29/10/2009

What Is It You Actually Do for A Living?

Neil Channing 'Bad Beat'

When I was at school the careers department made you fill out a detailed questionnaire. It was actually more of a vocational aptitude test to attempt to match you to your perfect career.

It turned out I would make a good actuary.

An actuary is someone who works in the insurance business, whose job it is to assess the chances of stuff happening. He sets the odds on people’s houses burning down, people’s cars getting stolen and people snuffing it, by analysing where they live, whether their car is a popular model for joyriders, and whether eating too much fried food is really that bad for you.

About 12 years ago I had a massive career change. Circumstances dictated that I was to leave the world of underemployment, after a reasonably long run at it, to get a job.

I was to become an actuary after all. I was an actuary for sports events. It was my job to guess how many corners there would be in football matches, how many favourites would win at race meetings and how many shots certain golf tournaments would be won by.

The night before I started my job I called my new boss Mark to ask what time I was expected in. He seemed puzzled by the question.

“Just come whatever time you feel like it.” He replied.

I worked in that office for four years and Mark always came in at whatever time he felt like it. He never generally felt like it much before 1pm. I soon learnt that “when you felt like it” was always the best time to come in.

With the madness of the WSOPE and EPT subsiding, you’d think a period of rest might be called for.

A car was waiting outside my house to deliver me to the Sky Sports Studios at 8am on what, for some people, was Day Four of the Main Event of the London EPT. By 3pm I was back in the Vic trying to squeeze the last drops of value out of the EPT steamers and the WSOPE stragglers, who should really have flown home by now.

The Vic was still buzzing and when the car came for the next three mornings at 8am, I was starting to feel the effects of night after night of three hours sleep.

I think the shows went well though. I enjoyed them. It’s fun to watch the best players in the world displaying their hole cards and their whole game. When you’re commentating you have to concentrate so much harder. I’m very conscious of trying not to always speak with the benefit of seeing the cards. I try to put myself in the players’ shoes, try to educate the viewer a little, and try to amuse if possible. Sometimes I think I manage it and it’s a good feeling.

On Thursday I decided I should balance my range of TV studios attended, and so I travelled across London from Sky to the East End.

The PKR Heads Up Grand Slam was a $10,000 buy-in tournament which many of the world’s top players had decided to stay a bit longer in London to play.

In 2008 I played the heads-up tournament at the WSOP and Ketul Nathwani whacked me within 25 minutes of our first round match. In January this year I played the heads-up tournament at the Aussie Millions and some kid who looked about 12 (his skateboard was parked under the table, smashed me to pieces within 40 minutes of the first round starting and in March Tom Bentham bashed me up in the first round of the Vic heads-up GUKPT event without breaking sweat.

In this tournament it took the Danish Internet qualifier about three hours of our first round match to send me back to the Vic. If it wasn’t for the nice Canadian online whiz kid I may have lost on the week.

Matchroom have been promoting and organising most of the TV tournaments in the UK for several years now. Some time ago they settled on a formula where you start with 100,000 chips and play 21 hands a level. Some time ago I worked out my formula for playing them, and it’s all gone reasonably smoothly.

They had to go and bloody meddle with it didn’t they?

Making the tournaments eight-handed and giving out 300,000 starting chips while the levels remain the same, should make the programmes longer, should allow for more post-flop play and should allow the Internet players, who wish to three-bet and four-bet pre-flop, a lot of extra space for manoeuvre.

Marvellous.

This old live pro was able to recover from having three percent of the chips five-handed to get to fifty percent of the chips three-handed. We were then told we had to stop at the bewitching hour of 11pm and return at 10am the next day. It’s to do with the cameramen’s union.

Mark wouldn’t have felt like coming in for 10am and nor did I. Our three-handed match resumed at 4pm and I was beaten heads-up by a girl a couple of hours later. The girl was a world champion though, and she played very well.

Luckily they had a nice cash game to play afterwards. It felt really good to make it £2,000 to go preflop with A-A. It was even better when Mr. Big started to go into the tank. When he said all-in I was mentally preparing my gracious face. I don’t want to bash up Mr. Big, he’s my mate.

I needn’t have worried.

The runners-up heat the next day did start at 10am. I didn’t get beaten heads-up. I was third.

I stayed to commentate on the final. It was fun. FullFlush was there and he played very well, and although I was sad to see Jennifer go out I was happy that my good friend Phil Laak managed to win a poker tournament.

It was nice to go out and celebrate with them afterwards, and I had a late night. They’d be struggling to get up for their long flight the next day, and I’d just be getting up when I felt like it to fly to Dublin.

Neil Channing rushed to Dublin to take his place among the 1,500 players in a $250 tournament.