All Horse Players Die Broke

Forgive me, dear reader, but it has been well over a month since my last blog, and that one was a bit behind. I started writing about my life in poker in 2005 and I settled into a pattern of making sure I wrote something every two to three weeks. To those of you who look forward to hearing about me being slightly depressed and doing my bollocks in some interesting country or venue, I can only apologise. To those of you who were secretly hoping I’d given up on the whole idea, what the hell are you still reading this for?

I did play a little poker in the last few months, but not as much as has become ‘normal’ in the last five years.

I returned from Oz feeling good and set off to Nottingham to try and win the biggest live tournament in the UK.

The UKIPT Nottingham at Dusk Till Dawn was a fantastic event. Obviously, PokerStars are able to qualify hundreds of players through satellites and the promise of a big field gets all the UK live players to come and play. A six-figure prize pool for £500, a decent structure, a really well-organised weekend and a fun atmosphere was what you got for your money. Black Belt Poker put 19 players into the event and I went to play and to support the team.

I never really got going and I raced moderately, but I was excited to see a whole bunch of our players make the last 150. I was then a little sad to see none of them make the final.

The UKIPT have introduced ‘high-rollers’ with a buy-in of £1,500, and this was to be the first one. I guessed they’d sell out the 80 seats they had room for, and looked forward to playing all of these on the tour. Despite the brilliant organisation of the Main Event, these ones probably need some more thought. The tournament started at 5pm on Sunday, a time that was designed to let the super satellite play out. I think an earlier start would have meant that players could bust and then go and play online if they wish. They were forced to decide in advance to do one or the other. I believe the decision was based on getting the super satellite to finish and produce some extra players. The super ended up taking a while and the qualifiers had to join the tournament late. Putting them all on the same table was also definitely an error.

The main problem with the whole thing was that the structure was really too good. It would have been better to skip a couple of early levels and abandon the dinner break. We ended up playing until 5am and having to hang around until 4pm the next day to come back. Many players were coming back with little shot of getting paid and my 20 big blinds went in on the third hand of Day 2. I think the kind of players who entered this one are not so worried about getting ‘the experience’. They do not pay for their poker ‘by the yard’, and they don’t really care whether there is a 75/150 level. They want to double up or bust and move on to the next one; they don’t see sitting next to Devilfish for five hours as something that offers value in itself and they would rather have the maximum play at the business end.

I endured a bit of a wasted day hanging around ready to shove 5-3 off-suit. Generally, the UKIPT have been quick to learn from mistakes, so fingers crossed, and I would only have praise for DTD who are doing a great job.

I managed to play no poker at all for a few days after Nottingham, although I did teach some nice students at a Poker Academy on ‘Gathering Chips in Tournaments’. I must have learned something along the way as in my next event I got a decent stack for Day 2.

Castlebar is in County Mayo in the West of Ireland and somehow I agreed to support the Western Open, an event sponsored by Boyles. There was a €40,000 guaranteed prize pool for this €300 event and it attracted a really good turnout, easily ensuring no overlay.

I suffered a fairly bad one on Day 2 and went out a little way off the money, so I decided to dive straight into the €60 speed turbo. I was very proud to finish second of 40 runners and put another entry on my Hendon Mob. I’d imagine John Eames was glad he never came; I’d have killed him on our side bet. Mind you, I was pleased I never went to Copenhagen for exactly the same reason.

I don’t want you to worry that all these gaps with no poker have meant I haven’t been gambling. No need to fret, I’ve been having massive swings on a daily basis.

In October I decided to get back regularly into betting on horses and I rediscovered what I already knew: only around 10 percent of that game is about picking out your selections and the other 90 percent is finding somebody who fancies taking your bets.

On virtually every day that racing wasn’t abandoned this winter, you’d find me leaving the house and going on a nice long, walk while stopping off to place a few bets. I walked for miles and miles through February and March and managed to shed around 10 pounds. I also managed to gain a few pounds.

I did squeeze in the UKIPT Manchester just before the Cheltenham Festival. This one was held in the G Casino Manchester, a venue that strained a little to cope with the large field. I chose not to stay and play the High Roller this time as they had restricted the field to a very small size due to the lack of tables. It does look like the tour will struggle to fit in any ‘normal’ live venues if it gets any more popular. Maybe the buy-in will have to go to £750 next season.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to squeeze in the GUKPT at the Vic or any of the side events. You may question why Grosvenor would wish to bring their event forward a week this year so that the side events would clash with another major UK poker festival which was happening simultaneously in one of their own casinos. You may question it, but it seems nobody that works there did.

You may also ask why, given the fall in numbers, the main events have been changed to start at noon instead of 2pm, and you may wonder how you are refused the opportunity to call up and buy in as an alternate. My plan was to watch the racing and arrive at 6pm. I hoped to buy in as a last alternate by phone at 2.30pm and let my chips blind away for a few hours. Apparently, Grosvenor rules state that alternates must be to be on the premises to buy in. Nobody really knew why, but obviously rules are rules, and my £1,500 didn’t go into the prize pool, nor my £90 juice to Grosvenor. Praz will be sick when he realises.

It seemed a shame to miss the event; it’s one of the biggest UK tournaments of the year, I really wanted to improve on my previous second place and it’s in my home casino, but I certainly didn’t want to miss the racing and I’m glad I didn’t.

My favourite bit of poker since I wrote last was definitely the Black Belt London Live II. The Vic very kindly let us take the place over and I managed to get 414 lazy poker players to buy in to a live event via an online account, and sell it out in advance.

Lots of those players were kind enough to tell me how much fun it was. We certainly tried to give the players a great structure, so that they got a big tournament experience for a fraction of the price. We were very much helped by a lot of ‘big name’ players who came to support us and who seemed to enjoy themselves, and by Patrick and Tom and all the Vic staff who worked very hard.

I’m hoping they’ll have us again next year and, with their building work complete by then, maybe we can fit 800 players in. Selling all those tickets will probably kill me. It’s no wonder I barely found the time to play last month.

Next month Neil Channing will be mostly be playing poker on the tellybox.