Monday, September 19, 2022

Life is good: the Jan Suchanek story

Perpetual Czech 

I first heard or rather saw the name Jan Suchanek when I was in Melbourne at the Aussie Millions. It was at the peak of the "blog wars" which had started when Lappin and I had written answer blogs to a blog by a prominent pro who was castigating certain types of players as a cancer on the game. Our blogs went viral which meant I woke up every day to hundreds of Twitter notifications from people weighing in on the subject. In this sea of opinions, one name started to emerge as the most articulate and well informed. I imagined him as a fiery young online kid from eastern Europe who had no time for the old guard's insistence that their cartoon book personality type was the only one acceptable in modern poker.

When he slipped into my DMs I agreed happily to meet him at a break. I got there first, and eyed the crowds milling out for this guy who called himself PerpetualCzech on Twitter. When a tall guy about my age in a sports top appeared, I dismissed him as a candidate. He must have similarly dismissed me too, because he circled the area a few times before tentatively asking "You're not Dara, are you?"

Introductions out of the way, he launched into a tirade against the pro whose blog we had responded to, based on several encounters at tables in Vegas where he quickly formed the impression said pro was an entitled narcissistic bully hiding behind a facade of bonhomie. I quickly discovered that Jan was none of the things the leading pro was castigating: he was certainly no introvert, and he was most certainly no nit. What he was was someone who appreciated diversity and personalities of all sorts, who realised that the best thing about poker is that people are different, and any attempt to bully them into conforming to your own norms of personality is not only doomed to fail but fundamentally wrongheaded. Above all, he detested bullies and liars.




We bonded instantly and that day started an online friendship that meant that for the next three and a half years, we exchanged dozens, sometimes hundreds, of Whatsapp and Twitter messages every single day. Most of my days since then have started and ended with me reading and responding to a message from him. He lived in New Zealand so his morning was my night and vice versa, which added an interesting dynamic to the ebb and flow of our conversations and our tendency to take opposite sides on almost everything. 

The background story

Jan was born in Prague in the mid 60s. By his own account, he wasn't much more than a babe in arms when the Prague Spring happened. As the rest of Prague celebrated the liberal reforms, Jan's shrewd cookie of a mother looked eastward to Russia and decided "They won't let this stand". So she looked westward to Canada, decamping the family to Toronto (where Jan grew up) just in time before the tanks rolled into Prague. He described himself as a lanky awkward outsider who didn't feel he fitted in anywhere.

After high school, Jan studied economics in university and joined the workforce. He quickly realised the 9 to 5 answering to a boss life wasn't for him. He returned to Prague and drifted into sports betting. An intelligent out of the box thinker, he quickly found some specific exploits he could use in the early days of sports betting there. A master networker, he assembled what he called "brighter minds than mine" around him as he built his empire.

After meeting the love of his life Tatjana he relocated to New Zealand. In Melbourne, he invited me and Mrs Doke to his superbowl party in his hotel suite. Mrs Doke wasn't keen on the idea, having little interest in poker or poker players and even less in NFL, but grudgingly agreed to 15 minutes. When we got to the penthouse suite, she started to bristle a little, expecting some baller show off poker player determined to demonstrate how successful he was. Jan was more than ready though: he instantly charmed her with his self effacing manner, and wooed her with the finest wines known to humanity. As he fussed and fawned making sure everything was to her satisfaction, she whispered to me 


"Is this really the rich betting guy, or is it his servant?" 

When I told her the 15 minutes were up, she looked down at her Veuve Cliquot and caviar before scowling at me insistently

"We are staying!"




I gather Jan had more money riding on that game than most people make in a lifetime, and I gather it wasn't going well, but it didn't seem to bother him. His main concern was that all his guests were kept topped up and happy as he buzzed around, the consummate host. He endeared himself to Mrs Doke to the point that her first response to every proposed meal or drink thereafter was 

"Is Jan coming?"

Jan was so unassuming in both his attire and manner that most people would never have guessed how successful he was. At the first dinner he came along to, he insisted on picking up the bill. After he'd left, my brother in law castigated us for letting him pay.

"The poor man doesn't look like he could afford to pay for his own dinner let alone all of ours"

Meanwhile, Jan was on his way back to the highest stakes cash game he could find. 

