Saturday, January 26, 2019

Oh Danny boy....

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

I entered the work force in the mid 80s after graduating from college. It was a bog standard office in a software company that I realized over time was mundanely typical. One of the standard guys I worked with was Ed. Ed was the mildest mannered person you could ever meet, except when he was drunk. Then Ed turned into an obnoxious loudmouth, berating everyone who didn’t like it as “no fun”. In drunk Ed’s world, he was fun, and nobody else was. Sober Ed seemed to have no recollection of drunk Ed, but had heard enough about him over the years to realize he needed to apologize to everyone next day at work. When pressed for details on what he was apologizing for, he’d respond with a sheepish grin and a shrug. 

“You know. The usual”

Sober Ed was a nice enough guy that everyone was willing to tolerate drunk Ed, even if they didn’t want to be in his presence. Over the years as I moved around, I realized that almost every office had an Ed: someone who saw themselves as the life and soul of the party, but was seen by everyone else as the office bore. 


In the late 80s I worked for a while in Singapore. The economy there was booming (they were one of the original Asian tigers). When I was there they used to run these weird TV commercials where the most miserable kids you could ever imagine were dragged to a park or a playground by some adults. At first I thought it was a public safety warning about child abductions, but then I realized the adults seemed to be the kids' parents. So I asked a Singaporean work colleague.

“Oh. They’re the commercials for the mandatory Government child block parties”
“So the parents have to bring their kids to these parties?”
“Apparently expert client psychologists say our kids don’t know how to have fun”
“And this is an attempt to force them to have fun?”
“Does it work?”
“No. The kids usually leave more miserable and confused. They dread these parties”


Before I ran well in poker, I ran. As long time readers will already know, I spent most of my thirties as a mediocre marathon runner before blossoming in my early 40s into an elite ultra marathoner. This transformation was massively assisted by my training partners. Distance training is a long and boring process consisting mainly of long slow runs. Companionship is vital. The group spurs the individual to greater efforts and heights. 

Runners, like any random group, are a mixed lot. You have your characters, your jokers, your extroverts, your raconteurs and your observational comedians. And you have your quiet introverts, your thoughtful introspectives and your outright shy. Any reasonable sized training posse will have a mix of all types. My experience was runners not only tolerated personality differences, but they embraced and welcomed them. The introverts would laugh at the extroverts' jokes. The extroverts appreciated the audience and the more thoughtful perspectives of the introverts. One thing I never saw was the extroverts berating the introverts for being too quiet, or too shy, or no fun, or bad for running. If they wanted to hear more from their shy training partners, they tried gentle probing conversation rather than confrontation. More often than not it worked. And if it didn’t, it didn’t. If someone didn’t feel like talking, they didn’t have to: somebody else just took the airtime.

Recently we interviewed Lithuanian online player Merfinis for the Chip Race (the interview hasn’t aired as yet). One of the questions we touched on was the whole idea of table talk. Merfinis, who also runs and if he’s in a training group I’m pretty sure is one of the thoughtful introspectives who doesn’t say much but when he does it is always interesting, said he didn’t think anyone should feel obliged to talk at the table if they didn’t want to. He suggested that the notion often posited that pros have an obligation to talk to amuse the recreationals is basically extroverts trying to bully introverts to be more like them. As soon as he said it, I flashed back to my running days, and how differently the extroverts and introverts of that world seemed to interact.

Daniel Negreanu is a poker giant. He has loomed large for two decades not just by virtue of his results and achievements but also by sheer force of his personality. He has been poker’s biggest star and as such primary ambassador for longer than anyone else. I still remember the frisson of excitement I felt the first time I saw him in the flesh at the WSOP.

“Wow, that’s Daniel Negreanu”

I bought his book. I watched him on TV. I followed his career and his pronouncements on the game. When other sites absconded with player funds, I applauded him for calling out the culprits in public. 
Over time, I got less and less starstruck every time I saw him. By the time I played in Monte Carlo a few years ago, I didn't even bother to turn my head to look when I heard his distinctive voice and laugh at the table behind me. Partly because I was annoyed that he was still unapologetically shilling for a company that had basically robbed so many of my Supernova friends, but mostly because I was far too engrossed in a conversation with an online player I was meeting in person for the first time.

Don't get me wrong: Daniel was still a big name at this stage, arguably the biggest in poker. A stream of people were coming up for selfies, and he was only too happy to oblige. After a while, I did look round as selfie number countless was in progress.

"It never ends, huh?"

My conversational partner considered his response.

"No. That's a very different type of person right there. We'd lose our minds getting that sort of constant attention, but he clearly loves it"

There was no judgement or sense of superiority in that statement: just an acknowledgement of different strokes for different folks.

Like most stars, Daniel’s fell. When he felt contractually obliged to defend his sponsors after they effectively stole from their most loyal clients, he lost a little credibility. When he tried to justify nonsensically that more rake was better for recreationals, it fell further. More recently, he’s tried to poke fun at critics and pros, suggesting that they are "bad for poker". 

I get a little nervous when I hear that phrase. It feels kinda like poker's equivalent of "enemy of the people": a Doc-boot whistle to Fascists to signify that certain people need to be eradicated from the body of society like a cancer.

Maybe Daniel is genuinely trying to be funny, as he apparently was when he went blackface. The problem is that Daniel just isn’t funny. His attempts at humour always come across as smug and sanctimonious and patronising. He has lost almost all his credibility as a spokesman for anyone but his paymasters, yet he insists on preaching to the rest of us as to how we should behave. If we don’t comply with his narrow definition of an acceptable personality type (basically his own: in Daniel’s world it seems the more like him the better you are, and the less like him the worse you are to the point he regards you as a cancer). This is an incredibly intolerant position for someone who claims to self identify as a liberal to hold.

There is a culture among the old school in poker to berate the new school as lacking in charm and personality. Whether you agree with that or not, it seems to me that berating someone for not having the type of personality you want them to have (which happens to coincide with your own) is not the way to go. Don't get me wrong: like most introverts I am capable of enjoying the company of out and out extroverts. I'd happily spend the rest of my life at the same table as Neil Channing listening to his stories, poking fun at the foibles we all have as humans (Neil included), or Jennifer Tilly, or Mustapha Kanit. But I wouldn't want the whole world to ape the personality of any of those great characters. Diversity rules.

