Farewell Tour


Earlier this year, I made the conscious decision not to play so many smaller provincial tournaments. I was definitely not going to spend enormous amounts of time and energy travelling to casinos on the sides of motorways and on industrial estates to eat fried food and stay in bad but expensive hotels to compete for prize pools where I’d have to finish top three to even have a chance of covering the expenses.

I then won the GUKPT in Luton and noticed that I was second on the GUKPT leaderboard, which had a first prize of £20,000 with £10,000 for the second.

Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.

I got the train to Blackpool in mid-November.

I quite like Blackpool actually. It might be the least pretentious place on the planet. If you like fried food and a town that closes down for 65 percent of the year then it could be perfect for you.

I finally stopped staying in the Blue Hotel this year. They disregarded the ‘Do not disturb’ sign and tried to charge for a late check-out, (11.15am is not late), just once too often. I was assured by my taxi driver that you couldn’t possibly walk to the casino from my new place. He laughed in a slightly patronising way when I said it.

It took 20 minutes and I was strolling by the sea.

The tournaments went OK generally. I final-tabled the £500 No Limit Hold’em. That obviously means I came eighth as people only ever say "final-tabled" when they are eighth or ninth. I lost a race to get right into contention and went straight into the £150 rebuy Pot Limit Omaha where I spent a lot of money and got to another final. I was quite excited about the two finals in a day thing, although with only 50 runners it wasn’t really that hard to do.

There were seven prizes and we played hand-for-hand at eleven; nobody seemed to know why, nobody seemed to care. During the final, I went all in and some of my bet was mixed into the other gu’ys stack. It was a simple mistake by the dealer, who was generally quite good. I felt pretty confident as I asked them to check the camera that there was less than a 5 percent chance that they had one to check.

After ten minutes, the rule went against me. I protested, the other two players got to have their say for the first time, they felt I could be right, I spoke loudest, they "checked the camera" again. This time, "it was clear" I was right.

I finished fourth shortly after the guy who lost the ruling had upped his aggression towards me by 1,000%.

In the Main Event, we started with a good dealer. It went downhill fast. They never rotate them in Grosvenor although nobody can really answer why, so we were stuck with the next two for several hours. The game slowed up, mistakes were made and people’s tournaments were definitely affected.

It was tough to concentrate on just playing the game. I felt I had to watch every pot as the wrong change was given at least four times and payouts following all-ins were almost wrong a couple of times. Only once did the pot get pushed to the wrong person and luckily another player noticed that (the two in the hand appeared not to).

Eventually I played to get a big-stack, taking a risky line and playing a big race. I was right, but it didn’t work out. I tried moving my short stack in, half hoping for a fold, but the dealer insisted on counting out my stack unprompted, inviting callers. I could tell he hated me as I’d criticised his shoddy work. He got the caller he wanted and I doubled. It didn’t last long though and soon I was off into the cash games.

The action was good all week and they gave us the best dealers on the cash tables. I managed to have a profitable week but still vowed never to come back.

With less than two tables remaining in the Main Event, a player three-bet shoved and the big-blind now reshoved. While this was all erupting, the dealer mucked the three-bettor’s hand. I know it is not the player’s fault and it’s a tough decision, but I have to think that he should be eliminated here. It may seem like the ‘nice’ thing to do to give him his money back, but it is a cop out. It is a decision that slightly pisses off the other twelve or thirteen rather than massively pissing off one guy. "Protect your hand," is a pretty good piece of advice for new players.

With £68,000 to the winner a small mistake can soon be a big mistake. I just don’t see the management putting up with this kind of shoddy work in the pit. If you make a £68,000 mistake in blackjack you don’t get to make any other mistakes. Am I alone in thinking they just don’t care about our money so much? What is it I’m paying my £60 juice for? I don’t usually eat the buffet.

I got back to London and entered the GUKPT side events during the Grand Final festival at the Vic with no enthusiasm. The £300 with one rebuy/add-on got a disappointing field of just 53. Nobody seems to like that structure, the bigger players would prefer a £1,000 freezeout and the smaller ones want £300. It is neither one thing nor the other. It paid just seven prizes.

At 2.30am, we went hand-for-hand with eleven players left. I asked repeatedly why we were doing this. Players had already showed concern about having to come back on Day 2 to possibly bubble. I was told, "We always do this," "It’s Grosvenor policy," and, "There is nothing we can do."

I think it was at that point that I decided to stop supporting the GUKPT next year. I will probably still play the odd event at the Vic but I won’t go out of my way. I will do my best to make sure that as much of the £350,000 that Black Belt will spend on putting people into events next year does not go to the GUKPT.

Maybe now they will start to care about standards as much as I do, even if they don’t it will no longer concern me.

Winning the Main Event would have been a nice way to end the year. It wasn’t to be. I went out early with K-K vs. the A-A of the eventual winner and one of my two horses got me excited for a second, until Jamie [Burland] finally bubbled the final table.

I trudged off to Coventry a week later for the Tournament of Champions. With varying chip stacks for different players, a controversy over whether ‘no-shows’ should be allowed to cash (I see absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t), and a vote to decide the pay-out structure in past years (ludicrous, in my opinion), I wasn’t expecting this to be brilliantly organised. I wasn’t to be disappointed.

I was 88 percent in the hand I busted with, but I was actually glad to get out of there. A nice casino and card room, it could have all been much better. The cloakroom ‘system’ went like this: you hand over your bag, you are not given a ticket, they promise to remember you and you leave said bag at the reception desk in plain view. On leaving you then tell a different lady which one was your’s and she gives it to you.

The person who thought that up should get a job as a tournament director.

Neil Channing managed to squeeze in the Unibet Open and the "Monte Carlo" at DTD in between commentating on the Poker Million before the year was out. He hardly moaned at all during those.