Thursday, August 14, 2008

Luton trip report

Got there early on Wednesday, too early to check in, so I went to a flick. The Love Guru. Don't bother. Only redeeming quality was Justin Timberlake's impersonation of a Quebecer (complete with Celine Dion worship complex) that was spot on. Made me laugh and brought back happy memories of the World 24 Hour Running championships in Quebec last year. After I checked in I went out for my run. Luton seems to be in a valley, so I climbed the fairly steep hill to the park on the edge of town. Park's a nice place to run if a little small (you can run around the perimeter in just over 10 minutes) and best of all, it has a state of the art athletics track open to the public which came in very handy for my speed sessions.
Stayed in the Strathmore, sharing a room with crazy Mark Dalimore. Mark's a trip as ever (Monday was his 45th birthday and he insisted I change my birthday wishes to "Happy birthday old cunt" in between trying to rile me up with gems like "Isn't Ireland part of the UK? I'm sure you belong to us, really" and "You never thanked us for culling you in the famine. What's that about?").
Wednesday evening was given over to playing my first ever PLO event. I was the value (I "learned" the game by reading the relevant section in Super System 2 on the flight over) but you have to start somewhere. In the circumstances, I was happy with my performance as I went quite deep (I was 18th out of 104 I think) by sticking to a rigid game plan of playing very tight. Tough table too that featured the two Micks (McCool and McCloskey), Mickey Wernick and Mark Goodwin. My first encounter with Mr. McCool who had immediate position on me and we had a nice chat: interesting gentleman and great player.
My exit hand was AQQ10 double-suited. I'm not a good enough player to be sure about this but given how tight I was playing and the fact that I put in half my stack preflop with the obvious implication that the rest would follow on any flop, I thought Mickey Wernick's call of my raise with Q942 treble suited was dubious. As it happened three diamond rags flopped, I pushed, and found he had a flush.
Next day was Day 1A and my table draw really couldn't have been much worse. The 4 players with immediate position on me were Michael Greco, Mick McCloskey, Paul "Actionjack" Jackson and Paul Leckey! The rest of the table wasn't exactly a cakewalk either with a very tricky Scot to Paul's immediate left and Richard Ashby beside him. Given that lineup, the plan was the usual one of play tight and try not to play a big pot until I was reasonably sure I had the best hand. This kept me out of the early fireworks, most of which involved Greco, Mick McC and ActionJack. First Greco effectively crippled Mick McC and ActionJack finished him off.
Blinds were 50/100 when Greco raised utg to 300. Mick reraises to 800, and Greco made it 2000 (I think). Mick flatcalled. Flop came Q77 and Greco led out for 1500. Mick called. Turn's another 7, Greco checks, Mick bets 2700, Greco reraises all in, Mick asks if he has queens and after a long dwell folds. After Mick's exit later there was a lot of debate at the table as to what Mick had in that hand (Greco had aces, apparently). The English players thought he must have had kings, but myself and Paul who I think it's fair to say would know Mick's game a bit better thought Mick would never fold kings there and thought it smelled more like jacks (ace queen would probably have been folded to the 4 bet preflop). Paul asked Mick at the break and the answer was classic Mick: "Either jacks or ace queen".
Mick's exit hand had Mick sticking in a big cutoff raise over a bunch of limpers, continuation betting a 4 way pot on a flop of 1096 flop, firing again when another rag hit the turn, and shoving when an 8 arrived on the river. ActionJack called the whole way and made a hero call on the end with just jack 9, explaining that if Mick had the hand he was representing (an overpair), he would have slowed down on the river for fear of QJ rather than shoving (Mick actually had KJ). I'm not sure if that's true: Mick might legitimately shove anyway to avoid the negative freeroll since he was pot committed by then (in other words, he'd have to call a shove at that point with an overpair so he might as well shove first since he'd be losing all his stack if behind anyway, and by shoving he'd be avoiding letting ActionJack off cheap if Mick's overpair was ahead).
Next phase saw Greco get, in the words of ActionJack, "repeatedly buttraped". First he had his kings cracked by Jackson's J9o (must be his favourite hand - he played it behind substantial raises at least twice). Next he flopped a set of 7's on a 874 board, a pair of 6's stuck around, and hit a gutshot. Finally, Richard Ashby limped aces on Greco's BB, flop is 1044, Greco playing 94 leads out, Ashby calls, turn's a 9, Greco (short by now) shoves, Ashby calls, and the case ace hits the river (I'd folded the other one).
I played just one big hand at the table before being moved. Blinds 75/150, Paul "Action" Jackson makes it 400 utg, one caller (Ashby I think) in mid/late position, so I decide to call with 4's on the button, primarily for set value. Action Jackson practically announces his hand by saying "Uh oh, bad feeling about this hand. I'm ahead now but I've got a bad feeling". Kings or aces, probably kings, I think.
