Saturday, May 3, 2008

Manchester trip report

Didn't actually get there until the Thursday, after finding out at the airport on Monday that what I thought was a confirmed flight reservation was actually "PENDING". RyanAir tried to shake 250 euro by two out of me but I decided instead to take the hit of the hotel cancellation fee.
So we (that is, the brother et moi) finally got there Thursday afternoon. A noon flight meant getting up at the crack of dawn so I could do my hill session in the Phoenix Park first. Hotel was quite nice, located in a very old building right beside the cathedral in the centre of Manchester.
First outing for both of us was a 100 pound side tournament. We both went reasonably well early on but came a cropper on the second last tables. The damage was done for me when I decided to defend my BB with 76s against a guy who was raising every time it was folded around to him. Flop came 972 and I checked with the intenion of raising but he checked behind. Turn brought a Queen making me feel less confident my 7 was good. He duly bet and I went into the tank looking for a read. This seemed to piss him off and he did that classic misdirection thing of complaining to the woman beside him, which is nearly always a sign of weakness. When he then called clock on me I was almost certain my 7 was still good so I called. River brought a 10, and again he bet and instantly called clock. He seemed a little stronger this time but I figured I had to call. Given that he'd called clock instantaneously and the dealer accepted it (standard of dealing was uniformly abysmal compared to Ireland), I considered asking for a ruling just for the heck of it but decided it might not be a good idea ot a table full of Manc pykies looking to gang up on the Irish guy in the suit. After I mucked, the verbal aggro continued as he tried to figure out what I had and he told his fellow pykies he should have demanded to see.
Anyway, the 10 had hit him (he was playing 106) and I was in shove or fold mode, and out shortly afterwards, ironically enough to my nemesis. He was beaming as if I should be more upset that it was him who got my chips, but actually I was quite relieved to have an excuse to dispense with the customary handshake and other niceties.
Got up early after about 4 hours sleep to the horrors of a "full English", followed by 90 minutes of lying down trying to digest unaccustomed stodge, and then I went out for my scheduled run: a nice leisurely 5 miles. Manchester is shockingly lacking in parks and green spaces, so I ended up running out to one of the horrible burbs (think Ballymun meets a decaying industrial estate).
We got to the casino around 1 and met up with the Green Joker Poker people, including Fran Egan who is on a tournament rush at the moment. Also met Peter Murphy, fresh from his recent triumph in the Sporting Emporium 500 Euro game, Rob Taylor, Kat O'Neill and Conor Smyth.
Play started at 2. I got a tough enough table draw: Thomas Dunwoodie on my right, John Conroy across the table from me, and no obviously weak players. I was pretty card dead for the first two sessions which meant I just drifted back from the 10K starting stack to just under 6K. Then a rush of cards saw me claw my way up to 13K, when my first car crash hand happened. John Conroy raised in early position, Thomas Dunwoodie flatcalled in the cutoff, and I decided to flatcall and see what the flop brought. KJ10, with two hearts. Conroy sticks in a 2/3rds pot bet, Dunwoodie flatcalls, and as happy as I am to have hit my set, alarm bells go off and I wonder if it's good at this point. I decide to call and see what happens. Turn is a blank, Conroy leads out for half the pot, Dunwoodie calls, and so do I, praying one of these guys is playing KQ or KJ and the other is on a heart draw but not wishing to escalate the pot any further. An Ace on the river saves me and Dunwoodie (who was holding JJ) from losing any more to Conroy's flopped straight (AQ). It's hard to find a silver lining when a flopped set costs you half your stack and I did play the hand pretty weakly but it could have been worse. Dunwoodie said afterwards he felt he should have raised preflop. In that scenario, I'd probably have called, Conroy folded, and I could have lost everything as I'd have a harder time believing my set wasn't good against one opponent. Nevertheless, at the break I was feeling pretty downbeat.
