David and I both won packages for UKIPT Edinburgh and although we tried to get Stars to give us t$ for one, they were having none of it so we ended up with two hotel rooms worth over a grand for a week. The upside of this inflexibility was it meant we not only got to live like rich people for a week, we also got to be generous benefactors to two of our friends. Mrs Doke didn't fancy it much (the only other time we were there was for a 100 km race around Herriott Watt university, and we stayed near the campus, out past the less salubrious part of Edinburgh made famous by Trainspotting) so in my case I shared with (Oh My God It's) Jason Tompkins, while David elected to bring along a non poker friend, the ridiculously talented photographer Rob O'Connor. David claims that when he informed me of this, I responded with "It will be good to be able to spend time with someone that isn't you". My recollection is it was more a case of me saying it would be good to have a non poker companion so we wouldn't just talk about poker hands. In any case, Rob was an astute choice as he knew Edinburgh well and his aesthetic sense meant we followed him along to some great places we would never have found alone (history suggests that on most away trips, we spend nearly all our time in poker rooms, hotel rooms, coffee shops and bars talking about flops and turns).
One of the twists of variance is that if you take a group of poker friends, it rarely hits them all the same way at the same time. The more usual scenario with three or four poker amigos will be that one will be riding on the crest of a wave while the other two hang on grimly to the underbelly of a downswing (I'm talking about live poker here: online is a different affair where thanks to increased volume everything evens itself out that much quicker). In our group, Jason has had the most amazing twelve months live (a High Roller win and a couple of high profile WSOP and EPT final tables) while David and myself have spent a lot of time in hotel rooms, coffee shops and bars this past year. Add in Jason's recent third in the Milly and it is not surprising that the first thing a lot of people wanted to talk to either me or David about was Jason. It's always nice to be able to talk about a friend's success and Jason deserves all the adulation he is receiving at the moment.
The egregious rates the Balmoral wanted to charge us for Internet access (75 quid for the week) meant no online grinding option. I think Stars are missing a trick by allowing this to happen (I imagine they could use their bargaining muscle to get a better deal, or if it comes to it, just pick up the tab....I'm pretty sure most people staying in the hotel for the UKIPT would have contributed more than 75 quid in rake if allowed to over the week).
My own assault on the main event was a bit of a non event. I toiled away for much of day 1 drifting back from starting stack until I got lucky with jacks. After I opened, the big blind defended. He check called a J43 flop and check raised the turn (a ten). At this stage I figured I had either set over setted the poor man, or he was playing aces or kings unconventionally again (in an earlier hand, he had flatted aces on the button after an open, a raise and a call) and stuck the lot in. He had aces and I doubled to 22k. A table move to a dark corner of the back room (I have never had such trouble seeing my own cards) late in the day saw me crash back down to 5k after two unfortunate incidents (a flopped set losing to a runner runner flush which I had to squint to see, and aces to j9o on a j high flop with no nine on it). A few reships late in the day saw me pushing back towards health with over 9k, and two in the first orbit on day 2 got me up past 15k again. Then an hour without cards or spots meant getting it in with nines and no fold equity over a loose early raiser. He had kjo and won the flip.
I played a couple of side events and got deepish but no cigar (I was 7th in a High Roller sat with 5 paid). So lots of time for hotel rooms, coffee shops and bars, and sightseeing. Highlight was the Camera Obscura that Rob ushered us along to, where he took this photo I like, an illustration of the mirror opposite swings you will have to deal with in poker friendships where one friend is living it large on the upside of variance while the other hunkers on the downswing.
A few years ago, my oldest son came to me for career advice. Like a lot of oldest sons his initial thoughts were to follow in his old man's footsteps. I didn't want to go into specifics (Be a fireman!). I certainly kept it to myself that I thought following me into a career in technology (at the time: this was before I learned to click buttons profitably) was not a good choice for him (I was already bored of it, and my son is a lot more idealistic than I am). Instead, I just pointed out that when I thought back to jobs I had held and projects I had worked on down the years, my memories focused not on how much money I had been paid but on the work I had done and the people I had done it with. In the same way, I think I will look back on trips like these and forget the runner runner flushes but remember the hilarity of David Kilmartin Lappin slipping on ice and being dumped unceremoniously on his rear to the considerable amusement of myself and Jason, the great meal and chat we had with Kevin Williams, Jamie Burland, Neil Raine, Jabracada and a few of the other up and coming English poker talents, and all the other great people we ran into like brothers Willie and Dod (who won the 300 side and fted the 6 max), and one of my most favourite people Chihao Tsang (who had a deep run all the way to day 3 of the main). We had a whiskey back in the hotel afterwards with *Jabra, a very interesting guy who has the potential to have a very big future in poker. I always see these trips away as a chance to spend some time with people I wouldn't normally run into in a tournament in Ireland. We also shared a cab to the airport with Kevin Killeen and Fintan Hand, two of the young Irish crop of up and coming online beasts who are approaching the game professionally in a way that seems right to me and more likely to lead to long term success.
The day may come when I decide to do what many (Mrs. Doke included) would consider the sensible thing and withdraw from live poker to focus entirely on clicking buttons, but as long as there's fire in my belly to go out and give it my best shot to land the big one, as long as there's me believing I can compete with anyone and as long as there's young players to meet and exchange ideas and interesting chats with, and as long as there's guys like Rob O'Connor willing to act as personal tour guide to a couple of inward looking poker players, that day won't come soon.
* I don't normally do footnotes (in fact I think this is the first ever in this blog) but for anyone wondering on why I insist on calling Tom Hall by his online name, it's because that's what he is called in my life. I see him maybe 100 times a day on Stars (usually winning a flip against me) and maybe 5 times a year in person. I know he thinks of me similarly (when he ran into me in the hotel corridor for the first time last week, the words that came out of his mouth were "Hello SlowDoke"). That might seem odd or even sad to live players of my generation but that's just the way it is. I think of it as similar to the fact that when I refer to a friend who is successful in the entertainment world, I nearly always use his stage name rather than his real name. Oddly enough, nobody seems to find that strange or unusual.