PrologueSo there's this luxury pool aboard a cruise ship. It's a great pool, the best pool even, a pool that would impress Donald Trump bigly. Pretty much everyone who uses the pool has nothing but good things to say about the pool. The attendant facilities are top notch, as are the attendant staff.
Yet for reasons unknown, the numbers using the pool are declining. The staff have no idea what those reasons unknown might be. All they can do is keep on providing top class service to the (fewer and fewer) people who do turn up to use the pool.
TuesdayAfter a night spent watching the first US Presidential debate between Clinton and Trump (which saw the Donald implode so bigly he must have wished he was at that pool on the cruise ship casting aspersions on the body shapes of beauty queens in bikinis), I head to the airport with another man who enjoys a good spectacle (when he's not making one of himself).
When we get to our hotel in Hamburg a few hours later, we are far too dog tired to shrug off the news that our room won't be ready for a few hours with "let's go for a coffee" insouciance. I watch Lappin start to bristle until we remember that all he has to do is point out the booking was for yesterday, not today. That allows us to grab a few hours much needed kip before day one of the High Roller.
I get through to day 2 with my customary sub 20 big blinds. Still feeling sleep deprived (my Sunday grind stretched into a nineteenth hour and was followed by less than three hours sleep, and as I already said, the next night was spent watching Trump sniff like a man who craved many lines of coke bigly), I tried to grab as much kip as I could before day 2.
WednesdayIn the early hours of the morning I made my fourth consecutive live full ring final table, but still hadn't cashed. Given the fact that we were on the exact bubble, and it was quite a significant one, and there were three sub ten big blind stacks, I was pretty much in an ICM coffin, unable to make any moves or play anything other than premiums until someone busted.
Unfortunately the bubble dragged on way longer than it should have, and the fact that I was dealt nothing better than ace Jack while it did so, meant that by the time it finally went two thirds of my stack had withered away. After laddering one more spot I got it in blind on blind in a standard spot and was out. Triple bracelet winner, Team Pro and all round great guy George Danzer put his chiplead, skills and Mohawk to good use crushing his way to the win (he came close to a truly remarkable back to back double when he also chiplead for much of the main event before ultimately coming ninth).
ThursdayBy now I'd finally caught up with my sleep to the point that I allowed Gareth Chantler to twist my arm into a run before we went to play day 1b of the main event. I struggled bigly on the run for reasons that would become clear later that day.
In the main event, I got off to a flyer, racing up to over two starting stacks before the first break. Unfortunately the rest of the day was a bit of a grind, and to make matters worse a cold I expected finally started to make itself known. When Lappin had turned up at our house a few days earlier sniffing like an ill prepared Presidential candidate I resigned myself to catching whatever he had, given how many hours we would spend in close proximity in the coming days.
By the end of play, I was just glad to be making another day 2, mainly because that meant I could take Friday off to struggle unmanfully with my illness.
FridayI did just that, sleeping most of the day.
SaturdayBoth Lappin and Gareth had reentered on 1c, and both made it through. Gareth with exactly the same chip count as me, David with a little less. With three short stacks still a long way from the bubble, the most likely outcome was that only one of us would make it to the money.
Gareth got off to an unlikely flyer when his queen Jack hit running jacks to dog queens all in pre. I'd also folded a jack, but no bother to him. David hung on gamely before losing a race, and I doubled in a race. About a dozen from the bubble I found myself short enough to have only one move, and when I executed it with king eight suited in late position, I ran into Herr Danzer's dominating king queen. He told me later he felt bad knocking me out, a nice thing to say, but if someone had to do it, I was happy it was the best player in the field and my favourite Team Pro.
So my back to back sequence stopped at four, and I suddenly had a day to kill. Lappin and I decided to recreate our stroll around the centre from last year, and photo (a couple of rats outside the Rathaus):
We both had all of our remaining equity in the main event wrapped up in Gareth Chantler, so we kept an eye on the blog updates. It proved to be quite the rollercoaster as he moved into the chiplead near the bubble, before stone cold bubbling in memorable fashion with an ace high triple barrel call down for all the bread.
