Friday, December 29, 2017

Her name was not Sheila

Manchester. My last live trip of the year. After a few days after Bucharest back home, I found myself in Manchester airport trying to follow Lappin's (very good) directions to the coffee shop where Saron David and Hunter were waiting for me. One cab ride later, we were all checking into the hotel.

I played Day 1a with most of the other Unibet ambassadors (Daiva and Davitsche were missing: Daiva on her way to Australia for the Aussie Millions and Davitsche pestering Satu to give birth to their daughter already). As pictured above (courtesy of phenomenally talented Tambet Kask), I had Rauno for company on my first table, as well as Moh Tidjani (a mate of Aseefo's). Unibet put a bounty on our head's worth almost half a buyin, so people were adjusting to that making looser calls (Moh in particular), which meant having to adjust and playing even tighter than normal.

I peaked at over 100k on my second table (which featured Lappin and Iany) before the only really close hand of the day late on at my third table cut me back.

I posted the hand on ShareMyPair as it was the only remotely interesting one I played all day, but to be honest I didn't really think it was that close. Even if the villain is playing GTO tens is just far too strong to fold in that spot, and having seen him shove jack ten offsuit earlier in a similar spot (and get there against aces) I strongly suspected he was playing a lot wider than GTO. The great thing about posting on ShareMyPair is you get a mix of responses from players at all levels, and I did get some strongly held opinions of the "YOU THOUGHT TENS WEREN'T STRONG ENOUGH TO RAISE BUT THEN YOU CALLED A SHOVE ANYWAY?????" variety. The key to spots like these is understanding how strong your hand is in relation to different ranges. If I threebet the early position raiser, I tighten his continuing range to hands I'm not in good shape against. If he fourbets I have three bad options: I can fold a strong hand that really wanted to see a flop, call basically setmining without the right odds, or get in far more big blinds than is wise against a range I'm almost certainly in bad shape against.

If the opener hadn't folded to the squeeze I would have folded as I'm in bad shape against his range, but once he does fold it's a clear call against a range I'm ahead of and with an overlay of dead money in the pot.

Anyway that setback meant getting through to day two with one of the shorter stacks. Ian bust to Espen last hand of the night meaning Espen had chunks. I asked them if they wanted to walk back to the hotel but they said they were waiting for a lift. It's only a ten minute walk so I decided to take the exercise, a decision I regretted about seven minutes later.

As I powerwalked down the street, three guys suddenly rounded a corner and unable to take evasive action in time, there was a clash off shoulders. A very minor one, one I was more than happy to shrug off and keep walking, but it seemed the three guys felt differently. Before I knew it they had me surrounded and there was a bit of "You should look where you're going mate" in progress. That escalated into some pushing (by which I mean one of them pushing me: I didn't return in kind). A quick glance around revealed absolutely nobody else in sight (not unusual at 5 am) so I was on my own here.

I also observed that the three gentlemen I found myself surrounded by did not have accents typical to Manchester. They sounded and dressed what I would describe as toff. The fact that they didn't appear to have grown up on mean streets made me less fearful of their ability to administer a beating if they elected to go that route, but also less confident in my ability to talk my way out of this. Maybe it's a class prejudice, but as a working class lad myself I've always found other working class types more amenable to reasoned "come on lads, no need for a fight here" arguments than the entitled "we are better than you because our Dads are rich" types who went to posh schools. I've also noticed expressing anything in a blatantly Irish accent can be a bit of a red rag to a bull to these types, so I elected to keep my mouth shut.

My lack of reaction or even speech seemed to confuse them, and after another half hearted shoulder push they started looking at each other as if not clear on how to proceed. As soon as I registered their eyes no longer on me, I ducked between two of them and scarpered across the street. They didn't follow.

Getting through day 1a meant a much needed day off while most of my fellow ambassadors navigated their way through 1b. Despite my late night finish and fright on the walk home I managed to drag myself out of bed for breakfast (hate to miss a free meal). Simon from Unibet was the only familiar face so I joined him, something he seemed far from thrilled about. I quickly realised why he was so unusually unhappy to see me: he was in the process of chatting up an Aussie girl on her own at the next table. She was looking for some sights to see in Manchester. Simon recommended an industrial museum or something equally appalling, then mused aloud that maybe somebody with some free time might accompany her. He looked pointedly at me, while I studiously ate my egg thinking there was no way I was walking some random Aussie around industrial Manchester keeping her warm for whenever Simon was freed up from work. No sir: back to bed for some much needed kip for the Dokester.

