Last week I traveled to the English capital to play two poker tournaments. I sold shares in myself to a selection of people from a forum I post on and I was looking forward to playing live and hoping for a chance to have a deep run.
As the students were still away, I booked a room at University College London's Halls of Residence near Oxford Circus. It was odd to be back in a small room with bluetack stained walls and even odder that it was in the West End just up the road from where I used to work. The single bed was....well....adequate, but the Internet connection was perfect and the kitchen was awesome.
ENGLISH POKER OPEN
The Palm Beach Casino in Mayfair was the venue for the English Poker Open. It had been held in Nottingham last year and I was sad I missed it, so I vowed to play this year.
The venue was a pretty nice casino but very cramped. Several players including myself were wedged into certain areas and it was a nightmare to move around. Added to this one of the screens with the blind levels wasn't working and the online live streaming seemed problematic. But this is just me moaning, it was basically a good tournament, just no WSOP.
To start at the end, I was knocked out of the tournament on second last hand of the day after playing for around 10 hours. It was a standard coinflip vs high stakes regular and Leggo Poker instructor King Dan that would have put me above average going into the second day.
I got up to 21k from my 15k start stack pretty early but doubled up a guy with my QQ vs his KK - that put me down to about 7.5k.
I hovered between 7-9k all day until finally doubled through Keith 'The Camel' Hawkins. I had a stack of 10.5bbs and my open ended got there on the turn against him in a slightly odd hand. Normally I would never be taking a flop with less than 15bbs but it was one of those strange live poker situations.
The guy next to me had just been knocked out, so I was the only blind in the hand. Keith open limped the hijack which was very odd. He is a live player so can obviously do unusual things, but also plays online and I respect his game. The button folds and it was on me. At this point all he knows about me is that I've played very tight for the last 2-3 hours and I play more online than live. I have 11bbs and my hand is JTo - I really wanted to just shove because I suspected he limped because he didn't want to price himself into a call if I shoved, but I was confused - it's a very odd limp from late position and I wondered if he was trying to trap somehow? I hadn't played with him long enough to know. The guy to his left was also a strong player - so what would he limp with when that guy was on the button?
So I just checked.
Flop came KQx rainbow giving me the open ender. I checked, he bet about half pot and I shoved. Keith went into the tank and started trying to talk to me but I say nothing and don't even look. He says that I looked back at my hand before I shoved and this makes him want to call. I pretty much always do this before making an aggressive action - so it doesn't really mean anything - but often people read things into it - I've had it work to my advantage before - but this time it went against me and he made the call, showing QJs. I bink my 9 on the turn and double up. Keith has quite a big stack after he one outered someone earlier and he pays me off and says he would have folded if I hadn't looked back at my hand.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR!?
Played all day with double bracelet winner Frank Kasella - All I'll say is that I hope he played mix games better than NL tournaments because he was pretty loose and spewy, but his presence gave the table a specific dynamic because he did not want to ever fold! When he opened he never folded to a three bet, he never wanted to fold the flop and in one hand he opened with 56s and got shoved all in on for 20bbs and SNAP CALLED! In another he ran a crazy bluff with king high vs the tightest player at the table. Despite this he had chips all day, but as I hovered around 20-23bbs for a lot of the day, it meant I could only resteal for value, because he was likely to call. On top of this, the players on my right also knew he was playing a ton of hands, so were three betting him liberally. As I didn't really get many big hands, it was hard for me to get involved a lot of the time. I should get my 'I survived a day with Frank Kasella' badge! The man likes to chat too!
Otherwise table was generally pretty solid. So I played pretty tight, grinded the short stack and then got my double.
Last half hour I was moved to another table which was softer. As much open limping in half hour as in the previous ten hours.
I pretty much hadn't played a hand since I sat down for an orbit and a half. In that time King Dan had four bet this 'recreational' guy and folded to a shove - I knew more about his opponent in the hand because he had been at my table before and I knew he was by no means good and quite tight -so I wouldn't think he could three bet light, but now we know Dan can four bet light!