The title of this blog is the well known folk song much beloved by Irish Americans, and I started this blog with the first verse which appears to be a lover or perhaps a parent (a loved one in any case) bemoaning the absence of the titular Danny boy. The people who move us most in life are the ones whose absence we mourn the most, whether that absence is purely physical, or a result of the person changing. When a loved one disappears forever, it's a tragedy, but when they reappear or transform into the opposite of what they once were, well that can be a bigger tragedy. The disappearing hero at least leaves good memories and a legacy, but the one who lingers long after their heroism has disappeared to the point of embarrassment is far worse. Negreanu's journey from genuine ambassador to pure corporate shill is a sad road perhaps paved with good intentions, but there is now a generation of players who know no other version of Negreanu than the one who says whatever his corporate paymasters tell him to say. More rake is better. Nits are a cancer. Make poker great again.

So if you are one of the extroverts of poker, and you find yourself at a table of introverts, ask yourself who you want to be. Do you want to be drunk Ed, tediously berating everyone for not having the same personality as you? Do you want to be the Singaporean Government instructing everyone to have fun? Do you want to be Danny boy telling them they're all enemies of the people, or a cancer on poker? Or do you want to be the friendly distance runner, telling jokes and stories and asking questions that prove you are genuinely interested in the person you are talking them and not just trying to butter them up so you can steal their money?

Monday, January 14, 2019

The best of years

"The results have been encouraging: I managed to reverse the decline in profitability of recent years to record my most profitable year since 2014. Highlights include a fourth place finish in the WCOOP event for 40K, a Powerfest win, the seventh PocketFives Triple Crown of my career, and regaining the top slot in the PocketFives rankings for Ireland for the first time in several years."

I wrote this last year, celebrating my most successful year in a while. Success in poker is an elusive concept with no widely accepted definition. I recently told a non-poker friend who asked how 2018 was for me pokerwise that it was my most successful year ever.

"Why? What did you win?"

I realised that my definition of success, measured in pure profit, was very different from his. But on my terms at least, 2018 was my most successful year in poker, even if I won nothing major.

So let's have a look back at 2018.


As I've said before in this blog, I have always considered myself to be an online poker player who also plays a bit live, not the other way around. Online went very well this year: I won a couple of Powerfests, a Supernova, and in May the 8th Pocketfives  Triple Crown of my career.

"This year I decided to shift my focus away from low variance satellites to higher variance and higher margin mtts with thousands of runners. The results have been encouraging: I managed to reverse the decline in profitability of recent years to record my most profitable year since 2014. "

That was then (2017) but this is now. This year saw me return to satellites with a vengeance. I'm not going to lie: I was a little rusty at first and the metagame had changed quite a bit in the time I was away. It took me a while to work out the new strategy, but once I did it was satellites that underpinned my most profitable year ever online. Big results and outliers can skew the yearly results of the tournament player, so it's always important to acknowledge their impact. For example, 2015 was a very good year where I finished up 300k overall, but almost all of this came from one result at the WSOP. I made very little online that year, continuing a worrying downward decline. That decline continued the following year, but has reversed the last two years, and ultimately that gives me more satisfaction than any one big outlier.


My live poker year was very much a tale of two halves. The first half of the year was very lacklustre, but I did at least notch up a few firsts. First trip to the Aussie Millions, first cash in Australasia, and first ever Irish Open cash. My Vegas continued in a similar theme: six cashes, two top 100 runs at the series, but no truly deep run.

The second half of the year was considerably better. I finished second to Upeshka Da Silva in the Killarney High Roller (not the first time that's happened) before coming 8th at the UK Millions for £70,000 (not including a Brucey bonus I got for chopping a £100k Last Longer with Alex Foxen), the second biggest live score of my career. This result also brought up my one million dollars lifetime score on the Hendon Mob,. I ended the year with a cash at Unibet Open Dublin, bringing my total live cashes figure for the year on the Hendon Mob to $136,929, my second highest ever.


I did more coaching this year than any other so far. There’s a running joke in poker that players only start coaching when they can’t beat the game any more, but I’ve always felt coaching others helps my own game. Having to explain my thought processes to someone else seems to really crystallize them in my own mind. However, there’s a point beyond which too much time spent coaching is tiring and starts to erode my ability to grind, and I definitely pushed past that point a few times this year coaching over 20 hours a week.

I feel like there's a sweet spot where I coach an hour or two every day but no more, so I'll try to stick to that in 2019. Late this year, I joined Optimal Poker Pathway as a coach. This is a great way for those of you who don't want to pay my exorbitant fees for one-to-one coaching and videos to access my coaching at a more affordable price.


I was very active in 2018 on the content creation front. I wrote 20 blogs here, more than I have in recent years, and passed a milestone of 600k hits. I am very heartened by the number of loyal readers who read everything I publish, and that keeps me motivated to keep writing. Some time in 2019 I expect to write my 500th blog.

I started writing for Bluff Europe again, and contributed some strategy articles to other sites such as PokerStrategy

The Chip Race, the podcast I host with David Lappin, continued to grow in 2018, on Soundcloud, Itunes and YouTube.

On YouTube, I made a couple of strategy videos with my friend Gareth James (one on a huge Jeff Gross check back, and another on a couple of hands from the UK Millions). I also did interviews with Cardplayer Lifestyle, Microgaming and Unibet.

My free strategy newsletter (link to sign up on the bar at the top of this blog) grew from just over 100 subscribers to over 400 over the year.

Health and fitness

I've been very fortunate with my health this year: no major illnesses and very few minor sniffles. I've done considerably worse on the fitness front. I find it hard to maintain my fitness on the road (I do much better during prolonged spells at home), and as a result went to Vegas in the worst shape (and heaviest) in years. There was also too much travel in the second half of the year to regain peak fitness, so I am trying to set this as a priority in 2019. On that front I'm off to a good start at least (I ran my first 26 mile training run in almost a year on New Year's Day, and my first 30 miler the following week). It's still likely to be a struggle to maintain given the amount of live poker on my slate for the next six months.

Plans and goals for 2019

I seem to end every year moaning I do and travel too much, and need to cut back on both, and then proceed not to. I do feel like something has to give. One thing I definitely tend to cut back on in 2019 is coaching: not that I want to drop it completely, but just be more selective.

Other than that it's hard to know what to drop or cut back majorly. Certainly not the Chip Race, which David and I are both very proud of and feel has a bit of life left in it yet. I also intend to keep the blog going (maybe with a few less entries this year though), and the strategy newsletter.

I'm not really one for setting specific poker goals, at least not ones like "I want a 100k live score in 2019" or "I want to make X profit online". I prefer to just focus on the process of grinding, studying and working hard, and taking it as it comes.

One specific goal is to publish my first book in 2019. About a year ago I was lucky enough to be approached by Barry Carter, who pitched the idea "Since there are no good books out there on satellites, we should write one". The book is now almost complete, and we are hoping for a February release. We took the material I developed for my webinar on satellites (the video of which is still available for $75 from if you can't wait for the book), expanded on it and added in some additional concepts to create the most comprehensive book we could.