Flop is q84 with two hearts, bingo! He says "OK, that's not bad" and leads out for 700, other guy folds, I smooth call virtually certain he's got kings now (and is relieved there's no ace) so I decide to ignore the flush draw. Turn's another 8 and he says to the table dismissively "That can't have helped him" and bets 2K. I flat call again and for the first time there's uncertainty on his face. River's a 2 and he weak leads for 1.5K while I try to decide what raise he might call if he has the hand I think he has. I have 6.5K left now, I decide he probably won't call a shove (everything about the way he's played the hand suggests he thinks I'm an Irish farm boy in a suit and when a novice moves in on the river, it's never a bluff), so I bet 4K and he instacalls with kings. I guess he thought I might be overrating AQ or something. When I show him the 4s he's so disgusted he's visibly steaming until they move him from the table shortly after. My mate Mark said the steamage continued at his new table and he was out before long despite having been up to about 30K earlier.
I got moved to a new table shortly thereafter, still with the 20K or so I'd got together at the first table. Second table though notionally a lot easier was something of a disaster for me. I was pretty card dead and had a Norwegian maniac two to my right who kept snapping off my fruity late position raises. Finally I got a hand I was prepared to play back with, pocket 8's, raised on the button, and shoved when he reraised. He called with Ace jack (I was hoping for ace rag or a smaller pair, both of which he'd have called with too) and won the race. The only consolation was he only had about 8K but it still knocked me back towards starting stack. By the time I moved with an hour to go, I was down to 8K, also known as 8 big blinds, and feeling pretty desperate.
Third table went like a dream. Standard was not as good as my first table but better than my second. First hand, kings! Bernard Litman who I played with quite a bit in Vegas to the point where I know his game pretty well (and presumably he knows mine) raised under the gun. I shoved not wanting to let any ace rag merchants in cheap. Everyone folded including, to my surprised since I though he was priced in getting 5 to 2 on his money, Bernard. I showed him, and more importantly, everyone else the kings. The last hour is always a good time to steal because a lot of players mentally batten down the hatches, and hoping to steal my way to a decent stack, I needed to establish a card rack image fast.
Next hand I play is aces! A short stack flat called under the gun. I'm in second position and went for a standard 3 times raise so as not to arouse suspicion (or let in a horde of limpers cheap). The other option was to flat call and hope someone else raised but there wasn't a whole lot of raising going on apart from Dave Colclough and the shorties under the gun limp was suspicious enough without me adding to it. Folded around to Litman in the BB who called, as does the shorty. Flop is j108 with 2 clubs. To my surprise, Litman instashoves. The shortie folds showing Ace jack (big fold with half his stack in already) and I instacall, assuming Litman's on some sort of draw but hoping for something like Ace jack or King jack. Actually he's open-ended with KQ but thankfully he misses and I more than double up.
Acutely aware that the only two hands the table's seen me play were aces and kings and that everyone except for Dave Colclough seems to have stopped playing anything but monsters, I widened my range considerably to the point that I find myself raising utg with a lowish pocket pair. Folded around to Mickey Wernick who has just been moved to the table on the button. He looks at me, smiles and says "My friend from the other night, I'll need a really big hand here to call you" before folding. With Mickey now having announced my rockness to the table, every single raise I make thereafter gets through, with people hardly seeming to notice I was doing it twice or thrice an orbit. This allowed me to thieve my way to a decent stack of over 30K before one late setback when the shortie to my left shoved from the small blind, I'm priced in to call with any two cards which I duly do with my 54o, and his 109o holds up. That and one other steal which ran into aces knocked me back to around 25K overnight, a great place to be given I was so short one hour earlier, and actually more than I finished day one in Newcastle with. So, overall, I was very happy with how the day went.
By now, Mark had been knocked out and gone back to the hotel, and when I joined him there he was disappointed I didn't have more. He said when he left I seemed to be in the groove and he was expecting me to kick on to more than 50K by end of play. Mark's game is very different from mine, he tends to either bust out early or get a big stack (he was chipleader at the end of day 1 in Newcastle). I think both approaches to multiday tournaments are equally valid: mine probably makes me more likely to go deep, but Mark's means he's more likely to have a big stack if he does go deep. My game is very much based on surviving to the business end, where I believe most people's game starts to deteriorate seriously, so that if you have confidence in your ability to hold your game together, I think that where's your real edge is.
Stayed up until about 5 talking with Mark and going through the key hands. I think it's good to do this with someone whose game is completely different from your own because you get a different perspective: in this case I got to see how my decisions and actions look from the outside to a wild LAG.
