21/02/2007

Middle of the Road

Neil Channing 'Bad Beat'

The boys in the Vic have been getting all excited about the Grosvenor Poker Tour. There's been a lot of talk about who's playing well and who fancies it. With all the events going to four days and looking likely to sell out, a nice six figure prize is everyone's dream. The Vic had a satellite for Walsall and it could have sold out its 60 capacity twice over. Even the people you wouldn't expect to own a computer are trying to qualify online.

With the good people at Poker Verdict paying my buy-in, I've been free to concentrate on the continuous satellite they hold every day at the Vic. The tickets are worth fifty quid each, they're pink in colour and you can win more than one of them a night. Apparently they can also be exchanged for things other than poker tournaments.

Thursday morning was a bit of a rush. I just had time to make my last bets for Walsall on Betfair before rushing to the station. I was meeting Nik and Ken and I had to remember to tell Nik that he'd got all his bets matched apart from the score he asked me to get him on Jerome Bradpiece at 300/1. A gamble on him overnight had forced him down to 100/1, never mind, I probably saved him twenty quid.

Junction 10 of the M6 is a lovely picturesque spot offering a wide range of activities for those who are knocked out, or waiting to play the second day. Actually that's a lie. It's a total shit-hole, and I instantly remember why I havn't been here for five years. Never mind, The Village Hotel looks ok and it has a swimming pool which I'm determined to use. Anyway I'm hoping the tournament will keep me busy.

The casino is packed and it's a who's who of UK poker. Also, a new development since Bolton is the arrival of some Scandis. I see Thorstein Iverson and Henning Granstad hanging around. Who bloody told them about this? The tour will be packed with Vikings at this rate. Haven’t they got internet poker to be getting on with?

My table is pretty good fun but not too easy. I'm enjoying a bit of banter with Ian Woodley, who I'd love to see more of in the Vic 100 game, and Russell Cawley, who gets a bit territorial over his blinds considering it's very early. By level three I was starting to think it wasn't going to be my day when a big rush of cards and a couple of good situations came up. I played a couple of pots well, and one really badly when I should have knocked out my pal Bambos, but I still got to 28k with the average at around 13k.

After the ridiculously long buffet break it all went a bit wrong. I made a tricky call that lost me a lot of chips and at one stage went down to 4k before my old mucker Phil Peters turned up. I managed to win a succession of pots from him and went back to 20k before he totally got the needle and outdrew me in a pot that was to be the beginning of the end. The last few chips went to a good cause, Barny took them in a hand that played itself.

At this point I realised the worst thing about Walsall as a part of the tour. It's too near to the places people come from. In Bolton there was a real sense that people had made an effort to get to this remote Northern town. They were stuck there so they should make an effort to have fun. The cash games were good and the bars were packed with people enjoying the craic. In Walsall, most of the casualties immediately headed to their cars, and some were back in the Vic before Friday's players had even shown up. Hopefully in Cardiff, and I'm sure in places like Brighton, Plymouth and Newcastle the camaraderie that I felt in Bolton will return and people will have more of a weekend away.

Ken and I were glad to just get out of there, and once Riverdave's rollercoaster day ended we jumped in his car, checked out of The Village (a oner to leave our bags for the afternoon), and drove home.

I followed the controversy over the tournament structure from home on Saturday afternoon. I wasn't there to see what was happening, but I would say that these tournaments are great. The structures are among the best we've seen in the UK and a lot of the whingers are just not used to running antes. If a tournament doesn't have these it's not No Limit, and the moaners are just going to have to learn to adapt. I'm sure there are some things that need to be improved on the tour, and there were definitely things that I was disappointed to see hadn't been modified from Bolton, but overall it's hard to argue that the thing hasn't been a great success.

By Sunday I was doing my brains in the Vic, but I still kept in touch with the final table. Jerome is a really nice guy and I'd presented him with his Gutshot Oscar for best cash player in December. I told him then he was more of a tournament player. The fiver I got matched at 600/1 nearly got me out of it on the week.

Neil Channing will be fishing out his passport for a trip to Cardiff next month thanks to PokerVerdict.com.