Monday, April 4, 2011

I Don't Like Mondays...

This particular Monday is given over to getting from Estrellas Malaga to EPT Berlin via Dublin. Unfortunately I won't be in Dublin long enough to make it sensible to go home so it basically means a day spent in airports and planes. Still, it'd be churlish to complain about a bad Monday after a great Sunday, Saturday, Friday, Thursday and Wednesday.

My first trip to Spain was a qualified success (or maybe a score draw) on the poker front: played 4 tournaments, cashed in one (4th in the 300 side event). It was an unqualified success on every score: great hotel, great food, beautiful place, awesome company.

Mick Mccloskey was waiting for me in the airport with my friends Jono "gawa" Crute and Ger "JamieCarra" Harraghy. First laugh of the trip was Mick telling me that while he'd arranged to pick Ger up in Magharafelt, and had, he didn't want to go to the hassle of finding Ger's place so made him walk to a roundabout on the motorway about a mile and a half from his house. Mick defended himself by pointing out that "it's not my fault he lives on the wrong side of Magherafelt".

After checking in, we ventured out for room supplies and ran into TD Toby Stone. Toby lives over there now and is enjoying the beach lifestyle. It's always a relief to see Toby at events as he's the best in the business.

We mainly just wanted water in the supermarket. My line on water purchase is fairly standard: go in, and buy the required quantity for a price that looks reasonable. Mick's is slightly more optimal, but much more time consuming. Every time I thought the job was done and was wandering towards the checkout to pay, Mick's voice would pipe up from some obscure corner "Doke, put those back, I found cheaper ones". After a few such swaps, I put a halt to his gallop and called time on his search for the world's cheapest bottled water, insisting that we were settling for 20c a litre. Back in the hotel, we regged in the casino for the super satellite only to discover that one of the benefits was the casino left copious amounts of bottled water on tables.

One of the culture shocks in Spain is they do like their breaks. An hour into the supersat that started at 9, they sent us on a 1 hour dinner break (in the 300 side, we were sent on a 1 hour dinner break shortly before midnight). I got off to a decent start in the supersat but crapshooted badly to go out in 50thish (19 seats).

The main started at 4 the next day (the Spanish don't like early starts apparently). I didn't get the best of table draws: for one thing there were two other Irish at it, Irish Eyes sponsored pro Paul Lucey and Danny McHugh. I got off to a reasonable start but lost a biggish pot late in the day when I turned the nuts and improved on the river and still managed to lose the hand. That left me in push mode and I shoved an ace into two of them.

Before that we had the Stars barbeque where we ran into Jono's full crew, as well as Gary Clarke, Ciaran Cooney and Paul Lucey. Malaga is a nice place to just shoot the breeze with interesting characters.

Next day I got up and went for a run along the sea which was very pleasant, and hung with Gary for a while by the pool which was also good times. Gar's an interesting and thoughtful young guy.

We managed to round up a decent posse for a trip to an Argentian steakhouse on the marina that came well recommended. Jono's entire multinational crew of internet kids came along, as did Paul, Gary, Ger and Mick. Good craic unfortunately truncated by my decision to have already bought in to that night's side, a 150 turbo I had high hopes for. Mick, Ger and Paul headed back with me to join me in my attempt to put a Spanish flag on my Hendon mob while the others went on to a night of Schnapps fuelled ribaldry.

I got off to a cracking start in that. The standard was particularly awful so no great achievement there. Unfortunately it all went in two hands near the bubble: I shoved KQo because all the stacks behind were 10 bbs or less. I got called by AJ and TT so it wasn't the worst situation in the world with a king or a queen likely to propel me to a giant stack. Unfortunately this was live poker (online, the KKQ flop is odds on) so neither appeared. Next hand I decided to shove J7s as I didn't want the blinds to go through without shoving and ran into aces.

Saturday was quite a surreal day in which I was recognised twice by people I'd never met before, both of whom referred to me by different nicknames. First I went out for a run after breakfast. I ran to the marina and around it a bit and was starting to head home when I was passed by a small guy in his 50s. His running style suggested he was an ultra runner so I caught up with him and asked him. My read was spot on. I ran around with him for a while at a pace much faster than is comfortable for me these days. His English wasn't great but I did find out he was "just below international class" (which probably means he'd walk into most national sides: the Spaniards are one of the giants at ultrarunning). When I told him I used to do a bit of ultrarunning and told him my name, he laughed and exclaimed "Infirmo!", the name the Spanish contingent gave me after I ran myself quite literally into a wheelchair in Quebec in the summer of 2007 at the World 24 Hour Running championships. It's nice to be remembered, even if only for a feat of lunacy.

By the time I headed back to the hotel I'd run a lot farther and faster than I have in a while in the midday sun so I was feeling pretty shattered. I hung with Gar again at the pool for a few hours and worked on my sunburn before heading for an excellent Chinese with him and Mick. A rather lovely waitress did everything she could (including cutting and rolling my food for me) to make the meal memorable, but the highlight was when she asked Mick if we wanted a schnapps. Mick had acqueiesced to all other dessert and coffee extras til now but apparently suffering from a sudden POTULB syndrome (Paranoia Of The Unexpectedly Large Bill) he vehemently passed on the schnapps until the waitress said the magic words: on the house. Me and Gar had a good laugh at the sudden change on Mick's face from the grinch to a kid at Christmas: his eyes literally lit up at the prospect of free drink.

