Sunday, January 2, 2011

Looking back while moving forward

Keith McFadden limps utg, Chris Dowling raises to 200 (4x), just behind, Wally McCormack makes it 700, and I bump it up to 2100 on the button. Keith and Chris fold quickly, and Wally doesn't think too long either before folding, showing queens. I like Wally so I show him my hand to confirm it was a good fold (I had aces).

It's the last Fitz EOM of 2010 and we're three handed. I've just been crippled shoving fives into nines blind on blind. The button raises, Robbie Renehan gets out of the way in the small blind, and I find AK in the big blind and shove in. I'm happy to see the button has AT, until the flop falls ATx.

Between the two hands described above, my first and last of 2010, I played a couple of million other hands, mostly online, a few thousand tournaments (nearly all online) and won a few hundred tournaments and more money than in my entire career to date.

That's the summary of my 2010: now for the long version.

The year got off to a great start when I won the IPR live final in Galway, securing a 3 month sponsorship deal with Bruce (subsequently extended). Two years into my poker career I'd stopped seeing myself as a newcomer so the move to sponsored pro seemed an appropriate and timely step. I took great pride in representing Bruce at tournaments in Ireland and no matter what happens in my future career, I'll always be grateful to Bruce for being the first to put their faith in me.

A few weeks later, I was back on the final table of the European Deepstack in my first outing in the Bruce colours. It's fair to say this tournament has a very special place in my heart. In 2008 I burst on the scene winning the first running of it (in Drogheda). The following year I was chipleader for much of days one and two before ultimately going out with two tables left. This year I had to contend with the biggest field to date, and while I would have liked to be on the final table a little longer, getting there was a great start to the year.

I consistently racked up some more live domestic results in the first half of the year, including a fourth in the CPT Grand final, and by the middle of May I was runaway leader in this year's IPR rankings. Everything looked set for me to go one better than last year and claim the $10,000 Boyles had announced they were putting up for this year's rankings topper until Boyles announced they were shifting the goalposts half way through the game, and only putting up $1000 for the number one. It was time to change tack, and without the added incentive there seemed little point chasing the number one spot. For the rest of the year, I played only the major festivals and some end of month games in Dublin I would have played anyway. The results continued to come: a win in a side event at JP's mini-WSOP, a deep run in the Galway UKIPT, a couple of Fitz EOM final tables, a final table bubble in an IWF side event. All of which apparently added up to yet another second place in the end of year rankings. Always the bridesmaid perhaps, but I've always felt consistency to be a better indicator of class in this game than any one big result, no matter how eye-catching. Of the top ten players who contested last year's live final, only Chris Dowling remains in this year top 10.

This year I played 4 EPTs. I made 4 day 2's, twice with decent stacks. I was up among the chipleaders in Deauville, but didn't cash in any of the four. I had better luck in the side events, making a second last table in a 2K event in Deauville, and chopping a side event in Vilamoura (albeit in a turbo). Turbo or not though, when you have someone of the calibre of Pieter de Korver asking you to do a chop, you know you've done something right. I went to Vegas with high hopes of breaking my WSOP duck, but despite a promising start (Durr's KJo dogging my queens near the bubble of my first $1k event) and my best ever run in the main (ending with a lost race late on day 3), it wasn't to be. I won a couple of tournaments in the Rio, albeit nightly crapshoot turbos populated mainly by tourists, did well in the live stts, and came back from Vegas with roughly the same amount of cash in my back pocket for the first time.

Online this year, I made a successful transition from stts to mtts. I won on every site I played on this year, I won in turbos, slow structured deep stack games, rebuys, freezeouts, big ante games, 2-7 td. According to Sharkscope, I was one of the top 20 mtt winners this year on three different networks (Merge, Cake and Bodog). Although I didn't play there much I was in high five figures for profit on Stars, and did well on Ipoker, Full Tilt and a couple of smaller networks. My most successful year to date in poker was not built on the foundations of one huge score (my biggest online scores were all in the region of 10K) but hundreds of three and four figure scores. For the first time since I started playing, I went through a year without a losing month. There weren't even that many losing weeks. This did not happen by accident: rather than just jumping into mtts willy nilly, I put a lot of work into game selection to maximise profit and reduce variance. Most of the games I played this year won't be showing up on my Pocket Fives profile because they are either satellites (which are specifically excluded) or they have less than 100 runners (ditto). If you play 3000 runner rungoodaments, you can probably achieve a much higher ROI in the long term, but sticking to smaller fields reduces your variance immensely. It also means you make more final tables, get headsup more often, so when you do have that streak in a big runner field and get into position to win, you're better equipped to convert. Although the vast majority of my scores don't register on P5's, I broke into the Irish top 10 towards the end of the year for the first time.