The player

Always modest by nature, Jan described himself as a whale who splashed around with the proceeds of his sports betting. When I said to a pro I knew in the high stakes games I knew one of the whales, he asked me which one. When I identified Jan, he quickly informed me

"That man is no whale. He's winning in those games"

He expressed similar "I'm a donk" sentiments when it came to tournaments. He took great delight in bragging about hands he'd punted, or tournaments he'd busted before the first break. What he never mentioned was the fact he had cashed for more on his Hendon Mob than me. He also never mentioned his 8 game Aussie Millions ring, or the fact that he'd been headsup for a bracelet against Bryn Kenney in a 10 game mix event, or that he'd once won three tournaments in a row, or that he chiplead the WSOP main event with 100 players left once before taking a horrendous beat with 50 left for all the chips. He took that beat like a champ and when I asked him about it he described the moment:

"I remember it vividly. It was surreal. I went to my rail as we waited for the river card, and everything slowed down, and I thought whatever happens I'm ok with it, it doesn't really matter. I almost wanted to get one outered, just to see what that would be like"

He had a high variance high pressure style that yes, made for a lot of early bustouts, but also yielded many top three finishes and victories. He played all the games, and he was equally at home in a 10k in Vegas and a 100 home game in New Zealand, where he loved to play.

Fast friends

After Melbourne we were friends for life. A natural contrarian, he loved to argue, and in me he found someone willing to indulge that side of him. We argued both sides of practically everything, not so much because we genuinely disagreed all that often but just to hold our views to the fire and see what stood up.

He became an instant fan of my blogs and the Chip Race. He was maybe our biggest fan, something which didn't stop him from criticising every single show we put out rigorously. He wanted his friends to shoot for the stars, aspire to the highest standards, but when they failed to meet them he was instantly forgiving.

"It'll be better next time"

He relished his Twitter spats and feuds, and that year we Chip Race boys gave him much to work with. When Jonathan Little branded us and our entire listenership as "low lifes", Jan insisted we lean into it, dubbing us "team low life".

I saw him next that summer in Vegas. He wandered around the WSOP looking like a homeless person scoffing hot dogs, the most unassuming high roller in the place. He introduced me to his friend Rob (just Rob) at the hot dog stand like he was just some guy he knew from home. After Rob left, he informed me that Rob (Campbell) was a crusher who was in the running for Player of the Year (he ended up winning, pipping the pro Jan loved to hate). Jan had that very male characteristic of insulting and criticising you to your face, then telling everyone how great you were behind your back.

One night he tagged along with us as we walked Jen Shahade back to the Palms after she bagged in the main. That night we saw a different side of him, as he was clearly a little starstruck and shy when we stayed for a drink with her. It turned out the reason for this was he was a much bigger chess fan. He loved intelligence in all its forms.


As we walked back to the Gold Coast, Jan who had decided he'd walked enough for one night ordered a limo. We insisted on walking, and as his limo passed us he opened the window, leaned out and screamed "low lifes" at us as the limo screeched by.

The pandemic

After Vegas, he told me he wanted us to room together at WSOP Europe. He ended up having to cancel, and the planned reunion shifted to EPT Prague. He didn't make it to there either but assured me he'd be over for the Irish Open. And then the pandemic happened, and the Irish Open was the first casualty.

Above everything else, Jan hated being told what he could and couldn't do. Unsurprisingly given his back story, he had a lifetime distrust of institutions and government. His inner politics was conflicted between libertarianism and a belief that we should look after everyone in society. He was the most generous tipper I ever met. He self identified as a libertarian capitalist, but all his natural instincts trended socialist. 

He was very perturbed by lock down. His distrust of authority led him into vax hesitancy, which became the main focus of our arguments. In this I had a very selfish agenda for once: I wanted to see Jan again at the WSOP, and knew he wouldn't be able to make the trip unless he got vaccinated. Ultimately though, I respected his decision as his body his choice.

Although it was frustrating not to see him in person, we facetimed and Zoomed constantly, a development accelerated by the fact that we became business partners in staking and some other stuff. We made plans to go visit him next January. When the restrictions in New Zealand were finally lifted, he was on almost the first plane out of there, embarking on a grand European tour that was supposed to culminate with a grand reunion at Unibet Malta in ten days. I was so giddy at the prospect of seeing him again I could barely contain myself on a recent Lock In.

The end

At the start of this month I committed to a 7 day a week online grind for all the series going on. That didn't leave much time for much else, and when I went a whole 24 hours without messaging him he sent an enquiring message if everything was all right, pointing out this was our longest silence. A few days later he told me he was ill in bed with stomach problems. 16 tabling at the time, I told him to be careful, reminding him we were not young men any more. We chatted a bit about the forthcoming Polish translation of my books (he was keen we translate into Czech) and then he went silent again, save for one message on a group chat saying he was in hospital. I messaged asking for an update every day, but there was no reply.

By now, I was very concerned and managed to contact one of his friends back home in New Zealand. The response devastated me: Jan had passed away two days earlier in Belgrade.  An obviously devastated Tatjana confirmed all the details when I managed to contact her. I was in shock: the thought that I'd never speak to him again left a giant Jan sized hole in my world.