Barry has been a delight to work with, and  I consider myself very fortunate to be collaborating with a writer of his calibre who has already co-authored one poker bestseller (The Mental Game of Poker, with Jared Tendler).

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone who helped and supported me in 2019, most of all the two D's, Daiva (my study buddy and best friend) and David (my most patient and hard working cohost and collaborator), and everyone who has taken the time to read this blog, follow me on social media, listen to the Chip Race or interact with me at events.

I hope every one of us gets the 2019 we deserve!

Monday, December 10, 2018


Luxury prison camp

I often get asked why Mrs Doke doesn’t accompany me on more poker trips. There are many different answers, one of which is she doesn’t enjoy them. She’s not that keen a traveller (she likes her home comforts and doesn’t like the bovine feeling most airports engender in her), and she really has no interest in poker beyond how much I lost today. She hates casinos and resorts, and she is no sun worshipper. One thing we both have in common is we are utterly useless at doing nothing. We are terrible chillers: with nothing concrete to fill a day, we climb the concrete walls.

Last year we went to Punta Cana, a luxury all inclusive resort. While everyone else oohed and ahhed about the place, what was Mrs Doke’s reaction?

“Luxury prison camp”

What she does like are big cosmopolitan cities with vibrant cultures and a bit of history: Rome, New York, Melbourne, Prague. So while all I would have needed to say to get almost any other female on the plane was “Bahamas in November” the only way I could win her over to the idea was 5 days with the Bleemers in New York on the way over. True to form, she loved New York. And her verdict on her Bahamas?

“Ten days of my life, wasted”

And therein we have Doke’s paradox: I wanted to marry her because (among other reasons) she was the type of woman who would never be happy sunning herself by the pool: yet I still want her company on trips such as these where there’s not much else for her to do.

Let's see the sea 

After a few days lying in bed reading the many books she brought with her to get through this ordeal, Mrs Doke decided it might be an idea to go look at the sea, which she has a genuine fondness for, and which she had found out was quite near (100 meters or so from the hotel). I accompanied her downstairs on this great excursion and steered towards the back of the hotel.

“Where are you going?”
“ the sea? You said you wanted to, right?”
“Yes but it’s at the back of the hotel not the front”
“We are walking towards the back”
“No we are not”

I was certain I was right, but even more certain this was an argument I could not win (she was citing many hours of consulting maps in the room, and the directions of that master of navigation that is Freddie Bergmann, a man who proved so unable to find his way out of the toilets at a players party in Bucharest that he had to be rescued by David Vanderheyden) short of slinging her over my shoulder and carrying her to the sea. It seemed wiser to play along for now.

So out through reception we walk. There’s no sea in sight, so she asks one of the receptionists how to get to the sea. The receptionist looks confused and says “Back through the hotel or from here?”
“From here!”
The receptionist looks even more confused, and tells us more or less that if we won’t walk back through the hotel, the only way to get to the sea is to walk around it. At least that’s my interpretation: Mrs Doke's is quite different so before I know what’s happening, we are walking away from the hotel back towards the airport on the exact same road we came in as I try every possible combination of words that mean “The sea is not this way” and Mrs Doke uses only one word to communicate that I am an idiot.

“But why can’t we even see the sea?”
“We can, you idiot”
“So where is it?”
“Well we can’t see it yet, idiot”
“But it’s supposed to be near!”
“Look at Google Maps on my phone. Here. Here. This blue dot is us, agreed?”
“And this is the hotel”
“Yes, idiot”
“And this is the sea”
“Duh, idiot”
“Ok. So the hotel is between the blue dot and the sea”
“So, idiot?”
“So to get to the sea the blue dot has to walk back towards the hotel, through it, and out the far side”
“No. It’s this way”
“I give up. I’m going back. You do what you want”

She considered her options, then followed me back sullenly muttering “idiot”

As we gazed out on the sea, no word of apology was expected or offered. I was still an idiot, albeit one who happened to be annoyingly correct on this occasion.

As we walked back to our room I pointed out that if we had kept walking in her direction we would also have hit the sea eventually, in 20 or 30 miles, so we were both right in a way.

This was not a helpful observation.



There seems to be a bit of a healthy rivalry these days in poker between the Americans and the Euros. The Americans, the birthplace and traditional superpower of poker, are a little less secure in their world dominance in these post UIGEA days. There was a time when going to the WSOP was the poker equivalent of an athlete going to the Olympics. It still is, but it’s the Moscow Olympics the Americans won nothing at (by virtue of boycott). They don’t boycott the WSOP, and they still win most of the bracelets, but there’s a feeling that that’s mostly sheer force of numbers. Ask any pro what accent they want to hear when the young unknown to their immediate left pulls down his sunglasses, peers at you and asks “How much?” and the answer definitely won’t be “German!” No sir: what you most want to hear is a y’all or a folksy American twang. Deprived of the ability to play a million hands a month online, the American player pool has been cut adrift onto its own evolutionary track. European regs openly joke about “dumpster American regs” (as Firaldo did recently on The Chip Race) and the Germans in particular do little to disguise their lack of esteem even for American legends and heroes such as Hellmuth.

The Americans though are are a wonderfully resilient nation. They still produce more poker champions than anyone else. Yes, population, but China. India. Russia.

At my day 2 main event table, Ryan Riess turned his head towards the 250k SHR final table and celebrated the fact that it was almost entirely American.

“Yeah! All Americans almost. We’ve been crushing the High Rollers lately. Team USA!”

His (American) neighbour Michael Gagliano seemed less ebulliently nationalistic.

“How many Euros even played? Not that many I think. It’s the Bahamas”
“All the shit Euro regs played it”

One day later, shit Euro reg Steffen Sontheimer was crowned champion, outnumbered but still slaying a table of dumpster Americans regs.

Let's hear it for the recs

I started as an online player. To this day, I see myself as an online player who plays a bit live. Live poker is the hobby: online the jobby. When I play live, it’s for a break, a holiday, or because I like the destination or the company (which was particularly good on this trip: shout-outs to Jason, Joy, Fay, Jamie, Ellie, Freddie and Tim who were all a pleasure to spend time with), or because one side effect of crushing online satellites is you have to go and actually play the target event.

