People often ask me why I don't play more EPTs.
Like a lot of questions I get asked, there is usually a really long answer. They probably wish they'd never bothered asking.
One reason is because they are often quite hard. I have played the ones in London every year and I haven't played with as many complete morons as I'd like to.
I'm guessing the ones in Copenhagen and Berlin won't be full of mugs so they have never tempted me and that PCA also looks really tough.
Admittedly, the ones in Monte Carlo and Deauville do contain more of the kind of player whose profile fits the type I'm looking for, but they both entail hanging around in France, with French people, for a week.
It doesn't help me that the EPT keeps clashing the events with other things that are on. When faced with the choice of spending late January enjoying Melbourne's summer or facing the biting winds on the beeches in Northern France, it's a no brainer. Do I look like Private Ryan?
I guess I should have tried Vilamoura for some nice weather and bad players instead of staying in London for the WPT. If I'd have been capable of interpreting 5,000+300 'correctly', I probably would have.
Another thing I don't really like about the EPTs is that I don't think they really suit my style of play. I find that in WSOP events, GUKPTs, the events in Australia and in Ireland, the players are way more passive. It generally pays to not try and build the pots preflop; isolation plays simply don't succeed in narrowing the field preflop, and having a hand and getting paid with it is a good strategy.
In EPTs, the players are all much more concerned about playing in an Internet style. They are constantly looking to pick up dead money, resteal, isolate and squeeze.
I'm not saying either way of playing is right or wrong, they are simply different.
What does happen in the EPTs, though, is that pots are often played out preflop. Pots escalate very quickly, even in the early levels, and players are forced to take big risks in assessing fold equity with people they have only just met, who they have no history with.
If I pay five grand to play a tournament and I've flown to another country to play it, I'd like to base my semi-bluff on knowing that the guy is going to fold. If I have only played him for two hours I'm reduced to basing it on how players tend to play in this situation.
To me, poker is about figuring out the opponent and playing accordingly. I don't feel you get much time to figure them out in this type of poker.
Obviously none of this stopped me walking up the road to the Metropole Hotel.
After one hour, a good young Portuguese pro sat at our table and tried three-betting an American called Chance Kornuth who had been opening a lot. Chance four-bet, which he had also done a few times already. The Portuguese fella wasn't to know this as he'd just shown up, but being young and talented and probably fancying he could outplay Phil Ivey in position, the Portugese fella called.
The flop was K-K-7 and, after much dwelling and betting from both sides, Chance got it all in on the turn with an unimproved A-J, which was in front. I'm pretty sure Chance had never met the Portuguese guy, but I have, and I know what he is capable of. I also know that people who three-bet early in an event often have A-K. It seemed a lot to risk with blinds at 50/100. It got Chance a stack with which he could dominate though.
Chance then ran over the table for six hours while I mostly just watched. I also got to watch one of my two horses in the event as Jamie Burland was on my table. He had position on Chance, and he was the only one to really land a glove on him all day.
On Day 2, I built my meagre stack up quite well. I was all in on both the first two hands and then didn't play one for a bit. By the second level of the day I was all in again. I didn't have a pair and the guy had pocket queens, but I was still a decent favourite.
I felt like I played well and I wasn't too sad to bust. I wasn't too sad for Jamie either. He played well, he won me some money, he represented Black Belt Poker very well and if he was better at racing...
The rest of that week I played side events. I had a lot of side action on the side events. The most annoying one was the six-max; I had bets to make the money (final 10), the last two tables (obviously 12), to make the last three, and to win it. I got myself knocked out making a squeeze with J-9. Why wouldn't you just call from the small blind with K-Q and then call off against the tight guy in the big blind who has been patient all day? Why would you think that three-betting against the aggressive button on a five-handed table with K-Q might be an idea? Why wouldn't you turn a queen after he flopped a nine?
I finished 14th.
I was hoping my one horse in this event could make up for it. He sort of did by making the final, but I suspect Kev and I were equally fed up that he didn't win it.
In the end, the two months of London crazy tournament action was a bit disappointing. I had a lot of shots and I played some big events. I came close a few times with my horses but ultimately it was a bit annoying.
When they asked me what it meant to win the tournament in Luton, and I said it means I'll break even over August and September, I was supposed to be joking.
I certainly now needed a break from tournaments and I wasn't tempted by the WPT in Amneville, the EPT Vienna or the tournament in Cyprus.
I did have a couple of mini-breaks to Dublin for the IPO and the IWF. Boyles are our partners in Black Belt Poker and they run a great event which I would never want to miss. This was the third IPO and it was just as much fun as the other two. Instead of playing poker on Day 2, I got to go to the races with Marty, Jesse and Liam. The bookies were very pleased we busted early.
The Irish Winter Festival was more fun than last year, mostly because nobody broke into my room and robbed me. I didn't really play too well in it though and I failed to last to Day 2 in either of the events I played.
It was all a bit of a rush flying back and forward to Dublin in between trying to sort out the start of Black Belt Poker's Grading period. Over 400 people wrote to me telling me how great they are at poker and how much they deserved to be sponsored.
When I asked those people to play 17 hours of $0.25/0.50 so that I could see for myself, only 27 managed to complete it. At the moment we have 24 people left and we'll be selecting three to be Brown Belts. The lucky three will represent Black Belt in $4,000 worth of events every month and they'll be flown to Australia to play the Aussie Millions with a ten grand package.
I'm not quite sure how people thought I was going to choose who to pick without asking them to play poker. Lots of the people have written since to say they didn't really fancy playing but would I send the money anyway.
I'm glad we've whittled it down to a very strong group and I'm sure I'll be faced with a very tough day of choosing. I wish them all the best of luck.
Neil "Bad Beat" Channing deserves a holiday so he'll be taking one. Black Belt Poker have sent him to Blackpool in November.