Saturday, June 8, 2013

Jesus is it that time already?

As you get older, Christmas seems to come around quicker every year. As you become an older poker player, Vegas and the WSOP does the same. And here it is again....that time of year when Mrs Doke is dispatched to request an amount of dollars that makes her an immediate "person of interest" to our bank, guaranteeing she will be asked all sort of questions about why someone would want that many dollars by suspicious officials.

After Berlin, I was feeling pretty burned out from live poker, so I decided to take a lengthy break before Vegas, committing only to play Marbella since it became part of the UK according to Stars, for a couple of reasons. First, I figured a break from the live game was the best way to recharge the batteries and ensure I headed to Vegas raring to go. Second, and probably more importantly, I wanted to get in enough volume online to cushion me from the likely damage in Vegas (and the opportunity cost of not being able to grind online while I'm off chasing bracelets). Yes folks, just as you move from childhood to parenthood with a perspective on Christmas that changes from "What will I get this year?" to "How much is this going to cost me this year?", as a poker player you go from a state of virginity blissfully thinking only of bracelets to be won to a more realistic view that in most universes you will come home without a bracelet and without most of the cash you carried out there. That's not defeatism: I personally think my chances of success this year are higher than ever, but as a NLH player I know I'm going to have be very lucky to come through any one of the several thousand runner fields I will be in. It's the live equivalent of any given Sunday online: you're hoping it's one of those where you win a major, but usually it's one where you'd have more money on your accounts if you hadn't played that day.

One of the upsides to my break from live poker is I've been able to get myself into better physical shape, running more, and eating better.

I'm going to depart from the tradition of picking 5 to watch, because let's face it, with most Irish players being NLH specialists, you might as well be picking 5 horses in the Grand National, if the Grand National suddenly had 100 times more runners. We're all hoping to be the guy that gets the clear run and gets safely across each fence.

Instead, what I will do is pick my two young guns to watch. In so doing rather than just reeling out a list of the current established names, I'm hoping that when one or both of them does bink, I will look like a total visionary genius. So without further ado, my two to watch:

1. Padraig O'Neill

Known to his friends as Smidge, Padraig is in my opinion the pick of the younger crop of live Irish tournament players. It's odd to me that his name rarely crops up in these types of discussions, but I guess that's in part down to his (largely misunderstood) style of play, and his personal manner, both of which are unfussy and deliberately lowkey. He chooses to fly under the radar both at and away from the table, and as a result people don't pay as much attention to him as they should. If any other young player in the country had the same results Smidge has had in the past 2 years (EMOP champion, UKIPT final tableist) I think they would be universally hailed as the next big thing, but the fact that Smidge chooses not to shout his accomplishments from the rooftops leads to many underrating him. He's not on PocketFives so people don't realise how well he does online.

This will be Smidge's second Vegas. Last year he concentrated his efforts in the Venetian where he went deep in two Deepstack events. This year he will move his focus to the Rio and make his main event debut. As one of the best live cash players in Ireland, he has a wealth of experience of playing deepstacked that will serve him well there. If I had to give my last 10 grand to any Irish player to go play the WSOP main event, Smidge would be my choice, as he has both the game and the level temperament to succeed on the biggest stage of all.

2. Dan Wilson
If Smidge is a pretty safe choice, Dan is a total wildcard, as he has no live results at all. He is, however, a proper online beast, and as anyone who reads the IPB Strategy forums will know, there's nobody in the country with a better grasp of the theory than Dan. All of this leads me to believe his lack of live results to date are down to "lol sample size" grounds. Having seen him play live, I am impressed by his temperament and presence. Having spoken to him at live events, he impresses me as someone who won't need much time to adjust from online to live. This will be his first Vegas and I will be the least surprised person in Ireland if he ends up being our surprise package there.



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