The following afternoon, I strolled over to the casino to buy into that night's side event, much to Mark's horror. He felt I should be conserving my energies for tomorrow's Day 2, but I play poker every day at home and see no need to break that routine on a poker trip abroad. I chatted with Kat, having got there just too late to see Rob make a magnificent fold (kings, preflop, against aces, for a loss of only 10% of his stack: Rob truly is the hardest man in Ireland to get chips from). Also chatted to Paul (Smallwood), a lovely guy who got a terrible table draw (Julian Thew with immediate position, though Paul came off the better in their exchanges). Paul got off to a good start and was unlucky to come a cropper when he ran queens into aces. We chatted about our mutual friend Nicky Power's new deal with Brucepoker which Paul was chuffed about: I had some ideas for official sponsored pro gear involving grass skirts and the like but it seems Bruce Poker is not that kind of operation.
I still had to do my afternoon speed session so I made my excuses and headed for the track where I did 8 500's and for the first time in ages comfortably hit the times my coach wanted.
By the time the side event started, Rob was out of the main event due to a really bad run of luck. One of Rob's strengths is that as passionate as he is about the game, which must make the beats all the more painful at the time, he bounces back almost immediately. He'd gone straight from the tournament to win a hefty sum online in about 30 minutes which also lifted his spirits.
Side event started well for me and I more than doubled up by the time we got to the crapshoot. Card death and a few beats reduced me to pushbot mode on the second last table and I pushed K8 suited from the button into the BB's pocket aces in bizarre fashion. He looked at me after I announced all in, said "Just you and me" and then threw the aces face up into the middle of the table without saying call or pushing any chips forward. In the confusion that followed, the dealer decided he needed a ruling, which was that he could still call (which is obviously fair enough - I had no problem with it at the time). The aces held and that was that. Kat, who is a brilliant player in her own right, also went deep.
Afterwards I went to get something to eat in the casino restaurant (where they were only serving breakfast now) with Rob, Kat and Mark. I love talking poker with Rob as he's a genuine enthusiast and expert and I feel a certain kinship with him as I think we have very similar views on and approaches to the game. Kat's great fun to be around too with a very dry sense of humour and a very good read on people. Mick McCloskey introduced us to Carmel, the Cavan woman who runs the casino, and she very generously picked up the tab for us all, Mick clearly using his powers of charm to the max.
The following morning I got up reasonably early to get my run out of the way before the 2 PM restart. My new table was reasonably favourable with no superstars. Most of the action was centered around Preston's Andy Bradshaw, an old school pro in the John Falconer mould who uses a very aggro brand of table talk and presence to tilt opponents. He had immediate position on me and we tangoed a few times, which is to say he kept sucking out on me.
Example 1: I raise the cutoff with KQ. He calls on the button. Flop is A82 rainbow and I bet. He flat calls. Turn's a jack. Assuming I'm beaten now and he's not going away, I shut up shop, the hand is checked down, and he flips over KJ. At the time I couldn't understand the call on the flop, but Rob pointed out he was probably floating and then the arrival of the jack gives his hand showdown potential.
Example 2: I raise utg with AQs. Flop is Q106. I bet 5K (about three quarters pot), he calls. Turn's a 2, I bet 10K, he calls. River's a 10 and alarm bells go off so I decide to check call a smallish bet (12K). He turns over Ace 10. Ouch again.
Some of Andy's other hands were even more twilight zone.
Example 1: Blind on blind, flop 877 with two spades. Andy leads out, and is raised by his opponent who has been playing very tight solid ABC poker. Andy asks if he'll show if he folds. The guy says he'll see and Andy goes ballistic, jumping up and down, shouting, calling him all sorts of Anglo-Saxon names, and announcing his intention to call out of spite just to bust the guy. The turn is the 9 of spades, Andy leads out again, the guy raises allin, and after a long "You've hit your flush, haven't you" tirade, Andy calls and flips over 106 with no spades. The guy just has trips and Andy scoops a huge pot.
Andy pretty much bullied the table en route to a 150K stack before losing it all in less than an orbit. First hand, he raised with 10's early, got called on the button by an Internet kid with a fairly typical internet LAG game who had just arrived on the table, and the two blinds, a local rock playing only premium hands, and a larger than life Asian. Flop is K97 with 97 being spades, it's checked around to the button who bets half pot (10K), local rock in SB makes it 30, after a lot of speechplay Andy calls and the Internet kid instafolds. Turn's another low spade and the local rock announces allin. After lots more speechplay and posturing, Andy calls with a set of 10's and finds himself up against AK of spades for the nut flush, which holds up.
A few hands later, I'm SB to Andy's BB. I complete with K9s, he raises, I call. Flop is A82 rainbow and out of pure divilment, realising that my hand could look like a raggy ace now, I lead out. Andy calls. Turn's a blank and realising Andy's only ever seen me fire one bullet when bluffing and two when holding at least top pair, I fire again. Lots more speechplay and posturing (directed at the Asian who he tells to shut up so he can concentrate on getting a read on me), he folds flashing me a pair of 7's saying "I know you've got the ace". I ask if he wants to see, he nods, I show him the bluff, and he goes on monkey tilt, effing and blinding about how he's treated me right proper and how could I do this to him.
