It would appear that Stars haven't had any luck with the hotels they chose for this EPT season. After concerns about security after what happened to Jens Kyllonen in Barcelona, the Russell hotel chosen for the London stop looked good from the outside at least. Unfortunately everything else about it was less impressive, to the point that you wonder if they might have had to throw a bung John Cleese's way at some point to get him to tell people Fawlty Towers was based on a Torquay hotel.
Anyone following players in London on Twitter will already be aware that a litany of First World woes were aired there, from bed bugs through rude staff to boxy rooms. I can't imagine these elicit much sympathy from people struggling to make a living back home ("Oh look, those pampered poker pros don't think their luxury hotel is all that") so let's just leave it at that after adding they also tried a bit of Basil Fawlty style shysterism on double package winners. My UKIPT package ran from Tuesday to Sunday, while the EPT package of my roomy Jason Tompkins ran from Saturday til the end of the EPT. When Jason presented himself on Saturday to claim the additional room, he was informed they had only allocated us one room. This despite the fact that two rooms for the Saturday were presumably paid for by Stars out of the prize pools of the satellites we won. At this stage I am presuming Stars will retrieve the money for the additional night and refund us.
After starting the year with three successive UKIPT day 3's, now it seems I can't even make it out of day 1 alive. Early on I stationed unsuccessfully with overpairs to get shown unlikely two pair hands. That left me short and while I managed to survive on fumes for hours and did eventually get it all in threeways with the best hand, I was walking back to the hotel wondering how rude the doorman would be this time before dinner on day 1.
I played only one side event (preferring to grind online: in fact I bust the UKIPT main so quickly I was back at the hotel in time to win a package to the next UKIPT in the Isle of Man that evening). Was good craic hanging out with the other Firm lads (six of us played the UKIPT main event, with Jason and David both cashing), whether it was crowding around a laptop to watch South Park...
or some open faced Chinese after the Sunday grind.
Also, a shout out to the American branch of the Firm (also known as Clayton Mooney), who gave us the obligatory Firm final table rail in the London Cup to chants of "US Clay, US Clay".
Jason and I stayed on in the EPT, my first since Deauville at the start of the year. Early on in it, the pattern was I kept losing hands with flopped sets. One fell to a runner runner flush, and two to higher sets, one of which only got there on the turn (in that hand I did at least manage to find the Fold button on the river). I was contemplating hitting the Fold button again when a set of twos got raised on the river by French rapper and graffiti artist Kool Shen (also a Winamax pro), but after reworking through the hand in my head and deciding the only hand he could have that beat me was t9 (which seemed unlikely given that the hand started with him opening under the gun) I called to find him turning third pair into a bluff.
After that shaky start I was happy to hang in there and made some progress late in the day. I peaked at 60k about an hour from the end but lost a chunk with AK v JJ in the very last hand of the day. Still I was pretty happy to still be there after the shaky start and to be bagging up 42k.
My day 2 table was very tough as it included two Ultimate Poker pros (Dan O'Brien and Jeff Gross), online beasts Timothy Adams and Daniel Reijmar, and a chipped up Devilfish. I was chatting online that morning to my friend Max Heinzelmann and he felt I could potentially exploit a very nitty image, so I cultivated that image in the early going. I was holding my own until my exit, which seemed like a good spot. After Daniel Reijmer opened in early position and Daniel Laidlaw flatted, it seemed perfectly reasonable to shove in my 23 big blinds with nines, hoping to either add 25% to my stack uncontested if it got through, or win a race to have a decent stack to attack the bubble if I did get called. Unfortunately, neither transpired: Reijmer folded but Laidlaw snapped with AQs. I was winning the race til the river, but a queen sent me packing. No regrets about taking the spot though: chatting to Feargal Nealon at one of the breaks (who gave an excellent interview on the Stars blog which is well worth seeking out), he made the excellent point that in a field of that calibre, if we are honest we have to admit that our edge if we have any at all is preflop, so we have to push our marginal edges there. I think I was doubly unlucky: first to get called (I think nobody else at the table would have called me with AQs, but Daniel had just arrived at the table and was unaware of my image having seen me shove and reshove two of the previous three hands), and second to lose the flip. Those 20k in equity flips are the ones you really want to win.