Longer Lasting

Last year I flew to Vegas thinking I’d have just a couple of weeks of concentrating 100 percent on me. I could eat, sleep, swim, relax and play poker just when I wanted. I knew though, that after a couple of weeks, my focus would be changing completely.

I’d rushed to get on the plane, just days after picking a team of eight players who were going to live with each other in the luxurious Black Belt Poker mansion and play $160,000 worth of tournament’s with my money, including the Main Event, which could win Black Belt Poker and them $8.5 million.

It’s no wonder I let the focus drift from my own pursuit of glory to the team’s.

This year would have to be different if my dreams of gold jewelry were to become reality.

Last year, I started the WSOP with the $40,000 No Limit Hold’em event. This year, my first event had a $1,000 buy-in. Just in case people are worried, I didn’t skip the $50,000 buy-in Poker Player’s Championship because I’m going skint, I’m just crap at most of the games.

I set out with a plan for these $1,000 NLHs at the weekend, which have a choice of starting day. I will play Sundays because I think that will mean a weaker field. All the strong Internet kids will be online so there will be less professionals to contend with. With this first one I also liked the idea that if I busted out early I could go straight into the 5pm tournament.

Despite everyone complaining about the 3,000 starting chips, I personally love the structure, and quickly got myself up to 6,500. I then failed to hit several flush draws and was out before the antes came in.

Not to worry, the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha High-Low tournament is a fun event with a weak field. It’s not a game I often play but I think I know the starting requirements and the Pot Limit seems to really confuse people.

I sat down at my table opposite Barry Greenstein and next to Daniel Negreanu. Everyone was chatty and on good form. I was enjoying myself while I folded and established a tight image. I was happy to observe the game.

The main thing I learned was that nobody on this table ever bet the pot. People were limping and calling a minimum raise on virtually every hand. I thought I’d got a very weak table until I noticed Daniel and Barry doing the same.

It was 30 minutes before I realised I’d entered a Limit tournament. I may not have too many hours logged at Pot Limit Omaha High-Low, but my experience of Limit High-Low is zero – I’ve simply never played the game before. I just nodded every time Daniel made a comment about the betting or the play of various opponents, but, in truth, I simply had no clue whether the plays were great or terrible.

I survived that table acting purely on feel. As it broke, I confided in Daniel, who was probably being nice when he said he couldn’t tell – either that or he thinks that I’m always bad.

My next table contained Huck Seed and Dario Minieri. They ensured my lesson lasted less than eight hours and freed me up for the next day’s No Limit Hold’em event.

In the $1,500 and $1,000 events you’re not supposed to know anyone, so it was a surprise to see Garry Bush at my first table. While we chatted I played 90 percent of the pots and got a few chips before the table broke. On the way to the new table I could already see who my next neighbour would be. I like Jason Mercier a lot; I think he’s a great guy. He’s also a great player though and I wasn’t happy to have him on my left.

It didn’t take long before Jason had suggested a last longer bet. Usually I jump at the chance to have one of those with anyone, but there was no jumping here. We settled on $1,000 and when his A-K failed to beat a guy’s pocket jacks, I won my first race of the Series. I didn’t win much else on that table though and was soon free for the day.

I hadn’t played much cash during the 2009 Series due to all my distractions. I wanted to change that this year, as everyone I know seemed to have spent last year cleaning up. The previous night I’d plonked myself in a pretty bad $25/50 No Limit Hold’em cash game at the Bellagio and copped a few quid. This was going to be easy

Four hours later I’d done $23,000 through a combination of bad luck and some light steaming. This was my worst session of the year. It didn’t augur well for the $5,000 Shootout the next day.

Shootouts are my favourite type of tournament. You have to really be good at judging your pace as the number of opponents keeps changing and you also need to be good at seeing how the others adapt. I think a lot of people play them badly.

In 2009, I’d done the hard bit of winning my 10-handed table on Day One despite an 8:1 chip deficit at the start of heads-up. I just hadn’t done the harder bit of getting K-K to beat A-K for a double stack at the start of the six-handed ‘semi-final’.

Today it was Lex Veldhuis who wanted to bet that I wouldn’t last too long. After around an hour I started working out how much I’d make if I could find somebody to take an easy $1,000 off in each event.

The table was chatty and fun with Scott Seiver, Lex and Kirk Morrison all proving to be amiable company. I enjoyed it so much that I stayed until the end. I was lucky in a big pot four-handed and I ran over Kirk heads-up with the help of the deck.

I thought about where my ‘easy’ grand might come from on Day Two and concluded that Christian Harder and Max Pescatori would try and lead out of the gate. Before the subject of a wager came up Christian was out and Max was crippled. A young fella called Chris Moore was playing very well and had all the chips. I was thinking it might be time to three-bet shove blind.

I’d never heard of Chris Moore before that day, but I’d looked him up on The Hendon Mob in the morning and it seems he’s a very well kept secret. He impressed me a lot, and I probably only won due to getting some great hands to knock out, first, Chad Brown and then a Spanish man in third. I really needed the help of the deck in the heads-up.

I run so good. After six years of playing WSOP events in Vegas I’d finally made a final…

Neil Channing will let you know the result of that final next time. For those requiring more up-to-the-minute info try our Vegas page on Blackbeltpoker.com or follow SenseiChanning on Twitter.