01/11/2006

Something in the Water

Neil Channing 'Bad Beat'

When I arrived at The Regency hotel for the fourth leg of the European Poker Tour I was lucky. If Simon Trumper, with his background in plumbing and drainage, had not been there to explain, in some detail, why there was no water in the building, I may have had to bother the rather flustered receptionist, who was already dealing with a selection of irate players. After convincing the lady that, rather than wait four hours for my room, I'd rather just check-in with no water I managed to commence my afternoon nap.

The company for dinner was better than the food, and Katherine, Keith, Jake, the brothers Boatman, Mr Big and The Champ were soon planning a couple of friendly monkey Sit n Gos before bed. Somehow though The Camel and Barnsey seemed to get lost on the way to the poker room which left us with Willie, Surinder and Greg Raymer instead. This may not have been the best example of good game selection.

It's not really possible to overplay pocket queens when the structure allows only one move after ten minutes, so I have no problem with the thousand euro that went down to Kings and Aces. I did manage to split the second one of the three though and went to bed a small winner.

My first table for the EPT event were a friendly bunch. Although there were only ten Italians among the 400 players we had four of them in our own Little Venice. I never really count Robert Binelli as Italian though, as to me he's a Vic player. He was having fun making blind limps and raises from under the gun and generally messing about. Another guy called William Thorson was also enjoying himself. He flopped sets for fun and, I guess if you know that you're going to hit every draw, you might as well bet them. In between he played pretty well and got a load of chips. I was busy biding my time and becoming frustrated, while chatting to my twin Joe Beevers at the other end of the table. He was struggling to hit a flop too.

After an hour or so of watching I felt it was time to get involved and I played three key pots. The first of these was an important bluff against Luca Pagano which saw half of my stack go in and I followed by extracting a lot of chips from William in two interesting hands.

When they moved me to the table of Willie Tann, Padraig Parkinson and the quietened down Ade Bayo I had over 30k against the average of 15k. I asked my neighbour Marcus Golser whether he could remember the last time we played. I wanted to know if he'd forgotten me running over a table that he had previously been controlling during Mr Big's Poker Million. He could. That helped me feel more comfortable shipping the lot in after he'd limp re-raised me in a blind skirmish. He passed and I went on to 45k.

In the next hour or so I played my best game. Poor old Steve Vladar was a victim of my constant stealing. When I finally had a hand after his initial raise I felt he must lose patience and call. He passed. I told him that he was a tough man to kill off, and that he played like a man with no food in the fridge. Padraig commented:

"He plays like a man with no fridge."

It was around now the hotel kindly opened the free bar for an hour to compensate for the lack of water. It was a nice touch, but not one that helped the 100 players left grafting away very much - particularly those without gall bladders.

When that table broke we only had 45 minutes of the day left. I was to share the blinds with Marcel Luske on a table of Mad Irishman and Lunatic Scandis (a normal table for this event) and I actually calculated what I'd have overnight if I played no more hands. 65k would put me in the top ten and leave me happy. Unfortunately a well planned move, that I still stand by despite the outcome, sent me to bed in 33rd spot with 44k.

By the second day I was nervous and slightly out of sorts. I hadn't eaten a decent meal since getting to Dublin and the fact that I'd played well to get into position meant I was now putting pressure on myself to succeed.

A couple of big hands early got me a few chips, but now I was on a table of medium-short stacks who were very happy to constantly raise and re-raise all-in. I fell to 40k from 60k without playing a hand and saw the average climb to 70k. A well timed squeeze-play with blinds of 1000/2000 got me back to 60k and I started to get excited about winning. I actually got over-excited about winning. On the very next hand I overplayed AQ in such an amateurish way that I left the table feeling embarrassed. As I moved the chips over the line I recognized my mistake just a little too late to abort the operation.

When I was a kid I used to occasionally wonder whether, if I had a Tardis and could transport myself just three times in my life, this be one of the times. In my twenties I would sometimes think back to this. I'd be rushing to the races and think "yes" this would definitely be one of the times. In my room now I wanted to be transported home. I felt sad and alone and didn't want to be here.

I did what any other sick poker professional would do and joined the cash game.

People say that Chris Moneymaker has done more for professional poker players than any one man. Tonight he did his bit for me. He sat in the game for ten hours and played virtually every pot. At first I sat and watched, enjoying the banter and the responses of the other players to our "star". In the end I couldn't resist getting involved and we started playing a few pots, including one which had 8k in it and involved me flopping the nuts and him telling me "nice hand". It wasn't so much the money though, it was just nice to have a bit of fun and play some crazy poker . The World Champion is a great guy, and he played aggressively and pretty well. He nearly got out of it on the trip too.

I consoled Willie on his 9th place finish, he looked tired and disappointed, and went back to play. We finished at 8am which gave me four hours sleep before checking out and heading home. By 7pm I was already losing six hundred quid in the Vic. I sat and prayed for a World Champion to walk in.

Neil Channing is sponsored to play Poker Tournaments by BetUK.com.