OK, here goes with the review of the year that was, 2011.
My year got off to a quiet start, with January being one of only two months in the year where I didn't get a Hendon mob entry. I did play my first ever EMOP, where I got slowrolled by a granny, and ate sushi with Jason Tompkins and his girlfriend, who was attended on by her own lesbian fan club.
Saw me notch up my first official (Hendon mob) cash of the year. Nothing to get too excited about, a min cash in the Nottingham UKIPT, although coupled with the cash in the Galway leg it did see me high up the UKIPT leaderboard and thinking maybe I should play all the legs chasing the points (I eventually gave up after failing to cash in Cork). Highlight online was being told by an English Stars grinder that Stephen "allinstevie" Devlin had told him I was a crazy LAG, "the craziest man in Ireland". High praise indeed.
Another UKIPT (Manchester), another cash, but not in the main event. I final tabled the £300 side event but failed to last an orbit on a table with 4 Irish players. Online, I had my deepest ever run in a Stars major, chipleading the Sunday warmup for hours before ultimately bubbling the final table.
A big month for me live, as I notched up three Hendon mob cashes in a week, and four in the month. It started with a 4th place finish in Malaga (Estrellas). From Malaga, I headed straight to Berlin for my only EPT main event of the year, and got the monkey of never having cashed in an EPT main event off my back. Having clung on without much of a stack for days (earning me the label of "Grinder of the Tournament" on the official blogs) and then finally got one together with about 70 left, it was a disappointing finish to what looked like being a run all the way to the final table at least. I did make a final table in Berlin, in a turbo side event. I also final tabled (and chopped) another turbo towards the end of the month, at the Irish Open. April also saw me parting company with Bruce poker as my official sponsors. It was an amicable split and Bruce will always have a special place in my heart as the first site to sponsor me.
Got off to a ropey start when I turned up at the wrong hotel for the JP Masters. Once I showed at the right hotel, things went a bit better, as I final tabled the main event for the second time in my relatively short career. After busting in 7th, I jumped into yet another turbo, primarily attracted by the kick of having two Hendon mob entries for the same day. Alas, it was not to be, as even though I won the turbo (or more precisely chopped it with my good friend Breifne Earley), Hendon records entries under the date the tournament starts rather than finishes. Highlight of the month though was my appointment as Irish Eyes Team captain. A couple of other sites had expressed some interest after I left Bruce but after speaking to Steven there was always going to be only one winner, as the Team captain role was much more appealing than the traditional "sponsored pro".
Was meant to be all about Vegas, but I left for Vegas on a high having become the first Irish online player to claim a PocketFives triple crown. A few weeks previously, Jono Crute had a triple crown sweat during the week he stayed in my house, and had told me of his ambition to be the first Irish player to get one. His ambition became mine too and was achieved a few weeks later. The Triple Crown is a notional award dished out to online players who win three big tournaments on three different networks in a seven day period. Having won the 30 rebuy on Ipoker on Monday and the 15k turbo on Merge on Thursday, I had to head to Carlow for the CPT final so the triple crown was looking unlikely (I'd actually decided if I didn't bink on Thursday I'd give up trying and take a few days off before Vegas instead). However, having busted in Carlow in time to get back for a Sunday grind and a last tilt at the crown, I signed up for as many 100-200 runner fields with a sufficient buyin to qualify on various sites, to give myself the best possible chance of binking the all important third win. So I ruled out all the Sunday majors as too much of a longshot. Ironically, the one "major" I did play, the Bodog 100k, was the one I ended up binking. I only ended up playing it for a couple of reasons: first there was a significant 25k overlay (I can't resist an overlay), and also I'd just busted my Stars account and couldn't get more money on so I couldn't sign up for any more Stars games. So not only did I claim the triple crown, but did so in style with my biggest online score to date, 25k.
I then headed to Vegas and my blog detailing my less than optimal manner of so doing became my most read blog entry to date. An entry with zero poker content: a lesson there perhaps. In Vegas, I got another monkey off my back, the "never having cashed in an official WSOP event" one, as I cashed in two side events.
I went into the WSOP main event on something of a high having notched up a third cash at a WSOP side event. Having pessimistically booked my flight home for before day 3, I had to change my plans and hang round for day 3 which I made with a decent stack. A few hours in though, it all came crashing down, as my aces got busted by kings. Still, good overall Vegas for me and I came back feeling good about my game. The undeniable highlight of the month was leading four Team Irish Eyes players onto the final table of EMOP Dublin. Having been crippled just before the final table, I was happy to get headsup, where I managed to get it in ahead, but didn't manage to stay ahead. Still, my second place finish represented my second biggest ever score, and it was particularly sweet to reward the faith Irish Eyes had shown in appointing me Team captain.
A relatively low key month saw me continue to tick over online, and I notched up a min cash at the Unibet Open. Having put together a stack after the bubble, I was disappointed to get coolered, but you can't win them all. You can only try to.
Another lowkey month, where I notched up a minor cash in a side event at the European Shorthanded Poker championships.
Saw me hit my second EPT of the year (London) but get there too late for the main. I did have a good trip though, final tabling the EPT country of the Year freeroll and also cashing in the 1K side event, maintaining a near perfect record of cashing in at least one event at all but one of the EPTs I've attended. October was a sad month for Irish poker though, with the death of one of its greatest characters, Sean Gregory.
Another "four Hendons in one month", starting with a minor cash at JP's mini WSOP (where I also chopped the IPB Last Longer: one of several I managed this year). I ended the month on a high, winning or chopping two events at the Fitzwilliam festival (the main event, and as part of the Old Nits team in the team event), and cashing in a third. I also won a specially organised sit n go at EMOP Riga in between.
