In Malta, they don't make false claims. They don't do bombast. They're pretty relaxed, in fact.
Example 1: in most airports these days, when you clear security, there are signs exhorting you to rush to your gate. 20 minutes away. Take the monorail. Hurry hurry.
The equivalent sign in Malta airport says simply "Relax. Your gate is only a few minutes away"
Example 2: near Portomaso casino there exists the finest convenience store I've ever seen. Once you are inside, there's an excellent selection of alcoholic beverages and fine wines, culinary delicacies and even some DVDs. Anywhere else, this oasis of fine taste and wide selection would have some high faluting delicatessen name and facade. In Malta however, here's what it looks like from the outside:
Already something of an egaming hub, Malta is becoming something of a refuge for online expats, driven from their native lands by regulations and restrictions. Ike Haxton lives there, and currently two thirds of the Chip Race are there. Daragh Davey moved there a while back (with ex Firmy Jaymo), and David Lappin is wintering there currently. It's possible we'll all end up in there in a few years in the end times of online poker as more and more Governments seek to tax, regulate and restrict us out of existence, and apart from the mosquitoes, there are definitely worse places to end up.
I spent much of the trip struggling with a cold that surfaced just after I got there. This is a recurring theme for me recently. One of the dealers told me the dealers nearly all get sick on these trips too, and she blamed the unhealthy Petrie dish conditions of poker rooms and the stark contrast between their air conditioned atmosphere and the warmth outside. I'm also wondering if my policy of doing a 25 to 30 mile long run the day before I fly out is wise (my old running coach was always quick to point out that as great as these long runs are, they do lower your immune system for about 24 hours).
I still managed to get in a few pleasant runs round the island, and a few deepish runs in the poker. The most noteworthy of these came in the EPT main event, where once again (as in Barcelona) I found myself on the feature table near the bubble, the easy butt of Stapes "He's got a girl's name" jokes (blame the ancient Gaels for that one and their more gender neutral culture that saw no reason to have different names for boys and girls: every old Irish name is simultaneously both and neither, even if in modern more sexist and less enlightened Anglocentric times people have moved towards clearer gender badging). This time, I had to get lucky early on (when I proved Scott Gray's oft repeated assertion that king Jack always beats ace queen to be true), and avoid getting unlucky on the exact bubble when I reshoved aces and was quickly called by Allen Bilic with queens. It being the bubble, we weren't allowed to table our hands immediately, but the convention in these spots is to tell each other what you have with the verbal equivalent of a nod and a wink that just about stays within the letter of the "you can't declare your exact hand" law but strays well outside the spirit of that law. So when Bilic asked if I had it, I assured him I had, much to the amusement of my stacked table mates. With one guy on another table down to his last three antes and two other sub one big blind stacks out there, my immediate neighbour to the left Paul Berende chuckled "Of course he's got it", his immediate neighbour Dan Smith concurred, and Faraz Jaka pointed at me and said "My money's on that guy to have the better hand". When it was announced I was all in, Max Silver shouted good luck to me from a nearby table, and Berende joked "He's not going to need it".
Which was true, but there's always a sweat. After my lovely dealer friend Sonia delivered a safe enough looking flop where nobody hit a set, she turned over a third heart to give Bilic a flush draw going to the river. After what seemed like an eternity while she waited for the TV director to tell her to proceed through her earpiece, she dealt a right colour wrong shape diamond river and I was able to breathe again.
Afterwards a lot of people asked me how tense I was. The answer is not as tense as most people imagine. Once I have made my decision and the outcome is in the lap of the poker gods, I become pretty stoical. I know in that spot that I can't fold aces, but I also accept that that means I'm destined to bubble almost a fifth of the time. If it happens, it happens. The ICM of those spots is what really interests me. It's very difficult to assess (exact solutions are trivial with 9 left, but too complex to solve with 90), and good players often diverge quite significantly in their intuition. Watching the livestream in another Maltese expat's place, Kevin Killeen turned to his host and said "Doke has either aces or kings here". His host pooh poohed the notion that my range was so tight. In reality, Kev nailed it. And I would have had to think about kings and not loved it (Ax being a big part of the calling range, and aces being out there almost 5% of the time you have Kings). Daragh Davey thinks kings is very close and might even be a fold.
In Barca, I bust shortly after being moved off the feature table after the bubble. I managed to avoid such a fate this time, but never really mustered any further momentum at a super tough table. Late into day 3, I found myself in shove or fold mode with a hand I'm supposed to shove. My nines ran into the big blind's queens and that was that. Apart from one hand I wished I'd turned into a bluff on the turn rather than a meek check fold, I had no regrets.
On livestream commentary I was reportedly referred to as a serial casher. This is a slightly less insulting version of the accusation often thrown at me that I'm a min cash specialist. While I understand why people taking a cursory look at my Hendon mob and seeing a forest of relatively small cashes as I close in on a century of scores, when I'm feeling contrary I sometimes raise objections to this view. A more careful look at my record reveals that when I cash, the position I finish more often than any other is......first (the same is true over a much more significant sample size online of almost 1000 final tables, where I also finish first more often than any other position). With 8 wins on my record meaning I win almost once every dozen times I cash live, I think this underlines the fact that I'm not just about min cashes.
Add in my eight second places and seven 3rds (so when I cash I have finished top three a quarter of the time) and 31 other final tables (so when I cash I make the final table over half the time) and I don't think the view that I just min cash a lot stands up to scrutiny. There are actually very few pure min cashes on my rap sheet, and hopefully the fact that in recent months I have compiled a second and a ninth in two WSOP bracelet events, a third in a UKIPT High Roller (and another in a side event), and two non min cashes in back to back EPT main events will make it more obvious I don't just go around min cashing and getting my buyin back :)
Other highlights of the trip included the good fortune of sitting beside the guy who cashed the main event with one ante (lovely guy, lovely chat, lovely story), and flipping so bad in the six flipout events it actually was funny. And I went for dinner with Tony Baitson, one of the few guys who has been around the upper echelons of Irish poker since I started. Back in 2008 when we both final tabled the European Deepstack for our first big live scores, much of the press coverage afterwards was of the "Joe Beevers and eight unknown Irish donks made the final table" variety, so it tickles my fancy that not just myself and Tony are still around but also current Irish GPI number 1 Marc McDonnell and Gary Clarke were there too. Looking back, that final table looks a lot stronger than it did at the time.
My main goals for the rest of the year are to grind out a decent online final score for the year (at present my online year while decently profitable is lacklustre by my previous standards), secure Supernova status again (2016 will probably be my last year as a supernova as one of my New Year's resolutions is to move most of my volume back to other sites), and hopefully complete my century of lifetime cashes live in either Edinburgh or Prague.
Update: That last paragraph was written before my Supersonic chop (this blog got bumped for one about that) and my Edinburgh trip (where I secured the century of live cashes: more on that in the next blog on Edinburgh)