Then another card rush plus a few well timed moves saw me race back up to 22K. Alas, it was now time for my second car crash hand, but not before Andreas Hoivold made a cameo appearance. He arrived at the table with about 20K and I donated another 4K to him on his first hand when he raised utg and I called on the button with 88. Flop comes 1099, he leads out, I raise to 3K to see if he has it, he moves allin and I fold like a girl. A couple of hands later, Hoivold's in the small blind with Conroy (who has been playing like Rocky McRock of Rockaragua but catching big cards - Aces seven times unless I lost count), the only player at the table who covers him, in the BB. It's folded around, Hoivold completes, Conroy raises 1K, Hoivold immediately makes it 5K (it looks for all the world like a petulant reraise), Conroy almost instantly moves all in, and Hoivold instacalls. Two big hands clearly, though both turn over hands at the bottom of my expecations: Conroy has QQ, Hoivold AQ. The case queen on the flop kills Hoivold and he's out. Afterwards there's general bemusement that he instacalled an allin with AQ, with Conroy noting that the Scandis use game theory and the idea of taking risks to get the big tank to take it to the next level. Dunwoodie thinks perhaps that Hoivold was playing in standard "Scandi maniac against fellow Scandi maniac" rather than "Scandi maniac against Irish rock" mode.
Anyway, the second car crash. Blinds are 200/400 when I raise to 1200 in the cutoff with AK. SB, a looseish Brazilian young online qualifier, reraises to 3100, and I flatcall. Flop comes KQ9, he instachecks, and I check behind. In the past, he's tended to check his stronger hands and bet with nothing. Turn brings an 8, he leads out for 3K, I raise to 8K to test if he really has it, he asks how much I have left (it's about 10K) and moves all in. It's an easy fold given how little I'm beating ("Just a bluff really" as Rob Taylor pointed out later, and a bluff in a situation where I seem committed to call is pretty unlikely) but I almost made a stubborn call. I'll obviously never know for sure but my instinct says I was most likely up against a set of Queen's (or less likely, Kings, or KQ).
Afterwards I got moved to a new table and witnessed a huge hand straight away. There was an under the gun flat call and Nikhil Persaud in the BB said "Oooo, what does a flat call under the gun from him mean?". The guy on the button said "It means fold without looking" but in actual fact, he and the SB flat called, then Nikhil looks at his cards and says "I don't have a hand I can throw away", has a long ponder, and reraises. The original utg caller flatcalls, everyone else goes away, and when the flop comes Q82 rainbow, Persaud leads out for 5K, the original utg caller makes it 15K and after a very long dwell Persaud calls. Turn's an Ace and it goes check check. River's a blank, Persaud asks how much the guy has left (30K), and bets 12K. After a long dwell and a lot of speech play, the guy eventually calls. Persaud shows AQ and the other guy mucks. There's a debate at the table as to whether he was playing KK or KQ (Persaud's opinion). Meanwhile, I get a succession of 73o and 42o and with people shoving ahead of me never got a chance to get it in until I'm down to under 5K with the blinds at 400/800 and in the SB. The BB informs me he'll call without looking. Actually there's an UTG limper, 3 callers, I look down at KQ, so it's an automatic shove. The BB actually does look and moves all in over the top himself for about 30K much to my delight as I'll be getting about 3 to 1 on my money if we go heads up. Actually, the first few limpers fold but the last guy (the one Persaud had outplayed earlier) calls. The good news is he only has K4s (!!!! - I guess he's still steaming from the hand with Persaud): the bad news is the BB has woken up with AA. The flop comes with a Q to briefly give me hope, but the K4s hits runner runner for a flush to scoop the lot. I can't have any complaints but it goes without saying the guy with Aces is far from happy. The other guy had already started to leave the table, not realising his flush had won.
Meanwhile, the brother's been nursing a small stack through the 100 side event in his usual fashion, and ends up nursing it all the way to the final table and a great 7th place for 410 quid. I'm delighted for him (and also myself, as I have half his action).
Got up early after just 4 hours sleep for another full English horror and then my run: 5 miles warmup, a series of 200 metre sprint in the only 200 metre long park I can find, then 5 miles warm down. We're back at the casino by 2 ready to play in the 300 side event. The brother's not at all sure about whether he wants to play or not but in the end does after I agree to buy him in (in return for 80% of his action). I get off to a horrible start losing a third of my stack when my queens run into a flopped set of 10's. By the time our table breaks, I'm down to less than half my starting stack due to card death.