These days satellites are not my bread and butter, and I could grind out a very good year online without ever going near one. I’m not as keen on travel as I was, and I have found other ways to give myself a break. The one appealing aspect that remains is the chance to meet and socialize with players I wouldn’t otherwise. Players I might interact with on social media like Jodi but it’s still nice to meet in person and get a little of their story. Sometimes I think the people I admire the most in poker are not the end bosses who lock themselves away running PIO sims 18 hours a day 365 days a year, but the true recreationals who play for the love of the game. It’s wonderful that someone can parlay a centroll into a holiday in the Bahamas rubbing shoulders with some of the superstars of the felt. I’m always grateful that so many of them see me as worthy of their time to come and have a natter.

This is something we should never lose sight of in all the bitching about structures and affiliate deals and preferential treatment for pros and overlays (real or non existent) and rake: the heart of live poker is recreational players playing for fun and having fun.

Social media

Social media and me: we go way back, let me tell ya. I was the first Irish poker player to get busy on Twitter. I remember the crescendo of mirth it caused among the pros of the day that I would waste my time on something so pointless so trivial and so clearly without a future.

Well who’s laughing now? The answer I guess is still nobody, since social media has devolved for the most part into pictures of food, chip stacks and girls in bikinis, or shouting about Trump or Brexit to the converted. It’s still an enormous waste of time, a time killer and a time sink, but it’s made us more connected than we have ever been. People come up to me all the time at poker tournaments and address me like an old friend while I stand there wondering “What is this person’s name? Have I ever even seen them before?” These are alarming questions for a man who has reached my age, as the inability to recognize the faces of old friends is a symptom of nothing good and many things bad.

Often though it’s just a case that I haven’t met this person before, but they feel like they know me because social media. And that’s a very cool thing, because the older you get the more tiresome it becomes to find an axe to break the ice.

Social media has reached the stage where you could be in the room where everything is happening, and still be less informed than the guy at home reading Twitter. Maybe I should give a concrete example: with nothing to do on a day off, I could go rail the feature table. I could walk around the poker room like a wannabe blogger looking for big hands. Or I could lie in bed with my wife, refreshing Twitter and Instagram. And guess which one will keep me the most informed?

Through social media I can learn that Jason Tompkins doubled through Jack Sinclair last hand of day one. Before I’ve even have time to message haha to Jack, I’ve seen his side of the hand on Instagram, met Jason on my stroll to the poker room, and we’ve run into Jack so I can deliver the haha in person. What a time to be alive.

Vouchers and Eastern European girls

Every time a player registered for a tournament the organizers gave them a card with Food Voucher on the front and 25 blank boxes on the back. These could be redeemed for food or water outside. Each box had a nominal value of a dollar, so if you bought a sandwich for 12 bucks, that was 12 boxes. As soon as I realized that a box was a buck, I found myself wondering why put a nominal value on boxes at all? They couldn’t be converted into anything other than corridor food or drink (though I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that at least one poker player tried to change them at the Currency Exchange kiosk at airport: my money and boxes are on Allen Kessler) so why not just put the prices in boxes? There are crypto currencies with less intrinsic merit.

I was reinforced in my view after Parky came over to tell me about a guy who wouldn’t stop complaining about the price of bottled water to him. It turned out of course that he wasn’t really complaining about the water costing 7 dollars, since no actual money had changed hands: only about the number of boxes it cost him.

After chortling with Parky over this tale, I decided to tell one of my own. In the previous night’s side event I’d had my most entertaining bustout.

The action went mid position open, button flat, me shove small blind for 14 big blinds, original opener reshove for lots more, and shrug call from button. I turn over my aces, the original raiser ace nine double suited, and the button five three single suited in diamonds. At this point I paused in the tale to assure Parky this was not a bad beat story, to stop his mind from wandering back to his room.

The flop was a rather safe looking king king jack rainbow no diamond, a 5 rolled off on the turn, followed by another on the river. As I stood up to leave, the guy raking in the chips explained he’d only called because what he really wanted to be doing was talking to the Eastern European girls in the players lounge. He seemed genuinely sad as he said this, like his was the real bad beat here.

As I headed not to the players lounge to talk to the Eastern European girls but back to the room to tell my French girl how much I’d lost today, I reflected on the fact that people play poker for lots of different reasons, most of them entirely valid.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wagner's theory of Irish efficiency

Wagner in Paris

In the early 90s I found myself in Paris as an IT consultant on a pan European project for a large American oil company that had their headquarters there. It was a challenging project, and one of the biggest challenges was the sheer number of different nationalities and work cultures involved.

I was the first Irishman brought in, but by the end there were more Irish working on the project than any other nationality. The English muttered darkly that our American boss was showing favouritism to the land of his ancestors. The French would raise their eyebrows and mutter “putain, encore un ivrogne irlandais“ every time a new Paddy was hired. The other nationalities saw no difference between Irish and English.

I liked our American leader, Mr Wagner, a lot. He had that refreshing no bullshit straight to the chase ethos so many Americans have. He had no technical knowledge of relevance to the project, but he was a great manager and judge of people. He knew who would tell him the truth, who would deliver what was asked, who would just waste his time and whose complaints to heed (and whose to ignore). Socially, he was aloof, very much an American abroad. He found it hard to separate work from play, he hated European sports with a passion, and he spoke no French. He interacted socially only with the Irish, coming along with us to the Irish pub (or bar as he called it) and pretending to care whenever Ireland played football (or soccer as he called it).

As the number of Irish on the project grew, I wondered if the English were right. On the face of it, Wagner didn’t seem like an Irish name, and he came from a part of the States few Irish had ventured. So I asked him jokingly one Friday afternoon over a beer if what the English were saying was true.

“No. I’m Wasp through and through. I never even set foot in an Irish bar before I got to Paris”
“Well the English think you’re prejudiced in our favour”
“Heh, I’m not prejudiced, I’m ......I’m .....postjudiced. I arrived here with all the usual American prejudice. English nobility. German efficiency. French flair. Italian ruthlessness. Irish drunken fighting idiots. That’s why I didn’t hire one of you lot until well over a year into the project"
“I’m honoured to have been the first drunken fighting idiot on the team”
“What I’ve learned though is there most certainly are national stereotypes: just not the ones I expected”
“Put it like this. If I ask the English on Monday morning to do something by 5 pm Friday, they’ll spend the rest of the day, and probably most of Tuesday arguing among themselves about who is in charge, who is second in command, the whole goddamn hierarchy. I’ll spend a lot of Wednesday and Thursday listening to guys not happy with their position complaining about their boss and the long hours he’s making them work. They’ll be there til 10 pm every night, and they will deliver something resembling what I asked for, which I’ll now have to get the Irish to fix”
“If I ask the French, they’ll spend the entire week arguing among themselves, and at 5 on Friday they’ll come to tell me what I wanted was either impossible or stupid, or both, and wish me a good weekend. If I ask the Italians they’ll spend the whole week arguing and threatening to resign. It’ll be chaos until a few minutes to 5 on Friday, at which point everything will somehow fall into place and the job will be done. If I ask the Germans they’ll spend the first few days arguing about and writing up detailed procedures, which they’ll insist I read and sign off on. They will get the job done but I’ll be hearing about it all week”
“And the Irish?
“From the outside, you guys will seem to be spending the week sitting around telling each other stories and jokes and going off to the pub every afternoon. But the job will be done the quickest smartest way with no fuss or drama. You’ll tell me Friday morning it’s finished, and then you’ll piss off to the pub. The French, English and Germans will complain to me that you drunken idiots are always in the pub while they’re slaving away”

