09/09/2009

If you're sat in a bar and you're really getting on it, drinking not to enjoy a social evening, but simply to get drunk, the barman is supposed to inform you that you've had enough and that he won't be serving you any more. I'm not sure that it's a moral requirement of being a barman, or even if it's a legal one, but that is generally what I believe happens. Whether I've just picked this up on the telly or in films, or whether I've actually seen it happen, I don't know.

That first week back in the Vic I was that drunk. I was getting dealt cards that I couldn't handle, and I was certainly in no fit state to play them. I hadn't had more than a few cups of tea, but there was nobody there to tell me that I'd had enough poker for the night, and I should just go home. The dealers probably thought I was off my game, but it's not really for them to say. Frank glanced over a couple of times, and his eyes were saying:

"What the hell are you doing?, You don't look right, go home man."

I was alert enough to read all that, but unconcerned enough to do nothing about it.

Bambos and Thomas didn't see the need to mention that I might be better off just getting an early night. I wouldn't have done if it was them.

The next night I came back. I played even worse, but poker being poker I was luckier, and lost just half as much. By the Thursday I'd assembled enough of my wits to know that I should take a break.

After eleven days I ventured out for a tournament. That couldn't hurt much could it?

With half of London chasing after ranking points and wasting their time in the £200 freezeout at Luton, I thought I'd give the Palm Beach locals a spin in their monthly £1000. It was definitely a good move. There were only about five people you could vaguely call poker pros in the 30-runner event. I didn't win, but I felt I played well. It was a start.

I went to Luton four days later and played incredibly patiently in the GUKPT event. I managed to survive for quite a long time without much good happening and finally found a good spot in which to get outdrawn.

The next week Black Belt Poker were going to be busy at Poker in the Park. Bluff magazine's mini-festival, where they take over Leicester Square, and where I always seem to get mugged into doing stuff for them, for free.

This year Black Belt had a stand. This was proper networking/marketing/trade fair stuff. We had posters and advertising boards and business cards. It was a great chance to meet a lot of existing members of Black Belt's community, a chance to put our brand out there and a chance to sign-up lots of new people. Other people regarded it as a chance to sell me things.

Nik and I made speeches. I was quite nervous, but I definitely didn't feel as nervous as Peter Eastgate looked.

In the end I managed to talk solidly for two days, luckily I've been practicing this for years.

I felt like we made a lot of friends, and personally I was able to pin down one particularly good contact.

I now felt almost ready to return to playing. I went off to the Vic and enjoyed the £100 rebuy. It's every Tuesday and it's probably the best regular tournament in London. The prize pool is usually over £20k and there are often 65+ runners. Raheen must have known he was going to make quads. That's the only explanation for his 10s going all-in against my poor kings.

By Friday I was itching to play cash. I'd spoken to Sammy and he was up for it. The most amazing thing was, despite the presence of him and me, nobody else in our capital city of twelve million people fancied a gamble. Eventually five people played a game that was never more than four-handed, for about six hours. If I could keep up this hourly rate I'd only need to play once every six weeks.

My comeback was complete. All I needed to do now was drum up some business and get six or seven people sitting, waiting, with money, three or four times a week and soon the dough would be rolling in.

I woke up the next morning with flu. Two days later I popped into the Vic on the way to the studios were I'd be a guest on the Poker Show. Ramsey asked me a few questions and diagnosed swine flu. I went to the studio feeling like shit.

Next morning I was issued with a mask and ten Tamaflu tablets. I've only once felt as rough, I was totally zonked-out, shivery, achy, swollen glands, sore throat, mouth ulcers, cold sores and a bad back. Seven days in bed sounds nice, but I couldn't focus to read and I mostly just tried to sleep and sweated profusely.

I rang to cancel my debut appearance on Late Night Poker which was scheduled that week. I was gutted about that, but really was too ill to travel, let alone play.

It wasn't much fun.

On day ten I ventured out and went to the Vic. I did the same thing the next day. It was deja vu. The games were bad and I was slaughtering the money. I stopped early on the second night.

The following day I awoke early and got the train to Cardiff. The GUKPT only got 120 runners. There seemed to be about five other events clashing with it. Those that survived until day two seemed a strong bunch. I had average chips but I was definitely only aiming for a top three spot.

In the end I was knocked out in a way I've "enjoyed" about ten times this year. People seem to keep making massive calls, (always without hesitation), against me. On the occasions that I have AK or AQ they have had 8s, 9s and 10s every single time and when I turn over 9s, 10s or Jacks they always have AQ or KQ.

My race went the way of most of this year's races. I came back feeling pretty tired and lethargic and slept fourteen hours. Maybe I'm not quite healthy yet.

Neil Channing will be resting up at home, using the time to play on the new Black Belt Poker skin with the scree name NeilChanning.