SundayLappin and I played our last event, the 550 Deepstack turbo. Neither of us cashed, and we decided to skip the last side event the following day in favour of some more sightseeing.
MondayAt breakfast, Gareth tried to persuade me to take some luggage of his back to Dublin. Remembering the last time I agreed to do this, I didn't entertain the idea for very long.
George had suggested St Michaels church as a sight worth seeing, so we walked into town to do so. George met us there and was our most gracious guide. Faced with a choice between a tour of the crypt or the tower, we went the tower route. First, we looked around the main church. I think this was only the second Protestant church I'd ever been inside in my life (the first was for my bridge partner's wedding over 25 years ago). What immediately struck me was how much brighter and less gloomy it was than your typical Catholic church. And how much bread was on display. There was bread everywhere, in the pews, on the altar, hanging from the lights.
As we started the ascent to the tower, George asked "Elevator or stairs?" I saw that David was distracted by a phone call, so seized the opportunity to have some fun at his expense, nominating stairs. David was already pretty tired from the walk into town, and huffed and puffed his way up what seemed like at least thirty flights of stairs, stalling every so often to declare a profound interest in whatever we came across ("oh, look at that fire extinguisher. What a marvellous fire extinguisher that is. Let's stop and look at it for a while. What year do you think it's from?"). He struggled to the top in such a funk he didn't even notice the elevator stops at several points.
The view from the tower is pretty amazing, and we had a pretty surreal encounter with a couple of nice Southern boys from the US who turned out to be Mormon missionaries before George offered a variety of dining suggestions. The first suggestion, Portuguese, seemed like the GTO play, given that George's upbringing in Portugal has given him a fine appreciation of all things Portuguese.
At the restaurant David went in whining about his poor calfsies which were still seized up from the stair climb, and George asked him why he hadn't taken the elevator. Cue the anticipated Lappin apoplexy.
"THERE WAS AN ELEVATOR? YOU BASTARDS!"
Miguel and Lisa Marie from Stars came sauntering by and joined us for one of the most awesome meals I've ever eaten in my life. A meal so reinvigorating that David recovered enough for a short stroll around the harbour before it was time to head back to the hotel for a cab to the airport.
EpilogueDavid and I headed to Hamburg last year not really sure what to expect. We ended up very pleasantly surprised by how good the casino, the staff and everything around the event was. So we came back this year expecting more of the same, and were not disappointed. Dave Curtis, Miguel, Lisa Marie and everyone else involved did sterling work to make the event fun. If anything, this year was a little better than last year (more chilled security staff, better hotel, better free food options).
While I was very critical of another recent Stars event, I'm more than willing to give credit where it's due, even when it comes to Stars (to whom there is a lot of bad will right now as they seem to have tipped over into unashamed profit gouging). There are still a lot of great people working for Stars, some of the people who made them the best in the business, and it's to the credit of those people that even when faced with all the negativity and hostility being directed at Stars from poker players, they go on doing their jobs as best they can, and delivering top notch events within the confines of what their new corporate masters allow. The only disappointment (apart from the wifi) I took from Hamburg was that despite the greatness of the event last year and this, and the great overall player experience, player numbers were way down.
As tempting as it is to gloat that Stars may finally be reaping the fruits of the bad will they have sown so flippantly in the past year, it's hard not to feel a little sorry for the front line staff. They're like the pool attendants on that cruise ship, who go on doing a great job against the demoralising backdrop of diminishing numbers. Like the rest of us, they can but speculate without actually knowing why the numbers are in free fall. Maybe the cruise ship is sinking and people are too busy scrambling for the lifeboats to go for a dip in the pool. Maybe global warming has caused water levels to rise to the point that the last thing people want to spend their vacations in is a boat. Maybe the boat's new owner Bavid Dazzof always intended to scuttle the boat and collect the insurance (insider trading profits). Or maybe the foul mouthed captain Rick Tollreiser has pissed everyone off to the point that they are all looking at other boats. The first three people I asked if they were going to the last ever UKIPT in Birmingham later this week gave the same two word answer.
It rhymes with Duck Bars.