28/03/2007

Not Too Deep in the Valley

Neil Channing 'Bad Beat'

That's the good thing about the Grosvenor Poker Tour. There's always another one just around the corner. I haven't played too many tournaments in the last couple of years and despite being stupidly, maddeningly frustrating and bloody annoying, they really are quite addictive and fun.

After a slightly irritating one-day holiday on the side of the M6 followed by a 'flu-ridden trip to Edinburgh, I was looking forward to more of a mini-break weekend in Cardiff. I spent the early part of the week unloading boxes, as I've finally done it and moved out of Battersea after twelve years. My meagre possessions and me are now in Maida Vale, a mere stone's throw from the Vic, and the fun and games that go with it. A short holiday in a foreign country would surely remove the removals stress. The hundred grand might help too.

Nik was playing on Thursday so I decided to travel down with him, although my day one was to be Friday. I planned to settle into the place and maybe catch the steamers as they dived into the cash games. We were joined on the train by Vic player John, who we bumped into on the platform, and Vic legend Michael Arnold who was able to put us right on a few specific tournament areas where Nik and I are weak.

With time on my hands and gamble in my bones I busied myself in the run up to the tournament. It took just minimal selling to get 58 people into a two-hundred quid "last-longer" side bet that would provide a nice bonus 11,600 to one punter juice-free.

I had shares in Nik, Jeff Duval, lucky-boat Praz and the amazing Ken, and I knew I could trust them to get on with things while I focussed on the side action.

The cash games that night were good and despite a rollercoaster ride I came out on top. I actually made quads three times, the best one being when I bet forty quid on the 999 flop holding 9,7 and was gifted 1100 by my opponent who said he couldn't put me on it. I was lucky he was in the pot as everyone else could, even the waitress.

By Friday I was feeling well rested and in-form. I got one more share (with the person who has returned me by far the most recently) and was ready to take on the world.

By eight o'clock I had suffered a bad beat, had, what I thought was a pretty good bluff, snapped-off, and I was ready to go back to bed.

What happened next was all new to me. I did two things that I've often heard people talk of. First I won, what I later found out, is called a 50/50, and then I did something that I haven't done for years. I flopped a set in a deep-stacked NLH tournament and actually doubled up. I now had 25k and from there I found it so, so easy to get to 35k.

It was at this point that the demons in my head started talking to me. They kept reminding me of all the times that people, who have witnessed me playing for brief periods, often when short-stacked, have told me that I'm not in the game enough, that I'm too tight and that I ought to play the tournaments like I play the cash games. Why I would listen to those demons, when they clearly don't understand short stacked strategy, and appear not to grasp implied odds, I have no idea.

What followed can only be described as a totally idiotic and criminal waste of chips combined with a few slight bits of bad luck. It wasn't until I managed to get myself down to under 10k that I remembered how to play poker again. I was out soon afterwards when I tried to pretend that AQ is a hand.

On Saturday I was free to explore Cardiff. I found two William Hills, one Corals, one Ladbrokes and a Fred Dones and they found out why head office sends out messages to be careful about certain each-way races. With my pockets stuffed with readies I got back to the hotel for a nice relaxing swim and a sauna before heading off to the casino.

With Jeff and Nik falling early and Ken exiting as I arrived it was left to the Lady Champion (as Ken always refers to her) to carry the flag. A valiant effort followed and despite a couple of major losses a reasonable stack was carried into Sunday.

Luckily my cab fares over the weekend totalled less than thirty quid and I wasn't in the mood to increase them by four hundred or so with Dubai, Pommo and their "special" limousine services. You'd think it was hard to spend two grand on a night out in Cardiff but these boys managed it comfortably. I was happy to concentrate on a bit of shut-eye instead.

Two hands into the play on Sunday, my interest in the result waned considerably. Vicky's exit meant that the last-longer could be split four ways, and after wishing good luck to Vic regular Michael Greco, Welsh legend and top fella Roberto Romanello and Southampton regular Hoss (we talked about a WSOP trip he remembered 10 years ago and the amazing antics of my former flat mate), it was time to head back to the Vic.

A good of fashioned cockney Eastend victory was the talk of the card room and everyone seemed delighted. By Monday, with the papers and TV getting the story, the place could talk about nothing else and we welcomed back the champion. This could be just what the room needs to get the 250 PLO game going again.

Neil Channing will be soon booking for another dose of pain in Manchester, where he'll play the Grosvenor Poker Tour for PokerVerdict.com