02/10/2006

Queen Victoria

Neil Channing 'Bad Beat'

Some would say that I wasted my Sunday morning moaning about bad beats and endlessly going over events that I couldn't change. I knew though that valuable post match analysis could only help my future progress. I also knew that this cathartic process was the only way I was going to get back to The Vic with any vigour, ready for a day of playing and funking. I thank my loyal listeners from each of those calls for their help.

I now just needed to get the monkey freezeout out of the way. Having won this at the last festival, and being in for virtually nothing from a satellite, I would normally really fancy this one. Today I was distracted by events in the "real" tournament though. By the time I'd found a situation where I could call all-in for a probable 50/50 to either win an enormous pot or be out, Vicky had got herself down to the final eight. I was actually pretty pleased for him when my opponent flopped his ace, and was delighted to hear how she'd won with AK against KK and 88 against AA.

There was a lot of flaffing about before the final started and it was pretty hard to get very near to actually see the events. I skulked around in the background catching the odd hand on the TV monitor. She must be very nervous and she chattered just a little more than usually. Oh look a nice pair of jacks against Sid's 99. Down to seven, that should settle her nerves, have a celebratory glass of red wine.

Joe Beevers called for news from a wedding he was attending in Cyprus.

"She doesn't even like red wine. Take it away from her. Get her some tea."

"You think she'll do what I say?" I reasoned reasonably.

After she proudly displayed her AK while the other guy was still pretending to contemplate calling her reraise, it was time to get help. Julian. Hugo, Sarah and Rory were instructed to get her onto the tea. Rory was shocked to hear that Vicky was on her second glass.

"It's five o'clock in the afternoon and this is a major competition. She shouldn't be drinking red wine. Somebody fetch her a Guinness."

Luckily they had a break just then and after a bit of rolling around and giggling we managed to get a nice cup of tea down her. I know how much my game improved when I switched from red wine to tea a couple of years ago, and such was the case here. From here on in Vicky played like a true champion.

One of the most important pots of the whole event happened for her with five players left. Jan had been playing a fairly tight waiting game but was now starting to open up and he raised under the gun. Vicky decided to move all-in with a pair of 8s. Michael Muldoon allowed the extra 50k he could now get if a player was to be eliminated to cloud his judgement, and laid down a pair of queens. Without seeing the hands it looks like a small uninteresting pot when Jan passes, but it is a major turning point. Michael regrets his decision even more when Vicky eliminates him soon after, her A10 beating his 77 which he called all-in with.

The dinner break was spent in McDonalds. Team Coren discussed the situation. Four handed our champion had just 300k with each round now costing 57k. She told her brother not to bother coming down. She was resigned to finishing 4th and being a bit deflated.

There wasn't much need to discuss strategy options over a quarter-pounder. Some of the other players' stacks would require finely judged decisions on flop calls and turn check-raises. Vicky knew what her decisions would be. I was delighted when she shipped the whole lot in on each of the first three hands.

With three left another huge pot develops when Vicky plays an AJ perfectly. The hand is very interesting and will doubtless be discussed in the future. Jan ends up making a difficult and brave call as the clock nearly runs out only to be outdrawn and go out 3rd.

Emad and Vicky started with the chips about level. He had played a great tournament so far and would be tough to beat. Vicky, myself and Emad played many hours of $2/$5 NLH cash games in Vegas a couple of years ago. That was the trip when he had a nice share of Mr Hachem. I had played Emad in big tournaments since and while they were three handed he asked me if I was cheering for him. I told him he was allowed to come second. I then reflected on how long I've known and liked Jan and told Emad it was third for him.

The heads-up lasted just two hands. On the first of them Vicky played like a girl. I mean that in the best possible way. So often I've watched her nervously checking and looking a bit weak as she calls another bet. The macho alpha male often fires a second and third shot soon finding they've bluffed off half their chips. Here Emad had a hand, but Vicky had a better one and she played the hand perfectly to give herself a three to one lead.

Sometime after the final hand somebody asked her when she thought she would win. Vicky replied that having raised with a 7,6 and seen a flop of 3,4,5 come down, at which point her opponent check-raised all-in, she had gone back to double check her hole cards.

"Hang on." she thought, "I've got some of this."

With pictures and interviews completed Vicky was keen to get in the card room and share in a glass of champagne with everyone there. It was a fantastic atmosphere and absolutely everyone from waitresses, dealing staff and all the players was so pleased.

She was really happy that her brother came down to join the celebration and was proud to report the result to her parents who were absolutely delighted to hear the good news.

Over the years of playing Vicky has had to be resilient to survive in a male environment, and to put up with the patronising attitude of some players. People remember the timid young girl who turned up on Late Night Poker with little tournament experience. The constant reruns of that programme and the inherent sexism of some players allow certain prejudices to be reinforced.

Those that play Vicky regularly know that she's a proper player. Her tournament game has got so much stronger in the last few years, and the only surprise to me was that this win has waited so long. On occasions, I know that it has only been cruel luck that has delayed it.

For Vicky though, this win is not just about the money. It feels all the more special that it should happen among her friends in the Vic, where she has earned the admiration and respect of her peers.

Obviously you need some luck to win a poker tournament and Vicky pulled off a couple of big outdraws. She also managed to survive some bad luck along the way. She lost a lot of chips and missed a chance to knock-out Emad two days earlier when his 8,9 beat her AQ. The hands with the AK v KK and the 88 v AA were played absolutely correctly and totally fearlessly though, and during the three days she showed tenacity, patience and courage. I was very proud of her.

The following day I showed my face in The Vic at around 6pm as usual. The room was a bit quiet. There was no sign of Phil Ivey, Barry Greenstein or any TV crews. A nice little 100 PLH game was going and people were passing around The Evening Standard where our page three girl was showing off her trophy.

In the corner Michael Masouris and Peter Benson were arguing over a fiver and a kalooki game. Michael swore loudly at Mick "The Clock" for bokking him and banished him back to the dice table. I smiled at Michael Arnold. This was a perfect scene of normality and I knew The Champ would have loved to witness it.

Neil Channing is sponsored to play poker tournaments by BetUK.com and BetUSA.com