There are optimists and there are pessimists, and then there was Jan who seemed to fuse both together into a very personal stoicism that no matter what happened, it was fine. His most repeated phrase was "Life is good". He used it as an affirmation when something good happened, a counterpoint when something bad happened, a general philosophy, and an admonishment against self pity. His favourite song was Monty Python's "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life". He sent me videos of him singing it gleefully with his son.

Once in the furnace of our arguments on COVID and lockdowns, he attempted to explain what he saw as the root cause of our differences. He said that public policy viewed death as the worst thing that can happen, but he did not. He went on to explain 

"I've already lived longer than the average person born 100 years ago. I've outlived my father and his father. I view each birthday as a victory. 

I love life too! But I don't view death as a negative. I just view it as neutral".

This seemed to encapsulate Jan's philosophy. He lived and loved to the full, but whatever happened, that was fine by him too. Whether that was getting one outered for the chiplead with 50 left in the WSOP main, or death, it didn't matter. Life is good.

Given that he didn't fear death or even see it as a negative, we shouldn't feel sorry for him. He lived his life on his own terms, admired and beloved by all who knew him well. He enriched the lives of everyone he cared for, and they were many. But even if I don't feel sorry for Jan (and his passing was mercifully quick and painless), I do feel sorry for myself, and everyone who knew him, because I and we have to spend the rest of our lives missing him. 


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Overdue catchup

 This blog started out as a Dear Diary I assumed nobody was reading. These days it seems to be going back to that, as the vast majority of my written content appears elsewhere at sites like VegasSlotsOnline, PokerStrategy or Cardschat. However, I'm not giving up completely on my own blog, so for now I'll use it for stuff like life updates that don't belong elsewhere.

No rest for the wacked

I've been extremely busy since Vegas and Barcelona. September is peak time online with all the series going on so I'm trying to get in as much volume before I head to Malta on the September 26 for the first live Unibet Open in over 2 years, after which I'll stay on for the Battle of Malta. After a week at home I head to London for the UKIPT, then it's back to Dublin for the IPO.

The fourth book

Barry and I have been working flat out to complete our fourth strategy book together. We have settled on a title that miraculously doesn't include the words "poker strategy", "GTO Poker Simplified". It's aimed primarily at recreational players who want GTO poker explained in concrete terms to them. There are already some excellent book out there on game theory and poker, most notably "Modern Poker Theory" by Michael Acevedo, and "Play Optimal Poker" (parts 1 and 2) by Andrew Brokos, so you might very well ask why we felt another one was needed.

The answer is that I have frequently recommended both books to students of mine who want to get a good grounding in GTO principles, but more often than not recreationals have come back with lots of questions, The goal of our book therefore is to answer those questions and more so as to provide readers with a good enough understanding of the topic that they'll then benefit greatly from reading Acevedo and Brokos.

Anyway, the book has now gone out to selected alpha readers for final feedback, and Saron is designing the cover. Once we get the feedback and decide what changes to make, the book will go for final edit. We are hoping to have it available on Amazon and the other usual places by November (December at the latest).

Barry tweeted looking for suggestions for the cover image and we got some interesting ones and some "interesting" ones. In the latter category, we definitely won't be using this one from MoreTBC.



Irish Poker Tour

I was greatly flattered and honoured recently to be appointed Live Strategy Coach for the hottest new grassroots tour, the Irish Poker Tour. I had already attended a number of stops and been impressed by the turnout, the atmosphere and the new faces the tour is attracting.

My role there involves writing strategy pieces aimed primarily at beginners (the first one on Position is up already) and producing some video content.

Cardschat

I am also delighted to announce I have signed a one year extension to my contract as an ambassador for Cardschat, the world's friendliest online poker forum. For those of you who don't know already, I regularly update my Ask Me Anything thread there.

Faraz Jaka coaching

I've started doing strategy webinars for Faraz Jaka's training site. So far I've done webinars on ICM, satellites, mystery bounties and multi-way pots. 

Other apparitions

Lappin and I are interviewed on the most recent episode of the excellent "Stealing The Blinds" podcast. I also did a couple of recent interviews which aren't out yet, including one for the BBC World Service morning show.

My own website!

Finally shelled out for my own domain. To keep up to date with all my content and other stuff, visit www.daraokearney.com


Monday, March 21, 2022

EPT Prague

Bless me Father for I have shingles

It’s been a while since my last blog. There’s a couple of reasons for that: first I had shingles, a disease I knew nothing about until I caught it. I started to feel poorly after a night out celebrating my oldest son’s birthday. Initially I shrugged it off as the after effects of too much alcohol. Then the following day I felt some pain in my back and shoulder so I did what I used to do as a runner when I felt twinges: I iced. After I finished my session I noticed my back where I’d iced was bright red. Thinking I must have iced for too long I shrugged it off as an ice burn until a couple of days later I noticed it had spread to parts I hadn’t iced. 