The new table features my nemesis from the first side event in all his noxiousness. Then I pick up pocket aces under the gun. Given that I'm now short I want to get paid. The big blind is away from the table and my nemesis is on the button, already eyeing the free blind and glaring the table down challenging one of us, any of us, to contest "his" blind. I decide to flat call so as to maximise his rope with which to hang himself. Everyone else folds like a girl as the button's nostrils flair, and sure enough, he four bets. I flat call and the flop brings J66. I check, he bets pot, and I call again. Turn brings another 6, I check and call another big bet. River brings a 7 and from my read on the guy I'm pretty sure he has nothing much and will check behind if I check so I have to figure how to get more out of him. I announce all in and tell him I know he doesn't have the jack or the 6, and smirk at him as much as to say "You've been outplayed mate". I can see he's about to fold so I make a motion as if to muck my cards and try one last trick, telling him he can't ask the dealer to see them this time unless he pays. Seemingly against his better judgment, he shoves in over quarter of his remaining stack for the dubious privilege of seeing my Aces. He tries to muck without showing and as the final provocation I ask the dealer to turn them over. Queen high. General consternation at the table as I say to the guy beside me "Some people think Queen high is a good hand". Shortly afterwards, the tables breaks (ironically with the departure of my steaming nemesis).
My new table is a bit of a nightmare. About half the guys from my first main event table, including Dunwoodie, and for added difficulty, Osman Mustanoglu, one of Britain's top online cash game players who I've locked horns with a few times online, enough to go how seriously fucking good he is. Nevertheless I continue to make some good progress, first at the expense of Dunwoodie who has me down as a total nit by now to the point he's folding anything but the nuts when I bet, and then against a good LAG who gets unlucky when my pair of 8's backdoors into a straight that he can't put me on. So I'm up to about 15K and looking good until I lock horns with Osman. He raises in mid-to-late position. From my prior knowledge of him I know he's doing this with almost any half decent hand, and I have a pair of queens, so I 3 bet to get heads up with him. He comes back over the top, all in. From the way he's playing in this particular tournament, I figure his range for this move is any pair from 8's or maybe 9's up (already saw him do something similar with 9's) but not aces or kings, AK, and maybe AQ, so I call. He says ruefully to Dunwoodie "My turn to double someone up" (Dunwoodie having just doubled him up with the 9's) so I'm hoping to see the underpair but unfortunately it's ace king for a classic race, he hits both his horseys on the flop, no third Hilton sister arrives, and I'm out. I hate the Hilton sisters, it seems like 80% of my recent exits happen holding them, but given the way the table was playing, I was happy enough with the move: with no easy chips and only supreme arrogance to base the notion that I could outplay these guys on late streets, maximising variance by sticking them all in preflop with marginally the better hand seemed like the best strategy to get the big tank.
Meanwhile, the brother is grinding along with about 5K as I head to the cash tables and sit down in a game with blinds of 2/2 with Peter Murphy to my immediate right. First time playing cash live for me, and a real eye opener! Typical pot is someone opens utg for 8-10 big blinds, and 4 or 5 people call. I lose a big pot early on with Kings, then win one with the same hand, then lose another, and on it goes. There's momentary excitement as some guy goes running through the casino apparently pursued by security staff. Someone shouts what sounds like "Gun! Gun" (though others thought it was "John! John!"), and as the players eye each other nervously waiting for someone else to be the first to dive under the table, the dealer tries to reassure us, saying "Guns are unusual here. Lots of knives and stabbings, but not too many guns". The secutity staff eventually get the situation under control and the cops arrive.
I left the game a small winner after about 4 hours but should and would have been a bigger winner but for one hand that Fran Egan arrived just in time to witness. An Asian guy who had just sat down moved all in from early position, I called with pocket aces in the small blind, board came Q9742 and I'm thinking happy days unless he has a weird two pairs or two clubs (there are three out). Guess what? He does have 2 clubs: 10 and 8. I almost have to be scraped off the chair and make my exit shortly afterwards fearing tilt.
In the mean time, I've been going to check on the brother at regular intervals. He's perpetually short stacked and I keep expecting to see him appear to tell me he's out at any minute but no, he's still in somehow. The short stack on the second last table, he starts playing some great fearless poker and makes it to the final table with 25K, still the short stack, but playable.
