28/02/2007

The Power of Positive Thinking

Neil Channing 'Bad Beat'

I hadn't been massively looking forward to the first leg of the Gala GB Poker Tour. You'd think I might have been. A nice chance to visit the lovely city of Edinburgh for the first time, and spend a weekend there, while playing a stress-free 130 runner monkey NLH tournament where the winner would get 25k.

Having the 'flu for a few days before leaving hadn't helped. I'd been so bad I'd even taken two days off from the Vic. A small rally and a lot of Lemsip got me safely through the flight, but on arrival I started to feel really weak.

The cab driver from the airport amused me slightly. He was able to instantly diagnose 'flu and recommended "a nice hot toddie". He asked me if I drunk whisky and, when I wasn't enthusiastic enough for his liking, he recommended a half bottle of rum. Not wanting to bring the subject round to my pancreas, and worried that he might think of me as a soft Southern nancy, I agreed that I'd be getting stuck into one just as soon as I got to the Hilton.

That journey involved driving through the traffic caused by the Italy/Scotland rugby match at Murrayfield. I was now doing really well on my I-Spy Scotland book as I saw several Kilts, Sporrens and orange wigs as well as my alcoholic taxi driver. I'd only been here twenty minutes.

In the end I got to bed with a nice cup of tea and Noel Edmonds.

I've never really embraced the magic of "Deal or No Deal" before - I generally find myself working out the exact amount that they should be offered to three decimal places and it kinda spoils it. Today's episode was terrific though. The geezer had only four reds and a load of blues left but he kept refusing the deal, insisting that he was going to get 100k, which he did. Noel put the whole thing down to mind over matter.

I went off to the Maybury Casino full of hope and determination.

The Maybury is a lovely art-deco building and it was packed for a Saturday night of eating-out, drinking and gambling. There were even a few poker players here, and I soon bumped into Surindar Sunar, Arshad Hussain, Liam Flood, Iwan Jones, Matthew Stevens and three quarters of the Hendon Mob (Ross, Barny and Joe). I was also pleased to see my recent colleagues - the lovely ladies from Presentable Productions Cardiff, who were here to film the tournament to be shown on ITV4.

After a quick TV interview, we settled down to play. I have to say that I thought I played some good poker, and I was definitely enjoying myself. I had Joe on my table for the EPT in Dublin and found him there again. He caught some cards and was going along nicely until he lost an enormous 60/40 which ultimately lead to his demise. Matthew Stevens was also on the table and he played very well. He must be close to the best of the snooker playing poker players, and he's also a really good laugh. With a nice room to play in, good dealers, a sell-out crowd which didn't include too many pros, and 5k added by Gala this was starting to seem like a great trip.

It was around this point that I realised they were never going to get to the final nine by 4am, as they had planned to. There were still 90 players left and we only had three hours to go. I had a morning flight booked and wasn't keen to have to change it in order to come back with little chance of winning. I had around twice the average so maybe now might be a time to look at the structure and make a plan.

The man who I asked for a copy of the structure from looked a bit confused. It seems that people don't tend to worry about such things a great deal in Scotland. He eventually was able to remember the important bits which confirmed to me what I already suspected. In about another hour this tournament would become an enormous crapshoot. Excellent.

From here on in, with blinds soon to practically double twice, it was time to steal everything that wasn't nailed down. I was going to become chip leader or die trying.

My death was brilliantly timed. I managed to run into aces just before the real rush for taxis arrived.

The flight the next morning was fun. It took me a while to realise that all these celebrating Italian rugby fans were actually celebrating Italian rugby players. It was actually quite heart-warming to watch these enormous, lumbering, black-eyed and bruised hulks proudly pointing to their pictures in the Sunday papers and showing the stewardesses. The slightly stereotyped male flight attendant, appeared to be having a Sunday morning to remember.

I may not make it to Stockton-on-Tees, Leeds or Nottingham, but I woudn't put you off trying out the new tour.

Neil Channing is sponsored to play poker tournaments by PokerVerdict.com