The wheels on the bus go round and round.....At least til they don't any more. So, we are on our second day in Morocco, on a shuttle from Casablanca (where we spent our first night) to Mazagan (home to the latest MPN stop). Mrs Doke and I have Saron and Mr Saron (aka David "Gobshite" Lappin) for company, so it's all going swimmingly after an unforgettable start to the trip. It turns out that Gobshite's response to a crisis (in the form of a mosquito in the shuttle) is neither fight nor flight but flail and flap. In the course of flailing and flapping at the mosquito, he first removed the annoyance of the coffee he was (in Gobshite's own words) "quaffing" (pretentious Gobshite) by flinging it all over the person in front of him. Me as it happened.
As I sit there soaked in pretentious quaffee thinking it can't get worse after such a start, the shuttle putters to a halt on an upslope. Apparently we have a flat tire. So there we sit, literally teetering between a packed motorway with cars chaotically careening by to one side, and a ditch that drops down to a rocky field on the other. The driver is very adamant that on no account should we get out. He does at least open the back door for us, so that for the 45 minutes it takes to sort out the tire, we all get to inhale the sweet perfume of motorway traffic fumes.
Can't be too careful when Chantler's aboutSo we made it to Mazagan, who it turns out have the kind of security you generally only see at airports. Reassuring in a sense though, given the threat that Gareth Chantler (who is currently rumoured to be in the nearby village of El Jidadi) might materialise at any moment.
The resort itself is pretty luxurious, the kind of place that makes you think a quick bustout that allows you to enjoy the facilities free of poker commitments might be the smart play. Obviously this means I instead lingered as long as was humanly possible without actually cashing.
Gobshite who was on the worst run of his career live bust before me, and announced himself done with poker for this trip at least. So obviously a few hours later he's cajoling me to enter the High Roller with him. We do, boosting its numbers to 14. My tournament followed the not unusual trajectory of me slowly losing my chips until none remained. However, I managed to lose them slowly enough that by the time the last of them were pushed to Gobshite after he busted me, only two others remained, and I had cashed.
Gobshite went on to win the tournament and end his recent bad run. So well done Gobshite. Also well done Clodagh the MPN tour manager and Nick Diaz (32red) for a most enjoyable stop.
TwitchAfter getting home, I made my full Twitch debut on the partypokertv channel. They asked me to kick off their new School Night series aimed at providing some free training content to players of differing levels. My brief was to aim at beginners, but I also figured that most of the people tuning in from my Twitter following would not be beginners, so in addition to some stuff on opening ranges and position. I thought long and hard about what else I could cover that would be useful to beginners but also players of all levels. I was very pleased with the feedback which suggested I managed to pull this off. The replay is available at https://www.twitch.tv/partypokertv (click the Follow button to access the replays) for a limited time.
I will admit that I found the experience downright weird at first. I basically felt like I was talking aloud to myself in an empty room in front of my computer. While I could see that people were watching and read their comments in the chat and therefore knew on an intellectual level that I wasn't actually talking to myself, the lack of any sounds other than my own voice still made it feel like that. My previous guest appearance on Twitch was on my friend Christin's channel, and I had Gareth Chantler sitting beside me to share the talking duties. Similarly when I've done live commentary or podcast appearances, I've always had one or more people to bounce off. Despite what you may think, I have very little experience of talking to myself.
Overall though, I greatly enjoyed the experience, particularly the interaction with viewers, so I'm looking to do a whole lot more Twitch in the near future.
Why does it say RyanAir?After a few days grinding at home, it was time to head to London for a long weekend chilling with my study buddy Daiva and her husband John. We cut it a little fine getting to Dublin airport safe in the knowledge that security queue times at the European Airport of the Year are always minimal. We got in the slowest queue but still had loads of time. After clearing security, I scanned the screens for the gate.
My heart sank when I saw that the 6.30 am flight to London was leaving from gate 102. Regular visitors to the European Airport of the Year will know that as fine an airport as it is, it does have one baffling quirk. For reasons best known to itself, it insists on pretending that several gates that are actually in Terminal 1 are in Terminal 2. It compensates in part for this by allowing you to walk to the gate from terminal 2, but it's a long walk that feels all the longer once you realise how unnecessary it is.
I'm about to break the bad news to Mrs Doke (who hates a good unnecessary walk as much as the next person) when I notice that the 6.30 flight to London is going to Stansted, not Gatwick. Phew. I scan further down and notice another 6.30, this one to Gatwick, leaving from......gate 105. Scratch that phew.
So there we are in terminal 1 at the back of the queue boarding the 6.30 to Gatwick when Mrs Doke, who knows our flight is an Aer Lingus one, asks suspiciously "Why does the screen say Ryanair?" A panicked run to the nearest Departures screen reveals the answer to be "because there are two 6.30 flights to Gatwick, and the Aer Lingus one leaves from gate 416 all the way back in (actual) Terminal 2". Mrs Doke takes this news as badly as you can imagine, while I exhort her that we should at least try to get to the other gate in under 10 minutes (the signs are cheerfully telling us it's a 25 minute walk).
