It seems like every UKIPT trip report I write these days boils down to "I am happy to have cashed/gone deepish in another main event but I would like to win one if these things or at least make the final table at some point". So let's get that out of the way right up front.
Last season's Nottingham stop was easily my least favourite (and my roommate on that trip felt even more strongly to the point he didn't travel for this one). With that in mind, I elected to arrive as late as possible (the morning of day 1c) and had a quick getaway flight booked for the following day in case I bust day 1.
This basically meant no sleep the night before my day 1, far from ideal (and if this was a tournament I had sold for I would have made sure I was better prepared and rested). It's tough to keep changing my online grind sleep pattern (designed to allow me to grind from 6 PM to around 6 AM) to one more conducive to the midday starts of live poker. So in this case I decided not to really bother, feeling that the equity gained from being in top shape on day one would be a lot less than the equity lost by having to mess up my online schedule.
All of which meant I was the most tired I've ever been at a poker table right from the start of day 1. My running coach used to say that if you were not at your best in a race, the only thing to do was to acknowledge accept and adjust to this. So my basic strategy on day 1 was to play pretty tight and straightforward and try to give myself as few marginal or tricky spots as possible: which I feel is not a bad strategy anyway for day 1 of a UKIPT.
I didn't make the best of starts and wasn't running all that well, but I stuck to the plan and was happy to chip up to 38k (from 20k starting) having dropped as low as 7k. Iwas even happier to get back to the hotel and straight to bad for a good night's sleep.
Stephen McLean recently made a thought provoking post on IrishPokerBoards (which I have to admit I rarely read these days as there seems to be very little about poker there any more, and even less positive that is positive about poker) asking if poker was losing its social aspect, pointing to the growing number of (mostly young online) players that turn up with headphones and tablets and watch movies while playing. That's a debate for another day but I will make a few quick points. Firstly, despite my age, I'm probably more a part of this faction than the old timers who turn up looking for a good natter with whoever they happen to find at the table. In fact, while I obviously wouldn't blank anyone and will speak when spoken to, I'm probably happiest if I can get through the day without saying a word to anyone at the table. It's not that I'm particularly misanthropic, but if you put me with a random collection of poker players, chances are I'm not going to have much in common with them outside of poker. So yes, I'll be one of those guys who as soon as he has folded is mucking about on his Ipad or Iphone rather than asking the guy beside him what he thinks of the waitresses skimpy costumes. I think people of my generation who see this as antisocial are mistaken: the fact is social networks are the new preferred method of socialising of many. During the tournament I was chatting to people on Facebook and Viber, and tweeting and responding to tweets. These are social interactions with people I have a lot more in common with and a lot more shared history than anyone at the table. The other point I would make is that at least in my experience the good old days when people spoke at the table and bantered weren't really all that good. The first time I played live, it seemed like the established regulars (in the Fitz) were going out of their way to feel me unwelcome. A thinner skin than mine would have never darkened their doorstep again, but I just ignored the abuse or banter or whatever you want to call it (in my experience the word banter is one of the favourite words of all kinds of bullies, as essentially it's a double whammy that not only excuses them to fling insults and abuse at people they barely know, but shifts the blame onto those people as humourless drones who "can't take a joke" if they dare to object). One Fitz reg took it upon himself to berate my play every hand I played for the first year or so I went to the Fitz and to tell anyone who cared to listen that I was the worst player ever. So forgive me if I tell you I'd rather sit with a bunch of young guys minding their own business and watching their own movies. My final point is that poker is my job. Parking meter attendants are not expected to chat with the people when working, and I personally find it a lot easier to concentrate on the job in hand if I say nothing. I also find it a lot easier to ruthlessly take someone's tourney life if we haven't struck up a conversation that tells me what nice people they are and they haven't started showing me pictures of their wife and kids who they want to take on a holiday with any money they win in the tourney.
Given that I knew nobody on my day one table, I was confident I could make it through without having to strike up a conversation with any of them. Not for the first time, I grossly overestimated my own ability to do something, as I ended up not only having a pleasant chat with my immediate neighbour (a lovable Cockney geezer called Russell) but sharing a cab back to the hotel. Phil Baker commented on this photo that Russell looks like he is going to prison bitch me.