I'd also talked with Dan briefly at the welcome party and I would suspect he had me pegged as not very experienced and probably a freeroll winner.
Blinds 3/600 with 50 ante - I have 14k and there are two hands left to play before we bag up. and it folds to me in the hijack. I think to myself before looking at my hand, I can't open light here because Dan is going to be shipping on me really wide if it folds through to him. Two hands left and he is going to think I want to survive to day two and also probably thinks I might be weak and raise fold a lot.
Turns out I look down at AQo - I have too many chips to just open ship here and my hand is too good. I so I open to 1.6k and true to form he ship it on me. I am delighted to call and he has 44, but the board comes all bricks and I'm out just before bagging up time.
I enjoyed the tournament - there was some value and a small overlay - but I feel I again got a toughish table draw plus the fact that I was short and Frank K was at the table made me quite handcuffed and unable to do much.
I'd say this was a tournament with a lot of value - though of course if you don't get a hand at the right time then the structure catches up with you.
I'd bought in the previous week, so I was all registered - A leisurely stroll through London and I get to the Empire on the strike of Noon. I know this casino well but am interested in how WSOPE is going to fit in the casino. To anyone that's been there, I have no idea why they've now closed the poker room off the rest of the entire casino and now you have to go out and round the front entrance and in another door to get to it. Cash game action was humming every time I went there, even with a rake of 5% up to a cap of £10!
I wind my way around the casino looking for my seat. It seems the 5k Omaha continues to go on downstairs and the £1k tables are somewhat haphazardly jammed into different places around the balcony area. It's not as cramped as for the EPO, but it's pretty close.
A good draw!
Good news that I don't recognise anyone at my table. There is a woman in a tracksuit, a man in gear for the website Poker Idol - which is an obscure skin on the Ongame network, an older Irish guy, a couple of Londoners who know each other and a couple of Scandis.
We start with 3k chips at blinds of 25/25 and one hour levels.
The table is AWESOME. It is the best table I've had in any tournament I've played this year. There's lots of open limping, limp folding, odd bet sizing and distinctly un-optimal play.
Last week in the EPO I had a lot of suited and connected hands early, but this week I get a lot of trash of the J4o variety, so I end up playing quite tight. The hands I do play, I try not to get too involved unless I flop something really good and I manage to move up to
By late in level two 25/50 - I have worked up my stack a little and 3x open 22 from middle position. The only other decent player at the table flats me, as do the two blinds.
The flop comes 268 and I have flopped a set! Now how to get paid? I decide to fast play and not mess around as the board isn't super dry and lead out for 450 when the blinds check to me. In about a second, the good player jams his 2k stack on me, the blinds fold and I can't get my chips in fast enough. He flips over QQ for the overpair and I dodge a queen to get myself up to 4,800 at the first break. Already 40 of the 202 field have busted and it looks as if it is going to be a day of carnage.
After the break we are at 50/100 and I soon bust a short stack when he ships his 8bbs in from early position and I wake up with A5s in the BB. His Q5 is no good and I am up to 5,200 with two KOs already!
My table is still great and the free seats are being filled by complete droolers. I look around at the four tables around me in our little section which feature Chris Ferguson, Praz Bansi, Kevin MacPhee, John Tabaitabai, Antonio Esfandiari and JP Kelly and realise I am running insanely good to have nobody decent whatsoever at my table, but my luck can't last and towards the end of level three the onimous figure of the floor man indicates that our table is the first from this section to break.
Table draw god gets his revenge
I rack up my 5.5k chips and take them to my new assignment which is right over the other side of the casino, along the balcony and through a small corridor in 'The Shadow Room'!
It's something of an understatement to say my new table is not so good. The table gods had their revenge on me.
To greet me down one end of the table is Keith 'The Camel' Hawkins. The second tournament in a row I've played with this wily old pro. Also down this end of the table are four young guys in their early twenties expertly riffling chips
The other end of the table is not a pretty sight. In order to my left we have Black Belt Poker supremo Nik Persaud, UK circuit regular Chris Brammer, living legend John Juanda and November Niner John Dolan.