Well let me tell you shingles is no fun at all. For the next two weeks I was pretty much good for nothing with zero energy, and the best way to describe the pain is it feels like ground up glass pushed into your skin. Pain doesn’t bother me much but with shingles there can be long term nerve pain which doesn’t sound fun at all, but thankfully mine cleared up completely. 

Vegas Slots Online

The second reason I haven’t blogged much in a while is I’ve started writing for Vegas Slots Online, following in Lappin’s footsteps. However, my focus is a bit different, as I’m happy to leave the new stories and opinion pieces to him. My initial vision for VSO articles is tales from the road and a general portrayal of what it’s actually like to be a poker pro these days.

That said I’m not giving up on this blog completely, so I’ll be updating it with more personal catch-up pieces like this one. 

It’s coming back, it’s coming back, live is coming back 

I opened my live campaign with a cash in the Irish Poker Tour Dublin stop. I followed that with a fun trip to Limerick for the Irish Poker Tour grand final. Next up was the trip to Prague for the EPT. The one sentence summary of my trip is 2 cashes, one mystery bounty, a Lock In, and the chance to catch up with a lot of great people I hadn’t seen in two years. 

The Lock In we did in Prague was our third live one. So far they’ve been very well received so we are definitely doing another at the Irish Open, and maybe one in Tallinn.


To be or not to be: that is the question

I wrote a largely positive review of the event for VegasSlotsOnline with a few minor constructive criticisms about things that could be done better next time. Or so I thought: until a Stars employee unexpectedly went to the trouble of setting up a new Twitter account to have an incognito pop. The drama didn’t last long: an official response from Stars made it clear the feedback was gratefully received and the “anonymous” account disappeared back when it came from.






Next up for me is another Stars event, the Mammoth, here in Dublin next weekend. After that I’ll be commentating on the final day of the French Poker Championships in Rozvadov, before the Norwegians and Irish Open in Citywest. As I mentioned above David and I may be making a short trip to Tallinn for the Patrik Antonius Poker Challenge. Then it’s straight into APAT and the Dublin Poker Festival, maybe a rumoured UKIPT Dublin, and then it’s time to head to the WSOP, so the next few months are mostly going to be about live poker. 

It definitely felt good to be back in the groove in Prague. But not as good as it felt to be back in peak physical shape after my illness. During that I felt every day of my age and wondered if I’d be able to handle the travel, long days and stress of live trips, but in Prague I was the one suggesting to David and Daragh that we go for long walks, and laughing as David almost respired up a lung  on the climb up to Prague castle. When I reminded him I’m 15 years older he snapped 

“You need to stop comparing us to you on this stuff: we are always going to be a disappointment to you”.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

What’s another year?

On a recent Lock In, Lappin and I joked that this isn’t a new year, it’s the 25th month of 2020. The pandemic has warped all our senses of time, but let’s pretend years are still a thing and kick this one one off in the manner I have every year since I started playing poker: with a review of the year that’s just finished.

Live poker

This was barely a thing in 2021, but I did manage to squeeze some in right at the end. I basically played just two festivals, the IPO (where I came 27th in the main event that got 974 runners), and the WSOP. I had a good two weeks at the WSOP,  cashing four events and final tabling my last event, so I have reasons to be optimistic that my live game has come through the pandemic not just intact but perhaps stronger than ever. Tiny sample size obviously, but I do feel that those who continued to work hard on their games during lock down and put in volume online have opened up a skill gap on those who didn’t (and I obviously consider myself as one of those who kept working and grinding).

Which brings me to...

Online

As I noted in last year’s roundup, the start of the pandemic felt like a return to the glory days of online, as live players were forced back online for their poker fix. It was never going to last but it was glorious while it did. Over time many of the returning players drifted away again, until the sites realised that while it might not be possible to get them to play the Big 55 every night but they could be persuaded back for a big series. 

Pros like myself also adjusted to this, going hard during series and catching up on other stuff in between. The glory days will probably never fully return. Ten years ago when my average nightly expectation was low four figures and playing poker was pretty much my only income generating gig, and it was possible to continue beating the game comfortably without having to really study, I was heavily incentivised to just play as much as possible. These days, my nightly expectation online is mid three figures, and I have many other income streams, and it’s necessary to study pretty hard to keep ahead of the game. I can’t just get away with playing every night, so I’ve moved to playing 4-5 days a week when I’m at home, and spending the other 2-3 days doing the other stuff I do, and studying. 

Other stuff such as....

Writing

This year I published my third strategy book with Barry Carter, “Endgame Poker Strategy: the ICM book”. Like the first two it topped the Amazon poker charts on both sides of the pond, which is very heartening, and so far has been very well received.  Although not exactly a massive money spinner, I do enjoy writing with Barry a lot, and we are already well advanced on our fourth book. Additionally I’m working on two other books that might come out this year, one alone (non strategy), and one with Lappin (strategy). 



