A few years ago I was just about to walk into the Amazon Room to play my first WSOP event of that campaign, when some bit of TV totty stuck a microphone up my nose and asked me what my hopes were for the trip and what would constitute a good World Series for me.
I'm such an odds anorak. It never occurred to me that she probably thought I'd say, and wanted me to say: "I'll hopefully make a final and I'd love to win a bracelet." Instead of that perfectly neat sound bite, I thought about the budget my limited bankroll allowed, and the eight chances it would give me to win one of these elusive things, and stated that I was about 100/1 to win a bracelet and at least 10/1 to make a final. I told her I'd be delighted if I cashed twice, felt I had a shot, and got some of my money back.
I could tell she was looking at me like I was mental, and wondering what the hell I bothered coming all this way for. I've always been realistic about my chances though, and I can't watch an episode of "Deal or No Deal" without knowing EXACTLY how much they should take if offered.
I came into this year's series with slightly higher expectations. I've had a reasonable run in competitions in the last year (!), I think I'm playing quite well, and my bankroll would allow for around 25-30 shots at the target. I'd also get the chance to play the bigger buy-in events, with far less players, and also the rebuy events, with a budget to spend money.
I reckoned I was about 25/1 to win a bracelet and around 3/1 to make a final table. I'd be slightly disappointed if neither of these things happened, but reasonably happy if I felt I'd had a shot and maybe if I could cash four or five times.
Day two of the $1500 nlh (event number 32) didn't really go to plan. I ended up pushing my short stack with Q6 and running into pocket sixes. I had gone back with reasonably decent chips but had been continually re-raised off hands that I couldn't call with. I vowed to never make another raise that I couldn't call a re-raise with for the rest of the trip. After this event my success rate on continuation bets was down below 20% again and I decided to move back to the much more aggressive pre-flop strategy that's been serving me well this year.
It was nice to go back for a day two with, and play on the same table as Sunny Chattha. Sunny is an excellent young player who I started backing in tournaments at the same time as I started with James Akenhead. He's got a fantastic temperament and really understands poker. I was gutted for him when his jacks were beaten by A10 quite early on.
When I look back on my Vegas trip this year I'll probably regret event #36 a little bit. My starting table may have been the softest I've ever sat on, but I was probably the stupidest person on it. Although the players were really weak I gave them no respect at all and tried to continuously outplay them without any cards, when it was far too early into the day for that. I got what I deserved and would be free to play the $2000 pot-limit event.
I love playing pot limit, and am sometimes sad that it's no longer the game of choice in London. It will probably totally die out as a regularly played form of hold-'em in the next eighteen months, which will be a shame, as it's the game I learnt to play and have always enjoyed most. I'm also sad that in the WSOP the PLH events get far less players than the NLH ones as it means the average standard is far higher in my favourite game, and the prizepool is much lower.
I sweated for around twelve hours on day one, came back with a reasonable stack on day two and worked hard for another nine hours before I was forced to push my short stack in with A2. when no deuce arrived I was out in sixteenth for a fairly measly $8800. I was gutted and sort of pleased at the same time. This would be my fifth WSOP cash of the year, putting me in line to beat Roland's six of 2007 and to get somewhere close to the eight that four players had as a record prior to this year's series.
I've twice finished 17th in the eight years since I've been playing World Series events, so 16th was a new high for me, but I was sick about not making my first ever WSOP final, and having a chance to win a bracelet. I'm generally in favour of tournaments being very top-heavy and the winner getting a very large proportion of the money, but here my reward didn't feel enough for the pain I suffered. Maybe in these events the minimum prize should be lower and the last couple of tables should be better rewarded.
After all the heartache I awarded myself a couple of days off. I did play some cash, but mostly spent my time swimming, catching-up with some good friends and eating far too much.
One particular night was spent in a great restaurant at Venetian with my PokerVerdict team mate, and the current European No1 Nik Persaud, (it's a joke, how can a piddly 64-runner PLO freezeout at the Gutshot count for points?, especially when I'm stuck here!), his mrs, the gorgeous India, and Dean. A cast of thousands seemed to join the meal and afterwards we discovered the dice tables of the Venetian, I reacquainted myself with the magic of the White Russian, I taught the boys how to press when you're on a roll and I gained my own casino host, a very nice suite at The Palazzo and the promise of trips, limos, restaurants and show tickets "whenever you would like Mr Channing." I only bought in for $4000.
I was struggling to figure out how I was going to find the time to benefit from all the goodies my new "friend" could provide. I had plans to get back to work soon. He'll be gutted when he finds out that I only play dice once a year.
Neil Channing will be sticking to gambling at poker. He's hoping his lucky red PokerVerdict shirt will bring some more cashes.