Despite feeling well refreshed and rested, I made a pretty bad start to day 2 (I was still running pretty bad) and dropped back to 23k. My cause wasn't helped when my table broke early and I got moved to one of the toughest seats in the room, wedged between online beast Paul "uwannaloan" Delaney and Rob Sherwood. I'm on record before in this blog as one of Paul's biggest fans (both as a player and a guy). He's the real deal IMO, a true grinder with an insatiable ethic to both work and learn, and an unflappable temperament. He might just be the best player in Ireland right now. Rob is another beast who I haven't seen in a while but has always impressed, so my seat could hardly have been worse (particularly when you throw in a chipped up David Jones to Rob's immediate right). These are two guys I do enjoy talking to, so there was quite a lot of conversation. Rob was asking me about our mutual friend Mark Dalimore who coincidentally enough will be waking in a few hours to go play the final table of Eureka Prague. Good luck bruv.
I had a fairly bumpy ride from there to near the bubble. Just before the bubble I was essentially crippled after I got three outered on the river. One could argue it was my own fault as I didn't bet the turn when I was still ahead but I felt I had a few good reasons for taking the less orthodox line. Having raised AJs, I found myself heads up against the big blind. He hadn't been at the table that long but had already shown himself to be a man willing to play pots rather than sit on his big stack, and shown signs of being willing to use said stack to exert pressure on smaller stacks. This influenced the line I chose after the flop came j73. I cbet the flop and after he called and we saw a safe turn (a deuce) I saw the following as reasons not to bet the turn after he checked:
(1) while I thought I nearly always had the best hand, I didn't think he would call three streets with a worse hand, and figured he would call two streets with a wider range if I bet the river rather than the turn
(2) in the event that he was floating with absolute air on the flop, my turn check showing weakness could induce him to bluff the river
(3) in the unlikely event that I was actually behind to a set or some weird two pair, checking the turn gave me the chance to pull ahead on the river and would make it less likely he could get my entire stack in on the river. That close to the bubble, conserving some chips when behind is a lot more important than potentially winning a few extra when ahead
The main reasons for betting the turn are
(a) to get three streets of value from worse hands that would call three streets (mainly worse jacks)
(b) to protect my hand when I'm ahead
On balance I didn't think there were enough worse hands he could have to call three streets, and a strong enough need to protect my hand (on a board not heavy on draws, any hand I was ahead of had most likely only 3 or 4 outs to hit on the river: one live overcard hands like Ak, aq, kj or qj have just 3 outs, while gut shots like t9, t8, 98, a4 or a5 have four. Only kq has significant equity with 6 outs), so I checked behind. The q on the river was not ideal but having played my hand to induce river bluffs I had to call when he bet. While I was pretty sickened at the time to see qto, I'm still happy enough with how I played the hand. Given he called the flop I think my read that he would float nearly all his air was spot on (I can't imagine he thought his q high was good at that point) and I'm pretty sure he was betting the river even if he hadn't hit so I think my line was the most profitable long term. It also meant that at least I escaped with a few big blinds near the bubble.
As it was, I was destined to min cash, but as min cashes go at least it was an exciting one. I think there were a total of 5 allins on the bubble, and I was three of them. The first came when uwannaloan min raised the button and I found sixes in the small blind. I didn't think I had enough chips to fold through the bubble (I basically had about ten hands before blinding out if I folded) so I stuck my four big blinds in and hoped for the best. Luckily it was pretty much best case scenario, with Paul flipping over 33 and my sixes held.
That timely double up meant I felt I could now almost certainly fold through the bubble. With the chip equity of my stack being less than the min cash at this point, that meant I should tighten up my shoving range to the point where only aces was a clear shove.
I did get aces though before the bubble so I shoved. David Jones called in the small blind and flipped over Aqs prematurely. As usual on the bubble, we had been told not to turn our cards over until instructed so I sat there trying to look calm as the traditional vulturous crowd assembled around the table hoping to see the bubble burst, but my aces held.
My third and final allin was probably the most interesting spot, and most debatable (it was debated by my closest friends at least). I'll look at that in part two.