I also wrote quite a few strategy articles this year for sites like PokerStrategy and PokerNews, as well as for my own free strategy newsletter. I was less active on the blog front although I did write a few for GambleOnline in addition to those I published here. One of the reasons for this was no live poker: as it returns more fully I expect to have more to blog about. 

With writing taking up more and more of my time it’s meant having to cut back in some areas, such as...

Coaching

I think I’ve always been something of a reluctant coach. I only started it because as part of the staking group I founded (The Firm) I was expected to do some, but I always felt the other lads were just better at it. However, the advent of the solvers changed that to some extent, as I was an early adapter and felt I was better at using and interpreting them than most. Nevertheless I’ve never gone out of the way to attract students: I don’t really advertise my coaching services. I don’t take on everyone who comes to me for coaching. When I do, I try to get my students self sufficient as quickly as possible (unless they really don’t want to). However, over time I have started to enjoy coaching a lot more, and 2021 was a particularly satisfying year with big results for several of my students that I felt I contributed to. I’m really not sure how much I’ll do in 2022: there’s no real plan on the front.

Unlike...

Podcasts 

Something I (and David) do put a lot of time and planning into is our podcasts, The Chip Race and The Lock In. At time of writing, we have just been nominated for another GPI award, which is very heartening. Thank you to everyone who voted for us.



Last year our audience continued to grow and globalise, and we hope to continue that this year.  I also appeared as a guest on a lot of other pods: I particularly enjoyed my appearances on Thinking Poker, The Grid, Cardschat, RecPoker, People Who Read People and Chasing Poker Greatness.

Other content

Barry and I produced a Satellite Masterclass for LearnProPoker ($20 off if you use the code DOKE) and are collaborating with Ryan on an ICM series. 

I appeared in the GPI nominated Finnish documentary series “Last Call”. I absolutely love this series and am very flattered and proud to have been involved. 

I also did a couple of Twitch streams with my buddy Kevin Martin, and Unibet streamers Ian Simpson and Emily Glancy, and one with Conor O’Driscoll.  Additionally Barry, Lappin and I did some strategy videos together that appeared on either the Chip Race channel on YouTube or Barry’s own channel

I also did some commentary at the IPO this year, and have been hired to commentate alongside Fintan Gavin at the forthcoming WSOP Circuit main event in Rozvadov. Commentary is something I do enjoy a lot and hopefully I’ll get to do some more in 2022. 

Plans for 2022

Hopefully I’m not jinxing it, but I expect to play a lot more live poker this year as things hopefully start to return to normal. I generally plan in six months chunks, and the plan for the first part of the year include the IPT Grand Final in Limerick in February, EPT Prague in March, the Norwegians and Irish Open in April, and the WSOP in May. 

One thing I want to prioritise much more next year is my own study. I did better on this front last year than in previous years. And I feel it really improved my game, so I’m keen to redouble my efforts on that front in 2022.

Finally, to sum up, I’m very excited at the prospect of the year ahead, and hope you all are too! Hope to see each and every one of you at some point in 2022.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

My 2021 WSOP campaign

Vegas blogs

I realise I didn't write a blog covering my Vegas career here, for the simple reason that I wrote three from GambleOnline and also covered mot of the stories of my Vegas this year in various podcasts.

For posterity though, I'm going to do an umbrella blog bringing them all under one roof:

  • My first GambleOnline blog on Vegas covered my latest WSOP final table and some general WSOP thoughts
  • My second one went into details on the two most surprising rulings I was on the receiving end of in Vegas
  • My third and final blog covered my latest WSOP final table and some final thoughts on the Rio as the WSOP moves on from there to Bally's and Paris next year.

Lock In episodes

We recorded a couple of Lock In Vegas special episodes:

  • The first was recorded both just before and just after our trip over to Vegas
  • The second was recorded at the end of the series and covered the biggest stories and we broke down the two biggest hands from the main event final table



Other podcasts

I also recorded a couple of other podcasts:

Finnish Poker documentary

I was honoured to be included in the wonderful Finnish poker documentary series "Last Call". My episode has just been released (it was recorded just before Vegas) and in it I give my general advice and approach for tournaments.



Wednesday, November 3, 2021

An eternity of a blink

As I walked into the Bonnington for my first live tournament in 20 months, my mind flashed back to February of last year when the Unibet Open followed the European Deepstack. The pandemic has messed the very fabric of time for all of us, and it simultaneously felt like the blink of an eye and a lifetime separated me from that event where we talked about the looming threat of COVID-19 and what it would mean. Looking back it’s clearly there was a lot of COVID in the room (lead commentator Henry Kilbane went down with it, but he was clearly the top of an iceberg that took a couple of weeks to reveal itself). It’s also fair to say most people including myself greatly underestimated what the effect would be. Most people scoffed when it was suggested the WSOP might not go ahead that summer. I’m pretty sure nobody in the room could have imagined that not only would that come to pass, but that it also wouldn’t happen the following summer, and that it would be 20 months before the next live event in Ireland. 

