So Near, So Far

I didn’t really win any pots for a few hours of that Day 1 of event #43. I had K-K and it came an ace. I had a straight draw, turned a flush draw and missed. I had 8-8 and it came 8-7-6… 5. Marvellous.

I was sort of thinking it’s a shame to be playing one of my 10 events and getting a bad table draw. I actually remember thinking this would be a good one to use all my bad luck on.

It does show you that the stuff people say about the structures being too fast are just not true. If you focus on playing small pots early you should be able to survive the odd backward step and still chip up.

They moved me to a new table. I found A-K versus A-Q. I found J-J versus T-T. I check-raised all in with a flush draw. Keep it to yourself but I tried out a couple of bluffs.

I got through the day with a decent stack.

I do remember moaning that I only ever seemed to eliminate people with 10-big blind stacks but I did get about 5 of them.

On Day 2 I had a great start. I flopped top two in a pot and a guy tried to bluff me. Another guy tried bluffing me on every street. Luckily for me the nine on the river that gave him a straight made me a house. I saw that guy a couple of days ago and assured him I was calling with 9-9 on the Q-J-J-7 board, whatever the river was. I really meant it too.

With 100 players left from the 2,770 that started I was a little below average. I limped the small-blind with K-Q and called a raise. I check-called on the queen high flop. On the turn the guy went mental with bottom pair. His hand was 4-2 off. That definitely helped.

Ash Mason is one of the English guys I haven’t played with much. Everyone seems to think he’s great at poker and he was aggressively bossing our table. I bluffed him with five-high and he bluffed me off A-A when the board came Q-Q-x-x-x by check-raising the river. We seemed to be in every pot. The other players thought we were both totally mental. I was getting a lot of medium strength hands though. Fairly sure he was just totally mental.

He seemed to be three-betting me rather a lot. I assumed that just occasionally he did that with less than a premium hand. I got dealt a pair of eights and he three-bet yet again. I had totally the wrong stack to four-bet. I certainly couldn’t do that and fold this hand and I didn’t fancy calling out of position. I shoved. It was a big overshove. He folded. I was relieved.

Shortly afterwards I found another nice pair of eights in the big blind and this time I called another Ash raise. The flop came eight-high and he tried very hard to make me fold. He needed to hit his double-gutshot and I needed that not to happen. It didn’t.

The rest of the day was pretty easy. I cruised along until there were just 20 players left and I was able to dominate.

The only thing that distracted me at all was the floorlady.

I generally like to keep a decent number of small denomination chips in my stack. If I have a period of folding a lot I find it very demoralising to have to keep getting change. Also if a new player joins the table I prefer them not to see me with no small chips. I want them to think I’ve been active on the table – maybe they will be less willing to attack me.

The floor people often seem obsessed by removing the small chips. Sometimes it can be 30 minutes prior to the end of the level when they start fussing around telling players to "get one guy to buy up all the greens." For the experienced players this is no problem – it takes a couple of minutes and it’s sorted. If you ask a less experienced player you may as well of asked some of them to explain Higgs boson. Sometimes they don’t play a hand for 15 minutes because they are so focused on this new important task. They are definitely going to pass any marginal hands that they may have played out of boredom.

My whole game is based on playing pots with the inexperienced players where they are out of position with marginal hands.

I didn’t mind the floorlady asking me to change up a rack of black chips but when I politely mentioned that I’d rather not, I really didn’t appreciate her telling me she could do it forcibly.

I steamed through the last 30 minutes without playing a hand.

On Day 2 I came back feeling good and immediately lost a pot with A-Q versus A-T and then with T-T versus A-5. It wasn’t a great time for the floorman to come and demand to colour up my chips.

For at least an hour I was now on total tilt. I decided to whine to Jack Effel about it. Jack is great – I whined to him on Twitter and he came straight away. I pointed out to him that I love the way he runs the events and that I am generally slightly more in favour of the way the Series runs than a lot of people. We had a frank exchange of views. He knows I was cross but that I’m still a big fan. He has a tough job and he does it very well.

Once I got my shit together again I started to win a few pots. I did a little more bluffing (not too much, I’m obviously still a massive nit), and I got a pair of queens. The Hungarian man that I’d clashed with a couple of times didn’t seem to believe that players can get hands as big as queens. He four-bet me. I five-bet shoved. He folded. I got the impression we may never become big mates.

The ‘unofficial’ final table started on the next hand with no real break and I immediately got K-K against the Hungarian. It came a king and a flush and he tried a bluff. I won a nice pot and I was now a big chip leader. Until we got to four players it was fairly easy. I got some good hands and found a couple of spots and I was busting people for fun. I could virtually choose who to play heads-up with. I decided James Mackey was not the man for the job so I went after him and eventually won a race in spectacular style to bust him (rivered a set).

I think it was only a relatively easy day’s work up to the heads-up because I had a lot of good hands and situations. It was actually a much harder final table than most you’ll see in the $1,500 events and eight of the players were pros.

I could talk a lot about the heads-up but I don’t fancy it much. There were two hands I would like to have back and start again with, it went back and forward a lot and there were times when I thought I’d won it and times when I could feel it slipping away.

I was gutted at the end, very tired, emotionally drained and really disappointed. I wasn’t sure whether to just leave immediately and I was waiting to see if Henry wanted to come over and speak to me.

The one thing I’ll remember when I look back on the event is the kind words from all the people who follow on Twitter and Facebook, all the people who emailed or texted and all the players supporting me on Black Belt Poker.

I was also delighted that so many people came and sat throughout the final to watch in person. Some of my oldest friends in poker were there, and other people who really don’t know me all that well made the effort to come and watch. I was genuinely touched that people would do that when there are so many other things to do in Vegas. We all know that watching poker is boring as shit. It definitely helped me on the day and it helped me afterwards to think of the whole thing as a really positive experience and not just a crushing blow.

The other massive thing that has helped is the $406,409. It’s hard to moan too much when you just got handed what for an average geezer is about a 10-year salary and all tax-free. I’m a lucky guy really, even if I never win one of those bloody bracelets.

Neil Channing picked himself up and moved on to the next event just a couple of days later.