The Irish Open wasn't quite so annoying and frustrating as last year. I didn't win it. I didn't even get my hands on a penny of the prize money.
I did have a lovely trip though.
Near the end of Day One my stack got chopped in half when I limped with a pair of jacks and flopped a set when it came Qh-Jh-9c. I know that some Internet kids will read that last sentence and conclude that I'm an idiot who can't play. It's lucky that people whose minds are so closed to understanding different styles and ideas of how to play are still out there. It's just about the only thing that reassures me that I can still get a living out of this tough game. I actually nearly folded after the flop. I got as far as knowing I was beat, I just didn't get as far as making the tough laydown.
Day Two was annoying. I was put on the TV table with a bunch of guys who also had under the average. We played around five hands an hour less than the other tables despite being eight-handed, while they played nine-handed. We knocked out a few people and often played six- and seven-handed, so with ten big blinds I was frequently finding myself all in with A-8 and A-9. I actually moved all in around twelve times and uckboxed a couple of double-ups. The ladders were always immediately followed by a long snake. I finally went out with a marginal under-the-gun A-T. I got nitrolled by an A-J, just my second long nitroll of the day.
When I enquired about the TV table having less players I was told the hole card recognition software can only cope with eight-handed. I can't think of other TV ‘sports’ events with one million dollar prize pools where the TV company compromises the integrity of the game.
After a little light moaning and whining I popped into the TV commentary box for a quick eight hours. The next day I awoke and played the side event. After eight hours in that I lost a race, got cross with the dealer, and went to play cash until 8am. The game had been set up to provide a service. One by one people would join, fresh from the last few tables of the Main Event. They were upset at being busted, often on a bad beat, and just wanted to tell the world of the injustice and to punish their money, sometimes they were drunk. They really didn't want the consolation prizes they hand out for 18th to 27th place in these things, they'd rather give it away. The few guys who'd set up a game just ready for this kind of customer were happy to help out. The money was dumped; everyone was satisfied.
One guy actually questioned the morality of taking money in such a way. The other players looked at him like he was insane. I was with them.
I wasn't busy playing any big finals on the Monday so I got myself a microphone and joined in the live feed of the final. I talked for around six hours solidly, which didn't prove too difficult. I had great fun.
I was very happy that James Mitchell won the event. I was even happier that he wore a Black Belt Poker logo throughout. I'd have been totally delighted if he'd have played this as one of his Black Belt Poker tournaments and if the company could have chopped the six hundred grand 50/50 with him. He'd have done a bit better out of it too as he ended up selling large chunks to various people and played for less than half. We also missed the chance to promote him up to Black Belt with all the prize points he'd have accrued. I think James is an excellent player and I'd have loved to give him $10,000 a month in tournaments for the rest of this year. Ho hum.
Two days after the final I found out that the Lough Derne Golf Resort isn't as close to Dublin as I'd originally imagined. It is fantastic though. Marty Smyth couldn't have picked a better place for him and Karen to get married. Marty is a great guy, so obviously he had lots of great people at his wedding. It was a shame that I made the whole thing into such a rush.
I needed to get home to sleep. On Sunday night I'd be starting to play 48 hours in the Party Poker Big Game, a £25/£50 cash game.
Most people will probably focus on one hand from it. I flopped a set of fours when it came 8h-4d-3h and got it in against pocket eights. The 4s on the river was good for a £70,000 pot which put me £45,000 up. In the end I was disappointed though. I lost £25,000.
I'd have liked to have won over the two days, it was painful to lose. I don't think I ran too well, apart from in that hand. I won't bore you with the details, just trust me when I say I know the difference between running good and running bad.
I certainly steamed a bit too. I had planned to play the full 48 hours and achieving this goal was personally very important to me. The TV company were randomly deciding when the players would have the chance to vote to eliminate a compatriot. A vote was declared at a time when it was obvious I was vulnerable, despite the fact that we all knew one of the players was about to voluntarily leave anyway.
I was made to quit for 30 minutes, do exit interviews and take off my mike, before coming straight back to replace the retiring player. I would now play 47 and a half hours, and that would hurt my pride.
I came back in a slightly worse seat just when I was most tired and at the stage that the game was running ridiculously slowly. My steaming probably cost me £15,000. I regret that the most of all.
It also didn't help that this game was played in a casino where the biggest games in London are held, games that I'm not welcome in. It tilted me even more to listen to the bullshit spoken by those that refuse to allow me to play there.
I wasn't really worried about losing the money, but I was worried about the portrayal of me in the programme. With my unusual style it's pretty easy to portray me as a terrible player. There are lots of days when I do play bad, but there are lots of times when I'm doing weird things which I'd rather not explain. This could potentially be really damaging to Black Belt Poker. I worried mostly because Justin Bonomo would be doing a lot of the commentary and I worried because I know his opinion of my game is extremely low. I have no idea what he said, but I'll listen with interest. I know for sure that I've played poorly whenever I've met him in the past and I'm certain he played very badly in this game, but I'm still very sure that he's a top player. I'm also sure that I was totally card dead in the spell he commentated on, so we'll see what he finds to say.
By the end I was ready to play another 24 hours. I went out to dinner with Phil and Jennifer and we talked poker. The next day I spoke to Jesse and he reassured me that I had done great and had nothing to fear from the commentators. I just know that I wish I could play it all over again. It was a great experience and I particularly enjoyed the tussles with Viffer.
I'd like to end this diary by harking back to one I wrote recently. I talked of my boss Mark:
... The night before I started my job I called my new boss Mark to ask what time I was expected in. He seemed puzzled by the question.
“Just come whatever time you feel like it,” he replied.
I worked in that office for four years and Mark always came in at whatever time he felt like it. He never generally felt like it much before 1pm. I soon learnt that “when you felt like it” was always the best time to come in.
I went to Mark's funeral yesterday. He died of a sudden heart attack aged 46.
Mark was not only my boss but my friend. He was a legend and a pioneer in sports betting and I learned so much from him. I often found him stubborn and I could get impatient with him. I didn't appreciate the education he was giving me. I never got a chance to thank him for it.
It was a sad day, but also one where we shared some very fond and happy memories.
I send my condolences to his family and will remember him always.
Neil Channing will be hoping to improve his year on year below average performances in Monte Carlo.