03/08/2009

So I’ve been back from Vegas a couple of weeks now and it’s fine. I don’t get too much jetlag anymore. I just had about 5 or 6 days of sleeping 14 hours, of waking at 5pm, of feeling groggy, lethargic and listless for a few hours and then having: “just a little nap”, which would end at 11pm. I’ve more or less finished with the struggling to doze off at 1am and then getting up and eating, before going back for another 14 hours of shuteye.

It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve been to the WSOP. I’m an old hand. I’m supposed to know by now what it’s like. I’m definitely supposed to know not to play and to immediately take a post-Vegas holiday.

I’m such an idiot.

Our plane was delayed five hours, which was nice. I know how to deal with that, and I didn’t care, so my bags were checked in nice and early, while I went off to The Rio to funk.

27 went back that day and there were just 24 left when I reached the Rio.

The day before I’d been sick to see Adam become the last of the Black Belt Poker Brown Belts to be eliminated, to see Karl bust out and then later that evening to speak to Jeff Duvall, who’s valiant effort ended in a 42nd place finish. I was sick for Jeff, but by the time that news came through I was on top of the world. The Stratosphere restaurant was our venue for a last night celebration which our guys richly deserved.

It’s just 3 months since 50 guys sat down to spark up 4 tables for 6 hours on Boyles. Only 31 made it through a month of doing that. Jeff Duvall pointed out that he plays 10 hours a day, 6 days a week and has done for 6 years. Lazy bastards.

I think we’ve made amazing progress though. It was really hard to pick which 8 would go to Vegas, and I’m still absolutely certain that we could have swapped a few people around and the results would have been just as impressive.

They were impressive. The guys each played $10,000 worth of side events and the WSOP Main $10,000 Event. Between them they had about 50 shots at a bracelet, and they managed to cash 12 times. 4 out of the 8 of them cashed in the Main, which delighted me. It was very exciting for a while there. With myself and Nik we had 10 runners in the Main, and after 6 got through Day 2 it was looking good. When 3 got to Day 4 it was even better. I was delighted with Adam’s 163rd place finish, but also gutted for him. It brought the total cashes by the eight guys up to around $190,000.

This whole mad Grading and Vegas experiment had been a gamble. Lots of people had given their opinions about it, some people were quite personal and rude. I didn’t care what people said now, it had to go down as a success.

I was a happy drunk at The Peppermill that night.

As David Tighe and I arrived we were pleased to see the deserted corridor didn’t include a James Akenhead walking disconsolately in our direction. That was good, as we’d heard that he’d walked kings into aces on his first hand and was a cripple.

We were really excited to see James had got himself back from around 3 million to 11 million in chips and we hung around and watched for a few hours. It was great to see James getting the enormous support from all the Hit Squad and a lot of other good mates. It must help his spirits when he’s running bad, and he looked very determined and focussed.

After his A-K lost to a pair of eights in a massive pot which left him with just a tiny stack and 14 players left David and I decided we’d bokked enough for one day and headed to the airport.

It wasn’t until the immigration queue that the 20 or so poker players on that flight started talking about Ivey making the final. A few were good friends of James and we were all pleased to see him there, despite his stack being the smallest.

Our plane touched the runway at 2.30pm and I was leaving my cases in The Vic reception at 4.10pm. By 6pm I was back from my flat and ready to take my seat as an alternate in the Unibet Open. They were four hours in and I’d lost just 1,000 of my 10,000 stack.

It was a really good tournament, lots of players from all around Europe, not many pros and a big prize pool.

I won one hand.

At 10pm I went off to the drinks reception the sponsors had organised and had a really nice night.

At 8am the taxi collected me to take me to the Sky Studios. My commentary on the morning Poker Million heat may not have been my best ever, but the director seemed to like it.

My play in the afternoon Poker Million heat may not have been my best ever but I liked it. I didn’t play a hand until we were three handed, I never saw a flop at any stage, I never once called and I lost a 300,000 pot with 600,000 in play with K-Q vs. AJ- three-handed.

On Saturday I went to a less enjoyable Unibet party and on Tuesday and Wednesday, I proved to myself, as if it needed further proof, that you can’t play good poker when you’re distracted, tired, unhappy and you don’t really care if you win.

I haven’t played since then. It’s nice having a rest. I’m very busy with the business, which is going well. I’m also really busy with sorting out all the money transfers and the settling of figures that go with staking a large team of people at the WSOP.

It was great, obviously, watching Paul Parker at his final, having a share of Jeff Kimber in his second place, getting a piece of JP when he won his bracelet. I also had lots of thrills and spills along the way and some people weren’t so lucky, while some came very close.

James is, of course, the highlight though. Just to clarify any rumours, it’s true I have 25 percent. James is happy to get some lucky money on board and I’m absolutely delighted and very excited for him. I’m definitely going over in November and I’ll really try not to fall asleep.

Now though I must formally announce the end of my staking career. I did find again throughout this year, the whole thing has distracted me from my game, and I want to return my focus to my play, and also to Black Belt Poker. I only started staking people with the end goal of the business in mind, and it’s here now. I worried a little that I asked a group of guys to make a considerable effort to qualify for staking, through our business, and then I allowed another bunch the privilege, without making them do anything.

So from now on, let me state, that unless you are a Blue Belt player or higher with Black Belt Poker, I won’t be able to stake you anymore. I’m sorry, it’s been fun, but sometimes things move on and that’s what I’m doing.

Anyway, I must go now, and prepare myself for Luton.

Neil Channing will be in Luton on Friday. He hopes to win the tournament in the quickest possible time.