05/12/2011

One of the things people often highlight as the main advantage of being a professional gambler is the freedom it allows you. You can choose your own hours, sleep until noon, take a day off when you want and decide to go off travelling at the drop of a hat.

In my time as a professional gambler I'm always trying to explain to people that the edges are pretty small and if you want to make money from it you have to put in the hours. It's basically the same as any work. You exchange time for money.

I find myself replying to lots of messages from young poker players who want staking, need advice or just want somebody to explain how they haven't reached a stage where they make a living from gambling and often the answer is simple.

They don't gamble often enough.

Earlier in the year, I came home from the Vic one morning with the flu. I decided that I'd better take a couple of days off and so announced to Anne that we would take our colds on holiday. She seemed slightly shocked by the idea of getting on an aeroplane with no poker tournament at the other end, but a week by the pool soon got her into the swing of it. It was nine hours between thinking of this idea and boarding the plane.

I planned to go to Ireland for two poker tournaments with a week between them recently. It seemed a waste to come back in between when we could just have another holiday. I played the incredible Boyles IPO (1,300 runners for €250 is amazing), and then we drove the hire car as far west as it would take us. We borrowed a house from some very kind friends of ours (it's okay, they have a spare one) and lazed around while it pissed it with rain for 21 hours a day. The nearest town was 15 miles away. I was excited as it had a Paddy Power and a Boyles and Anne was thrilled they had Lidl.

By the weekend I was playing the Irish Winter Festival. This one is also pretty amazing. Paddy Power attracted 400 players for a grand and maybe 150 had qualified online, most for very small money. I got myself busted early and settled in to the commentary for the live stream.

These Irish weekends have changed a little for me. The biggest cash game at the IPO was €1/2 and at the Winter Festival €5/10. Since the pancreatitis my liver prefers a rest occasionally and I drunk just nine pints of Guinness in seven days in Ireland. Any less and they can deport you.

After Dublin I got back to playing quite intensively. The £5/10 in the Vic was running regularly and they were good games with lots of different faces turning up each night. I also travelled to Birmingham to try and hunt a bigger game. I found the game and it was worth finding, but I spent more on that night than I would on five weeks holiday.

I was also very busy trying to juggle the life of a professional gambler with that of business tycoon.

Black Belt Poker decided to invite 50 young potential stars of the future to The Ritz hotel to try and explain to them how we can help and why we want to work with them. I was pleased with the 21 who showed up but saddened at the ones who didn't even reply to an invite with an RSVP and a stamp followed up by emails and messages. The evening was fun though and we met some excellent young players.

With The Ritz ticked off the list it was all guns blazing on Nottingham Live.

Dealing with Rob Yong and DTD was pretty easy: he suggested we run an event (we'd been thinking about it anyway); we came up with a date; and started selling tickets.

Getting players to sign up in advance online for a live event is always pretty hard, but this one seemed easier, probably because we've done it before with London Live and players knew what they would be getting, but also because at DTD they know they are getting a really professionally run event.

492 players paid $140 and we got lots of new accounts. We added money to the higher belts who cashed and also to everyone in the form of bounties. It is hard to say if it's worth the money we spent on it until we see the numbers for the next few months. If it looks like the new players are playing a little online then it's worth doing and we should repeat it as often as we can manage.

Much of the success of the weekend was down to our players, the guys who came in fancy dress and played for charity, the Black Belt Poker pros who hung around all weekend chatting and having fun, the guys who turned up to play our High-Roller - which had a star-studded final table (and me) - and particularly to our bounties. I was very pleased to get Julian Thew, Nick Wealthall (who final tabled) and brand new PKR pro Jake Cody to play. It was particularly good of Jake as he'd double-booked himself so he rushed three hours from London to shove his remaining 10 big blinds in on his first hand. GG, sir.

The winner of the event is a lovely fella who used to work with me at the races. As I handed him the trophy and congratulated him on the addition of $15,500 to his bankroll he told me:

"Neil, I have an ex-wife, a 23-year old daughter, a 21-year old girlfriend and a slight gambling problem, so yes, I could do with the money."

He sounds like he needs a holiday.

Neil Bad Beat Channing is playing the GUKPT at the Vic this week and the iPops obviously on Black Belt Poker.