Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sun, sea, lesbians and lung cancer

Well, I was looking forward to my first EMOPS, and now I'm looking back on it.

My plane took off over 30 minutes late and encountered turbulence (so had to fly slower) but thanks to RyanAir's sneaky strategy of padding their schedules, we bumped down officially 1 minute ahead of schedule and therefore had to endure the trumpet fanfare "Aren't we just the awesomest" tape too.

A short while later I was trying to communicate with the hotel receptionists in English (no habla espanol). After convincing two without a lick of English between them that I really really habloed no espanol, a third with at least a rudimentary grasp of pidgin English appeared and we had a conversation that would come back to haunt me:

"You book til Monday?"
"Yes, but I'm staying til Tuesday".
"Yes, is fine. You must pay for extra day when you go"
"I know, that's fine".

Joz and Joy were on hand that evening to welcome me to the island and we had a pleasant few drinks followed by a nice meal followed by a couple of Jack Daniels back at the hotel. Joy has all the makings of a great poker wife (she clearly has a good understanding of the kind of support a poker player needs from their partner) and it's always nice to have a non poker person there to stop the conversation descending into 100% hand histories.

Pushing the plain clothes detective
Main event non event probably sums it up. I got one decent hand all day, aces, which I fourbet after considering a sneaky flat (stacks were horrible for it though) and didn't get to see a flop. Pretty much says it all when the biggest pot I won all day was calling down with QT on a AT986 board. Not having played a hand in yonks, I decided to go for an utg steal and opened. The table maniac (quite a distinction in Spain where everyone wants to be one when they grow up) flatted on the button: everyone else respected the fact that this was my first hand in eons and folded. Flop came AT6 and I checked. He went to bet Hollywood style but checked instead. Turn was an 8 and I'd often bet now as there's lots of draws and gutters in his range but I decided to check for pot control (he was perfectly capable of raising me with poo here) and he fired a little more than pot. River was a truly awful nine and after a big bet well over pot for most of my remaining stack I now had a real decision. I had a strong physical read he was weak but of course he could be bluffing with a better hand than mine here. In the end I went with the read, called, and he mucked.

Only other hand of real interest saw me shoving the plain clothes detective over a raise and two calls. It was a fairly marginal squeeze as the first guy was tight and I was almost certainly in big trouble if he called. After he tank folded I breathed a sigh of relief. The other two guys tank folded too but I was less worried about them: I figured I was probably racing if either called. Neither did and I added 30% to my stack which kept me afloat for a while.

There was a shortage of such spots though and I eventually went out shoving tens with an M of 4 into aces. I was open ended by the turn but didn't get there.

Side event shmide event
Another non event really. Card dead until the pushfest where at least my tight image saw me doubling up without getting called. Exit was a bit meh: I got a free ride in the BB with T4o. Flop came QQT and the first limper overbet the pot. Second guy folded and back to me. He never has a queen here, so the question is has he trap limped a bigger pairs than tens. I decided it was more likely he had a lower pair so I shoved. Unfortunately he had AT and that was that.

Slowrolling the plain clothes detective
The last event on the schedule was the turbo. A lot of people seem to think the shallow-stacked turbo is "Doke's game", and while I do pride myself on playing these games pretty optimally, the reality of course is that like anyone else I need my rush to come fairly punctually to have any real chance. It didn't in this one: in fact it was one of those tourneys where you never win a hand. After withering down to just over 4K with the blinds at 150/300/25 and about to increase, I picked up the plain clothes detective again, on the button. After a local elderly lady who had limped a few times and folded every time to a raise limped yet again, I figured this was a good spot to add 25% to my stack and shoved in. After the two blinds duly folded I glanced up to see if the lady was for turning, and saw her pick her cards up and motion to flick them forward over the line. I looked back down and waited for the dealer to push the chips my way. When he showed no inclination of doing so, I looked back up and saw she still had her cards. She seemed to be staring at me now looking for a read. I decided to indulge her desire for a staring contest and we spent a minute or two at this, before she shrugged and went to throw her cards away again. At the last second she pulled them back and now held them up high so the people on the rail behind her could see them. Bemused by this odd behaviour, I thought she might have sevens or eights and be trying to decide whether to take a stand. She now asked for a count and after pondering the number she was given for a while more, said "Call". I immediately flicked over my KJs and waited to see what I was up against. It took a while for her to slowly shovel the correct number of chips across the line. Having done so, she peered down the table at my hand, nodded a few times, and then finally turned over her hand. Aces.