At the time Ireland was the poor man of Europe, but Wagner boldly predicted that that would change. As such, e was the first person I knew to predict the Celtic Tiger, and when I met him in Vegas last year (now retired to Florida) he asked me how Ireland was these days (he worked there for a few years after Paris). When I told him it was booming again and we had the 4th highest HDI in the world (remarkable for a small island on the periphery of Europe with almost no natural resources), he smiled and reminded me he had predicted it all.

Back to Dublin

Over the past two and a half decades, I've seen many successful examples of Wagner's theory on Irish efficiency. I've seen RyanAir grow from a "no way that can work" startup to the largest airline in Europe (by fleet size), and numerous tech startups that have dominated the world. Every time I hear about an Irish success story, I think of Wagner's words to me 25 years ago. Most recently, the success of Unibet Open Dublin brought him back into my mind.

Thrown together at very short notice, Nick O'Hara and Brian Lannon did an amazing job pulling it all in place for the return of Unibet to our shores for the first time in seven years. There were understandable concerns over the venue (the Regency/Bonnington is a major turn off for many locals) but it was dressed up better than I could ever have imagined for the poker. The TV table (sadly lacking from many Irish events these days) added a real sense of occasion, McGettigan's is a great addition, and the event itself was impeccably run.

I arrived back from the Bahamas (that trip will be the subject of my next blog) Tuesday not having slept in over 24 hours. I did manage to grab a few hours sleep before the team dinner in The Church. Afterwards, the talented Elena Kask took this photo of Mrs Doke and I, both happy to be home.

The first event I played (but not for very long) was the tag team. I was lucky enough to be drawn with Instagram superstar STPeach, and managed to keep my perfect record of always being the one to bust the team every time I partner with a beautiful lady.

The next event I played was the High Roller. I was pretty card dead day one, but somehow bagged up the chiplead, mainly due to one massive hand. New Unibet Finland pro, Tuomo Niskanen, opened in the hijack to 900.

I considered flatting aces playing just over 25k but Tuomo is so aggressive I figured 3 bet get in was the best plan. To my surprise Keith Brennan 4 bet from the small blind, so now I'm loving life, and that's even before Tuomo shoved. After I reshoved Keith tanked before sigh flicking it in with kings. My aces held (Tuomo had ace king), as Benny Glaser and Espen Jorstad (both of whom were at the table) joked "You know it's an old nit when they tank kings".

I don't think I won a single pot on day 2 and ended up busting well before the money. I went back to the hotel (we were staying in the Skylon) for a run (my only of the week) before coming back to do some commentary on the DSO final table, rail Daiva who was playing Day 1A of the main, and most importantly of all, bring her coffee.

I played 1B, and was at a tough table all day, featuring John Keown (fresh from chopping the DSO), Jason Tompkins, an American Andrew Brokos lookalike called Jayson and several other strong local players.

John was joking with a foreign lady at the table that she was at a table of Irish legends when the third of fourth best tournament director in the room Kenny Hallaert appeared.

"Yes, a table of Irish legends.....and Dara O'Kearney"

Thanks Kenny. Here's a picture of Kenny doing what he does best.

I was happy to bag up just over double starting stack, below average but still competitive, for day 2.

Day 2 was something of a rollercoaster. I made a great start when I doubled up and bust the formidable Phil Huxley. I open AK utg, John Farrell flatted in the next seat, and Phil considered his options with KQo and just over twenty big blinds before shoving. I reshoved and held, but from there on barely won a pot and as I was moved to the feature table near the bubble, survival was the priority. Thankfully the bubble didn't last too long and I squeaked through. A few hands later, I shoved ATo into John Farrell's AQo. A few people watching the stream were surprised i wasn't sweating the result more: instead I seem to be casually chatting to Andy Black beside me. What was actually happening was I was giving Andy the address for the livestream: once I saw what I was up against I figured this was probably my last hand so wanted him to have it before I left. As I said before, having a full livestream is a very attractive selling point to Irish players, and even someone like Andy seemed genuinely excited to be able to tell his missus she could tune in.

After my bustout I did another commentary stint and signed up to do the night shift with Henry Kilbane so everyone else could go to the party. You never really know how you're going to gel with someone on commentary til you try it but it felt very natural and easy with Henry. I got lots of positive feedback from Irish players after who tuned in, so well done Henry. Shoutout to the Twitch chat too who were great fun: most of them were there for eventual winner Paul Jux Holderness (congratulations to him) who it turns out is a YouTube sensation. I was a little sceptical at first as it's not a world I know much (or anything) about but he's clearly a big deal and his fans were great fun.

My roommate for the week Mick McCloskey was still in at the end of play. It was too late to head to the party, and it ended just in time to see Emelie Svenningsson win the Ladies event. The event itself was a massive success, attracting more runners than the Ladies at the Irish Open this year and almost double what the Ladies in Killarney got. Daiva has done a great job drawing in ladies of all levels: personally I always root for the grinders and the workers, and Emelie falls in that camp, putting in volume online and working on her game (she even bought my satellite webinar).

Sunday was mostly about railing Mick, and other socialising. His hand histories are always interesting to say the least:
“So this guy opening all sorts open and I call 99”
“What positions Mick?”
Long pause during which Mick looks annoyed like it's a stupid question....
“He’s in the cutoff and I’m button”
“What are the stacks?”
Mick looks really annoyed with this stupid line of questioning.
“No fucking clue. Flop is Q56 and I check”
“You're the button????”
“I was a blind”

(All good photos in this blog courtesy of Tambet and Elena Kask. All the bad ones like this are mine)

When I got up that morning I sent various friends "What are you up to today?" messages, including Alan Widmann.

A few hours later, Alan duly shipped the last event of the weekend, to his obvious delight. It was his first win in a live tournament. Alan works tremendously hard on his very popular Twitch stream and YouTube channel (anyone who thinks that isn't hard work really doesn't understand how much of a grind people like Alan, Sco and Djarii put in), but also makes the time to work on his poker and grind as much as he can online, so I was delighted to see his effort pay off, as were the rest of the Unibet team. A great finish to a great festival.