His tilt must have spilled over into the next hand because he decided to call the local rock's utg raise with 63o in the small blind. Not only that, but having led out at an AQ6 flop, he proceeds to call a large raise on the flop, a large bet on the turn when a blank comes, then shove the river when he hits two pair, only to find the only man at the table who covers him has a set of aces.
Meanwhile, I'd worked my stack up after an early double up when I reraised a serial raiser allin with jacks from the BB, he called with AQ (I think Andy talked him into it, pointing out it wasn't the first time I'd reraised in this spot), and I won the race. With about 60K and the bubble starting to cast a long shadow I changed gears and after Andy's departure became the table's most active raiser. The table tightenened up noticeably and I got my stack up to about 120K with 40 left before a series of body blows knocked me back to 30K. With just two to go to the bubble and blinds now so high that even a double up would leave me officially short-stacked, I swallowed my pride and changed gears again with the intention of folding into the money if I could. Obviously if I picked up any monsters I was happy to go with them, but I didn't.
Rob and Kat were popping up regularly to cheer me on and up, and Paul showed up on the bubble too to rail me. He also fulfilled the vital function of ferrying me drinks as I started to dehydrate: the waitresses all seemed to have disappeared.
The bubble went on for 87 agonising minutes before the other short stack at my table shoved his Ace 10 under the gun into kings and a shortie at the other table exited more or less simultaneously. The bubble had burst, but I was down to 3 big blinds and with the next level bubble a distant 14 places away I knew patience was no longer a virtue. First half decent hand or situation would have to do. It quickly arose when I picked up pocket 5's on the button after a loose Internet kid who was opening every unopened pot raised from the hijack. I shove-called happily, until the rock in the BB shoved over the top. While the Internet kid agonised over whether to fold his Ace queen (he eventually did), I was pretty sure the rock had me crushed with an overpair (he'd previously folded 9's in the BB when shortstacked Mickey Wernick raised on the button) but no, he also had Ace queen, and I won the race to triple up. Switching back to aggression, I effectively doubled up to 60K without showing a hand until I raised with pocket 3's, the rock I'd rendered shortstacked shoved, I was priced in and up against AQ again, but lost the race this time.
By now players were falling thick and fast and our table broke into the other three. At my new table, I openshoved my way back to respectability and the point where making the second last table and the next level bubble became a realistic option. Card death coupled with other people feeling the need to move ahead of me kept me out of trouble until we were down to two tables. With the blinds at 4k/8K but about to go up and a stack of 72K, the situation was that a doubleup would see me right back in the tournament with almost average stack, but if I waited until the blinds increased I'd both lose push power and see my M shrink to under 4, so again, patience didn't seem to be a virtue. In the event, I decided that AJs was enough to go with over a late position raiser who I'd seen raise with worse aces, low pairs and KQ. Only this time he had AK and I didn't suck out.
So, another second last table exit, but unlike Newcastle where I was devastated to be out in 11th given that I'd have had a good final table stack if my 9's had held against the eventual winners 87s, this time I was happy with the feeling I'd played to my maximum and more importantly extracted the maximum equity from the situation I found myself in on the bubble.
Kat, meanwhile, was going very well in the latest side event playing her usual canny rock solid game. She made the final table until a little toerag shoved with 89, she dominated him with Ace 9, but he sucked out on the river.
Went for breakfast again with Rob and Kat and Paul. There was a disco going on in the adjoining bar and Rob showed there is no end to his talents by singing along enthusiastically with Take That's "Never Forget" to Kat's apparent mortification. Definite boyband material: he could have been a contender.
Next day, another side event. I got up early to get my long run out of the way, and then left Mark playing the Sunday online donkaments. Kat and Rob were playing the side event too, and by now Rob was well minted from winning a small fortune online. He'd even sucked out on a guy causing myself and Kat to dub him the suckout king.
The last side event was something of a non-event. Card dead for the duration and as in Newcastle feeling the disappointment of watching the main event final table unfold beside but without me, it wasn't too long before pushbot mode kicked in. I shoved utg with AJs, got called by queens, and that was that. Rob was in good shape when I left, as was Mick McC (who went on to final table). By now I was visibly wilting and feeling the affects of not just the poker but also the 5 hour run that morning/afternoon so I skedaddled back to the hotel, fell asleep, and woke up just before 5, just in time to dash to the airport.
Tomorrow I head for Cork, and looking forward to it. Thanks for all boardsies who sent messages of encouragement and support while I was in Luton.


