At my table in a turbo side event I played at UKIPT Isle of Man, a Canadian player was keeping us all entertained with his constant patter and chatter which was quite amusing. Part of his routine was to do the round of the table asking each player what their Stars screen name was. When told, he would generally respond with a comment of recognition. When it came to my turn, he looked me over and then passed on to the next player, apparently assuming on the basis of age profiling that I didn't look like a guy who even knew what online poker even was, let alone played it.
After I busted, I went to my Firm mates Lappin and Daragh on the rail to discuss dinner plans. As I was doing this someone must have said something, as suddenly I heard a Canadian voice ask "Oh....so you're Slowdoke?" I turned, confirmed that I was and as I shook hands with him by way of greeting, he commented "We have played quite a lot together. You play...." and after a pregnant pause "...quite well".
Lappin was choking with laughter at the reluctant and qualified nature of this lukewarm compliment and even Daragh cracked a rare smile (more of a smirk really) as he asked me how it felt to be told I played... "quite well".
Much to everyone's surprise, I finished day 1a of the main event as chip leader. It was far from plain sailing. I spent most of the day languishing around starting stack at a much tougher than average table that included Tim Davie, Daragh Davey, Owen Shiels and UKIPT Marbella champion Ludovic Geilich. Ironically, most of my chips came from Timmy and Ludovic. I flopped a set on an ace high board against Timmy and got three streets from his ace, and coolered Ludovic with 44 v K7 on a 774 flop. I also won another decent sized pot against Ludovic with deceptively played aces, so when our table broke about ninety minutes from the end of the day, I escaped with over 60k which was....quite acceptable.
My new table was no softer, with chipleader Niall "firaldo" Farrell, WSOP bracelet winner Dominik Nitsche and another online baller whose names escapes me. All three were tanked up and bouncing off each other, with Niall in particular playing almost every hand. Apart from raise folding 66, I played only 3 hands in the next 90 minutes, but won all three versus firaldo, moving past him into the chiplead as a result. I felt that while I knew who he was, firaldo had no idea who I was and probably just assumed I was a random local old guy, an image I did nothing to dispel and one which probably affected the way the hands played out. When I got back to the hotel, he tweeted me to say "did not realise this was you.... Oh dear lol".
Hand 1: He opens utg, I flat ATo. Flop comes KJ8 and he cbets small. I call on the basis that I often have the best hand, and even if I don't have other ways to win the hand (I can hit my gutter, or bet the turn if checked to setting up a river bluff that might get him off a small to medium pocket pair). Turn is another jack, and he check calls. River is another king, and he quickly fires out two blue chips (10k), a big bet relative to the pot. I call instantly and he announces ten high.
Hand 2: He mins the button, James Browning peels from the small blind, as do I with A8o. Flop comes 997 and it gets checked around. Turn is a 6, I bet small, firaldo calls and Browning folds. River is a 9 and it goes check check and my hand is good.
Hand 3: He opens in early position and I flat tens. Flop is t84 and he check calls a half pot bet. Turn is a king and he check calls a slightly bigger bet. River is a seven and I bet about two thirds of call. After some speech play about how I shouldn't be bluffing him yet he felt I might be, and how many draws had missed, he talked himself into the call. He didn't show his hand but told Nitsche he had just a four.
I had no idea I was chipleader until Stars blogger Nick Wright told me after close of play. I'm not someone who gets overly excited about that sort of thing unless there are only 2 or 3 people left, rather than two or three hundred. You need to have all the chips at the end to win a tournament and if you do that it really doesn't matter how you got there or how many you had at any particular point. As I pointed out to Lappin at the close, my stack might be good for the chiplead right then, but wouldn't even be average at the bubble. All it really meant was a bit of coverage and attention for me in the blogs, CardPlayer, Bluff, PokerNews etc which as an attention whore I did find... quite exciting.