The plan for 2011 is the same but more. My focus will move even more strongly towards online. I'll still be taking shots at a few EPTs, and giving the WSOP my biggest bash to date, and hope that when I'm writing my review for 2011 there aren't as many as albeits in there. But variance is variance, and as good as I think I am, I know that to win an Irish Open, an EPT or a WSOP I'll need to get very very lucky in 2011. It will be great if I do, but it won't be a disaster if I don't, so long as I can keep doing what I did in 2010 online. The game is to stay in the game long enough to get lucky.

OK, enough about me for the moment. Tis the seasons of award ceremonies, and I've decided to hand out a couple of my own. The first Doke goes to the Irish player of the year 2010. In my mind, there's only one real contender. A few of us have had good years, but this guy's year dwarfs us all. Someone asked me in the Fitz recently who the best Irish player this year was. My reply was there were quite a few contenders in their own or other's minds but anyone who's name isn't Sean Prendeville is deluding themselves. Sean became the only Irish player ever (as far as I know) to win consecutive major events on the Irish calender (the CPT Grand final, and the JP Masters). He then flew in to Vegas to zero ballyhoo and about 48 hours later was on the second last table of a multi-thousand runner WSOP event. He repeated that trick later in the series, and emerged from day 1 of the main event as one of the chipleaders. He went deep in an EMOPS, and he crushed online, winning major tournaments on both Stars and Full Tilt. I watched the last 2 tables of his win in Tilt's Sunday Brawl and there was only ever going to be one winner. There are players who can put stacks together but who will never ever win a big tournament unless they get very lucky, and then there are players like Sean who put those stacks together and convert every time unless they get very unlucky.

The second Doke goes to my pick for 2011. I first played with this kid in the Fitz a few months ago, and after I got owned in a hand I realised he wasn't just a wannabe in a baseball cap. It came as no surprise to me to learn he was at that time the highest ranked Irish mtt player on PocketFives. Since then I've gotten to know Jon "emsgawa" Amz Crute and genuinely believe this kid has everything. Talent and technique only gets you so far in this game: without discipline, work ethic, attitude, heart, emotional stability and temperament you'll end up in the "coulda been a contender" category sooner or later. Jon's only 20 and won't turn 21 in time for this year's WSOP, he hasn't played live much yet (why would he?) but his time is coming, and you read it here first. He's one of a band of younger Irish players like Gavin "Gavinator" O'Rourke, Danloulou, Lappin and Shinerr who crush online mtts and will do so live too just as soon as they get around to it.

OK, back to me. I finish the year a full stone heavier than I'd like to be. Since I stopped running competitively and training for it, it's been hard to keep in shape. But I believe fitness is vital in this game so my first New Year's resolution is to get back in shape in the first few months. I have to be realistic and accept I'll never be as superfit as I was when I was training to run 5 marathons in a day, but I'm back running most days, and weightlifting a couple of times a week.

I spent the last few minutes of 2010 and the first few of 2011 rewatching Rounders with the two people who know me best, wife Mireille and brother Sean. I love the film, it rings so true, particularly in its classifications of the different types that poker attracts. There's Knish, the guy with all the talent and technique needed to grind out a living, but lacking the heart and gamble to take a shot, destined forever to grind out a living on the fringes of safe mediocrity. There's Worm, the adrenaline junkie also possessed of talent and technique, but addicted to the buzz of the shot, always looking for the quickest cheapest way, unable or unwilling to put in the honest graft, destined for the plunge into the abyss of degen. And there's Mike McD, closer in mentality to Knish, but possessing that spark to take the shot when appropriate and mix it with the best. I like to think I'm Mike McD, there are times when I'm afraid I might be Knish, but I know I'll never be Worm.


Great write up, you had a great year too... WP! Long may it last for you!

Just found your comment on my site.
Happy New Year to you as well.
You must be well on your way to grumpy old manhood yourself.

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