After she left, Simon bemoaned my lack of wingman skills, and her departure.

"It was so perfect. She's leaving tonight and I'd never have to see her again. I'll never forget"

I couldn't remember her name either. But it wasn't Sheila.

That evening I joined Lappin, Espen and Aseefo for a nightcap. We were having a nice chat when two ladies and one guy joined us uninvited. It quickly became clear the reason: Espen. The blond (apparently local) lady immediately launched into a very direct attempt at seduction. Aseefo tried to make conversation with the brunette, who it turns out was Welsh. Lappin commiserated with her. Aseefo told her we were professional poker players, something she loudly disbelieved. She said she knew we weren't because she was friends with one. We asked her what his name was. Her inability to provide a name in no way hampered her ability to loudly assert we were not what we claimed we were, or rather what Aseefo claimed we were.

Meanwhile the blond is getting more and more direct in her attempts to seduce the Rising Star, and the rest of us are wondering how on Earth we rid ourselves of these horrible rude people. When she tells him in no uncertain crass vulgar terms exactly what she's looking for, Espen finds the GTO line, or rather the GAY one. Within a second of being told he was gay, the loud obnoxious ones had upped and left without a goodbye, and Rising Star had risen several notches in my estimation.


Day 1b was a happier hunting ground for my fellow ambassadors and they all got through with sizable stacks, leaving me the shortest going back. I never get too hung up on these things: the job is simply to play whatever stack size you currently have as best you can. Ian, David and Rauno all fell short of the cash but myself and Espen survived the bubble at the same table. After a big double (aces holding against kings) I found myself in great shape as the final table bubble looked. Then a big turning point when I called an NMPFan shove, was dominating his hand, but did not hold. That meant the even though I still made the final table, I was short 8/9. I've gotten headsup and even won from there before, but not to be this time. After 9/9 doubled early, I called another NMPFan shove from the small blind after finding AJ in the big blind. I stayed ahead til the river. Still, at least my chips went to a good home. Adrian is someone I have massive respect for both as a player and as a person, I like how he approaches poker and how he carries himself. He did nothing wrong in n the two hands he got lucky: with his stack he was supposed to shove. Making two UKPT final tables in a few months is quite an achievement.

For my own part, I had the consolation of having gone back to back to back in cashes in Unibet events.

After a brisk walk back to the hotel with Lappin and Espen I fired up the laptop in the lobby and started an online grind. I was joined and railed at various points by Lappin, Iany (who kept trying to persuade me to open king ten off under the gun), Jonny, NMPFan, Espen and Rauno. Espen won a 2k satellite, and during his victory polka kicked out the power supply. I was not too impressed as I scrambled to reboot, hoping my 4 big blinds in my Milly would be gone by the time I got back. I got back in time, and managed to spin up to 6/17 at one point. With 190k up top I was hoping for a dream finish to the weekend, but it was not to be as I fell short of the final table yet again.

As the night became morning, my rail slimmed down to NMPFan and Jonny. One of the nicest things about poker in general, and Unibet in particular, is the unlikely friendships. As I one tabled the Milly making mostly routine push/fold decisions, it was amusing to eavesdrop on the conversation between two unlikely buddies from very different backgrounds and times. NMPFan pointed out that when they first met they couldn't even understand each other's accents. He had to run off to get his flight. Special shoutout to Jonny for railing me to the end. And to all the wonderful people I met in Manchester: Chris who introduced himself in the casino, stalwarts Donna and April, blogger Josh and Simon. Sorry I ruined your chances with whatshername.

The Chip Race

My next blog will be a full review of 2017, but I can already say the highlight of the year for me has been the return of the Chip Race. Not only did we return, but we have gone from strength to strength, trebling our listenership over the course of the eight months. A friend of mine in the content industry told me that most content of this nature (be it podcasts, vlogs, blogs or whatever) peaks with episode one, then the numbers drop to near zero, or an acceptable plateau (this makes sense as most people will tune in for novelty, but not all will stay). So we are bucking the trend bigly. There have been a couple of big leaps along the way: getting Jake Cody was huge, getting Patrick Leonard, and Jennifer Tilly was a quantum leap. This allowed us to effectively get a snowball effect going which allowed us to get our biggest name yet to kick off the next season.

Without further ado, the first guest of 2018 is....


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