Afterwards, there was some backslapping for McCloskey who came fifth in the end, and he was going around telling everyone that would listen (and that could decipher his accent) that maybe he should be the Irish ambassador having final tabled the last two Unibet sponsored events here. I'm not sure the Unibet budget could afford the amount of drink vouchers he'd need.

I was pretty shattered by now so after hanging out with whoever didn't have an early flight the next day, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. During the week, I did an interview with blogger extraordinaire Christian Zetzsche, the first part of which has already appeared (I think the plan is to make it a three parter). I told Christian that I'm having my best ever year online and the plan is to finish strong on that front. Also check out Christian's excellent piece on Freddie Bergmann.

The last time the Unibet Open came to Dublin, I think only 6 Irish played it (and I staked two of the others, so effectively half of the buyins were mine), which might explain why it took 7 years for them to come back. With this event being organised at such short notice, and a lot of locals not to crazy about the venue, I was very worried we could see something of a repeat with a low local turnout. So I was thrilled that so many Irish players did turn up and play. We ended up exceeding all expectations: 99 more than the last Unibet Open Dublin, 86 more than Malta, and even ten more than London.

It was also great to see so many foreign friends make the trip, many to play a buyin level they normally wouldn't travel for. Andy Hills and his lovely girlfriend couldn't play the main due to other commitments, but came midweek for some side events. George Devine and his lovely wife could only come for the weekend side events. A special shoutout to all the people who took the time to come and say how much they enjoyed the Chip Race and the blog, and how they'd been deciding factors in getting them to travel. Jack Sinclair and his wife Feargus (who shipped the superstack) also made the trip: two top lads to hang out with. KevMath was also making his first appearance on our shores: what a legend, and he left having secured his first Irish flag. And what can I say about the son-in-law I never had Timmy and his partner in crime David Docherty (who did a great stint in the commentary box when he correctly deduced the bubble must have burst when I shoved ATo) except it's always great to see them.

Also a special shoutout to the tireless Unibet live events crew. Live events head Nataly has assembled an all female crew that is the best in the business and underlines that when Unibet talks about QueenRules, it doesn't just apply to players. Mai, Kasia and new girl Sophie were a closeknit team working their socks off to make sure everything was perfect. Special shoutout to Shirley Ang, who doesn't work for Unibet but comes in for every event to bully, cajole, persuade and (very occasionally) charm the ambassadors to do what's needed, make sure the livestream is top class, pick feature tables, and sort whatever shit arises out. Nobody works harder at a poker event than Shirley whether she's there as a blogger or a coordinator: she's a perfectionist who can't stand sloppiness or half measures and will make sure everyone does their best. She's also essentially the sweeper or libero of the operation: if someone messes up, Shirley will step in to clean up. Terrifying, terrific and effective all at once, one of my favourite images of the week was her literally dragging Lappin by the arm through the poker room to make him do her bidding.

All the Irish I spoke to afterwards were glowing in their praise and hopeful we wouldn't have to wait another seven years. After the event, I was talking to Nataly about how well it had gone. She said
"I guess we have to come back?"
"Be rude not to"
"A crime not to!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Shamefully slow in New York

Jen Mason

Jen Mason was at my starting table at the recent IPO. I pointed out that she had also been at my first table in the European Deepstack (the first major live event I ever played) a decade ago.

“That’s the one you ended up winning, right?”
“Yes but that’s not why I brought it up. It’s striking how little you’ve changed, something which definitely can’t be said about me”
“You’ve had an awesome life though”

Jen Mason wins at everything, including compliments.

Typical Americans

We go out to eat our first meal in New York this trip to an Italian restaurant with our friends Russ and Nancy, and their running friends who are in town for the marathon. The waiter is having a language off with Mrs Doke (which he lost). It turns out he was born in Italy, and grew up in France before moving here. That life trajectory has equipped him to excel in the related disciplines of condescension and snootiness.

The Americans want to order wine. He scoffs that it is more correct to choose what one wants to eat first, as that should dictate the wine to choose. The Americans order a nice Chianti.

“Typical Americans”

Everyone decides what they want to eat, but some of our hosts want to make minor adjustments to their dishes.

“Typical Americans”

The Americans don’t rise to the bait, maintaining their silence. But their faces say “Just get our food, buster”

Shamefully slow

We are in our first Uber of the trip. The driver eyes us up and down, then throws out a probe to Mrs Doke (I’m buried in my phone as always).
“In town for the marathon maybe? Did your husband run it?”
He looks at me again.
“I guess he’s a bit too old?”
“No! He runs a marathon as training every Wednesday!”Oh.....”“It’s just that he doesn’t want to run a time much slower than his peak. Much much slower. Shamefully slow”

Mrs Doke giveth, then snappeth away.

Making a play

We went to see the excellent new play “The Ferryman” on Broadway with the Bleemers Russ and Nancy. After the show I return from the bathroom to find one of the ushers trying to shoo Mrs Doke towards an exit.
"I'm waiting for my husband. He'll be here any minute"

She doesn’t see me as I approach so I decide to stage an impromptu mini play of my own, whispering to the usher “I’ll take her from here. Her husband died almost ten years ago, it’s very sad”.

The usher’s expression instantly transforms from one of impatience to extreme sympathy.

As I lead her away, Mrs Doke glares at me and the usher suspiciously.

“Why is she looking at me like that all of a sudden?”
After three decades she knows me well enough to suspect I must have done something. But not well enough to know exactly what.

We love New York

I’ve been coming to New York for over 30 years, since my very first trip abroad as a student on a J1 visa. It’s one of my favourite places, and also one of Mrs Doke’s. I’m not entirely sure why. Yes, the food is great, and yes the entertainment options are phenomenal, and sure you can’t turn a corner without seeing something iconic....but that’s every major city, right?

Maybe it’s the people, who are both real and friendly, a point reinforced from the moment we stepped off the subway from the airport. As we tried to work out how we were going to get three large bags up to the street without Mrs Doke having to do any heavy lifting, literally the first passerby offered his assistance.

Maybe it’s the many happy memories. In 2005 I took a short cab ride from the Bleemer apartment to Central Park. Two weeks earlier, I’d crossed the finish line in Dublin in my last ever marathon, disappointed with a time that was ten minutes outside my best. The worst part was I could find no reason apart from the one I could do nothing about. My training had been perfect. I was injury and illness free. The conditions were perfect. I made no pace or other errors in the race. I had no digestion problems, and I slept well the night before. So I shrugged, and told my Raheny team mates that I’d just run my last ever marathon. At 40, age had finally caught up with me, and I would never be able to match the time I had run a year ago no matter what I did. The thought of a long slow decline to shamefully slow was not an appealing one, so it was time to move on.

