Uncertain Feeling – Neil Channing It's quite a few years now since my good friend Yannis announced to me that he was going to give up a well paid City job in order to become a professional poker player. (This was long before doing this became passé). With not much internet poker available in those days, Yannis faced one real problem. Although he was an excellent tournament player, he was pretty terrible in the cash, particularly the PLO, which was really the only game at the time. If Monica was to be kept in the standard she was used to we needed a regular place to go where the players were worse than Yannis. This was how we came to spend many evenings on the train to Brighton, and many more hours hanging around at around 11pm hoping that "Coffee" Jeff would get knocked out of the tournament so that we could start a cash game. We'd then spend even more time waiting for trains back from Gatwick airport where we talked about the amazing play of "River" Ron, Harvey, Aktar and the boys and how different it was from the afternoons with the rocks in the Vic. In those days the game was at The Rendevous, a London Clubs' Casino, with its lovely views of the
Marina, great restaurant and a constant stream of models who were hoping to break into waitressing. The Grosvenor by the pier had only just opened and didn't even offer poker.
It was with happy thoughts of fun times past that I planned for a nice weekend in Brighton for the 5th Leg of The Grosvenor Poker Tour. The only hitch was I only got round to planning it in my mind. By the time I actually rang some hotels the town was like Bethlehem on December 24th, apparently some music festival had sold everything out.
With the weekend away idea scuppered, commuting was the next option. The Champ was able to drive us through the picturesque parts of Balham, Streatham, Norwood and Crystal Palace while grilling me on all the gossip from the Vic.
When I saw my original starting table I immediately spotted Albert. It's always good to see a familiar Vic face and Albert has been coming in as much as anyone for the last few months. A couple of other people noted my draw and offered to swap tables, but they couldn't have taken in the full line-up, which included some of the best players in the tournament. When I heard we would be first to break I made a plan to not get involved at all. This gave me a chance to enjoy the excellent banter between Flushy and Paul Parker, an ever present in those Rendevous days, and also to check on the quality of the dealing.
You may remember that in Manchester I was heavily critical of the dealers. I had felt that basic training on procedures was needed, and I was upset by the attitude of some of them. When I asked my first dealer where he was from and he replied "Manchester" things were a bit ominous, but I have to report that he did an excellent job and was certainly one of the best I've seen on the tour. When I went to my new seat having not played a hand, I was greeted by another excellent dealer. He got on with the job, concentrated, kept the game flowing and never made a mistake. I could focus on playing poker, which I did, soon moving to 17k with the help of a very nice 10s4c. I slightly wondered if I was being lined-up with all the good dealers just to stop me moaning, but I'm hoping it was all down to better training and an overall improvement.
One of the other criticisms I'd made in Manchester was that the local casinos were too mean to pay the Vic dealers to come on the tour. At Brighton, Kevin and his enormous London Weighting allowance, was allowed to join the tour. I wish he hadn't bothered.
Within minutes of his beaming, happy, smiley face arriving I was being dealt a pair of deuces. Given my very high accident rate with sets of twos in recent years, I contemplated passing for the raise, but I'm just too bad a player. J,8,2 rainbow looked like a safe flop, especially for the guy with a set of eights.
At least the dinner break lived up to the promises. The Champ had assured me we'd have fish and chips by the seaside and Harry Ramsden's didn't let us down. She was soon able to get herself knocked out, when Praz played the Jacks like a total mushroom and we both settled into the cash game.
The thing about cash poker is the people you really enjoy playing against, who bring back happy memories of enormous pots, just don't seem to hang around as long as the people who you can only ever remember losing to. With no "River" Ron or "Coffee" Jeff it just didn't seem the same. Even Parker couldn't get himself knocked-out of the tournament to join us. The line-up was one of fun people enjoying themselves, but I couldn't get into it.
I picked up a couple of sticks of BlueSq rock and said goodbye to my last tournament in England for a month or so.
By Sunday I was delighted to be back in the Vic. The boys were all keen to pass on their regards to Albert who carried a chip lead into the final.
"I know why you're all cheering for me,"
he noted astutely, before finally finishing an honourable fourth. I caught Declan actually licking his lips as I passed on the message to remind him we'd be starting at 2pm Monday.
Neil Channing will soon be heading off to the WSOP with the help of PokerVerdict.com