22/06/2007

That second week rushed by. I just don't know where it went. I know where all the money went though - on bleedin' poker competitions. I'd now played seven tournaments on the trip including four bracelet attempts and was losing $14,280 for my efforts. I felt like I'd been playing well and had three times reached the last 10% of the field without making the money. Apart from the two occasions when I suffered early bad beats, I had amassed chips in each one and always felt like some kind of force in the event.

What was annoying me though was a slight lack of discipline. This year I came with a really specific game plan. I drew up a list of tournaments to play, and I intended to stick with it. In the end I found myself drifting into things I hadn't planned to play, or prepared for. The Bellagio tournaments certainly had good structures, more manageable numbers and soft fields, but they had never been part of the plan, and with no cashes at all, they were becoming a leak.

Another frustrating thing, that I certainly hadn't planned for was a real run of bad luck in the cash. By the end of week two I had put in eight long sessions. I often played for ten or twelve hours, and I expected to win. In almost every session I had been well up at some point, and occasionally a combination of fatigue and greed got the better of me.

Three hands where I flopped sets particularly killed me. The 18k that was in these pots could certainly have helped to support my tournament habit for a little bit. I took each beat pretty well, particularly the biggest one. I think Jerome is a fine tournament player and a top fella, but generally I'd happily travel 8000 miles to play him in a cash game. I just didn't want him to make a straight when his 3d5d met my AcAh on a flop of Ad8d6c. It was particularly painful as the other bloke stuck his in with the KdJd.

Although I was showing a $3500 profit on those sessions it didn't seem like a fair reward for the risk involved as well as the blood, sweat and tears. I was beginning to get disheartened.

Friday came round and with it a change of abode. Thanks to my old mucker Jeremy, my King Size Suite at THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay was costing about the same as a Travelodge in one of the dodgier parts of South London. I always thought THE Hotel was quite a pretentious concept and on arrival the place has a minimalist and slightly depressing feel to it. The colour scheme is largely black and brown and it's a little gloomy. It has all the character of the place in "Lost in Translation". I walk about, getting lost, and thinking someone should switch the bloody lights on.

After getting settled in I decide on a new game plan. I'm going to The Rio to play some One Table Satellites. These offer me a lower hourly rate than the cash games, but can be played with far less thinking, on auto-pilot, and involve a limited risk.

The $525 satellites give you 2000 chips on a fifteen minute clock with blinds starting at 25/25. The winner gets ten $500 tournament chips (which can be used for buy-ins, more satellites or traded for cash) plus $120. On buying in you also get a $10 food discount voucher, which effectively means the house takes just $3 per player. Someone at Harrahs has really made a mistake here. It's the one area of this year's WSOP where they've forgotten to totally rape us.

I don't usually like to denigrate my opponents in my diaries to you, but for this lot I'll make a small exception. My friend, the legend that is Francis Rohan, would have had a field day. I can just hear him now:

"Where did we find this lot?...I'm telling you son, they can't play, these Yanks... What about the geezer with the King Jack, eh, eh...if brains were dynamite he couldn't blow his hat off... and the ice-cream with the pocket threes... he must have thought they were wild cards... These people shouldn't be allowed out on their own... I'd like to be locked up with them with money."

I'll just say that I spent most of the satellite suggesting that they should come to London and visit, and that the games in the Vic start at 2pm. I locked up a profit of $4170 after a (very small) saver with the second place guy.

Flushed with this success I entered another unscheduled WSOP event. It was me that suggested to Daniel Negreanu, after a long chat with Mike Matusow last year, that Harrahs needed to really look at their scheduling. Saturdays are always the busiest days of the week and they should have a $1500 NLH tournament to give the punters what they want. I'm glad to report that these have been the busiest tournaments of the series and I was one of the 2300 who lined up for this one.

My table was placed in the "regular" Rio poker room, about a fifteen minute jog from the Amazon room. The beauty of this was that, rather than move one player at a time all that way, we would consolidate our tables within that small area. When it was finally time for the whole table to up sticks and miss 20 minutes of the level to relocate, our table, and all remaining ones in the same spot, had about twice the average for the tournament.

Unfortunately it was around now that the poker gods decreed I would be dealt lots of pairs of 6s,7s and 8s out of position so that I could bleed lots of chips trying to flop sets, and that the average number of over cards on those flops would come in at 2.76. I found myself with 11k and the blinds at 400/800 when I was all-in against two opponents holding QcQs. They had somehow managed to get it in with 99 and 77. Obviously a nine immediately came off before four hearts reminded the guy with the sevens that luck can be a factor in this game.

After spending some time trying to say the right things to Martin Green and Praz who had just gone out 11th and 10th in the previous days comp I went off to bed. I was feeling a little gloomy but I bet they felt worse.

Carlo Citrone made one of his better, (and quicker), reads the next day.

"Why don't you just have a day off and lie by the pool. You don't look up for it today."

It took me $11k to realise he was right. Long after the Bellagio's $1500 tournament had ended for me I bumped into Praz and Karl while I was attempting to quietly skulk away to bed. I was actually embarrassed. Much of the money had gone in a very tilty blackjack session and I was going to have to work very hard to recover.

I think those two probably see me, slightly as a Joey Knish character, steadily getting the money but not the glory, not risking everything, the sensible side of poker and I think I get some respect for that. They have far less experience than me of this game, and this town, and facing decisions about bankroll management, while in a strange place a long way from home, must be hard for them. I've often tried to steer them right with advice and guidance. I should be the one who knows better.

I spent Monday lounging about in my suite, surfing the internet and generally moping about feeling miserable.

By the evening I was ready to go out. I made my way to the Rio to offer support to PokerVerdict supremo and top bloke David Gross who had made the last three tables of the $3k NLH, along with my mate JP Kelly (he can't be 21 surely - he looks about 17). Unfortunately I got there just as they both were eliminated.

Things went from bad to worse when David decided to wind down in a satellite with me. Faced with two people in Poker Verdict shirts the woman who was left fighting for the $7k with us screamed the place down. She claimed we were colluding against her. Given that I had known seven of the people in the satellite and that I'd made a reasonable attempt to knock David out with five left I thought this a preposterous idea. I was absolutely enraged. I can't remember exactly what I said but I think there was a fair bit of swearing and liberal use of the word "bitch" The woman in question started crying but soon cheered up when she got the money.

My head was now in a right old state. My mum emailed me some sensible advice about how to approach the game and positive thinking. It was the words of my great friend Paul Parker that finally turned me round though.

I was reading the poker blog of Rob Sherwood, a very nice fella from Manchester who's been here from the start, and is running about as well as I am. He was sounding a bit fed up and Paul had obviously been reading.

Paul to me is the consummate pro. People may take the piss out of him for being a tight player and always looking to save a pound note, but he is the professional who most understands that he is running a business. Paul Parker PLC is one of the most smoothly run poker businesses out there. His advice to Rob was to only play when you want to play, to remember to enjoy it, that there's no point running away from real life and a job if this just turns into a clock-punching exercise that you hate, and to go to work with a positive mental attitude and a smile on your face.

I read it and grinned. I thought of Paul pretending to swash and buckle, encouraging everyone to have another glass of wine and put the straddle on, while "secretly" playing no hands. I knew I could turn this around. Day one of my trip would be tomorrow. I remembered the words of my friend Jay Lovinger:

"Playing poker for a living has a lot of bad things to go with it, but you certainly can't beat it for the lack of heavy lifting involved."

Neil Channing will be trying his hardest to show a profit from now on, with the help of PokerVerdict.com.