That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

In my opinion, if a joke is good it’s worth repeating at least six or eight times. I’m an enormous fan of recurring jokes and in-jokes. The ‘clubbiness’ is one thing I really like about the Vic, but the jokes that come back again and again always amuse. If someone has to stumble and struggle over a Chinese or Russian name, two people will always say:

“That’s easy for you to say,” and the rub downs, (“Tell ‘em where you got it”, “What time can you get here tomorrow?” or “Are you here every day?”), that follow a person leaving the cash game with no money, never fail to amuse me. I love the cynicism, the bitterness and the gallows humour.

I’m always joking with John Tabatabai that he is becoming the Judith Chalmers of world poker. He flits from one holiday destination to the next attending welcoming parties, sampling exquisite restaurants and manoeuvring his way round the stringent door policies to the best tables in the most expensive nightclubs. Meanwhile I’m normally to be found in the cash game grinding. It’s a sign of my age that I find the younger generation surprising. They want to travel around the world and get pissed, while it’s only us old school dinosaurs that still have any work ethic.

I just looked at my diary as we creep into April. I’ve been to four countries and I’ve only played eleven cash sessions in the Vic. Could I be on the slippery slope? Am I becoming a poor man’s Tatti-Bye-Bye?

I have tried though. I was in Oz for a while and then Uruguay but I recorded a few nice winning sessions in both places. In between, things have been very busy for Black Belt. We’ve been putting a new bunch of guys through the vigorous process we call The Grading and that throws up work for me to do. I also spent an enormous amount of time organising London Live.

It’s also been hard to find people to play against. I’ve started to see what those kids online who win at heads-up are always moaning about. I’ll go in the Vic and be the seventh person on the list for a nice £10/25 game, but when we get to asking the other six if they actually fancy sitting down and getting dealt a few cards, they all say they don’t really fancy the line-up. Half of them aren’t people I’d be rushing to sit down with anyway. Most of those people seem to be tucked up in Les Ambasssadeurs, in the sweet shop that’s tantalisingly nearby but permanently closed.

In the eleven sessions I have managed I’ve won a few quid, I also took a little time out for the races at Cheltenham. That was fun, really hard work and pretty profitable. Partly because I didn’t continuously do my brains, I realised how I enjoyed that so much more than football betting. A smart person might take a lesson from that.

I’ve been playing the GUKPT from the start. It was late into season two before I even missed an event, and I hope my support has been good for the tour. I certainly see the events as important in UK poker, and I’d be disappointed if the whole thing got swallowed up by the inevitably successful PokerStars UKIPT juggernaut.

The London leg is obviously one I look forward to slightly more than the others. Not only does it carry a little more prestige than Bolton or Thanet, but it also attracts a bigger field, and, with the increased buy-in, has a considerably bigger first prize. It’s also a 20-minute walk away.

I was determined throughout the GUKPT festival to put in some really long hours in the cash and make up for the quiet weeks that went before. That didn’t work out at all.

Partly because of the clashing EPT event, partly because of the recession causing one or two nice customers to disappear, and partly because of the lure of other venues, for the first time in three years we failed to get the £10/25 game going during a festival. I used the time doing Black Belt stuff and only actually played poker once. I made a good start in that particular side event, but eventually grumbled my way out of the casino after a frustrating evening.

I guess I must have been fresh coming into the Main Event. Instead of long cash sessions, I’d prepared with long meetings and occasional hours of sleep. My first table was fun, but not too easy. Jamie Sykes was the new young Internet whiz kid I got sat next to that day. He seemed to play pretty good and having him on my left rampaging wasn’t going to help. I busied myself by acquainting him with the various opponents and the details of their total lifetime live cashes. The table added up to over four million dollars. He’d never heard of any of them, but it probably slowed him down a little. I pointed out that the table next to us had almost as many cashes if you just counted seat 10. He had no idea who Surinder was.

After that table broke I got to knock out Mr. Sunar. That was in the middle of a rush that took me from 15,000 to 100,000 in three hours.

I was coming back on Day Two fifth of the 94 players and reckoned I was about 35 percent to make the final and 9 percent to win. I really wanted this one. I’d been looking forward to my Day Two at London Live the week before, but this was one I felt I had the chips to be dominant in. It wasn’t because of the increased prize money, but it was a different feeling.

The table they stuck me on wasn’t going to help much. I made a mental list of who the best five players left were and I had to sit with three of them. I constantly battled with Toby Lewis and John Eames. I reckon Toby shaded it on points and John was unlucky in that I hit hands against him. They both impressed though. The third of my five always impresses me. Javed Abrahams never seems to really do much but he always seems to have chips. He has a great table presence and a good image. He was basically a pain in the arse that I didn’t need on my left.

When they finally moved us I ended up playing with Javed again on my left and with Laurence Houghton, who was also in my five. It was only through extreme patience, some good fortune against Laurence, and a few good hands, that I managed to recover from a brutal beat with three tables left and make the final third in chips.

The final was going well early on. I knocked out Laurence after I decided to gamble and try and win a race, I was pretty active and I felt I had a good handle on a few of the players. The night before we’d been on two tables for a long time and I’d mostly been up against people whose games I know. With five left in the final those people had gone and I didn’t really know the players at all. I’d figured out that Leon was a bit wild though and Cuong was much more conservative. I’d perhaps let Leon burn himself out and see if I could rob Cuong occasionally.

I was lucky against Rumit and did well to come from fifth with five left to be the three-to-one chip leader heads-up. Apart from a small distraction when Roland offered to give me money if I’d take my shoes and socks off and put them on the table for one round without revealing to anyone why I was acting strangely, I had kept my focus well. I won with Q-5 against A-7, A-T against A-7 and A-J against Q-3. I could have lost any of those and been out.

The heads-up didn’t really last long. I limped with 8-8, the flop was 4-7-T… the turn was an eight. He had 5-6. It didn’t pair up. I don’t think he realised how much I had when he shoved the next hand with 10-7. The 10 on the turn wasn’t good for my pocket nines.

I was devastated. Cuong didn’t stop to shake hands or chat so I was free to spend the time feeling numb and dazed. It developed later into gutted and sick.

People congratulated me, but I felt like it was a disaster, not something to celebrate.

Andy Ward had a word with me later in the week. He said some things that are all quite sensible. They are also very true if you’re playing 20 online tournaments a night and the next one is 10 minutes away. It’s when you have to wait, look forward, sleep and travel long distances to play, when you have the chance to dream on the nights between, that the whole process of getting emotionally involved with the tournament takes place. It’s that involvement that makes the live game so different and it’s that reason why some Internet players find it hard to adapt.

Being aware of all that is an edge for me, but it doesn’t help if I fall into that trap myself. I would take that lesson into the next event. I was about to play one that I have more emotional attachment to than almost any event.

At least I’d be going there in some kind of form.

Neil Channing plans to regain the Irish Open title that he carelessly let slip through his hands last year.