15/06/2009

I'd been debating in my head whether to pay $40k to play one tournament for months now. The 40th anniversary of the WSOP was the excuse for ESPN to try and get a final table full of the people they wanted to see, and it would mean good television coverage, which might help anybody with a start-up website business to promote.

Some people were predicting three, four or five hundred players in this one. I looked a bit more thoughtfully at it and concluded there'd be about 200. I rang Bluesquare to try and get some bets on and ended up with a measly pony on my main pick Isaac Haxton at 125/1 and seventy-five quid spread over three other guys. I didn't take the 125/1 on me, although I was tempted. Without the credit crunch, the extra 200 runners they might have got two years ago would mean a relatively softer field, but just beating 200 guys for a bracelet didn't sound too daunting. The night when I won more than the buy-in at The Vic a few days before leaving was the day I chose to play, the following day when I lost more than half the buy in was the day I started to change my mind.

On the plane I asked Devilfish, Brian Townsend, Tony G and Bruno Fittoussi if they fancied taking a share in me. They all replied that they were having to sell shares of themselves. I remember using that excuse a few years ago when it carried some credibility. I was tempted to buy some of Brian though. In the end I got some lucky Freddy Deeb money and decided to buy in.

In my opinion, people suffer from a misconception about these kind of events. They tend to look at all the top players that enter and compare themselves to them. Obviously if you end up on a table with Phil Ivey, JC Tran, Kenny Tran, Daniel Negreanu and Erik Siedel it's not great, but even with 200 people you can play the whole event without meeting these top pros. There are also a large proportion of the field who are just rich, and enjoy the chance to play their heroes, some internet sensations who are simply unable to adapt to the live environment, and some sponsored pros who's fame and notoriety comes from a different era of poker, and who's failure to adapt to the new game, makes them good value.

Another way that people think wrongly about these big tournaments is that they assume that everyone will be 100% on top form and playing their best. Even if I'm only the 150th best player in the field, if I can concentrate hard and play my best poker while forty of those who are better than me, come in under-prepared, haven't slept or eaten properly, are lacking in focus or are steaming, then I can increase my edge.

In the end I felt like it was a great value tournament. I was reasonably lucky with my table draw and I avoided all the people I mentioned earlier, apart from Kenny Tran, who I busted, after he played exactly as I thought he would. I saw lots of examples of people who were off their game, I saw one internet sensation play brilliantly for several hours and then incinerate his $40k and I saw a few sponsored pros who ought not to upset the companies they represent, unless they fancy getting a job.

Despite everything I said, I didn't play too well though. I lacked focus, and I was slightly tired and jet-lagged. I also had a number of distractions that made it hard to play my best poker, so I adapted by playing a very tight style, to give myself less decisions.

In the end I cruised into the money on auto-pilot. I never really felt like I was going to win and I was cross when I made a mistake to get busted in 20th. I gave the chips to Isaac Haxton who was looking good for my bet.

The following week I did manage to play my best poker. Unfortunately I only did it fleetingly and never for the whole of one tournament.

In the $1500 PLO I watched all eight of my table companions get busted, in what can only be described as "hilarious" style. I really should try and play PLO against American people more often. Unfortunately, although we were three hours in, and I was the only "original" left on the table, I still had my starting stack and the aggressive Finn had most of the chips. I ended up fizzling-out of that one without getting going.

The next day was nlh, I played well, but got my aces busted and couldn't recover and it wasn't until Wednesday that I managed to do something really stupid and upset myself.

I have a theory about the 6-max tournaments, which seems to be true. All the young kids just play WAY too fast. My plan is usually to smile serenely inside while they squabble over the meagre blinds of the first few levels, happy in the knowledge that I'll be going quickly through the gears when they least expect it. None of that explains why I went for something called a "four-bet shove" for 6000 on the 50/100 level with pocket sevens.

At least I was free to play the 5pm "round of each". I missed this one last year, as I was stuck in another tournament with a micro-stack.

This year I regretted playing immediately. After an hour it became obvious that our table contained only one person who had ever felt the need to get a job, and we all merely pushed the blinds around waiting for mistakes that weren't forthcoming. While Ben Grundy proudly boasted of turning his 7,500 into 43,000, I managed to let mine dwindle to 2,000. It was about this time that I decided to start to really play and get into it, and the net result was I climbed to 36,000. A couple of nasty hands dropped me back to 16,000 but at least I felt I'd achieved something. Only 99 of the 450 starters would be coming back and although the overall standard was high I could still see some truly terrible players with chips.

I woke abruptly in the middle of the night upon realising that I'd forgotten to withdraw from Thursday's $2k NLH. Shit. I'd have to get to The Rio at noon just to pull-out, although we wouldn't be resuming the PLH/PLO until 2pm.

There was nothing else to do but play two events. If I was going to wake up early I might as well do my money in style...

Neil Channing will carry on moaning about how hard he's working, sitting around playing games, in between sunbathing, swimming and some great restaurants, very soon. He's doing it all for Blackbeltpoker.com