But before I did that, I decided to run one last race. I’d always wondered what it would be like to run a race even longer than a marathon, an ultramarathon. So I figured I’d give one a try, before I lost all my condition. The next major ultramarathon on the schedule was New York, and so it was that less than two weeks after crossing the line in Dublin terminally disappointed, I was toeing another start line in Central Park in what was meant to be my last race.

I distinctly remember looking around the starting line trying to see if I could “pick the winner”. There were quite a few sleek elite looking athletes, some apparently with their own film crews in tow, but I failed to spot the winner. Instead I had the consolation of being the winner myself, unexpectedly crossing the line about four and a half hours later in first place. Nobody was more surprised than me. It was the start of a brief but brilliant career: over the next two years I won more races, broke national records, became Irish 24 hour champion, represented my country at world championships, but none of those memories will ever top that “Holy shit I’m about to win the New York ultramarathon” moment.

I’ve known Russ for almost the full length of my marriage. So long he’s seen three different incarnations: we first “met” in the early days of the Internet. He shared my nerdy obsession for David Bowie and every aspect of his career and music, and we wasted more hours arguing about it than was sensible. After Bowie’s heart attack and decade long retreat from music and the limelight, my obsessive nature found a new outlet in competitive running.

We stayed at the Bleemers' apartment a few blocks from Central Park whenever I ran in New York, and as my running career wound down and my poker career ramped up, our excuse for visiting became a mid series break from the World Series of Poker.

So maybe it’s the people, or the vibe, or the food, or the shows and concerts, or the happy memories. More than likely though, New York is a favourite of ours just because that’s where the Bleemers live.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

High Rollers, Brighton and Millions

As many of my readers know, before I was a poker player, I was an international ultra runner. I won the New York ultramarathon, a 6 hour indoor race in the Czech Republic, a 100 km race in the Netherlands, and the Irish 24 hour running championship. Before that I was a decent marathon runner who won one in Cornwall. For almost a decade before that, I was a very average recreational marathon runner.

One conversation I had with a work colleague proved crucial in my transformation from recreational to competitive runner. It started innocently enough with me bragging (yes, even back then I was a braggart) about my endurance and how fresh I always felt after a race. My colleague, who had been a serious rugby player before a snapped Achilles' tendon put a literal halt to his gallop, was less than impressed.

"That's because you never push yourself outside your comfort zone"

He went on to lecture me that anybody hoping to achieve their full potential in any field of human endeavour needed to constantly challenge themselves and push past comfortable. I took his words to heart and started pushing harder in training and races, up to the point of exhaustion.

For some reason I found myself flashing back to that conversation half a lifetime ago as the dust cleared after my return from Vegas this summer. As I've already written in a recent blog, I didn't feel like my preparation thus year was the best, but was happy with my performance over there, and philosophical about the fact that it hadn't worked out this time. This was made easier by being at a point in my career where a losing Vegas makes no significant difference to my life. I was comfortable with whatever happened. Then I thought of this old conversation, and also the words of my old running coach.

"Losing is supposed to hurt"

My career in poker has not been without its periods of discomfort. I started online as a limit cash player, but quickly eschewed the easy regular profits from that to master a new format (sit n gos). When I reached the point I was making a more than comfortable living from that I left sit n gos behind. At the start of this decade I was barely rolled for $50 games online, but was playing higher online and much higher live (EPTs).

But the last few years have been undeniably comfortable. I've reached a point in my career where money can no longer be the only motivation. A new challenge is needed. I need to play games again where losing hurts, just to see what that feels like. I need to challenge myself to learn more so I can compete with the very best.

Two weeks ago I played my highest ever buyin, and bust eight from the money. Afterwards, as I remarked to Gareth James in a strategy video we made two days later, I felt physically sick. Once that cleared, I wondered if the experience would take a while to recover from before I could go back to grinding my regular games. The following day I got up and had my answer: I went straight back on the grind with all my customary enthusiasm.

So the plan for the next while is to try to kick things up a notch and compete at the highest level against the very best players. As such, my recent foray into the world of High Rollers was not a one time experiment: there will be other shots. If I fail I fail but will at least have the consolation that I at least tried. Because in my book, in all my books off all the different things I've done, not giving it my all is the only true failure.

Somehow We Always End Up In Brighton

Before I became a Unibet ambassador 18 months ago, I'd never been to Brighton in my life. Since signing, I've been there to play poker more often than anywhere else, including my home town of Dublin. Every trip there has been memorable in its own way. The first trip there witnessed the rebirth of the Chip Race. The second was memorable because I witnessed at first hand Donna Morton's ability to get lost at roundabouts. On the third trip I told Lappin a story from my childhood that proved unexpectedly popular when I blogged about it.

This latest trip was memorable too, mainly for the company as I met up with some old faces (Richard and ) and new ( and ), and the fact that Daiva made it all the way to the final table.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay for the full FT as my lift to Nottingham (Jamie Nixon) was leaving. Daiva nursed a short stack from a long way out: one thing we have common to both our games is that we don't panic or get impatient when we find ourselves short stacked. There may not be much perceived glory in getting the maximum out of a short stack as it won't win you many tournaments but it is a vital skill if you want to make money in tournaments in the long term. Daiva certainly did that nursing it all the way to seventh place.

(Photo credit: Tambet Kask)

DTD Millions

I arrived in Nottingham for the DTD Millions committed to staying for the full thing and intending to play a High Roller or two. Having built up a war chest of PPL from satellites over the previous few weeks, I even toyed with the idea of playing the 25K.....until I saw the field. I had decided pretty much to play the 10k High Roller unless I was still in the main event. As it happened, that unlikely event transpired.

I was sharing a room with Espen in the Holiday Inn (walking distance from DTD). It seemed the hotel was filled with poker players, which made for good company in the bar every evening (including Sam Grafton, Ryan Riess, Lithuanians Cimbolas and Merfinis, Niels, Kenny Hallaert, Aaron McBride and Shirley Ang). Special shoutout to Shirley who kept me amused, entertained and informed throughout the week.

Day 1 of the main was atypical (for me at least) in that it was all plain sailing. I got off to a good start when I got lucky against a short stacked Jack Salter, and bagged up 3 million (starting stack was 1 million) without major incident or setback.

Day 2 was a lot choppier. I dropped all the way back to starting stack before a double up late in the day got me back to 2 million.