We also ran into Bomber Nolan who told us he'd seen Gary stumbling into the casino around 4 the previous night after the night out with Jono's crew ("and you'd want to see the head on him but....big bleedin pair of yellow sunglasses, bigger than his head they were"). Unfortunately photo evidence has yet to emerge of Gar's fall to Elton John world of novelty sunglasses.

At the pool, I ran into an English guy who said "I know who you are", ominous enough but it was "Granite" Neil, one of the 3x specialists who has suffered a SlowDoke bad beat or two. Interesting character who has been through a number of careers including actor that I look forward to spending more time with at future live events.

A pretty full day meant I was feeling and looking very tired as we headed into the last side event (a 330 2 dayer), something Mick commented on. I'd also taken a little bit too much sun and Mick turned harbinger of doom suggesting I looked like I had sun stroke. Not exactly auspicious for the side and I got off to a terrible start failing to win a pot for the first few levels. Quite frustrating as the locals were still horrific. Jono's German friend Marco, the Schnapps king, was beside me and we were literally agog at some of the stuff they were doing. Eventually I got a hand in the nick of time. Playing 12 bbs, a Scandi kid opened. I elected to flat, effectively turning my hand face up against him but hoping to induce a squeeze from a member of the clown college yet to act. In the event, only one of them flatted, and I got it in on the flop against the Scandi's massive draw and held. Before I turned my hand over he said "Aces, ja?".

That got me back to starting stack and after another period of card death my patience and discipline was rewarded late in the day with two doubleups courtesy of a flip and a 70/30. That meant coming back the next day a bit shy of average with 20 bigs. I finally managed to get a bit of live run good going. I won a few small pots, then a local kid not much more than minned out of the sb when it was folded to him. This seems to be all the rage online now but I'm not sure I like it much: I prefer a slightly bigger raise than normal and a tighter range of hands with which to do so. In any case, I'm happy to defend against it with a fairly wide range and A5s is in that range. The flop came A54 and after he checked I checked behind. If he's trapping with a big ace I think I can get him in on a later street, and if he has a pocket pair I think I get more out of him by checking the flop. The turn was gin: another five and he came out betting. His bet was quite small so I decided to go for a small inducing raise rather than risk him being able to get away with some of his stack if I wait til the river to show strength. He duly shipped his AQ.

I motored from there up to 90K, then got moved to Mick's table near the bubble. Low point of the trip was knocking my roommate out on the bubble. I raised with AK from the small blind and Mick shoved in. Mick's been a very good friend to me through thick and thin and I really didn't want to knock him out but I can't fold either. There's no point in playing if you can't be ruthless at the table where there are no friends as they say. He had AQ and I held.

During the break I headed up to Jono's room where the Sunday grind was in full swing. You really get an idea how quick Jono's mind works when you see him multitabling, checking a few forums, on Facebook, chatting on Skype, watching video footage of his night out, and talking to you at the same time.

I hit the final table with a decent stack, 3rd or 4th in chips. I was pretty card dead for the entire duration unfortunately. I stayed out of trouble and managed to avoid the spew that is so tempting when the cards or spots aren't coming so by dinner break there were 5 left and I was still more or less average. By now though, the blinds and antes were hefty and as I walked back from dinner I remarked to Mick that if you folded 15 hands you'd have done half your stack, so you have to go with any decent hand or spot. Unfortunately I did end up having to fold 15 hands so that 4 handed and the blinds about to rise 97s becomes a shove. I ran into AJs (same suit) behind and failed to suck out. A disappointing end but at least I got 3k for my efforts and perhaps more importantly a Spanish flag on my Hendon mob :)

A few drinks with Mick and it was back to the room to pack in the early hours. Jono and the two German lads Marco and Tim showed up, laptops in tow. Their plans to hit Molly Malones were sadly thwarted by Jono's continuing presence depend in a 55 on Stars. Ever the grinder pro Jono was unable to bring himself to just fling it in even though he reckoned it was minus happiness Ev even if he won the tourney and was rooting to be coolered. He was coming to the end of a 5 figure day: you have to admire the kid's ability to do that after a week of partying hard, and not just chuck the last game so you can go to the pub with your mates to celebrate. Mick eventually chucked them out as he likes his kip almost as much as his free drink. Jono went on to finish second in the tourney, sick little pup that he is. Respect.

A couple of hours kip and then it was taxi to the airport time to draw my favourite poker trip ever to a close. I'd like to thank the Irish contingent for great company and support, especially Mick: despite taking the piss out of him relentlessly in this blog, he's one of my favourite poker people. I just hope he didn't drop Ger off at the roundabout on the way home.


Sounds like a good time. This game is so much easier when it's also fun.

Very true, not much point doing it if it's not fun

On the way home,drove off the main road at roundabout with Ger who said, "You can drop me here." I ignored this comment and drove on to his house, an impressive distance for an early morning walk. I was thinking later that maybe he wanted dropped off at the KFC outlet adjoining the roundabout. Maybe the poor guy was hungry. Doh!

Good man Mick. Can't let something like the wishes of the person getting the lift divert you from your chosen course :)


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