When we did all meet up again, we were wearing masks and sanitising our hands frequently (kudos to the organisers for the ingenious idea of using sanitizer bottles as buttons, encouraging us all to sanitize once an orbit). Nevertheless everyone seemed to be thrilled to be back, and the general atmosphere was one of the friendliest I’ve ever witnessed. 

Online day 1

I’d played the online day 1 and made it through as the shortest stack (2.5x starting stack). I was surprised by the number of people who asked if I’d fire again because I was “short”, or didn’t ask but just assumed I would. I’ll never see the “logic” of forking out another buyin when I’ve already got over 2.5 in equity. Best case scenario I bust the second bullet. That’s not a typo or a brain fart. If I bust the second bullet I’ve only blown a buyin in equity, whereas if I get through with more and have to surrender my first stack, I’ve lit over 2.5 buyins in equity on fire. Not to mention the negative hourly on the time wasted on the second bullet.

Super High Roller

Having made day 2 that freed me up to play side events until day 2 on Sunday. First up was the 1k “Super High Roller” which attracted 63 runners. I had a good day one getting up to 2.5x starting stack at a tough table that featured Max Silver, Seamus Cahill and Johnny McCullagh. I lost a few standard all ins against shorties to end the day back at starting stack, and bust early on day 2. My bust out came on the feature table: Craig Burke opened in the hijack, a shortie shoved for 5 bigs in the cutoff, and I find black aces in the small blind with 18 bbs. I decided to flat for a couple of reasons: I wanted the full double from Craig, and I have some hands that want to flat the shorty shove but will fold if Craig shoves. He didn’t, electing instead to flat. 

The flop wasn’t exactly what my black aces were hoping for: KQ4 all hearts. With an SPR of one though I’m never folding so the only decision is how to get the rest in. I elected to bet another 5 bbs to give Craig room to get worse hands in. He shoved a not worse hand: a set of 4s. A queen on the turn gave me a couple of additional outs but it wasn’t to be.

Recovery runs

I recently coached Daniel Dvoress to his first ultra race, a 50 mile adventure race in the wilds of Canada. When David asked him on the Chip Race what surprised him most about the training, he replied the amount of filler recovery runs. Most people’s intuition on how to train for a long distance race is to just try to run hard and long every day. It turns out that not only is this not good, it’s very very bad. The proper way to train is to focus on either speed or distance in your hard runs, and to recover from them with an easy run the following day. You should either be training at high intensity, or recovering at low intensity. The in between zone, where you’ll invariably end up if you just try to run hard every day, achieves nothing in practise. It’s not hard enough to improve you, or easy enough to help your body recover from a hard run. It’s a bit like only ever betting 10% of pot. What’s the point?

I also advised Espen “Shawshank” Sorlie who was training for a 10 km prop bet (he won). Training poker players is fun so if you are training for something athletic feel free to hit me up for advice. 

Since I started balancing poker and running almost a decade and a half ago, I’ve tried different ways of combining them. After much trial and error I’ve decided :

(1) Long runs are a good way to basically reset and shrug off a major disappointment 

(2) Short recovery runs are a good way to recover from minor disappointments like a live bust out 

(3) High intensity speed training is a great way to get your body and mind hyper focused before a big tournament or session 

So I went for a short recovery run around the pitches across the road from the hotel to clear my mind.

Commentary

After a quick shower and change of clothes, I headed down to do some commentary with The Tower on the Super High Roller final table. It was one of the more fascinating FTs I’ve commentated on. Mark Buckley came in as chip leader, and anyone who knows Mark knows he’s guaranteed to drive the action in those circumstances. He didn’t have it all his own way with Martin Olali and the talented Gary T in particular fighting fire with fire and giving as good as they got. Ivan Tononi, probably the most technically adept and ICM aware player at the table, played a patient waiting game and eventually claimed the win in a style reminiscent of Martin Jacobson’s WSOP FT.

Book Signing

Barry and I found time to do a book signing for qualifiers claiming a free copy of the book as a bonus for qualifying for the main event on Unibet (and anyone else who wanted to buy a copy). I also took great pleasure watching Barry scurrying around to bring me books to sign while I was playing, and delivering them to other players.

Barry’s main role in the books has always been to act as a proxy for the readers: to ask the questions they would ask and to make me keep explaining my answers until they make sense to him (and by extension them). In recent times I’ve become concerned his skill level might be getting too high to fill this role. I needn’t have worried, based on what people who played with him reported to me.  For example, Luckymo:

“Who is the English lad with The Chip Race patch, Doke?”

