The King of the Bluff…

The Form Checker… I stopped into the London Victoria Club last Tuesday night. To see old friends? Hardly… I was interested in checking out form ahead of next month’s Amsterdam Master Classics. I have a foolproof method for finding out which tournament poker players are in form, although revealing it here may render it useless. I stand on the rail, and I watch. Just stand there on the rail, about eight feet from the game. Any player that’s in the tournament, at a table, if they initiate a conversation with me, they’re not focused. The player should be playing, not talking to me. Any man who put up 500 pounds of his own money and would rather talk to a gladhander who’s out of action, I ain’t betting on them. I’m looking for people who ignore me. If they ignore me, they’re focused. Or else they might owe me money.

King of Bluff… I mentioned to Padraig Parkinson that John Duthie had pulled off what I consider to be the greatest bluff of all time on the current series of Late Night Poker. “Well, it figures,” said Padraig, “The man’s at it every single hand!” I caught up with John at the bar, where he was recounting how tough it was to play after his success in the Poker Million. “They’re onto me now,” he said miserably. “Everybody’s trying to bluff me. After the Poker Million I went to Paris, and they were lining up to have a go!” While it would be logical for John Duthie to just tighten up, that’s easier said than done.

What I Spied… “Can I have some tea and biscuits please?” Said Jac Arama to a waitress instead of nursing his small stack. He was out two hands later… Joe Beevers helped Jac Arama set up a Betfair account, and now Jac can’t get away from the site. He called up Beevers last week and asked, “Joe, when will I get credited with my free 20 pound bet?” “You’ve already had it,” said Joe. Jac Arama was stunned. “I did?”…. I mentioned to Gary Jones that he was getting a lot of backing in the Master Classics market on Betfair. “What?” said Gary. “I don’t even know if I’m playing!” So I wouldn’t tie your bankroll up in that spot until we get a visual from Amsterdam. Gary was looking surprisingly retro in a brown suede turtleneck and scruffy shoes. Being a poker player sure is sweet. They never would have let him wear that in his old job… Simon Trumper, when I asked him if he was in for the Poker Million, looked at me like, do you have any stupider questions. Simon was in Paris the day his invitation arrived, and his wife phoned him on the mobile just as he was cashing out a ten grand winner. “It’s an omen!” she shouted, and took it upon herself to send Simon’s deposit in. Now that’s a wife, someone who looks after your gambling interests… I hadn’t realized that Korosh made the final table of the Baden championships last month. Paul Alterman tells me that when Korosh was announced over the loudspeakers, Nic Szeremeta introduced him as, “The man they all love to hate!”….

Marcel Luske is a cool cucumber. When he first appeared on the scene, the flash in the pan cry was common – hell, I was one of them. But Luske is here to stay. Look at him in the stud tournament in his immaculately cut suit, reddish blonde hair slicked back, only the finest links on his freshly starched cuffs. (The last time Barny had starched cuffs was during the Tudor dynasty). Marcel is focused. He’s focused, relaxed, and won his first two pots on the trot… Later on, when he went short-stacked, Marcel put on his shades, and if they cost less than 300 quid, I’m a blind man. He’s still laughing, behind the silver wraparound glare…. Two hours later, Luske has moved his stack from 3500 up to over eighteen grand. He’s got an empty wineglass and his sunglasses are on upside down. The man is having a ball, and can’t lose. Any doubt I had over whether Marcel has game was put to rest when I witnessed him make a brilliant check raise. It was one of those check raises that brought to mind the time I saw Amarillo Slim check raise a man on three streets after flopping four of a kind, when his opponent didn’t even have a pair. It was a check raise where you have to talk the guy into betting with no hand. And when Luske checked on fifth street showing a ten, three, deuce, when he slapped his hand down on the table in perfectly calculated disgust, you would have bet your life that he had ten high and was just looking to get away from the hand. You can’t blame the fellow in the four seat, who leapt at the opportunity to stick his entire stack in with an ace-jack high, only to be flabbergasted when Luske beat him into the pot with tens and deuces. It wasn’t just the check raise. It was everything else that went with it. I like Luske to win.