12/12/2007

The Grosvenor Poker Tour was pretty hard-work for someone who's generally averse to that concept. For eleven months I schlepped around the poker hotspots of England taking in glamour destinations like Walsall, Manchester, Bolton and Blackpool. I even trudged to Luton.

I was actually quite proud that I was one of only six people to play every leg, and I think it was this constant presence, together with the excellent result Warren got in Luton and the mini-result that I got in Blackpool, which really helped PokerVerdict to establish their brand. They seem pretty happy and want me to play the events next year. The main reason I will is because they are so much fun.

Jonathan Raab and the others responsible have really done a great job in building-up a spirit of camaraderie among the players. The buy-in of a grand is very reasonable and people have attended multiple legs and got to know one another throughout the year.

We really deserved to congratulate ourselves, so we had a party.

The evening started off quietly enough, nice glass of champagne, the odd canapé, chance to catch up with people. Oh look, there's that bloke that nipped me four legs ago.

Following the preliminaries we moved on to the awards ceremony. I was delighted to see Ben Vinson get Young Player of the Year. He's playing so well at the moment and really deserved it. Alan looked quite choked too.

I wasn't so happy to miss out on my own chance of winning "Comeback of the Year", although it is a category that suggests you were doing your absolute bollocks beforehand.

I was really upset, however, to not even be nominated for "Best-dressed Player of the Year". Normally I'm delighted when Paul Parker wins anything but this was an absolute outrage. He arrived late and I collected the award in his absence. I'm planning to just quietly keep it.

With the vodka luge about to start, Hugo suggested a splinter group might form and go to Heaven. I might not be an aficionado of the London Nightclub scene, but even I know that's a gay-club. Hugo assured us that it'd be stuffed full of young Brazilian woman and we'd not be at all out of place, so a delegation of about twenty of us headed off to Charing Cross.

Heaven was pretty much what I expected. We were herded about, looked up and down, searched and fleeced. We paid through the nose to get in, to leave our coats and to get a drink. Some of our party were a little unsettled by the large numbers of transvestites (not quite sure what they had expected). Generally we had a blast though. Main Event Champion Mike Ellis danced away with his wife, while looking slightly like this wasn't his normal Monday routine, and everywhere you looked there were poker players.

We even bumped into friend Robin who seemed a bit surprised to see us, as he'd just popped out for a quiet night with a friend. Robin and I laughed hysterically at the sight of Mickey Wernick. "The Legend" was standing alone in an empty part of the dancefloor with a can of Redstripe looking dazed and bemused. He seemed to be thinking he'd come clubbing by accident.

Eventually, several of our number needed to immediately re-establish not only their masculinity, but also their professional poker player credentials. This is how a new breakaway group formed to go lap-dancing.

It was 7am in McDonalds King's Cross that I started to realise it might be a bit of a rush to get home, pack and get on the 10.45am flight for Las Vegas. I needn't have worried, I had time to spare.

With only days to go before the Mayweather/Hatton bout the plane was packed with fight-fans. I was feeling a little out of place. Most of the women had seventeen-inch necks, hairy knuckles and tattoos. I hadn't even thought to wear my shell-suit. Copies of "Boxing News" heavily outnumbered "The Observer Colour Supplement" and I felt a little out of place. I was actually quite relieved to get off and speak to the nice customs man about why I wanted to enter his country.

Five days later and I'm feeling a little bit beaten-up myself. I've played six tournaments, a super-satellite and a one table satellite. All I've got to show for it is a hole in the safe where my money used to be and a sudden realisation that I may not be as good as fifty-fifties as I thought I was.

At least it isn't raining here.

Neil "Bad Beat" Channing has run away to Vegas to age gracefully. He might put on a PokerVerdict shirt and play the main event.