“That must be Barry, the guy I write the books with, Mo”

“Lovely guy. Really lovely”

“He’s not bad”

“Yeah. Really lovely guy. But....shite at poker!”

“Well...”

“Really really shite. Like I thought he’d be good because of the patch. But he’s absolutely shite”



Day 2

I started day 2 roughly half average, but not for long when my aces coolered queens and held. I kicked on from there through the bubble to be well above average with 50 left, but then I barely won another hand, ultimately busting in 27th. No particularly interesting hands. Overall I was happy that I still remembered how to play live poker.


High Roller

I max late regged this the following day. After an inauspicious start where I lost a third of my stack very first hand (and to add insult to injury the table immediately broke), I recovered to be well above average and looking good for another cash. A couple of lost all ins later I was short nearing the bubble, and my AJ losing to A8 finished me off. That just left the....

Mini Main

Another late reg saw me on a pretty sick table with Paul “uwannaloan” Delaney, Paul Carr, Keith Tuohy and Paddy Power streamer Tom Parsons. Paul Carr had been given a ticket for the seat Keith was in, so they had to switch. Keith was then immediately coolered, much to the amusement of Paul who realised he’d have been gone first hand but for the switch. Keith took it in good sport: he’s good craic to talk to.

One table move later I found myself at a new table featuring another man with an Irish Open final table, Dixie Dean, and a French lady with a glare almost as piercing as my own French lady. She made a good fold with aces when I turned a straight and she gave me the full glare down. 

I played my most interesting hand of the weekend against Dixie. After a good young English guy raised under the gun, Dixie flatted in mid position (he was playing almost every hand) and I called in the big blind with 65 suited in clubs. The flop was J73 with two clubs, so I have a flush draw and gutter. After I checked, the opener cbet third pot, Dixie raised big, and it’s back to me. I had just over three times Dixie’s raise behind, so it seemed like a good spot to shove with lots of fold equity and equity when called. 

The opener folded quickly, while Dixie went into the tank. He asked me if I had a set of threes (no comment), saying he was dead if I had. He went on probing, then switched tack saying he had a flush draw and I could have a worse one. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, so I just sat there while he ruminated. After counting out the call from his stack to see what he’d have left, and looking at the clock to determine he’d still be average if he did call and lose, he eventually called with AQ suited in clubs. He started celebrating the call when I sheepishly turned over my hand. His celebration was dampened when the turn was an eight making me open ended, and when I missed it on the river he took a while to realise the innocuous looking five made me a pair which beat his ace high.

I continued to chip up until the legend that is Mick McCloskey moved to the table to my immediate left. When he opened under the gun and it folded around to him, I joked that he never could resist the temptation to raise my blind before I looked at my cards. Black aces again, the hand of the weekend. I threebet, Mick shoved and groaned when he saw the aces. He tabled kings muttering to himself how unlucky he was. Cue the king high flop to general groans at the table, cut short by Mick’s “It’s not over yet”.

As the dealer counted down the stacks to ascertain I had fumes left, I thought back to a similar spot deep in the European Deepstack in 2008 that Mick brought up several thousand times over the next decade. Maybe Mick’s did too, as he looked at me and said “Look, nobody did anything wrong”, as if to pre-empt a decade of retaliatory moaning. Truth is that’s poker though, sometimes we dish out the beats, sometimes they are dished out to us, and if someone in that seat is destined to suck out on me, I’d prefer it to be a friend like Mick rather than a foe.

Final thoughts

One thing was very clear: after 20 months without live poker, the Irish poker public are gagging for it again. People you wouldn’t expect to see at the IPO like Max Silver and Eoin O’Dea played the 1k, and Steve O’Dwyer fired two bullets at the 500. When someone at my table remarked it was amazing someone who was 12th in the all time money list was playing it, I pointed out that if he won he’d.....still be 12th.

A big thank you and congratulations are in order for Nick O’Hara, his team and all the dealers who made the event a huge success. David and I are off to the WSOP on the 8th if we can fade getting COVID. Wish us luck!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The ICM book

 There’s a saying in sports that it’s much harder to stay at the top than to get there, to retain a title than to win it for the first time. I certainly found that to be true in my running career. I never successfully defended a title, and if I’m honest, I have to admit that the motivation to repeat a former success was never as strong.

When I wrote my first poker strategy book with Barry Carter, “Poker Satellite Strategy” I hoped it would sell well (mostly for Barry: I’m a professional poker player for whom this was a side venture, but his livelihood is writing so I wanted it to sell well enough to make it worth his while) and be well received. I felt absolutely no pressure though: had it flopped miserably I’d have shrugged and just moved on to the next thing. I think one of my strengths is that I don’t mind failing so long as I’ve given something my best effort, and I don’t dwell on failures. Folding is an underrated skill in poker and life: knowing when to accept you’re just not destined to win a hand or a pursuit, and just cut your losses, fold and move on to the next one. 