The locals all thought this was hilarious of course, even the dealer was laughing. By the turn I was dead and departing, with nothing to do other than wish the lady who seemed to be a very heavy smoker lung.....I mean luck. My original plan was to stick around and play a bit of cash but for some reason I no longer felt like it and walked back to the hotel.

Santa Catalina I hate every inch of you
The hotel included as part of the package I won looked brilliant from the outside, but to be honest was a major disappointment, particularly for the price allowed. The so called free Wifi was brutally unreliable rendering online play a very bad idea, the room was basically a windowless bedsit (there was a window, but it was basically a slit in an alcove), I made the mistake of ordering room service once and can honestly say it was the worst food I ever attempted to eat, and the staff were monumentally rude and unhelpful. It's funny (and by funny I of course mean annoying) how people who work in these grand hotels so often take on the airs of the people who lived in grand houses a century ago.

The only really good thing I can say about the place is that it had TCM, whose schedule included several of my favourite films of all time. When I played Deauville and Berlin last year, I spent much of my down time reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender Is The Night". On this occasion, I got a kick out of rewatching Out of Africa. There's something about the classic literature of the 1920s and 30s that just seems to gel with the experience of being on the current day international poker circuit. Maybe it's that the life of the itinerant poker player is the closest present day equivalent to that of the idle rich nomads of that era: we stay in the same grand places (Deauville is even specifically mentioned in the Great Gatsby), eat the same food, drink the same wines and liquers, and when we're not playing have precious little to occupy ourselves beyond meals, drinks, spas and gossip.

Anyway, Monday afternoon found me lazing on the bed wondering what delight TCM might offer up next when the phone rang.

It was a receptionist claiming I had no booking for the night and had to leave, not just the room which might have been reasonable if indeed I had no booking, but the hotel itself (which seemed a little harsh). An unsuccessful attempt to argue my case on the phone was followed by one to do so in person: I knew I was drawing dead when she took the line that not only did I not have a booking but "could not have been told I had when I arrived because we were booked out a month ago". Rueing the lack of any documentation to back up my claims, it was back to the room to pack, fire up the laptop to find an alternative hotel, and hop in a taxi to it.

Luckily the new place, the Hotel Parque, proved a lot more welcoming, with a much better room, a more reliable Wifi, and a friendlier less linguistically challenged staff. That allowed for a bit of potting (I won just about enough to cover the price of the hotel for the night) before I headed out for dinner with Joz and Joy.

The Joy Luck Lesbian Club
I had a few good meals on the island with Athy's golden couple, most notably the first night when Joz directed us to a place with white plastic chairs which we quickly decided wasn't going to cut it and we ended up in a place just round the corner that was top class, but nothing compared to the Japanese place I chose for our last night. I think they were a little apprehensive of the whole Japanese thing at first but got right into it once we discovered the food was top class. The best part of the night came though when one of the waitresses informed us that another of the waitresses was in love with Joy. It seems Joy has a track record as a lesbian magnet and sure enough the other waitress re-appeared to gush about how pretty like a princess Joy is, much to Joy's apparent embarrassment and myself and Joz' amusement. Four courses, a bottle of wine and a bit of lesbianism to polish things off: what more could a man ask for?

Don't have a canary but....
Overall I took a lot of positives from my first EMOPS. I think these tournaments definitely represent a lot of value. I met Aidan Connolly on the plane over, and ikilldurr1 from Irish Poker Boards during the event (he ended up 6th after a great run) as well as a couple of young lads from Waterford, and I do think these are the kind of events that Irish players looking to take a shot should be targeting rather than EPTs or UKIPTs. Stephen Merrick from Irish Eyes was a great host too, and the satellites on Irish Eyes provide a great inexpensive route to these events. I understand that the tour is currently evolving with new stops being tried out and venues coming and going, and that being the case, I'd have to say I think there must be better possible venues than the Canaries, which really only has nice weather going for it. The standard of dealers was the worst I've ever seen anywhere, some of them were unclear on the hand rankings even, and the locals while value are a bit hard to take with their macho posturing and general lack of etiquette. The casino itself is a bit grim. Venues are crucial to the success of these stops and the numbers on this one were also reportedly a disappointment. One friend back home told me he stopped trying to qualify after he heard it was "a bit of a kip". While I certainly intend to play another EMOPS, I wouldn't be in a rush to play on the Canaries again.



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