10/08/2010

In past years I've rushed back from Vegas and got straight into playing.

It's difficult. After such a long period of intense play in a town where it's all gamble, gamble, gamble, coming home is a bit weird. If you add the jet-lag and the fatigue from so many long consecutive sessions it becomes pretty clear that what you really need to do is take a complete break from poker. The problem is that after that long trip I often feel 'in the mood' to get out there. It's also difficult to go from competing every day, sometimes twice a day, for the bracelets and the large prize pools, to sitting at home, feet up with a movie twiddling your thumbs.

Last year I rushed from the airport to the Vic. I dumped my bags in reception and was the last alternate to buy in to the Unibet Open. This year was going to be totally different.

I relaxed, put my feet up, dealt with emails, opened my post, went to sleep at 6pm, woke up at 11pm, went to sleep at 3am, woke up at 6am. Clearly I was in no fit state to play poker.

I got to Brighton by 11am for Day 1B of the UKIPT. I walked from the station to the casino, a nice two mile walk along the seafront. The weather was lovely and I fought the temptation to spend the first level playing miniature golf.

The UKIPT is sponsored by PokerStars and is a direct rival to the GUKPT, the ten leg tour that has been happening in Grosvenors around Britain for four years now. The GUKPTs have main events where the buy-in is a grand and the numbers have been dropping, somewhat alarmingly in recent months.

Stars apparently tried to work with the GUKPT but have now started the UK and Ireland Poker Tour on their own. One or two of the legs are in Grosvenor Casinos. The tour incorporates some established events like the Irish Poker Championships in Galway and the London leg of the EPT (which is the Grand Final of the UKIPT). In between there are legs in casinos and hotels in Scotland, England and Ireland, some of which have a monkey buy-in and some a grand.

The main problem with travelling to tournaments in the UK is that it's hard to win enough to cover the expenses. Hotels in our country are so expensive. Even if you stay in the cheapest place it's hard to justify playing a 70-runner tournament with a buy in of 300 quid if it involves staying overnight. If the buy-in is a grand and they can promise you 300 players you can just about do it - but it's pretty close.

I fancied a holiday by the seaside though.

In the end we started at noon and were done for the day by 9pm. I was able to get the last train home and be in the flat by midnight. Although I was happy to save the expenses and to sleep in my own bed, I really wish Stars would either make the finish or start later. That goes for the EPTs too. I generally only get going after 8pm and I was really starting to enjoy myself in the last levels.

I know the arguments about making the tours more media-friendly and giving people a chance to enjoy the local amenities in the towns they visit, but it's a poker tour. I can tell you that most poker players do not want to get up at 11am. They'd prefer to play at night. I would sacrifice the local culture of Brighton, Galway, Monte Carlo and Punte Del Este for a lie in and some late night poker. We could get these tournaments done a bit quicker, shaving a day off here and there.

Day 2 was going to be fun. Black Belt Poker had a few representatives in this one and myself, Jamie Burland and Owen Robinson would carry the flag with 100 players left.

The GUKPT seems to have a lot of the same old faces each time. The UKIPT, in contrast, has a lot of young, fresh faces. PokerStars have obviously done a good job of pushing the satellites for these, and it will mean lots of different individuals will join the regulars on each leg. It makes for quite interesting poker with a definite clash of styles on display.

Looking around with five tables left it seemed I didn't have the best draw. Most of the young Internet sensations who were left were on the table. We did have a couple of potential spots but I didn't win a chip off them. I tried three-betting a particularly slow and annoying youngster. He immediately four-bet and showed a four. That was the first light three-bet I'd attempted all day.

In the end I took an unusual gambly line with a pair of queens. We were in the money but I only had half the average. Playing it this way could get me back into things. On a flop of 8-9-9 we got it all in. He had A-8 and rivered an ace. I'm reliably informed by some keyboard warriors on Two Plus Two that I played it horribly. Must try harder.

I was left to support Jamie.

Kevin Williams and Jamie Burland are the two Blue Belt players who read my Facebook status suggesting that if any Black Belt pro not in the Main Event could get to Vegas, I'd put them in.

They had a great trip and enjoyed the experience but they won't be required to return in November. They do love Brighton though. It's been their 'local' in the past. Jamie was determined to make this one count.

I'm not normally one for hanging around once I'm out but I'd booked the hotel and Flushy and James Mitchell needed to play cash. A few hours later I'd busted that game and Jamie was the chip leader. I'd have to come back on Sunday.

It was a great day in the end. Blue Belts Owen Kevin and Simon were there to support their mate. We all played a 50 quid satellite for the Edinburgh leg of the tour while Jamie grafted away for the big money. There were 20 runners and 4 seats thanks to some generosity from Stars. By the time Owen, Simon and I won our seats Jamie was heads-up.

The bloke who came second was decent. A really nice guy from the Czech Republic. It always felt like it was going to be Jamie's day though. He leapt in the air and went crazy.

It was a fun weekend and a proud moment in Black Belt Poker's history.

The Poker Million wasn't so much fun.

The 300,000 starting stacks and eight player tables instead of six mean that the whole heat is now going to be made into two shows. That meant I was awake at 7am to get ready for the 8am taxi to the studios on Monday. Eight hours of commentating with Jesse May is terrific fun. It was knackering though.

Waking up at 6am to get ready for my heat the following day, probably wasn't the best preparation. Ideally when I'm playing for $1,000,000 and paying $30,000 for the privilege, I wouldn't choose to have the air conditioning blasting on me so much that I'd be shivering. I might also expect somebody to do something about it when I asked.

I checked out the prize money that night. It was by some way bigger than the World Snooker and World Darts Championships. The players in these events are treated like kings. If the organisers hope that people will continue to fly 6,000 miles to be treated poorly, they maybe need to think a little.

Whether I'd have tried a very ambitious squeeze if I'd have been feeling more comfortable, well rested and warm I have no idea. I probably wouldn't have tried to leave when I still had a workable stack though.

It's a wonder anyone ever leaves the house to play poker these days.

Neil Channing will be online playing the new League on Black Belt Poker. The winner will join him at the Late Night Poker final.