Cashing the first events put me in contention for the new UKIPT leaderboard. Bricking Cork made chasing that a forlorn hope, so I skipped the rest of the season except for Dublin. Having breakfast on day 2 with one of the overnight chipleaders Breifne. Giving him some tips on how to play his stack, then discovering to my horror he was on my table. Bricking everything again.
Almost not making it there after we made the mistake of assuming the London born Daragh Davey would be a good man to rely on for navigation. Plotting with Lappin to wrestle control of the map back from him after it became clear he hadn't a notion. Eating with Chihao while Lappin complained about how long it took to cook my well done steak. Watching Daragh, David and Chi play Open Face Chinese with Jesse May. Getting my UKIPT Online Qualifier of the Year trophy from Kirsty.
Season 4 (also known as the Neverending Season)
Heading to Galway to play the so-called "Ireland v England" headsup challenge, a nebulous Fintan Gavin concept, along with Daragh Davey and David Lappin, lured there in part by Fintan offering us free accommodation.
Being told by Fintan when we get there "now it's not 5 Star, lads" and discovering what he meant by that was a place in Galway where they stick refugees. Losing my match to Jake Cody and heading back to Dublin rather than spending any more time in the hostel. Being driven back a week later dog tired after no sleep having spent the previous night playing and chopping Super Tuesday. Busting the biggest ever UKIPT in Ireland on day one but railing Daragh Davey all the way to the final table. Commentating on the livestream with Jesse May and Emmet Kennedy. Mick McCluskey befriending Isildur. Falling asleep in the passenger seat on the drive home, giving driver Nick Newport a sneaky photo op that became his Stars avatar.
Heading to London two months later for UKIPT/EPT. Staying in the pricey but kinda rubbish Russell hotel with all the lads.
Railing Clayton Mooney on the final table of the London Cup. And railing late night drunken Open Faced Chinese with the lads back at the hotel.
Sunday grinding in a hotel room so crowded that Lappin went off to grind sitting in the actual bath in the bathroom.
Later that month heading to the Isle of Man. Playing a turbo side event with a chatty Canadian reg who went around the table asking everyone their screen name, except me, presumably skipped on the basis that old guys don't play online (after I bust, he heard someone refer to me as Doke and the penny dropped, as he told me "You play....." and after a long pause "quite well"). Having a really bad start in the main and fearing the worst when I got moved to a table from Hell with firaldo, Nitsche, and Daniel Tighe. Realising Firaldo thought I was some random local businessman and then taking three large chunks from his stack to end the day as chipleader. Laughing my ass off when I got back to the hotel to find that he tweeted me to say "did not realise this was you.... Oh dear lol". Securing another main event cash (39th).
Securing another main event cash later that month in Nottingham (66th this time). Pleasantly chatting with my neighbour, an affable Cockney geezer. Phil Baker commenting on this photo that Russell looks like he is going to prison bitch me.
Playing in the Mansion House a month later in what I guess is my favourite ever UKIPT. Great venue, great atmosphere, great banter. Tim Davie attempting to woo my daughter Fiona on Twitter. Making two side event final tables and cashing the main. Being railed by Bucko and Cookie Jar on one of them while Cookie Jar played the Sunday Million on my phone (which he was convinced had superluck powers). Sending Dave Curtis a message to say one of the lads (Kevin Killeen) would be in late because his Mammy was making him do chores, so please put his stack out at the last possible minute. Railing Kevin Killeen all the way to the title surrounded by some rowdy lads in onesies.
Mammy Torino proudly shouting "Go on my son". All hell breaking lose and pints being flung into the air as Kevin sealed the win.
Bricking everything in Nottingham in May and spending 48 hours in bed as ill as I have ever been. Crawling out of my sick bed to go do some livestream commentary with Nick Wealthall as Willie Eliot went into the final table with a commanding chiplead. Getting there just in time to see Willie bust and then not letting on as I went back in time to the (time delayed) livestream.
Heading to Marbella the following month. Bricking the main but cashing two side events. Having a double birthday party with Nick Newport.
Going back to the Isle of Man (this really felt like two seasons rolled into one) with the Online Qualifier leaderboard wrapped up and in contention for the UKIPT leaderboard. Dropping out of contention in the latter as I bricked everything and Daragh Davey, Max Silver and TomasRa picked up points. Playing the first ever mixed chess/poker event with my friend Almira.
Heading straight from the Isle of Man to London for the last stop of the neverending season. Lappin finding us an amazing gaffe in Hackney which acted as our base for the last two weeks. Kevin complaining about the length of the walk ("Ah me legs..."). Daragh Davey clinching the UKIPT leaderboard. The three of us cursing Dave Curtis for extending the UKIPT side events into a second week, forcing us leaderboard chasers into a sick grind. Staying up all night with Lappin trying to work out fundamental Deuces Wild strategy (the only event I managed to cash). Going for dinner with Daiva and Marc Convey.
Contrasting that classy dining experience with Lappin's late night raids to Chicken Cottage...
....and being on hand to record his Elvis Presley late night dining.
Railing Daragh to his leaderboard win and Daiva to her Ladies event final table.
