One of the things I resolved to focus on in 2008 was to organise myself better. I was aware throughout last year that I was getting increasingly busy and that it was becoming difficult to focus on my primary activity: playing poker. I was distracted by poker training, writing articles, commentating, poker betting and the staking of players and all of these things seemed to encourage enormous amounts of extra phone calls, meetings, emails and long conversations. I was able to figure out that by better structuring my time I could still do all these things, but if I let things drift it would become impossible.

Then came the Irish Open.

Just as I was about to commence the final Roland decided to point out to me that I couldn’t possibly imagine the difference to my life between coming first and second. At the time I didn’t really think too much about that statement, I was rather more interested in the first prize. Within a week I knew exactly what he was talking about.

My first attempt to do something about this necessary streamlining has so far involved me thinking about starting a poker company, buying a domain name (, getting some quite nice T-shirts printed, massively stepping up the amount of staking, commentary and writing I’ve been doing and attending enormous amounts of lunches and meetings all of which breed even more emails, phone calls and long conversations.

It turns out I was right. It has become impossible. 

The day after the GUKPT festival the boys had planned a big game.. They weren’t lying it certainly was big. I watched a £56k pot where one guy flopped quads and another thought the rivered king matched nicely with the two others in his hand. I watched a man bet £27k into a £6k pot on a flop of AT3 holding 10,9 and another man almost fall off his chair before calling with AA. I watched another man call £8k all-in into a £35k pot holding pocket queens on a flop of AK10 against a man with pocket nines. I watched it come a jack on the turn and a queen on the river so that he could split the side pot having lost the main one to a third man who made a backdoor flush.

Throughout the whole fourteen hours I watched a lot. I just wish I’d had a chance to play. The phone rang a bit, people just needed this or that sorting out, but generally I was just totally card dead. I made a few little moves but it was a frustrating day. Everyone planned to come back tomorrow and I just crossed my fingers and hoped I’d pick up some cards..

Careful what you wish for. One more set crushed and six lots of pocket kings all beat in just five hours. It’s not like I didn’t realise I needed a break from playing, I just needed to actually do it..

Later that week I went to Bristol for the final of the Gala Poker Tour. The event was really well run, the casino is quite nice, the chips that they use are lovely and I’m sure the structure would have been great. Great, that is, if I could win a single hand in the tournament, instead of getting a little unlucky, misplaying a couple of hands, and being out before the antes came in. I didn’t manage to realise that the rake in the cash game was way too high until I’d flopped another set and lost another £4k pot. Only about a fortnight too late I decided to start my break. 

I stayed around for the weekend, the Marriott is a nice hotel and it has a great spa and swimming pool. I’ve been swimming a lot more lately, it’s obviously very good for you, the benefits creep up slowly, and it’s a great way to clear your mind and truly relax. It’s also the only place the bloody ‘phone doesn’t ring.

I ended up having a nice weekend, looking up an old friend who I don’t see often enough, and watching two others, who I see far too often, get results at the final table. (Well done Alan, congratulations/commiserations Dave).

I spent my last birthday in Vegas and I intended to switch to Prague this year. I had a vague idea that a place I’d never been to and a couple of relaxing tournaments might be a nice idea. I also thought of it as a last chance to grab the No1 spot in Europe. After Bristol I just couldn’t face it though, and an offer to do some commentary on the Poker Million seemed a better change of scene.

A quick meeting in the Vic turned into a lovely relaxing dinner in a great restaurant with some good friends before I was rudely awoken by the alarm clock at 7.30am. Surely they can’t seriously be thinking of playing poker at this time? After a lovely day sitting around chatting to Jesse I popped back in the Vic to meet the guy I’d missed the night before, grab a quick bite, collect some money and maybe have a relaxing massage before an early night. Fourteen grand later my relaxing break had ended and I folded a full-house to Bambos’ FOUR HIGH!

The other semi and the final went very quickly, and I enjoyed my time at the mic very much. I was also very pleased to see my good friend Marty get yet another enormous result. He’s beginning to have quite a good year.

I rushed from the studio to the party where I immediately felt an urgent need to catch-up. My inability to drink virtually anything these days meant I was soon quite a mischievous drunk. I’m absolutely certain that I was hysterically funny and charming though.

Even though the nice people at HSBC would have been happier if I was attending Eoghan’s celebration dinner, I was still very happy and proud to show up to Marty’s one the next day, despite the enormous hangover. On this occasion I paced myself far better and didn’t become a total nuisance until far later in the evening. At least I didn’t take the opportunity to catch up on my phone calls.

My attempts to not play poker and get ready for Christmas have resulted in one whole day on the phone followed by a day when I went to the Vic and burnt £320 in a tournament and a much better one when I went on to YouTube and listened to forty-three versions of "Fairytale of New York" before I realised what I knew all along. They’ll only ever be one Kirsty and Shane.

Neil "Bad Beat" Channing may not pick up another card until 2009. If only he could not pick up another call too.