16/06/2010

I’ve known Praz Bansi for a few years now, and, even during the rare spells where he isn’t making final tables for fun, I’ve always respected him as one of the UK’s top players. With 99 people left in Event #5, I was telling everyone Praz was about to win his second bracelet.

In 2006, Praz and I were deep into day one of the Main Event at the WSOP. I’d been moved to a table nearby and we were chatting between hands. I felt sick for Praz when he busted near the end, and it didn’t help when a security man asked him to leave the area as he was no longer in the tournament. I didn’t want to go near the Rio the next day, I really needed the day off, and within an hour of the following day I was out myself.

While I was busy sulking in my room, Praz was getting himself a bracelet. I found out the news second hand. A couple of years later, when he looked like he might do it again, I made an effort to watch. I witnessed the pain a couple of times in 2007. He asked me if he’d ever make another WSOP final, let alone win another bracelet. I was also around for the pain he suffered at the WSOPE final table last year. He played great that day and only got third. If it’s justice you’re after, poker may not be the right hobby for you.

It was a shame then that I didn’t see him winning his second bracelet. I was there with seven left when he was feeling gloomy, lying fifth in chips. I felt like he could have a long night though, and I left to get some sleep before my own final table. I was told that he played flawlessly throughout. I was delighted for him.

I can’t really say that I played flawlessly in mine. I know that I came in with a plan to steal a few early pots, thinking the others may be a little nervous. I was pretty relaxed and I genuinely felt that the bracelet was worth so much more than the money. It helped me to relax having Nicolas Levi and Stuart Rutter on the table. Although he’s French, Nicolas lives in London, and there have been times when he’s been more of a Vic regular than me. I haven’t played with Stuart that much, but we sat next to each other for eight hours in an event last year, and I’ve always read his strategy articles in the UK poker magazines.

The other part of my pre-planned strategy was to try and see a few flops and to not allow the game to simply be a preflop war. The structure was pretty fast but I still felt there was some play in it.

I did get my 1,500,000 points up to 2,000,000 early on by stealing, but my attempts to try and take flops from the blinds didn’t work out and I was soon heading back towards my starting stack.

We lost two players quite quickly and I was the short stack now and feeling like I was heading in the wrong direction. It seemed the others wanted to simply three-bet and four-bet every hand and I felt that my table image was bad.

On the break I bought some sushi. I took it back to eat during the game. I felt that if I continually broke off the fiddly job of mixing the soy sauce with the wasabi and the ginger to three-bet and four-bet, my opponents might think I was causing myself the nuisance of missing my snack simply because I was being dealt big hands. Whether they fell for my plan or whether they just decided to wait and get me later, I did manage to get some momentum back. A couple of times I put down my chopsticks, wiped my hands, put the wasabi to one side and made a winner out of a J-6 off.

I couldn’t keep it going though and after a three-bet fold and a two-way draw that missed, I was back to around a million.

Fourth prize in this thing was $125,000, third $180,000 and second $273,000. I do so much want that bracelet but you can’t totally ignore that kind of money.

With 75 percent of the chips in Joe and Josh’s hands, you’d think they might try and avoid each other, taking it in turns to pick on Stuart and I, who were both low. If I was them, my plan would be to at least lock up third before attempting to get heads-up with the other big stack for the bracelet.

It surprised me when A-J five-bet shoved and pocket tens called and I wasn’t unhappy when Josh’s tens held to make it three-handed. I knew he’d be tough to beat with such a big lead and it might make life hard in terms of winning the bracelet, but it had just made me $55000. When Stuart took on Josh’s A-Q with an A-T I had the same feelings, and this time I’d gained $100,000.

That was how the day went really. I basically just sat in my seat, occasionally chatting to lots of nice people who came to rail. Every now and then I stood up and assured some fella that he’d played brilliantly and done nothing wrong, while mentally I added another $40 to 100,000 to the plus column.

The heads-up was quick and painless. I’ve lost a few of them this year and when you start 8:1 down it’s definitely easier to take than when you’re 5:1 up.

I woke up with a renewed vigour the next morning and was one of 2,700 starting that day’s $1,500 No Limit Hold’em. I quickly got my stack to 18,000 from the 4,500 they give you to play with. The average was about 6,500 and I was feeling very good.

Within three hands I’d lost with K-K and A-A and was down to 3,000. I hardly had time to be distraught before I’d spun that 3,000 back to 15,000 again.

It seemed the garbage hands were working much better than the premiums, which was lucky as I seemed to get dealt relatively more of them.

By the dinner break, I had 77,000 against an average of around 19,000. I was bound to end the day in the top 10 unless something came along to ruin it.

He looked innocuous enough.

He was an older black guy who had something of a gentle giant look to him. He didn’t seem to hold his cards normally, it looked like he had little experience and he often bet very large amounts. Mostly, though, he just took his time. He was slow. He was slow to look at his cards, slow to bet, slow to fold. Slow players always get me steamed up but this guy had soon done a job on the whole table. We were 200 players from the money and he wanted to stall. In the end, people complained, a clock was called every hand and he was warned by the floor. I lost my whole rhythm, though, and ended the day with half the average. At one stage I hadn’t played a hand for 90 minutes and the man decided to accuse Sam Trickett and I of collusion. Obviously he decided that two English people sitting next to each other and talking was firm evidence.

The next day I got my mojo back. I won lots of pots early and I made loads of moves. One guy finally lost patience and decided I couldn’t always have it. I called his four-bet shove with A-K of hearts and busted his J-T off-suit for a three times average stack with 100 left. I was watching durrrr run back and forward from our tournament to another. He had a similar stack to me and he was only playing half the hands. When I found out he had $15 million at stake I estimated that the bracelet only meant about the same to both of us.

Just as I was starting to sniff another final table I lost big pots with Q-Q and K-K and found myself getting htree-bet a lot more than earlier. Eventually, it all slipped away at about midnight when my three-bet shove with pocket fives got tank-called by pocket jacks. Two more 12-hour days and a nitroll for a cash of under $10,000. Another one where I worked hard, got myself into a great spot ,and it slipped away.

I could slightly console myself with the fact that I’d played better in the $1,500 than the shootout. All I needed to do was keep playing like that and everything would be fine.

Those that have been following SenseiChanning on Twitter will know it hasn’t been fine. The rest will get the self-pitying whingefest soon.