Going for Gold

The last time I wrote a blog I was in Vegas. It was 100 degrees outside, I had just won $406,409, and I was still bloody moaning.

Since then, lots of nice people have voted for me and I won ‘Top Blogger’ at the British Poker Awards. I’d like to thank those people; they forced me to sit down and write one.

It’s been a while.

When I left you I had just played the final. I was totally stunned, deflated, gutted and depressed by the end of that tournament.

Not much different to usual then.

I went for a very quiet beer with a few of the lovely people who had been railing and Vicky got involved in a fight with some prostitutes.

As the kids might say… standard.

I obviously wasn’t going to play straight away the day after the final; I just didn’t fancy it. I was lolling around, kicking my heels and feeling a bit sorry for myself. After a couple of days of that I ventured outside and decided to pop to The Rio to get the money. The choices are: cheque, get it wired, or take it in chips and cash.

While I love to see Cæsars Entertainment making a healthy profit, I wasn’t going to allow them to decide on a ‘fair’ exchange rate and I couldn’t wait for the three months it could take for a cheque to clear, so I got myself a nice little pile of the $25,000-dollar chips. They aren’t too easy to change, but apart from that they are a good way to carry lots of money. Physically having the cash certainly helped me get used to the whole coming second thing.

A few days later I thought I was ready to play again so I bought into the $1,500 Ante Only tournament. It sounded like fun trying a new format that many people might adapt badly to. I arrived on my table in time for the second hand and I raised. I was immediately three-bet and then a cold four-bet joined in. This isn’t what I normally expect to see in a $1,500. I looked around. There were less than 1,000 players seated and someone had come along and removed 80 percent of the recreational players who love these $1,500 events.

I decided I wasn’t going to take any nonsense. On the second hand, several people limped, so I raised to try and take control of this lovely pot of dead money, only for a young guy on my left three-bet to about 300. I wasn’t going to take any of his shit. I didn’t want to call and play out of position, and four-bet folding didn’t seem fun, so I introduced him to ‘Mr. More’. “All you can eat baby,” I said to myself. I shoved in 4,500, but he called instantly with J-J and my 7c-6d failed to get there.

I skulked away. I was embarrassed. I actually felt guilty. $1,500 is a lot of money in a world where some people wake up each morning to walk 12 miles for water (we use Ocado). I may as well have thrown it in the desert.

I had a bit of a word with myself.

Before the Series started I was always banging on about how terrible the $5,000 events are and how I wouldn’t recommend anyone to play them. Some WSOP newbies would be busy telling me that they love the structure of the bigger events and I would be busy explaining that the structure should not matter a jot when deciding whether you’d like to play with a table of Internet pros or the average bunch you get in the $1,500s.

Now I had 16 chips worth $25,000 each and I was hungry for a bracelet. I wasn’t going to be put off though.

After five minutes I flopped quads and a man turned a queen to go with his pocket queens. That didn’t work out well for him and now I had enough chips to last the day. I don’t remember playing more than about six hands.

The table was full of pros the whole time and I decided to wait and watch. Flushy [James Dempsey] was there. He decided that everyone was doing too much waiting and watching and that he’d come to play. He got to about five times average, although he would have lost a last-longer to me.

On Day 2, the tables were a bit easier. I got a big stack by playing poorly in a pot. A man raised and for some reason I flatted with jacks. An oldish guy now went all-in. His hands were shaking as he put in about 25 percent of my stack. The original raiser had about the same as me and called. Easy fold right? Correct – they had Q-Q and K-K. I called and hit a jack.

After the second place, I decided I was here to win so with 400/800 blinds I was more than happy sticking 100,000 in on the flop with two overs and the nut-flush draw. I thought the man might fold or I could hit. He didn’t and I didn’t, meaning I was left with some loose change which I managed to turn into a min-cash. I was quite happy that I’d challenged for a bracelet again.

The trip sort of fizzled out after that. I busted a few comps without getting going. In the Main I had a decent stack during Day 1. The average was about 50,000 when I played a flip to have 150,000 or 70,000. It was a post-flop flip where I shoved with fold equity. After that one I barely won another hand.

Day 2 was miserable. I was on a table where having chips would be really good and I sat there folding and waiting. I ended up losing a flip.

I had some sweats with the Black Belt Poker players. As usual, while lots of people who say they can’t see the value in our site were running around trying to sell pieces of themselves, our boys were all in the Main.

None of them won it though.

After a few days R ‘n’ R and a nice boat trip on Lake Mead, it was back to wet and windy England.

People have been moaning a lot about the weather so I just haven’t gone out. I have alternated between doing Black Belt Poker stuff at home and in our office and sitting in front of the big sporting events of the summer.

First up was the Open and it already seems like years ago that Adam Scott did me a big favour and handed it to 25/1 shot Ernie Els. I backed Ernie on that last morning and had decent amounts on Snedeker and McDowell. When Scott looked like he had won I nearly turned the TV off. I actually stopped watching and decided to give the kitchen a big clean-up. I might try that again next time I’m after a result.

The Olympics was something that crept up on me. I hadn’t really thought of it that much in Vegas, although on the last day a cabby assured me that the transport system would collapse and that the whole thing would be a disaster (he knew someone from London, apparently).

I hate ordering things and I’m terrible at booking hotels and flights, so naturally I didn’t manage to get any tickets. Once it started though I was captivated – I had to go and see stuff. Thankfully, Patrick appeared with tickets and got me sorted for volleyball, beach volleyball, and the stadium for athletics. I found the whole thing massively uplifting and I watched the opening ceremony about eight times.

Punting on it was pretty manic. It turns out I’m terrible at betting on rowing. I think I ran pretty badly on the swimming and I did okay on the athletics. I just about broke even overall, mainly thanks to volleyball, which produced a 100/1 winner.

I’m quite proud of living in London. I’ve been here since I was 19. I love the city and the people and I was so glad I got involved. I really missed it for a few weeks after.

I guess the Olympics was one of the reasons that we didn’t get as many players as we hoped for in our Black Belt Nottingham Live event. We had never tried one in the summer and I guess having satellites when people are away was a factor. When we started doing these things it was quite novel, but now everyone has realised that reasonable buy-ins and good structures in events that are done in one weekend are what people want.

They didn’t want it enough for us though as we lost $25,000 in overlay. It was a bit frustrating to hear a lot of locals say they would have played if you didn’t have to buy in online. Obviously the reason we have run our live events is to encourage customers to our site. We also had people on hand to show players how to log in and deposit, but that didn’t seem to help. Dusk Till Dawn were great as usual and we had a fun weekend, but it isn’t the way I’d have chosen to blow a big portion of the promotional budget.

I felt most sorry for the staff. They worked so hard on trying to get people to commit and sign up early. I think I’ve started to realise that even if you offer people a free Porsche, hookers and blow, they would rather wait until the day to buy in to a tournament.

Notts Live was basically the only poker I played between Vegas and September. I have missed it but I can’t quite work out at the moment how I ever found time to play 12 hours a day for 300 days a year. I must have just been better organised.

Hopefully I’ll play a little in the next couple of weeks; I could do with winning something.

Neil Channing will next be playing on Black Belt Poker during Ninja Week. The events range from $5 to $50 and they start on Monday.