At the time I think Dolan is Mike 'Timex' MacDonald and I do think they look a bit similar.
First hand I look down at AKs in middle position. I open, Persaud flats me and Dolan ships 2,400 from the big blind. For a second I think about what I want to do here. Obviously I am not folding so I ship it in and Nik folds.
I'm up against KK and the board comes all bricks. I'm back to 3k.
Welcome to the table!
The next few hours are a struggle and I can't get anything going but at least I'm glad I chipped up early so I am still in the tournament. A lot of players at the table are sitting on 15/20bb reshove stacks and clearly everybody in the table knows how to resteal, so I can't particularly open light much at all.
Soon I'm down to 15/20 bbs myself but the good news is that Dolan, Juanda, Brammer and Persaud all bust within 90 minutes and at least a couple of weaker players replace them. Hawkins sticks around and for the second tournament in a row I see him hit a one outer! Must be nice.
But now I'm getting super short and am still struggling to find a hand. For a little while it is not so urgent, but as soon as the antes come in I know I can't hand around too much more.
Once I get a walk in the BB which is pretty rare. I foolishly look down at my hand. AJs. The best hand I've had since my first hand at the table.
I'd kill for a pair or a big ace but it's just not happening so I have to look for good spots and not think about my cards too much. I'm in the four seat so my likely targets are a guy who perhaps opens a little too much in the one seat and The Camel in seat two.
Camel opens 2.5x from the hijack and I look down at KJs on the button. It's the best hand I've had for quite a while. I only have 12.5bbs and there are antes so I don't have much fold equity whatsoever. But I'm saw Hawkins has me pegged as quite tight and I know he can open on the lighter side, plus as a live player he might raise fold too much. So I jam it in.
Keith is a talker, so when it folds back to him he starts to chat to me. We have some history from the EPO. I could even be ahead here but I will take a fold every time. I just stay quiet. "You've hurt me before" he says, referencing me doubling through him the previous weekend and releases his hand.
Then on the next orbit I resteal with J8o and about 16bbs from the bb vs the one seat.
A little later Hawkins oddly open limps from the cut off. I decide that this can pretty much never be a strong hand or a pair as he does occasionally randomly limp with speculative hands, so I just jam my 13bbs from the small blind with J6o. He quickly folds.
Then I play this hand and end up below 10bbs. I'm getting desperate and it doesn't help that the guy on my left has a huge stack and likes to play hands.
Somehow I shove with something like Q6 from utg when I am down to about 8bbs and everyone folds. Other than that I just can't get into a pot first or when I get the chance my hand is so bad that I just can't pull the trigger.
Finally I ship in about 7bbs from early position with a medium ace and tournament sicko Jason Mercier takes time out from playing the game What Lodden Thinks? with Antonio Esfandiari on the next table to ship in his 20bbs behind me.
I don't get there vs his AQ and bust about ten minutes before dinner, just three members of my poker forum arriving into the casino. I finish about 60th of the 202 that began the day.
I'm quite bummed out that in both the tournies I played in London I ran one of the best hands I had into an even bigger hand and had to scratch around for the rest of the day. I thought I played very patiently for the most part, but I never picked up a run of cards or a big hand at the right time.
I have a quick drink with my fellow forum posters and it's nice to meet them, but I soon go back to my room to relax and grind a little online.
I'm incredibly disappointed that I didn't make day two in either tournament. I felt I played pretty good in the most part and the WSOPE 1k in particular was a really good spot.
Clearly I'm still learning to play live. I would expect I missed several spots and reads that I could have picked up and in the JT hand vs Hawkins I perhaps allowed him to pick up a tell on me even though it was something that I do a lot. Generally I was aware of people's chipstacks which is something that I took a while to adjust to.
It has become apparent that a good table draw is BY FAR the most important factor in a live tournament. A compliant and weak table can make getting chips so much easier and mean you don't have to get as many risky spots. I seem to recall someone, Daniel? talking about the hidden luck factor of table draws. The more I play live, the more I agree.