26/07/2010

Paying $25,000 to play one poker tournament may seem quite crazy. A lot of people were saying that the six-max event would be the sickest (that's ‘toughest’ for the over 35s out there), line-up of the Series.

Let me share some hands from early in the event:

Guy makes standard raise and is called by the big blind. Flop is 4-3-3. Pot contains around 2,000. Both players get in 60,000. Hands are T-T and 4-4 (ten on turn, obv).

Guy calls three-bet, pot is around 4,000, flop is 2-5-6. Both get it in, around 70k each. One has 3-4, other has Q-Q.

Pot is three-bet, two callers. Flop is Ah-4h-Tx. Player A leads 4,100, player B raises to 9,500, player C all in for 75,000, player B calls with A-Q, player C has T-8 (no flush draw, obv river 8).

The field may be very tough but a large proportion of them have either not studied the structure, have no idea how to slow down, or are totally incapable of adapting to live play. Another large proportion would be totally burned out by the start of this event, which is late in the Series.

First, though, I had to wrestle with myself because of Harrahs' incompetence in making the schedule.

The $3,000 Triple Chance No Limit Hold’em is the third biggest regular No Limit Hold’em full-ring event of the series. There are enormous numbers of $1,000 and $1,500 bracelet events, way too many, some might say. There is only one $10,000 full-ring No Limit Hold’em (The Championship Event), one $5,000 and one $3,000. Why did they put the $3,000 the day before the six-max when they could have easily switched it with the $1,500 that was a day earlier?

Surely I couldn't just miss this one in favour of the six-max. I'd have to just play it and que sara sara, wouldn't I?.

I had a nice first day in the Triple Chance in the end. With an hour to go I was really thinking about the six-max and was happy to risk busting to get my 20,000 up to around 50,000. If I was focusing on this one at least I wanted to be really challenging for a bracelet.

In that last hour I chatted to Ted Forest about his weight loss bet while I quietly got over 45,000 without showing down a hand.

Ted was, at that stage, 166lbs. He needed to get under 140lbs in 10 more days to land the 50:1 odds. He had a little longer to do it to land some other bets at 20:1 odds. He was reading about ‘the lemonade diet’. It turned out we had two weight loss bet veterans on the table and the advice was flowing. Ted had been going for long walks outside the Rio on every dinner break. He came back and ate the turkey part of a large turkey sandwich.

I decided I liked Ted's side of the bet and vowed not to ever make a prop bet with him. He's a very interesting and determined character. I also vowed never to buy a large turkey sandwich from the Poker Kitchen unless I had a hungry family of four on hand.

We came back on Day 2 at 2.30pm. There were probably 12 people among us who would have bought into the six-max at noon. Imagine all that lovely rake that Harrah's lost out on. That doesn't even factor the 200 who skipped the $3,000 Triple Chance because they didn't want to miss ‘The Big One’.

In the end. it was all a massive anticlimax. I got to play with some arrogant and antisocial kids until one of them nitrolled me out on the bubble. The one small consolation was that a player on another table had been tanking while I was busting. When he heard we'd split the 90th prize he called and allowed me the minnest of min-cashes.

The next day I played really badly in the last one of the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em events. Generally I hadn't enjoyed those ones. I hope they get rid of them next year, or at least reduce the number of them to just one or two. The second last $1,500 of the Series was on a Friday and it got 3,100 players. It seems the extra $500 doesn't make much difference to the numbers, but walking around I hear a lot of people moaning about the 3,000 chips you start with in the $1,000 ones.

From that $1,000 I bounced straight into the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha. I never feel totally comfortable playing tournament PLO, but I competed OK and I'd be back for Day 2 with a decent stack.

Day 2 didn't last long. I doubled up two short stacks in races and then got it in with 8-9-T-J on a 9-9-3 flop. He had 8-9-Q-2.

I was jumping from tournament to tournament. It didn't feel good and I couldn't be playing my best. I went straight into the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em, the last event before the Main and the fourth biggest full-ring No Limit Hold’em of the series.

I didn't play with much patience and didn't use my 7,500 chips too well. I went down to 1,200. I did have a small fight back until I lost a race to get to 8,000.

I was just going to have to win the Main Event now. With five cashes out of 25 events I'd had a good series. I'd spent $63,500 in buy-ins and returned around $320,000. I still had potential returns from the Main Event to add on.

It's nearly a year since I made a rule to only buy pieces of players who are currently Blue Belt or higher at Black Belt Poker. This year I probably turned down more than 500 requests. It isn't really that hard to get to Blue Belt. Quite a few of those people could easily do it. As a way of showing them what they're missing, as a way of rewarding those who have already shown the love to Black Belt, and as a way of having a little gamble on the Main Event, I changed my Facebook status that weekend:

"If anyone would like to play the $10k Main Event at the WSOP on a freeroll I'll happily buy you in, just give me a bell..."

I then added underneath:

"...as long as you're at least a Blue Belt with Black Belt Poker."

You'd be amazed at how many people promised to do it straight away after the event if I would just put them in first. Hopefully a couple of them might take a look at what we're offering to players.

Chaz, Owen, Adam and Jerome were the Black Belt Poker professionals who were already in Vegas and in the event.

On reading my status, Jamie and Kevin snap-booked flights and joined them.

I think they thought they were calling my bluff but I was absolutely delighted to see them. It was great fun to have a real team to follow in the event and it caused a small stir for my Facebook followers. I certainly had a lot more fun following them, Black Belt Poker CEO Warren Wooldridge and shareholder Tristan McDonald, than I did playing the event myself.

My first table was also my last. It was full of nine of the most miserable people I can remember playing with. At no stage in the seven hours I played did anyone attempt one sentence of conversation, except to ask for change, or to briefly remove a headphone to confirm if the oversize chip was a raise.

The table all played classic RAG style. They were retarded-aggressive. People would three-bet a hundred bigs deep and then fold to a smallish four-bet when they had position. They would three- and four-bet light in the early stages, a time of the Main Event when attempting to stack people is way more profitable than trying to squabble over the blinds.

I lost pots with J-J, A-K and J-J to get rid of half my chips, and K-K versus A-A to get rid of the rest.

This was the first time I've ever been out on Day 1 since I first played the event in 2001. It really hurt.

It probably took me a couple of days to get over it. I'd have happily paid $40,000 to be allowed to play the event again. Although my horses gave me a few sweats, none of them managed to cash and so it suddenly seemed like time to go home.

I had plans to get back to London and throw myself back into work. With a quietish poker calendar for August I could really put some time into making some of my new plans for Black Belt Poker happen.

Obviously, I jumped straight off the plane and into a tournament. I also ran from meeting to meeting, while desperately hoping I could beat the jetlag before my Poker Million heat is recorded.

Although I was coming home with no bracelet again this year, I had a nice chunk of money to compensate. I guess I've had worse trips.

Neil Channing rushed straight to Brighton for the UKIPT to warm up for Poker Million. He'll tell you about those next time.