PokerStars (at the behest of the Legend that is Dave Curtis) kindly invited myself and my fellow Firm members David and Daragh to the launch of PokerStars Live at the Hippodrome in London. Daragh and I flew over in the afternoon. For once David was ahead of us, waiting in our hotel near Hyde Park. From there, we set off to find the Hippodrome armed only with a Googlemap I (the most organized member of the Firm) had printed off the night before. Daragh's a bit of a bossy boots at the best of times and seized on my initial confused oldster error sending us right rather than left when we walked out of the hotel to demand custody of the map. As we passed Wardour Street I weakly protested that I thought this was our turn off for the Hippodrome. Daragh was quite adamant that it wasn't using a tone that strongly suggested if I went on like that he'd pack me off to an old folks home soon, pointing to some distant blue building instead (always useful to throw colours in when you want to confuse the colour blind), so I didn't press the point. Thirty minutes later I rather wished I had as we were wandering around Holborn peering at street maps. I had David in one ear suggesting that we wrestle the map back from Daragh using all necessary force as he had proven himself to be unworthy of said map, and Daragh in the other suggesting that we press on in a direction that just couldn't possibly be correct (even David, who has the worse sense of direction I have ever seen, could see this). After negotiating the map back from Daragh and identifying where we had gone wrong, we set a new course.
We got there only 45 minutes late to find the ever patient Chihao Tsang (picture above courtesy of Mickey May) whom we had arranged to meet. I'm not sure how to describe Chihao, one of my favourite people ever, except to say that he might possibly be the greatest children book character ever, a character so instantly loveable that it's impossible to imagine anyone ever taking a dislike to him. As ever, he took the annoyance of waiting for three stupid lost Paddies in London (one of whom was texting him every 5 minutes to say we were only 5 minutes away) without any, well, show of annoyance. On to the steak house where we waited for our food to the accompaniment of the classic Lappin rant that is "How I hate going to steakhouses with Doke". The basis of this uncatchy little ditty is since I like my steak well done and he likes it blue (which for those of you not in the know means they take it out of the freezer, warm it on the radiator for a minute or two, wave it at the oven and then serve it on a warm plate) which means he has to wait a while for his lump of raw cow.
We were still in plenty of time to be too early for the Stars shindig in the rather swanky Hippodrome which Fergal Nealon told us was a Peter Stringfellow joint back in the day. Only Kevin McPhee and a few other literal souls had got there before us, but before we knew what was what they were pouring free champange down us, a very drunken Jamie Burland was taking me to task over my fashion sense and colour blindness, and Daragh and I found ourselves sitting down at the same table as Liv Boeree, Surindar Sunar, Nick Wealthall (who once earned the lifelong hatred of Mrs Doke comparing me to a badger on national TV), Barney Boatman and James Akenhead. While most of others got into the freeroll spirit of things with all sorts of fancy plays like 6x opens and peeling for 25% of your stack with ten high, the two Daras just sat there trying to play optimal poker. Our excuse is when you're a Stars pro like Liv or a November Niner like James, the chance of winning an EPT seat for nothing is probably no big thang, but for us, well, would be nice. Like most freerolls, this one was a total crapshoot, only even more so. The highlight was when one of the genuine heroes of the game Mickey "mement_mori" Petersen was moved to my left and we started to have a pleasant chat (when I turned full time all those years ago, Mickey was already a reg is the $50 plus Ipoker sit n gos that were my staple), which was cut short when I standard shoved j9s from the small blind, he snap standard called with A6o, and I got there to knock him out. I knocked Liv out a little while later in a slightly less standard spot. After I opened ATs utg, she announced her decision to play "non optimal poker" and peeled for 25% of her stack. I checked to let her hang herself on the ace high flop. To be fair, she had flopped a flush draw but didn't get there. So, two Stars pros doked out of it in quick succession.
Daragh was coolered early, and before you could say "More free booze please" I found myself on a final table with Neil Channing, Barney, Simon Trumper, Jeff Kimber (who apart from Neil seemed to be the only person at the table with a clue as to who I was) and David Vamplew. I had a bit of a stack too, or at least I was comfortably above average with 8 big blinds. At this stage the free booze was definitely starting to kick in so my recollection of my exit is a little hazy. What I do remember is that Jeff Kimber made a correct shove on the button with a king and I correctly called in the small blind with an ace, but was not victorious despite making 2 pair.
Daragh and David had roped Chihao into a game of open faced Chinese. We have been playing a bit of OFC recently and talking strategy among ourselves but I still did wonder aloud about the wisdom of playing Open Faced Chinese with an actual Chinese person. In an apparent attempt to counter balance this, the lads also roped in Jesse May, on grounds of strong suspicion he would be a fish (actually he played it very well, and only lost because he ran bad).
Myself and David were both playing the main event the next day so as soon as I bust the freeroll we made our excuses and left. Chihao, legend that he is, apparently stumbled in his drunken state straight to his office, rode the lift to the fifth floor, pulled two benches together, and grabbed a couple of hours kip before being awoken by colleagues and working a half day and then returning to the Vic to play day one. The stuff of legends (and possible future interventions).
The next day Jesse dropped round to my table to ask how I was getting on. I jokingly asked him if he was looking for a game of OFC. He replied that he suspected I might deliberately bust just for the chance to play him in OFC. Then he coined a possible new term for the Firm, when he said "Or just do what you did yesterday and dispatch Doke's Disciples to play me".
On second thoughts, that particular name might be a tough sell to the other members of the Firm.