Collecting my second UKIPT Online Qualifier trophy and being told by Stars staff there wouldn't be a third ("We don't see the point if you are going to just win it every year"). The trip lasting so long that Daragh was turning into a Cockney geezer by the end of it, confusing us with talk of razzers. Spending the last night eating steak with Ian Simpson in the Hippodrome before walking to Liverpool Street for our train to the airport. Trying to convince Lappin on the walk that Tommy Lee really does have a Starbucks in his house. Announcing my retirement from UKIPTs after I got home.
Season 5Skipping the first five stops before coming out of retirement to play Bristol as I like the place and my prize for winning Qualifier of the Year was one package so I chose Bristol. Trying to keep a straight face as Bertie Bayley asks another young guy at the table if he is SlowDoke online (he figured it out eventually). Cracking up laughing as Marc Convey wound Lappin up more than he had ever been wound up before by referring to him on the blog as my sidekick. Bricking everything so lots of bustout icecreams with the lads.
Gareth Chantler exploiting my kindly nature in getting me to agree to bring a bag of his back to Dublin. Almost fainting when I saw the size of it after he wheeled it into the hotel. Cursing him loudly as I spent a couple of hours and 55 quid in surcharges at the airport to get it on the plane.
Heading back to the Isle of Man for the last ever UKIPT there. Christin driving us around the island.
Getting three handed in a side event with two German lads who didn't realise I could speak German or understand ICM. Making the final table of the High Roller that included Liv Boeree and Chris Moneymaker, and getting three handed with Adam Owen and Daragh.
Lappin claiming the fact that he knocked Miss Finland out of the main event meant he was the new Miss Finland, but becoming alarmed to find that meant having to fob off male groupies like dawhiteninja.
Skipping the next stop (in London) but heading back to Edinburgh in November. Walking from the airport to the hotel (which turned out a lot longer than we thought) before following Daragh to the casino (or so we thought: Daragh awful navigational abilities meant we circled for ages before finding it, despite him having been there the previous night chasing leaderboard points). Going closer than ever before to making a main event final table (bubbling it in 10th), and later the same day cashing the last side event to become the first Irish player to have a century of cashes on the Hendon mob.
Skipping the next stop (another UKIPT Series event in London) before finishing the season in Dublin. Cashing the main (76th) and final table bubbling the Seniors event.
Season 6 (the curtain comes down)Heading to London in low spirits in the middle of a barren live spell. Staying and hanging and brunching with Daiva for the week to revive those spirits. Going for some morning runs up Primrose Hill.
Going for ice cream with Aseefo, Sam and Fran.
Railing Daiva as she wins the Ladies event.
Going sightseeing and visiting the Tate Modern with Daiva on my last day. Almost missing my plane as a result.
After skipping Marbella, I played Lille (yes folks, in the weirdness that was the last UKIPT season, two of the 5 stops were outside the UK and Ireland, and two were in London). Bricking the main event but cashing the High Roller. Next up London, expecting a frosty or heated reaction after I'd blasted Stars on my Barcelona blog. Scraping through day one with 13 big blinds, which were whittled down further when I followed Daiva onto the wrong train on day 2. Eating lots of beetroot.
Finally making a UKIPT final table. Laddering to headsup with a big chip deficit which I was unable to overcome.
And last and sadly least, a rather whimpering end to the UKIPT in Birmingham, with record low numbers and side events that didn't even get enough runners to start. Having seen the tour grow from a shaky start into something special, it was sad to see it die so meekly. It was sad to see some great people who worked to build this tour up ultimately defeated by the negative sentiment Amaya Stars has engendered. Eating in Pizza Hut with Richie Lawlor and an unimpressed Gary Clarke. "The Big Cheese.....but that's just cheese". Gary packing up in the middle of the night, changing his flight, and departing with the words "There's only so much Star City Birmingham a man can take". Busting the main event early on day 2 and ending the stop on the last ever side event final table. Adam Owen joking from the rail that I'd just ladder to headsup and then lose. Pretty much what happened as I laddered from 9/9 to 2/2. Watching Dave Curtis having a moment as he snapped the room before the UKIPT banners came down for the last time.
All these memories will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Marc Convey asked me for a UKIPT memory for the Stars blog. After running through most of the memories described above, I settled on this one as my ultimate UKIPT memory:
"Edinburgh 2015. I've made the 5th last two tables of a UKIPT main event of my career and it's looking good for me to finally convert one to my first final table. Unfortunately things go pear shaped fast and on the FT bubble, with ten left I find myself sub ten blinds, a very distant 10/10. A5s in the cutoff is a shove in that spot, so I don't hesitate. My friend Dode Eliot hesitates a little in the big blind before making the call with pocket eights. I turn a gutshot and a flush draw but after bricking the river I shake hands with Dode and depart for the rail, where I am consoled by Dode's brother Willie. Part and parcel of poker is the fact that we often deal pain or at least disappointment on our friends, and as he whisks me away for consolatory ice cream, Willie remarks that Dode will be feeling worse about my knockout than I am. I fully believe this. The fact that Willie was willing to take time off from railing his brother on the FT to console me says it all. What made the UKIPT unique down the seasons was the incredible camaraderie and friendships it fostered between players. It broke down all the barriers between Brits and Irish, recreational players and pro, old and young, male and female."