We go back to the hotel room and he's buzzing, so we stay up for a while. A discussion develops as to how we play medium pairs in late position late on in tournaments when relatively short stacked (a very typical scenario for us). Before we know it, sheets and pencils have been produced, calculations performed, and a conclusion reached that our way of playing them in this situation is sub optimal by and large. Bizarrely, these calculations underpin a decision the brother makes the following day at the final table that transforms his prospects.
Up early again with a long run scheduled. I zig zag around the city centre for 90 minutes on the run. By 2 we're back in the casino for the brother's final table. My conqueror Osman Mustanoglu is there too, or rather should be (he turns up late, and despite having a huge stack is first man out, pushing middle pair into the nut straight).
The brother played the best I've ever seen him play. He was patient early on with the short stack, then he raised in mid to late position, the big blind (second shortest stack) moved all in and after a long ponder the brother called with pocket 7's. The other guy had 6's and the 7's held. His next big hand involved calling an utg all in from a shortish stack with A10 in the SB - the guy had A8 and again the better hand held. And on he went, managing to get the marginal decisions right every time
Meanwhile my final event, a 100 side tournament, had started. Luckily I got drawn on the nearest table and it's fairly safe to say that until the brother finally exited in fourth for over 3 grand sterling, I was more preoccupied by events on his table than on mine. To my prejudiced eye, he was by far the best player on the final table and would have taken it down were it not for a sustained period of card death when it got short handed, and his few playable hands kept running into dominating hands that went all in. He ducked a few bullets but in the end was short enough to be obliged to push from the SB with Q8s and he ran into 10's. Still, I was dead proud of him, and dead chuffed with the financial injection that made the weekend a net winner for me. He hit top form late last year claiming the World Face Up and the Fitz EOM within a couple of weeks of each other, but then a bad run after Xmas starting in Galway killed the love for him for a while. He's such a consistent great player that once he learns better bankroll management and to accept that long bad streaks are an inevitable part of the swings of tournament poker, he'll be a major force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile, I was coming a cropper in the side event. I don't remember winning a single hand and with the blinds escalating needed to make a move. When I picked up KJ in the small blind and the button flat called, I figured now was the time. I stuck in a 3.5 bet reraise, which he called. Flop came A107, and I checked to see if he had the Ace. He checked behind, and from my read on him I was pretty sure he didn't have it. Turn brought a 9 and with a well disguised double belly buster and almost as much in the pot already as I had left behind, I pushed all in representing the ace, thinking he couldn't call without the ace himself, and even if he did, I had 8 outs. How wrong I was: he made a crying call with 108. Fair enough I suppose since he had the open ended draw himself, although he apparently didn't realise it (when the Jack hit the river, he said "Well done" and stood up to leave) so I guess he was simply playing the ten.
Anyway, I was out and off to the cash tables again. I tried to get the brother to play too, but so convinced is he that he's a useless cash player that he wouldn't even take me up on a staking offer. I somehow found myself in a pot limit game (never played pot limit hold 'em before, even online), got zero cards, then when I did finally get a hand I got no action, then once I realised this I started bluffing left right and centre until I'd broken even overall. Action was slow and boring though, and the dealers were dreadful, so I decided to call it a night.
Meanwhile, Donal Norton was flying the flag for Irish poker in the 200 side event. He literally tore through the entire field: he must have personally knocked out about half of the field. A field of many top class English, French and Scandi pros literally didn't know what to do against his Irish hyperaggression. I don't think I've ever seen anyone totally dominate an MTT like that: by the time he got headsup he had 95% of the chips, and he did it so quickly the tournament ended several hours ahead of schedule. I spoke to him quite a bit on the Saturday and Sunday and got a bit of an understanding and real admiration for his game. Hyperaggressive and somewhat unorthodox he may be, but he was nearly always ahead when the money went in, and he's also capable of great laydowns. He has an instinctive poker genius for reading people and situations that can't be learned from a book or an Internet forum, and I'm convinced he's going to be a poker superstar. Great natural charisma too, and a passion for the game. He seems to operate best in the moments of most uncertainty, and he heightens that uncertainty in his opponents minds. He'll play the nuts and the stone cold bluff the same way so it's almost impossible to know where you are at any point in a hand with him.


"decided it might not be a good idea ot a table full of Manc pykies looking to gang up on the Irish guy in the suit"



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