06/07/2009

The whole focus of my trip changed on the 15th June. That was the day that Black Belt Poker's Brown Belt players arrived in town.

I'd finally found the stripper that was able to provide us with a house that met our requirements. Heather the part time realtor showed us round our dream home, with it's pool table, pinball machine, swimming pool with picturesque waterfall, steam room and obviously a grand piano. I was sold. I would pick up the Brown Belts in a stretch hummer and they'd be blown away on arrival.

In the end I busied myself with day two of the Saturday $1500 lunacy while Nik carried them over the threshold. It took me a while to find queens against kings to ensure another min-cash, and free up my evening to join the boys downtown.

I considered my idea of spending their first night at The Horseshoe to be another stroke of genius. We got to experience the history of the WSOP, to get a nice view, some wine and good food at Binion's Steakhouse.

The next morning the guys were up early. It was fun to set off to The Rio together and it certainly helped me to focus. I was ultra-determined to cash to prove myself to the lads.

When Richard, Jamie, Kevin and I went back for day two, I was nervous and happy. In between hands on my table, I paced between theirs like an expectant father.

I was gutted when Richard exited immediately before the bubble and Kevin did likewise shortly after. I was however, delighted when Jamie marched on towards day three. I generally consider the watching of poker to be forever in the "boring as shit" category, but on this night I stayed until 3am.

When Jamie's AcKc finally lost out to a pair of queens, a pot which would have left him fourth in chips with just fifteen left, I was pretty sick, but he took it very philosophically, telling me he'd had a fair bit of luck along the way. Sixteenth out of 1500 people for $19,000 pay day is certainly a WSOP pay day to be proud of. I was very pleased for him and his dad seemed even more proud than we at Black Belt were with his success.

My own tournament had ended when a fella with a pair of tens decided to put me on AK and made, what I considered a dubious call. Another min-cash kept things ticking over, but it was starting to get a little frustrating.

The finances were boosted a little more that week by Jeff Kimber's excellent second place finish in the $2500 plo, where Ross had slightly less fun in the final. It was looking like the decision to go to dinner in Bellagio with JP and Jeff on the second night of the trip was a good one. Maybe we'll leave James in the card room next year.

With two cashes from the eight Brown Belts who played it seemed like a promising start, but after the five that played the next $1500 drew a blank, I was starting to get nervous again.

It was great then, that the next $2000 event, in which all the guys played, again lead to three Brown Belts making day two. It was Jamie Roberts who again lead the way. At one stage he was second in chips out of around 150 players who remained from the 1500 that started. He eventually lost a race and momentum and he and David Tighe fell early that day. Not for the first time I was left to rely on Jerome Bradpiece to get me out of it.

At the start of The Grading process it was often asserted that I'd surely just pick my mates to take to Vegas, and that people I'd backed in the past, like Jerome, were sure to be selected. At one stage I had to have a word with Jerome and tell him that he needed to up his game, if he was to be joining the Brown Belts this summer. That gentle nudge was all it took and in the end he performed very strongly in all areas. I was delighted to see him here shouldering the responsibility of getting us a big payday. For the second time in a week, I was starting to get excited about the prospects of a bracelet. Jerome finally ran into a pair of aces to finish 46th, but it was still a pretty good buzz.

An exciting week for all the guys ended on Saturday with the 2700 $1500 nlh craziness, that for me are the absolute, undisputed, best tournaments of the year. In this one we didn't fare too well, but David Tighe managed to survive through most of the field to finish an admirable 91st. For me I had mixed feelings about not making day two. What it would mean was that I'd be playing in the $5000 nlh shootout which was scheduled for Sunday. I'd missed this, one of my favourite events, last year, by getting stuck in another smaller tournament, and this year I reckoned it could be one of my best chances for a bracelet.

Neil Channing will let you know next time whether he got lucky in the shootout in his next update for Black Belt.