I came back short on day 3 but an early double with jacks got me off to a good start, and I kicked on to be above average as the bubble loomed. I posted the most interesting bubble hand on ShareMyPair, and it generated quite a bit of discussion and disagreement on social media and beyond. A few people thought the hand was completely standard and uninteresting, which is clearly not the case as some absolute beasts disagreed majorly about how I should have played my hand. I think the reason for this was some top notch players don't understand how big a factor ICM plays in these spots and how much it changes optimal strategy. In earlier years I used to get frustrated over these spots where great played disagreed, and there was no way of knowing who was right.

These days, thankfully, we have solvers that can help, and after a few days playing around with it I had a clearer idea of how the hand should have been played, and why. I won't spoiler the results here as the hand will feature in the strategy segment of the next episode of the Chip Race (season 7 episode 5).

I got through the bubble safely and bagged up in or around average. Day 4 was a grim struggle for survival. I dropped as low as 6 big blinds several times, being forced to play even tighter than normal because of a 100K Last Longer promotion I was in. I played a crucial hand against Alex Foxen when I was short that I will look at in detail in next month's Bluff magazine.

Photo courtesy of Daiva

I clung on grimly and managed to avoid going bust with two pair on the feature table to make the unofficial final table. I came back 9/9 and managed to ladder one spot when Ryan Riess bust before me, but the miracle spin never realised. I was card dead for the two hours I survived and eventually busted shoving 87s on the button. As I said my goodbyes I gave Tom "Jabracada" Hall a hug and told him I was rooting for him now (which I genuinely was).

Although I was disappointed not to get a proper run at the final table, I was satisfied I'd got the maximum out of my tournament. I was very grateful to my boisterous rail that featured Daiva (who despite feeling poorly dragged herself out of bed to catch an early morning train from London, which for her is the equivalent of most people climbing Mount Everest :)), Barry and Gina Carter who travelled from Nottingham, Bergie, Espen and Jack Sinclair. Thanks to them and all who railed virtually: after a lacklustre 18 months life it's nice to put a couple of results together recently and prove there's life in the old Doke yet.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Dids and didn'ts in Vegas

Let's start with the things I didn't do in Vegas this year. 

I didn't get there in as good a shape physically as last year. I went into last year's WSOP running 40 miles every Wednesday and finishing it feeling as fresh as a daisy. This year a few weeks out, I was struggling through 20 milers and as I stumbled in the door hearing Mrs Doke say "That's the worst I've ever seen you: you look like you're going to die". I managed to get through a couple of 30 milers before getting on the plane to Vegas, but there's no doubt I should try to get in better shape for next year if I do go back. It's gotten harder with my other commitments and travel, but I have to try harder to get back my former fitness and lose some of my current fatness. 

I didn't schedule days off this year. At the end of the series last year, I found Andy Hills grinding a daily deepstack having just bust the main. When I expressed surprise at this, Andy said that he didn't really enjoy days off because he loved the grind. That made me think "I used to love the grind. What happened?

What happened is this. For the first few years of my career, I played very single day and didn't take a day off. If I was at home I played every night, and when I was away I played live every day. People started telling me I couldn't do this, that I'd burn out. I started believing these people. I started scheduling days off. Now I do accept that grinding 365 days a year probably isn't a good idea and I do need to take some days off: just not in Vegas. My best Vegas campaigns in terms of my overall play and state of mind have been the ones where I just grinded every day. It gets me into a rhythm, and stops me getting depressed about being away from home in a place I don't even like. When I take days off in Vegas, I'm just unhappy in a place I don't want to be not even doing the one thing I'm there to do. Both Daiva and Smidge told me this year was the happiest ever they saw me in Vegas, with Smidge adding "I don't know what you're doing different but whatever it is keep doing it". After giving the matter much thought I really think the difference was no days off. 

Despite not being in peak shape and not taking days off, I didn't feel like I ran out of steam during the WSOP. I didn't even feel tired. I made a concerted effort to eat better than previous years and to drink less. I got out for a few runs. While I played every day I did make an effort to socialise with people I like and don't get to see much if at all for the rest of the year. Apart from the usual crew I was lucky enough to hang with KevMath, Jen Shahade, Maria Konnikova, Liam O'Donoghue, Jamie Flynn, Andrew Brokos, Kenny Shei, Carlos Welch, Elena Stover, Dehlia de Yong, Alan Widmann, Eugene Katchalov, George Danzer, Tom Ward, Gareth James, Robbie Strazinsky, Shirley Ang, Mike Hill, Richard Pearson, Ben Morrison, Neil Channing and Jared Tendler. 

Ok now let's look at what I did do in Vegas this year. 

I did manage to build stacks early in a lot of events, something that has long been a weakness in my game. With no background in deep stacked cash, I've tended in the past just to nit it up in the early stages of tournaments when stacks are deep and focus on avoiding major mistakes, confident in my ability to play the later stages when the stacks are shallower well. While it is undoubtedly true in tournaments that it's far more important to play shallow stacks well, it's a bit of a cop out not to try to chase EV in the early stages.  So this year most of my theoretical preparation revolved around using the simulators to improve my deepstacked play. This seemed to pay off: as I said I built stacks early a lot and in most of my events I got to double starting stack in the early going. 

I did manage to keep playing my A game while running atrociously. I took on board the advice of Jared Tendler on this front, I ran constant line checks with my study buddies, and I posted a hand most days on ShareMyPair to get more general feedback on how I was playing (I strongly recommend you do this and solicit feedback any time you have concerns about your game). 

I did notch up 5 cashes in the series so I felt like I was consistently giving myself a shot to go deep. I got down to the last 100 twice, and the last 50 once, so I had a shot to run well and make another final table. Unfortunately I ran badly at the death, but all you can do is keep getting into position to give yourself those shots. 

I did get sick at the end of the series. After busting my last event I went back to the Big Brokos house and experienced tiredness and dejection for the first time all summer. I don't mind that: it was always similar after big races and if anything I always took it as a sign of having given my all and emptying the tank, so to speak. 

In the airport I struck up a friendly conversation with the Afro-American gentlemen at the check in desk who appeared to be a big fan of Conor McGregor. He asked me if Conor was a big deal in Ireland and seemed happy when I said yes. He said he had some issues but he was a real person which he liked. He asked if he gave back to the local community in Ireland. As I took my leave, he took my boarding pass back and replaced it with another. I flashed back to my arrival in Vegas this summer and Beatriz surreptitiously consigning me to a couple of lost hours in additional security.

This time however, the outcome was a lot happier. When I got to the plane I found I'd been upgraded. 

Thank you Conor. 


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