My day 2 starting table was also a lot tougher than average with Nick Abou Risk two to my left, and Big Mick G and Jake Cody also there. I chipped up a little early on but then lost a 55k flip with tens (versus Ak which runner runnered the wheel). That knocked me back into the pack somewhat with 80k. The old cliche that you have to win your flips rang true but you have to be able to adjust to reversals of fortune so I just got on with it. One pot I was happy with (even though I lost it) was one where I opened a9 on the button. Nick Abou Risk peeled from the big blind and we checked it down on a t55k4 runout and he claimed the pot with 65. The old cliche that poker is all about aggression isn't as true as the one about flips in my opinion: there are times when the more cautious approach of getting to showdown cheaply will save you chips. If I bet the flop and get raised I could very well have got into a levelling war thinking Nick was repping a board more likely to have hit his range than mine and dusted off a lot of chips before finding out he actually had it this time.
I had about 70k which was about average when that table broke. My new table featured Simon Deadman and Max Silver. I won a small pot against Max where he generously noted that all the money had gone in on the only 2 streets I was ahead (preflop and river) and none when he was ahead. While I obviously recognise the importance of the occasional well timed bluff or semi bluff, I think if you can keep getting money in with the best of it and avoid doing do with the worst of it, that's a pretty profitable strategy long term.
As the bubble loomed, card death and a lack of decent spots saw me wither back to 50k, meaning I had to pass on a few marginal spots I might have taken in a different payout structure (because of the overlay, the min cash was unusually significant for a Stars event. At just over 2 buyins, it meant nearly all my equity at this point was in just making the money and then trying to spin). It's all good and macho to play for the win, but the most successful tournament players are the ones that base their decisions on what will make them the most money in the long term rather than what will give them the best chance of winning any one tournament.
The bubble was an unusually long one (I guess a result of the big min cash) and I squeaked through it with 12 big blinds, which became 9 when the blinds rose, then 19 big blinds when I got in with 99 and held v a8. Shortly afterwards I found a great spot to get right back into contention when I got the lot in pre with queens v kq but the king on the turn was...quite disappointing.
Had I held there I would have had an above average stack with 40 people left and fancied my chances, but it wasn't to be. I was pretty happy with my overall play and low variance strategy. In truth I ran pretty awfully on day 2 even aside from losing the flip early on and the 75/25 in my exit, so it just wasn't meant to be. It was my fourth cash in a UKIPT main event this year which I guess is...quite good.
I'd obviously swap the four crossbars for one win (or even a final table) but hopefully that will come in time so long as I keep getting myself into position. Live this year I'm cashing almost as consistently as any other year but not getting the big result which is frustrating, but on the other hand I feel I have run above expectation online this year (especially with my Super Tuesday bink) so I won't bore you with complaints about how I've run live.
Kudos to the UKIPT team and in particular new supremo Dave Curtis for what was a very enjoyable tour leg. Dave in particular pulled out all the stops to make sure everything ran smoothly and everyone felt welcome. I for one hope it will be back again next season: the locals are very friendly, the food is good and the venue itself impressive. And the hotel for once even met with Lappin's high standards. The Firm as a whole had some minor successes to boost spirits for the evening OFC sessions, with Lappin final tabling the Isle of Man cup and Daragh getting a result in the 6 max that temporarily moved him to the top of the UKIPT leaderboard. Well done also to High Roller king Max Silver who busted the main in time to jump into the high roller which he of course won, and Mark Spelman who won the PLO. I had the pleasure of sitting beside Mark on the flight home and he really is one of the good guys of Irish poker.
Next up for me live is the Nottingham 6 Max UKIPT (which I qualified for a few hours after landing back in Dublin). That will probably be my last live trip this year as I need to knuckle down and put in some volume on Stars to secure supernova status for next year.
Finally a massive well done to my good buddy Daryl McAleenan who took down the 888 Super Stack in JP's club at the weekend (defeating one of the legends of Irish poker Scott Gray heads up I believe), which was quite.....Actually quite nothing, simply bloody brilliant.