Good report as usual Mr Doke!

I'm glad I wasn't there when Mark was making his Ireland vs England comments, he may have found himself wishing he had started it!

WP again, bring on Bolton!


Thanks Cat.

Just back from Cork where your man did you proud, thrilled for him.

Mick Mcool mentioned your blog to me and i had a look out of interest.
A few points you did not get quite right about your Luton story.

Mick McCloskey was on the button when he raised with JK and i was out of position in the small blind, it was a raise from 150 to 400 (hardly asubstantial raise) and so he had zero need to avoid negative freeroll as he could have checked behind me.

In the hand i played against you the turn and river cards were the other way around and i am impressed that you knew exactly what i had and i am sure that me showing my hand on the river had no bearing on you knowing i had Kings.

I did not weak lead on the river it was a value bet as i thought you had AQ. when you re-raised a further 2500 i was pretty sure i was losing but with 12500 in the pot i felt i had to call your well judged bet.

I played the hand the way i would play the hand against most players and your description that "everything about the way he played the hand suggests he thinks im an irish farm boy in a suit" is offensive.

The truth is that i did not even know you were Irish (you hardly spoke if at all during the game)and i have many Irish relatives none of whom tend to dress in a suit for the purpose of playing poker.

I was unhappy to lose the chips obviously but i was not steaming in any way.
You played your hand very well and probaly won the maximum from it and i had no reason to be unhappy other than i had lost the hand (i have played poker for 25 years and have lost millions of hands i do not steam every time i lose one).

The "steamage" did not continue on my next table, i never won another hand and so did not increase to 30k and i was virtually knocked out when my AK failed to improve past 77, not really a steam move.

Do not let the truth get in the way of a good story though.

Have i done something to upset?

I think ill avoid bloggs in future!!

Paul Jackson


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