As we weave through the hordes coming the other way, I'm quite certain we are drawing dead (I'm already trying to decide which coffee place we will regroup to so I can stave off the divorce demands of a distressed Mrs Doke and book us new flights) but too stubborn to admit it, so we press on. I figure there are two slim hopes: the flight might be delayed, or I might somehow get there before it's closed.
Buoyed by the second possibility I abandon my beloved and go into full sprint mode, figuring if I get there first I can stall til she arrives. I get there a couple of minutes before takeoff. An Aer Lingus angel is closing a rope that symbolises the end of boarding. She pauses from her task to look at the panting mess that is standing before her, a manstanding in front of a woman, asking her to let him board a flight. And also his wife, absent.
She takes my boarding pass.
"Go on then"
"Um....my wife....is.....just behind"
She thinks about it, then shrugs. The good kind.
A minute later, Mrs Doke has failed to materialise.
"You said just behind"
"Is that her?"
She points at a woman who is making haste in the distance. It is not Mrs Doke. That much I know. I also know that revealing this knowledge is not optimal in this spot. Time to improvise (or in non poker player speak, lie).
For a good minute we share the illusion that the woman is Mrs Doke.
That illusion is sadly shattered when not Mrs Doke hurries on by.
I see Mrs Doke, gamely sprinting into view for all she's worth.
The Aer Lingus Angel looks at me suspiciously. Then shrugs again. The good kind. The kind that could never get a job at RyanAir.
Mrs Doke takes a remarkably benign view on the fact that I made her hussle the entire length of the airport. Unnecessarily. Twice. There isn't even any talk of divorce. I remember why I married her (because she is literally the only woman on earth who would put up with all my bullshit).
Lazarus in LondonAfter getting to Daiva's place and allowing Mrs Doke some nap time to recover from the ordeal of being married to an idiot, I had to face the ordeal of accompanying the two ladies to High Tea. Tough gig, but somebody has to do it.
Afterwards we met up with John and walked around admiring Christmas lights in central London before arriving serendipitously in Heddon Street (scene of the iconic "alien in a London phone box" Ziggy Stardust album photo) for some cocktails.
The following day we headed to Lazarus, the musical. I'd purposely read as little as I could about Bowie's farewell work so as to keep an open mind. However, mindful of the fact that Mrs Doke hates musicals the way rednecks hate Hilary, I did tell her that reviews were at best "mixed" and the main word bandied about in them was "weird". This made her much more optimistic about it all (she's nothing if not contrarian: if I'd told her it was basically a Bowie version of Mamma Mia and reviews were ecstatic she'd certainly prehated it).
I was frankly overwhelmed by what was very much an emotional experience for me, a sort of final farewell to my hero that reflected all his wonderful eccentricities. Mrs Doke loved it even more than I did, loudly proclaiming it to be the best thing ever. Much more surprisingly, Daiva (who knew little or nothing about Bowie's music) also loved it, despite the fact that Bowie remained true to his own contrariness in his selection of what songs to include. To say he erred on the side of obscure is an understatement: as I said to John and Daiva afterwards, with over 50 hit singles to chose from, Bowie decided to use just two of them (and none of his number one hits), instead filling it out with album tracks.
On Sunday we went to meet Sameer and Fran, and Monday was all about walking around London and a frankly harrowing photographic exhibition in the Royal Festival Hall. I had a bit of a sweat to make my flight thanks to the train strike and a couple of boarding passes that Computer Said No to, but made it home in one piece.
Patron saint of international travellers"I checked in online. Machine wouldn't take boarding pass on my phone. So I was told to go back to Aer Lingus desk. They gave me this boarding pass. That doesn't work either"
"Says invalid flight"
"Where are you trying to fly to?"
"Dublin. Look. It says on my boarding pass. Both of them"
"Is that home?"
"Do you like Conor McGregor?"
"Yes. I like Conor McGregor"
"He's my hero. Cocky bastard though"
"Yes. But that's good. Cos he's Conor McGregor"
"I want to go visit his gym but he'd probably beat me up for being English"
"I doubt that"
"Sure. It's not really grounds for a beating. Even from Conor McGregor"
"Cool. Go on ahead"
"Huh? Really? Why?"
"Because I love Conor McGregor"
Next....BucharestI have a week and a half at home before I head to Bucharest for the Unibet Open.
While we were in Mazagan, Gobshite and I dropped into the livestream to do some guest commentary. I always enjoy that sort of thing, especially when the company is good. I've been fortunate enough to commentate alongside some real masters of the medium (Jesse May, Neil Channing, Padraig Parkinson, David Tuchman, Mike Leah, Jen Mason, Marc Convey, Nick Wealthall and Emmet Kennedy to name but a few). Like many other things I deserve no real credit for, I always try to take credit for Gobshite's commentary career, as he made his debut several years ago at an Irish event where I dragged him into the box to commentate with me. Since then he's become a sought after commentator (drawing particular plaudits for his work at the Irish Open a few years ago), but somehow we've seldom shared a commentary box since. So it was nice to do so in Morocco, and even nicer that we have both been hired to do commentary for Unibet in Bucharest. I'm also looking forward to playing the 500k guaranteed main event while I'm there, and seeing Bucharest (and my friends Dani and Toni). I may also have persuaded Daiva to join the party.