However, the first book was a success beyond my mildest dreams, and I did feel a certain pressure with the follow up “PKO Poker Strategy”. Mostly I didn’t want to disappoint the thousands of readers who had messaged me to say that the first poker book was one of or even the best poker book they’d read, and one that had made a massive difference in their poker lives. 

The success of the second book rolled the pressure on to book number three, “Endgame Poker Strategy: the ICM book”. A ton of work went into this book running thousands of sims and trying to distil them down into communicable concepts. Barry thinks this is our best book yet, and the early feedback has been very positive. It’s certainly the least niche: ICM is (I believe) the most important concept in tournaments and the one that’ll make the biggest difference to your bottom line. 


It takes a village

Barry and I have always gone the self publish route, figuring a traditional publisher wouldn’t generate sufficient additional sales to compensate for taking most of the profit. That’s worked out well for us, but it does place the onus on us to do everything ourselves. However, we have been incredibly fortunate at the number of people who stepped forward willing to help, whether it be content review, proofreading, promotion or whatever. These are all thanked in the acknowledgements section of the book (although I’m quite certain I forgot a few) but I’d like to pay further tribute to some of them here. It takes a village to help two village idiots write a book.

I would really like to thank all of our advance readers for their feedback and suggestions, including Sameer Singh, Daniel Dvoress, Conal Prendergast, Danny Sprung, Kevin Snelgrove, Katie Swift, Paul Romain,  and Jennifer Shahade. Sameer, Daniel and Danny deserve special mention for going above and beyond in the thoroughness of their review and the excellence of their suggestions. Danny did the first and final proofreads on the book, turning it around in under 24 hours in both cases!

I would also like to thank some of the people that helped us get this book over the line, including Kat Arnsby and Saron Harford. Thank you also to everyone at Unibet Poker, ShareMyPair, Cardschat, RecPoker, GambleOnline and PokerStrategy.com for their support over the years. Thanks kindly to K L Cleeton whose excellent app Range Trainer Pro helped us produce some of the hand grids in this book.

A special thank you to my friend and Twitch phenom Kevin Martin, who invited me on his stream to talk about the last two books. Several of the “gorilla maths” methods in the newbook arose from in depth discussion I had with Kevin who always asks the best questions.

Thanks also to thank David Lappin for being our unofficial hype man and ‘5th Beatle’ for the last three books. David also gave us feedback on the first draft, although this looked suspiciously like an exact copy of his feedback on the last two books, “include more anecdotes”. However, we took this advice to heart and if you liked the anecdotes to illustrate and break up the heavier strategy sections, you can thank David. If on the other hand you think rambling anecdotes have no place in a strategy book, please direct your abuse towards him.  

Finally I dedicated this book to Sean Ua Cearnaigh, my father who passed away last year. He instilled his love of learning and words and cards in me from an early age. Starting even later than me, he ended up publishing over twenty books in his lifetime, so I have a long way to go to catch up!

A special message for the Irish

Unfortunately we discovered Amazon are struggling to send paper books to Irish customers. We are working on the issue but until then, you can get it from the French Amazon almost as quickly as you used to be able to from the UK. We will have some copies at the IPO this month in Dublin if you are going.

Promotion

The timing of the release ended up being somewhat fortuitous in that it came out just as I came out of a period of playing online almost every waking hour for six weeks because of the various online series that were happening. While the grind went very well (I had one of my biggest upswings ever, which I only partially ascribe to positive variance. I think the hundreds of hours I spent studying sims in the final push to get the book out bore fruit by considerably improving my game), a period of playing less was just what the doctor ordered. Promoting the book has been the main priority as well as catching up on other fronts that got neglected like coaching and content creation, so I’ve done a bunch of podcasts and a Twitch appearance (I’m open to doing more in the next few weeks so hit me up if you want me on your pod or stream) and interviews. I won’t bore you with a list of them all (that’s what my Twitter is for) but I will say this one conducted by Lappin was a lot of fun. 

As I said above, when you self publish, you have to drive the promotion yourself. This has been my main focus since the book came out, and will be for the next few weeks. So far it’s going very well, with the book climbing to the top of the Amazon charts following in the footsteps of the last two books. 

One thing that helps massively on this front is earlier reviews so a big thank you to those of you who took the time to do this, and keep them coming!


On that front Barry and I will be doing a book signing at the.....

IPO

Live poker returns to Ireland on the 22nd of October, the first event since March of last year. That was the Unibet Open in the Bonnington, so it’s fitting the first event back is another Unibet sponsored event, the IPO. Lappin will be making the trip from Malta, while Barry is coming from Sheffield, and I’m looking forward to catching up with scores of others I haven’t seen in 18 months. Satellites and feeders are now running on Unibet. Hope to see you all there at some point in the weekend!

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