where he finished 18th. I was so sick for him that day, but not for the first time so impressed by his composure and his demeanour. He takes his defeats like a man and is modest in victory. He has humility and a great poker brain. This win was no fluke - he'll do this again.

I drank a toast with Sunny at the Vic a few days later. I'm hoping to get invited to all the celebration dinners.

Neil "Bad Beat" Channing will be playing the tournaments at the Vic next. He'll be wearing a lovely new Black Belt Poker shirt.