Thursday, July 5, 2012

OMG It's Jason Tompkins!

The announcer introduced the players at the final table of Event 54 at WSOP 2012. For the most part, it was dull formulaic stuff. Name, birth place, occupation, number of WSOP cashes to date. After each announcement, there was polite applause from the rail. Until my friend, business partner and condo-mate Jason Tompkins in seat 5 was announced, at which point Nick Newport stood and roared "Oh my God, it's Jason Tompkins!" so loudly and clearly it was heard round the world (thanks to the livestream).

This cry has been a running joke in our circle since we got to Vegas and I started using it as the default morning greeting. The phrase originated in the Fitzwilliam Card Club. A young player whose blushes I shall spare for now by not naming him here found himself sitting in the same cash game as Jason Tompkins. So overwhelmed was he by the sight of the player many (myself included) consider to be the best all round holdem player of his generation in Ireland that before he could stop himself he had exclaimed "Oh my God it's Jason Tompkins!"

Jason is something of an enigma in Irish poker. One of a select number who turn up deep in Irish tournaments way more often than should be possible, he crushes live holdem cash to such a degree that many regard him as the best holdem cash player in the land. He's a winner in all types of tournaments including online, and has a High Roller title on his Hendon Mob. He has cashed in a WSOP event that featured limit holdem, a game that just isn't played in Ireland. In terms of overall consistency and versatility across the holdem spectrum, he has no real peers in Irish poker. He is simply the best.

I'm pretty sure I've spent more time sitting at a table trying how to figure out how to play against him than any other player in Ireland. This has not been to my advantage. Jason was the first to get an accurate read on my live game in Ireland, and to figure out how to exploit it. So when I sit at a table with him, I'm forced to re-adjust and re-calibrate. Even as I do so, I know Jason won't take very long to work out my adjustments and re-adjust. It's an endless process I expect to continue until the day one of us quits poker.

Guarded by nature, Jason doesn't like to give much away. This has led some to misread him as unapproachable and aloof, but the truth is he picks his friends carefully and once you get to know him, he's one of the funniest and warmest guys you'll ever meet. Some people just don't suffer fools gladly. Jason is not one of these people: he simply doesn't suffer fools period. He has an integrity and a dignity which is sadly rare in the poker world. Since I went into the staking business with him, I've discovered that he's as shrewd and sharp in business as he is in poker.

Jason navigated the final table with his customary brilliance patience and discipline, and his exit was a setup where he went in slightly ahead and had he managed to hold I feel the bracelet was his for the taking. Supported by a boisterous rail, we were making busy dinner plans (an advance party had been dispatched to book a table for twelve at Buzios) when the hammer fell. I'm not going to pretend that other people's exits ever upset me more than my own, but there are a few I have witnessed that have come close (Rob Taylor's exit from the Irish Open final table, Smidge's exit from UKIPT Dublin). When I came down from the stage and saw Jason walk across to us, my instinctive reaction was I just wanted to cry. Jason is young and there will be other opportunities, but the number of times you come so close to a bracelet in a holdem event are so rare that when it comes down to a lost flip, it hurts.

At some future point, Jason will see this result for what it is (a brilliant performance rewarded by a hefty score) rather than what it could have been. But in the immediate aftermath, he just wanted to flee the scene, and who could blame him? Winners are only happy when they win: everything else stings. Dinner plans were rerouted from the Rio to the Aria, where a congradolence party of 12 helped him come to terms with what had happened, and the night ended with some beers, ice cream and Chinese poker back at the condo. Unsurprisingly, Jason was the biggest winner in this game too. Just too good.

When I left for Vegas with Daragh Davey and Jason, I was filled with an uncharacteristic optimism that at least one of us would make a WSOP final table out here. I kept it to myself as such hunches that fly in the face of probability are rare for me (since we are all holdem specialists playing a handful of events with thousands of players, the actual odds of us doing so were quite slim). Ironically, of the three of us, Jason went into this event the least buoyant. Whereas Daragh was ahead on the trip thanks to two cashes in bracelet events already and I was only slightly behind thanks to a final table in a Rio deepstack and a cash in a Venetian, Jason was well down. He admitted himself he ran very well (until his exit) in this event and that's all it takes: you can't choose the the time or the place where you'll get this run good, but if you stay patient and disciplined as Jason did, and you're as good as he is, when it arrives you will get the big result.

I have one more side to play, the final 1K, in about 12 hours, and I'd love to get a run at this one. It's disappointing and annoying to be 0/8 in bracelet events at this stage of series, particularly since I have built a number of stacks but failed to cash or make a day 2. However, I'm realistic enough to recognise that the structure of these 3k starting stack tourneys just ups the variance. I'm happy with how I've played overall and my two results in non-bracelet events are grounds for optimism. If I don't cash, I'll have a few days off to get myself ready for the main event.

Again, I'm unusually optimistic about the prospects of the Jockey Club three. My brain tells me that in most universes we'll brick, but my heart is saying that in this one, at least one of us runs deep. Jason goes into it full of confidence with a WSOP final table under his belt, and Daragh Davey has made more day twos than any other Irish player this series and is 3/7 in cashes in bracelet events. And I feel ridiculously optimistic about my own prospects for a man who is 0/8 at this point. I have a history of saving myself at the last possible opportunity. This would be a good time to do it again.

Our Vegas campaign is scheduled to end Saturday week when we fly home. But I'd love to have to extend my stay because either Daragh or Jason are still in the mix. But of course, I'd love it even more if I put Daragh or Jason to the inconvenience of staying to rail me.

In the mean time, remember.....



I can't tell you how much respect I have for each you; your game, and the way you handle yourselves.

Thanks for the very kind comment Owen


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