Another lowkey month live saw me threatening to move into the chiplead near the bubble of APT Manila only to have aces dogged by kings again at a crucial point. The month and year finished on a real high online though, as I bagged ny second Pocket Fives Triple Crown. Having won a $109 freezeout on Stars on Tuesday, I followed it up with a $50 freezeout on Ipoker the following night. After busting the Fitz EOM in time to play a few night games the next night, I got headsup with the chiplead in the High Roller on Carbon, but lost a bunch of races and 40/60 to lose to Portugal's Miguel Silva. It all came good the follwing evening though, when I got down to the last three of a $100 freezeout on Party. However the other two still standing were online beasts, Joao Mathias "TDurdenWar" and Sebastian "p0cket00" Sikerski. This time I got headsup with Joao and after a ding dong headsup battle, we got it in racing and this time I won.
This upswing right at the end cemented 2011 as my best and most profitable year ever in poker. Online, I matched the year I had in 2011, but live and overall had my best year ever. I also made a bit of money on staking and other bits and bobs.
I did a lot more staking this year, and had a profitable year, thanks primarily it has to be said to my good friend Rob Taylor, who I had 10% of in the Irish Open (which he final tabled) and 25% of in the Fitz main event (which he chopped with me and 4 others). Next year's going to be even bigger for me on the staking front and I'm going out on more of a limb, so fingers crossed it works out for me.
I've always been surprised at the number of people who read this blog. I started it purely for my own benefit, and even now I see its primary purpose as providing a snapshot of where I am in poker at any given time and a sort of online chronicle or scrapbook I'll have to look back on when it's all over. It's very hard to keep a blog fresh, the typical trajectory with most blogs is after a period where every entry is basically the same they fizzle and die. I'm conscious of having to make an effort to avoid this and thankful to my many friends for being much more interesting characters than I am myself and therefore providing me with fresh fodder thanks to their antics. Special mention to Jono Crute whose truly bizarre antics and letters to poker site support staff kept ius all amused. After that "How I got to Vegas" blog proved an unexpected success in terms of attracting readers, readership of the blog actually built on that through the rest of the year. My blog has always been well read in Ireland, but this was the year that saw it build a bigger readership outside Ireland (approximately 75% of my readership is now overseas).
I'm a fairly unrepentant social network whore and anyone wishing to follow my career in excruciating detail can do so on Twitter and Facebook. This year also saw me contribute a monthly column to Player Ireland, a blog for the Star website, and a weekly "Letter from Doke" for Irish Eyes team members. I've also become a frequent contributor to Breifne Earley's Sunday afternoon sports show "On The Ball" on Dublin City FM. There have been times I've been concerned I might be overpressing and overstretching a little but hey, as my granny used to say, if something's worth doing, it's worth doing to obsessive extremes.
This year I also provided regular live stream commentary at several major events. Particular highlights included chatting with Jesse May and a personal hero of mine Dan Harrington at the Irish Open, providing commentary on the final table with another personal hero and best in the business Neil Channing, commenting with my good friend Lappin at the JP mini WSOP, and working with Rebecca and Emmet at the Irish Winter festival. I also did some commentary at the Unibet Open (with Roy Brindley).
Readers of my annual wrapups from other years may recall that I usually hand out awards to Best Player and Most Promising. The Dokes are even more notional than the PocketFives Triple Crown, but here goes anyway.
Player of the Year
Last year I gave this to Sean Prendeville, who crushed both live and online. This year is a little different with no one player crushing across both, so I'm splitting the award in two.
Live Player of the Year has to be Niall Smyth. Not only did he win the biggest tournament on the Irish calendar (the Open) but he followed it with another win in Killarney, and a deep run at the Winter festival where it looked like a unique treble was on. Obviously Eoghan O'Dea deserves special mention: his appearance in the November 9 was the biggest thing to happen to Irish poker in years, but it's my award to give, and reflects my belief that the true measure of greatness in poker is not the one big one, but consistency. So it has to be Niall for me. Special mention also to Dermot Blain who is phenomenally consistent, and hopefully it's only a matter of time before he wins a really big one.
Online Player of the Year has to be Big Mick G. He's topped the Irish rankings at Pocket Fives for most of the year, and broken into the top 100 in the world.
One to Watch in 2012
I'm tempted to give this to last year's recipient Jono Crute just for the sheer LOL factor of giving it to the same again more than once (Tom Kitt used to win it every year in the old Boards awards). However, Jono's had a great year online and is likely to rinse and repeat in 2012, and I don't think he'll be giving live poker much more focus than he did this year. I'm also tempted to give it to David Lappin who has become a formidable live player this year (not that he was ever bad: he did chop the first major live event he ever played, a Unibet Open) and after taking a lot of this year off to pursue other career interests has vowed to return to online with a vengeance in 2012, but giving it to someone who has already achieved as much as Lappin has seems foolish. So instead I'm going to nominate Daragh "Mongoose" Davey. The Mongoose has been knocking on the door in major events all year (and getting it slammed in his face in the form of horrible doggings late on) and is the one young player I think has all the tools to crush both online and live.
Special mention to two hotbeds of upcoming talent. Dungarvan has several top young players coming through (Mark O'Connor fted the IPO) and Drumlish is threatening to be the new Claregalway with two of the most promising young players in the country.
If 2012 is anything as good to me as 2011 was, I'll be a happy man writing another annual review blog in a year's time. Hopefully, it won't be a case of pride goes before a fall, and with a little help from my friends I'll continue to improve and adjust as needed to stay ahead of the curve, May we all: me, my friends and all my blog readers, have an awesome 2012. Gl us.