21/11/2008

I just looked through my diary and counted. I have played twenty-one tournaments that carried European ranking points this year. From those tournaments I have managed five final tables and two other cashes. The five final tables have given me almost six thousand rankings points. Jason Mercier, who is currently top of the rankings, has probably played far less tournaments than even an old cash grinder like me. He has four final tables and has cashed for one million, eight hundred thousand euro.  

Must be nice being him.  

After I got back from Ireland I started to map out a campaign. There are over two thousand names on the list of European ranked players. I've never even finished in the top twenty. I don't think I've ever played as many as twenty tournaments before. I certainly don't remember winning the Irish Open before. It would seem a shame not to at least have a crack at finishing number one. I may need to get to 7500 points.  

First up it was time for the 888.com Poker Open. It's a pity they don't give away ranking points in these TV things, I could clock up a few while barely leaving London. My heat was definitely not as easy as some of them. We had an Internet qualifier who was annoyingly good and a snooker player who could roughly play. Ken Doherty last week, Willie Thorne is in the heat before me and nice Dennis Taylor is in mine. I mean what is it with these fellas? I don't pop down to The Crucible and put my name up for a game do I?  

Jacks against kings might be impossible to escape blind on blind four handed, so I don't have to spend an enormous time in Maidstone that week, which suits me just fine.  

Back at the Vic things don't go too smoothly. A complete tosser purporting to be an Australian tourist comes to give us a spin in the game. He obviously doesn't realise I was aware that he's a professional who was playing in Maidstone the day before. He manages to win a couple of enormous pots in which he made fundamental errors, convinces himself that he invented the game, and gets the title of worst winner of anyone I've experienced this year. His only smart move was not to come back and press his luck before leaving for home. My record in £30k coin-flips this year moves to 0/3 and my tally for set under sets in November goes up to three.  

With a small raiding party sent off to Budapest without me, and a slightly larger team looking out their English/Dutch phrase books, I'm continually asked if I'm off to Amsterdam this year. I'm not quite sure why I didn't go in the end, but it had something to do with not wanting to give up a whole week to play just a couple of tournaments and a fear that the cash games would be chaotic and horribly raked.  

I settle on a trip to familiar territory and get myself back onto the Grosvenor Poker Tour. Due to excellent organisation on my part a return standard class rail ticket to Blackpool sets me back £180, which doesn't compare favourably to a return flight to Amsterdam plus £50 spare as spending money. I settle myself in The Big Blue and decide a quick walk on the beach might provide some valuable inspiration. The wind blows hard and it's pitch black. I can't find the entrance to the steps up to the promenade and stick my foot into a deep hole full of sea water. Marvellous.  

The monkey freezeout isn't much fun. We get the same dealer for two and a half hours. She decides that I'm a rude and arrogant tosser who definitely shouldn't be listened to when making suggestions about how best to operate the game. I decide that she's totally incompetent and ought to get some training. Eventually things become a little heated and they bring on a new dealer. Immediately I get a chance to reraise this annoying geezer who continually raises my blinds from his button. He dwells a bit, asks how much my all-in is, looks at the effect it would have on his stack, calls, counts the chips out, fiddles around, looks at my K 9 and then turns over his two red aces. Nice.  

The PLO tournament gets around ninety runners and I buy six tickets including one for myself. With twelve people left three of the strongest players are part of the squad. It's a bit disappointing that one failed to make the final and none of them won it, but it's good to get on the scorecard.  

This leg of the GUKPT is about my fifth this year and I played in all ten of season one. I've managed set under set four times in the early stages of these events and also flopped the nut full-house against flopped quads in one. I made a decision to arrive late, miss the first ninety minutes and come in when I'd had a bit more sleep. The fire alarm at The Big Blue had other ideas.  

It was the actual first hand when my A A matched reasonably well with the A K 3 board. He didn't actually flop a flush in case your wondering. His Q 10 connected well with the jack on the turn instead. My other seventy-five hundred went on the second hand I played, a mere 18 minutes in. Lawrence Gosney called a small raise from late position and I felt it would be rude not to at least take a flop with a pair of nines from the blinds. A flop of 9 Q 4 would seem a perfect way to smash up the original raiser and his pocket kings. On the way to the cash table it occurred to me that if Lawrence had raised with his queens I'd have probably got a chance to play a third hand in this tournament.  

The cash games in the Vic have been so massive and wild recently that when travelling elsewhere, nothing can ever really compare. Blackpool made a great effort though. I got them all into the concept of £10/£25 nlh. The money on the table would easily buy a couple of reasonably sized houses near the casino, and maybe two-hundred people stood around watching the game at one time or another. They saw me get into a £10k hole before digging myself out of it.     

The last day of these GUKPTs can often be an anti-climax. The main event was a bit of one as my two remaining investments, who had been third and fifth of the thirteen survivors going into the day, could only finish seventh and eleventh. Neither of them made anything close to a mistake in their exit hands and I was both pleased and disappointed for them.  

I'd just have to rely on myself to get a result for the trip. There's nothing like a good old fashioned rebuy-crazy crapshoot to end the week and the £200 one here fitted the bill perfectly. I had a couple of people on my table who seemed prepared to cooperate and I soon spent £1200 on building a stack. If I could just beat these 52 people I'd be very close to the top of the rankings and have a seat in the Champion of Champions freeroll locked-up.  

With a dozen people left I had half the chips in play, but after doubling four people up on the final, (I must brush-up my racing), I was left trying to beat my three opponents with just three big blinds in my arsenal. Eventually the second bottle of champagne kicked-in and James Browning beat me heads-up.  

I guess the £4600 might be more useful than the 360 ranking points when I get round to paying my phone bill this month, but they both seemed pretty important.    

Neil Channing will be carrying the fight to the Victoria Casino. Some of the time he'll be wearing a mysterious new T-shirt.