I had assumed I would be writing this report from the point of view of an interested observer, having departed on the first day along with the majority of the field. I am very glad I'm not doing so but for you the reader, I'm afraid this will be my first report from this particular pespective, so please be gentle.
Myself and Joe drove up to Bournemouth on Saturday, getting onto the motorway as the sort of rainstorm you expect to experience in the Amazon rather than on the M4 in the middle of June seemed to be taking hold. Luckily the storm was as short lived as Mr. Negreanu's starting stack in a WSOP rebuy tournament and we were able to make it to Gala Bournemouth in good time to take our seats at day 1B.
In theory there should have been 6 players left from the first day's play, with day 2 proper having only 12 players remaining, and already in the money. As it happened the 10,000 starting stack, despite a fairly fast blind structure, gave so much play that there were still 13 players remaining from Friday to join those who started and survived Saturday on the final day's play. If you've played in a $10,000 event I'm sure the structure seemed fast for 10,000 chips, but for me and for a £500 buy-in there was more play than I was comfortable with. My major concern was not getting pocket kings into an all-in situation pre-flop. I had decided to play a tight game and at the very least get some experience in a deep stack tournament, of which I had only played a couple before. And there was a major difference this time; there was an adequate supply of dealers and no chance of Mark Patrick being asked to step in. There was a real possibility I might make it to the first break.
I have to admit I was a little nervous to start, although I apparently wasn't the only one. Within 3 or 4 hands one of the other players at my table had managed to commit half his stack on a 2 tone board of Q,T,9 accidently re-reraising instead of calling by throwing in 1000 chips instead of 100s and ending up out of the tournament with his top two pair (no prizes for guessing his opponent's hand). A few hands later myself, and no doubt other players at the table, were wondering which of our fellow players was stupid enough to be getting all of their 10,000 chips in on the river with a flush from a pot only a couple of hundred in size, when the fourth diamond came on a paired board. When they turned over pocket jacks for the 2nd nut full house and pocket 5s for quads I realised worrying about getting a monster hand beaten was not going to help. If the poker gods decide your time is up there's nothing you can do about it.
I settled down and picked up hands and they were paid off. Coming into the first break I had close to tripled my starting stack, I would have been very pleased with that in a crapshoot let alone a deep stacked tournament. After a delicious steak dinner (Mark P is a much more generous host to me than he is dealer) it was back to work, but having settled down in the tournament it was back to square 1. A one Joseph Beevers was moved to my table, sat on my immediate right.
I'd never played poker at the same table as any of the Mob before in a live setting, and as I'm not shy about giving my opinions on strategy at Mob headquarters I did rather feel like I was back at school and taking an exam! Bar my first ever session of live play (a baptism of fire in a 7 handed self deal game at the Vic a few years back, with opponents who seemed to have taken personal offence that someone they hadn't spent the last decade playing with 12 hours a day had joined their game), it was my most nerve wracking experience at a poker table. I actually found myself shaking after dragging in one pot I'd taken down with what was to be my biggest bluff of the tournament, although having drunk about 8 cups of coffee in 4 hours probably didn't help. I didn't expect Joe to do me any favours but I also didn't expect him to raise my blind so relentlessly, which he did on the many occasions he had the opportunity. A little birdie told me afterwards he wasn't even bothering to look at his cards! Next time Beevers, next time.
Our table was eventually broken and I can't say I was sorry. With the blinds escalating Joe ran his ladies into cowboys and got no help to go out a couple of hours before the end of the day's play whilst I, having gone card dead, got a table tight enough that I could keep my head above water picking up blinds and antes without too much trouble until the final hour or so.
Coming back at 2pm on Sunday was my first '2nd day' of a tournament. I think it was only the 2nd tournament I've played that had a second day. It was very easy to get back into the swing of things and once again I picked up some cards, played them well and avoided any bad beats. It was a surprisingly quick journey into the money, playing falling so quickly in the end there wasn't even a chance to go hand for hand, but getting from 9 to 8 and the final TV table proved a little more tricky, and I eventually had to call for all but a couple of thousand of my chips with the monster 9,6 off when the only player shorter than me, the small blind, pushed all in on my big. I was very pleased that I found it in me to call when I may well have scraped up another spot passing there, pretty happy to see my opponent, who I knew was going to push with any two, held only a 6/4 advantage on me, and pretty bloody jubilant when I flopped a pair and I had doubled up, knocked out my opponent, and was at the final table proper. The guy I knocked out, Owen Locke, was somewhat a victim of his own ability. I had played several hours at his table and it was obvious he did know what he was doing and I fully expected him to push with any two cards there. Against a weaker opponent perhaps I could have found an excuse to throw my hand away.
GBPT TV table
Strangely enough I'm not sure I've ever been more relaxed playing poker as in my first appearance as a player at a TV table.
Already in the money, plenty of light, a table with 3 times as much space as I was used to and Thomas Kremser announcing every action, you could really concentrate on playing poker. The dealers were actually the only nervous people at the table! I eventually busted in 5th and will have to wait for the broadcast and hole cards to see just how I did. I know I played well prior to getting to the final, I'm not so sure about how I did once there, especially the 45 minutes or so prior to getting knocked out. It was a marathon in the end, Grub Smith started with a bit of a goatee and ended up with a full on beard by the time he and Pete Singleton had played the final hand.
Grub Smith & Pete Singleton
It's easy to enjoy a tournament when you go deep of course, but it must be said the organisation at Gala was excellent.
Plenty of food put on for the players, waitresses regularly coming around for drinks orders, dealers who were friendly but didn't make inappropriate comments (a real pet peeve of mine and regular occurence in many places).... in 20+ hours of play I only saw one dealer error of any significance, and that was quickly resolved with a ruling which was to everyone's satisfaction. Pretty good going in my opinion. My first real taste at tournament poker how it was meant to be played, especially on the first day with 200BB stacks, has certainly given me the desire for more. I'm sure I'll be investing some of my winnings in attending another of the Great British Poker Tour events in future.
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