And the Winner Is…

What you need, in my opinion, to make a good poker game, is a few different variables. A few short stacks, some much bigger ones, a couple of rocks, a loose goose and maybe a little light steaming. You don’t really need to have lots of bad players, but it obviously helps.

The TV poker shows that Matchroom produced always got described as crapshoots. I described them as crapshoots and I really liked them. With 100k,000 in starting chips and blinds moving up from 1,000/2,000 every 21 hands, they were pretty fast. It still took about four hours to finish one now.

People today seem to constantly waffle on about structures and extra starting chips are very much the vogue. These shows are now eight-handed and they take at least six hours starting with three times the chips.

People used to often say that watching all-ins and races made boring TV and the deeper stacks would induce more flop play. What it seems to have done is give everyone more wiggle room. You’re now able to three-bet without committing and instead of three-bet shoving the shows have become all about four-bet shoving. There are even less flops than before.

I found myself playing the World Open in a heat of people who well understood all that stuff and we were all still in by the fourth level. I think I was the only one by that stage to have called a bet out of position – I’m so 2004.

I busted first and was happy to get out of there.

What with the crowded poker schedule and everything I decided to miss the Million Dollar Cash Game, just the $100,000 to sit down and play $300/600 with Antonius, Dwan and Ivey. I also missed the last regular UKIPT event of the season in Dublin.

I was staying in London to play the English Poker Open. It was the second year of this event, and the first time it had been in London. Last year I travelled on the train to Dusk Till Dawn where I was surprised to see Phil Hellmuth among the players. I found out afterwards that he’d gone to a poker tournament by mistake. He thought it was in Notting Hill!

I chose to play Day 1B on the Sunday, thinking that the lack of Internet kids would make for an easier field. I ended up knowing the name of virtually everyone who played that day and I barely found a soft spot the whole time. I’ve no idea how I survived the day.

On Day 2 I lasted a little while due to an early double-up with aces before going out just in time for an important evening engagement.

I’ve been writing for Bluff magazine for about four years now so I guess I had an extra edge in an Internet vote they were promoting for the British Poker Awards. I thought it would be nice to win one though so I did my best to whore myself online.

The other nominees in the Best Cash Player Award were mostly too old school to even have broadband, let alone to start an Internet election campaign.

Despite that, I was surprisingly excited about winning and nowhere near as cynical as I’d surely be about the whole thing if I lost. Vicky seemed happy to win an award for making a great contribution until I pointed out how happy the Vic regulars were to receive her recent contributions.

I was also very excited for Chufty. We chose the moment he received his Best All Rounder award to announce that he is to be our newest Black Belt Poker professional.

Richard has been a friend of mine for a few years and I think he’s a great player. He’s been quite interested in everything I’ve been doing with Black Belt Poker and we’re happy to have him involved as a great player, an ambassador and a good guy to have on your team.

After a bit of a late night celebrating our ‘Oscars’, it was a rude awakening to show up at The Empire at noon for the six-max event and be told I was the 120th alternate. I’m obviously an idiot for not buying in weeks before, but I couldn’t help thinking that the WSOPE could have figured out that this one would be popular. It’s a five-event series, this one is the second cheapest and it’s in the most popular format of the most popular game.

I got in after an hour. I was just in time to get bluffed by Sam Trickett when I made a value bet on the river. It’s one of those spots when he knows my hand and he obviously can’t bluff given the size of the pot and what I’ll have left. Unfortunately he knows that I know that he knows.

Sam has been playing with a great deal of confidence lately and this coupled with the fact that he keeps sitting on my immediate left has made him a total nuisance in the cash games. I played a session that week where he did the same thing to me twice more. It put me off playing cash and sent me back to the tournaments for a bit.

The Pot Limit Omaha event at the WSOPE was a bit of a damp squib for me. I never got anything going on my first table and eventually got moved and busted in a hand where if I’m being kind I’ll have to think that my fellow pro must have misread his ‘hand’.

I thought the £1,000 No Limit Hold’em might be my last WSOPE event of the year. With no Betfair qualifiers, a lack of genuine idiots and rich nutters around and my overall lack of confidence, I was doubting if I wanted to put £20,000 into two tough events.

I didn’t mind putting £10,000 into an easy event though. Although you only get 3,000 starting chips I believe this event could be one of the best of the year. Everyone in London and UK poker seems to play and the bracelet lure brings out lots of people who wouldn’t usually play the £1,000 events on the circuit.

I invested my money by buying in all the Black Belt Poker pros who are Blue Belt or higher. I felt like I had a great gamble although, like me, most of them failed to last through Day 1. The only one that did managed to lose a race just as it was getting exciting.

With the form I was in there was no way I was going to spend £10,000 on a lesson from the Internet’s leading heads-up specialists. My plan was to go to the Vic and throw some money at the £200 rebuy. Maybe I could get some chips and enjoy playing a few hands to get the confidence back.

The phone rang, it was 4.20pm. The heads-up started at 5pm and the rebuy at 7.30pm. It was one of the Scandis from the Vic. He wondered if I was interested in a last-longer in the heads-up tournament.

I spent 10 minutes telling him why the heads-up was a bad investment and how terrible I was at heads-up. I nearly talked him out of putting me in it.

When I got to the Empire with three minutes to spare and managed to draw a first round bye, then had a nice few hours rest before bashing up my second round opponent, I was starting to think my luck might be changing…

Neil Channing will soon be whining about his lack of confidence and his rotten luck in the WSOPE Main Event and the EPT which he played for Black Belt Poker.