Saturday, June 11, 2011

An ace up the sleeve...

A WSOP campaign is essentially a mini life. You go into it with a healthy dose of unfounded optimism. In the beginning, you flounder around a bit trying to figure out what's what and who's who, you don't seem to know anyone and your stomach is trying to get accustomed to a new diet. Then you start meeting the other Irish, slip into an easy routine of socialisation, and have to be careful not to let it overwhelm you or distract you from what you're there for. Then the faces disappear one by one as they bust the Main event, you bust the main event and you're left at the end of another WSOP mini life, looking forward to nothing other than the sweet release of the flight home.

At the moment, I'm again an infant in Vegas, albeit one with a fairly clear idea how its life is likely to pan out.

I've settled in pretty well into the Gold Coast. As KP pointed out on Facebook, one advantage of spending a night among homeless bums in Paddington is it can make the rather basic Gold Coast seem like the height of luxury. I haven't run into anyone I know yet (Mark Dalimore is arriving tomorrow though). Yesterday I headed to Caesars to play their megastack series. I was gifted an early doubleup but then lost a big flip and never recovered. First ship with my recent bogey hand AT ran into jacks in the small blind.

I bounced from there into the 4 PM tournament shortly before late reg closed. After marvelling at all the min raising going on from even the old codgers, so very 2011 Internet, it suddenly hit me: my God, this is a limit tournament. I made the second last table despite getting no cards and not winning many hands. No cash either though: they were only paying the final table.

I was back in the Rio in time for the nightly turbo. This was something of a cash cow for me last year, almost singlehandedly paying for the trip. No such joy on this occasion, and ominously there were far more obvious pros in the field. A sign of the apocalypse after Black Friday? The dearth of logos decking and walking the halls of the Rio also points to the party being over. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the talk around relates to fallout from the FBI pulling the carpet from under online poker in the US. Surprisingly, to me at least, are reports of droves of the best and the brightest US grinders who are "going straight". Maybe I shouldn't be that surprised: this generation of Internet whizkids were drawn into the game as one of the best ways to exploit an innate ability to make quickfire informed decisions based on calculating equity rather than any idealistic "love of the game". If they all go off and become equity traders, it may be a good thing for the rest of us trying to make our living from the game in the short term, undoing some of the "damage" done by the training sites making it too easy for anyone with a bit of natural aptitude and a lot of application to get good fast.

I do enjoy playing live here. Americans are fun: neither desperate nor afraid to be characters at the table. Poker has a broader appeal here than anywhere else (except maybe France) so you meet a much wider range of people. One Texan in his 50s at my table in Caesar's established himself as a front runner in the character stakes when he responded to a compliment from a dealer telling him he looked great for his age with "I know. I'm in great shape, I'm good looking, but I'm old, so...." Then someone at the table started talking about A8 being the "dead man's hand" because it was the hand Wild Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot dead. I'd heard this countless times before so wasn't paying much attention until the Texan produced his tournament entry to reveal his surname: Hickok. It turns out Wild Bill was his great grand uncle. Not only that, but he went on to tell us he owns the bullet that killed his illustrious great grand uncle. The bullet entered Will Bill's skull, passed through his brain (zero marks to the guy at a table who asked, without a hint of irony, "did it kill him?"), exited through his cheek and lodged in the wrist of his neighbour at the table, one Jack McCaul. Not that's an unfortunate seat draw right there. Jack (who it turns out is the great grand uncle of Irish poker player Thomas McCaul!) carried it in his wrist for another 30 years or so until he died in St. Louis is 1903, as the doctors apparently didn't think it prudent to remove it. After his death, the bullet was given to Wild Bill's family, who passed it down to the current owner, the Texan.

I play my first WSOP event, a $1500 NLH, tomorrow, so I decided to take today completely off. When I was running extreme races, I got very good at resting up in a hotel room for days on end before a race, barely moving a muscle so as not to expend any unnecessary energy before the starter's gun. The same extreme preparation probably isn't needed for poker, but it's no harm to take a day off now and then to recharge the batteries and prepare for the bigger events.

It's much harder to switch off a mind than it is to rest a body though. When you consciously try, it just finds new minutae to focus on, no matter how trivial. One thing I do more in this month than in the rest of the year put together is ride elevators. One pattern I noticed on my frequent ascents and descents from the 8th floor of the Gold Coast is it takes a lot less time going up than it does going down. On the way down you pick up more passengers. As such, it's the opposite to life. Another difference is on an elevator you always know whether you're going up or down (unless you're very drunk). In life, it's not always that obvious. In about 12 hours time my WSOP 2011 campaign kicks off. I'm full of optimism that my poker career is still in the ascendancy. But who really knows.


Good luck man, hope there is an irish bracelet this year,who knows it could even be you!

You mean to say you can actually find your way to the elevator(we call them lifts over here). Things are looking up.

Thanks Goat :)

I've obviously gone natiive Mick :p

Ádh mór ort Dara,
really looking forward to the updates.


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