Plenty of Time to Relax

"Do you need any help in finding the elevator?"

The lady at The Bellagio check-in asked. If she’d have glanced at her computer she’d have seen I’ll have lived in their fine hotel for ten weeks by the end of this year. (I had a few weeks at The Gold Coast and a couple of nights at Caesar’s).

This trip is to get away from the coldest winter in years and to chase the dream of the Five Diamonds tournament. Those lovely people at have maintained the faith and are backing me for most of the competitions.

I have long been of the view that the fields are much easier generally in the States, although the very top players are better than their European counterparts (this could easily be down to weight of numbers and more tournaments to gain experience in). Unfortunately, my first table of the $2500 no-limit hold ’em, (they’re all NLH – haven’t you heard about the TV poker revolution?), is not a great advert for travelling. Captain Tom Franklin (SO smug – if he was made of chocolate he’d eat himself), Paul Darden (strong contender for World’s Coolest Man) and Men "the Master" are my main opponents.

Men is in the hunt for Player of the Year and was playing today’s tournament, which started at noon, despite being in the final of yesterday’s at 4pm. I warned him that if he was thinking of bringing some of his final table chips to our game he should note that we hadn’t got any chips over the $500 denomination yet.

He looked shocked for just one second before breaking into a smile and informing me:

"I’m not an amateur you know."

For those who like to discuss the contrasts between live and internet play and the styles of poker between continents my knock-out hand is interesting. It is undoubtedly true that it is impossible in any poker game, anywhere, for any amount of money to get someone to pass the nut flush draw on the flop. It certainly wasn’t possible for me today.

The second tournament was $3000 NLH (see how the variety works) which meant 6000 chips, 1hr levels, 200 runners and $200k 1st prize. These tournaments can be so draining. Hour after hour of waiting, waiting, waiting and then "BAM" one key hand can change everything.

My key hand took place at 12.01 and was the first hand. I was dealt Ad10d and looking around the five players who had so far showed up I was pleased to see one particularly loose player limp under the gun. This guy has just won a couple of big tournaments this year and thinks he invented the game. It’s widely considered over here that he is going to soon be introduced to the concept of "regression to the mean".

I knew that if I raised he would call and I could play him heads-up with position so I made an oversized raise which he instantly called. The flop was interesting K, 10, 10 and when he checked I made a weak lead which he called. The turn was an off suit 5 which we checked and on the non-flushing 6 river card he bet big. I could, and maybe should, have just called but I chose to raise and we put all the money in. His KK was good and I had an unscheduled day-off.

Ironically, since I replied to The Poker Channel’s recent "What is your poker New Year’s Resolution going to be?", by telling them I’m giving up A10 I have been knocked out of three big tournaments with the wretched "hand".

I’ve been able to spend a bit of time this trip with my parents who are here on holiday.(it’s much easier to meet here than go all the way to Devon). One nice meal out we’ve had was in The Eiffel Tower restaurant. My friend Steve has a

long held theory that the higher a restaurant is and the more it rotates the worse the food is. This, and the Stratosphere restaurant, must be the exceptions to this excellent rule.

With the enforced day-off plus the scheduled one on Saturday I’ve played a bit of cash in the $10/$20 NLH game. It’s been a pleasure during this to watch some of the veteran old-timers such as Mike Carson and Carl McKelvey play super-aggressive poker and show the young internet crowd a thing or two.

These games contain some of the world’s best players as well as enough rich lunatics, and it’s been great to be winning and learning at the same time. Having spent so much time playing PLH in The Vic this year it’s been interesting and quite hard adapting to the different structure, new players and different format. Luckily it’s also been lucrative.

Neil Channing is sponsored by and