Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chops and slaying mongooses

With barely a day to recover from my return from Riga, I was starting to feel very like a live pro as I headed into the Fitz to play their supersat for the main event there. The festival ran for a full week, and my plan was to play at least 5 of the 7 days.

Having played it cautious and folded my way through early card death, I was hoping to exploit the tight image when the shipping portion started. Unfortunately, one of the D4 lads who it's safe to say wouldn't be buying the tight old man image got moved to my table just as the time to cash in on the image arrived, and first time I shipped KQs over a Vera Duffy limp, he snap reshoved AQ and held.

Thursday was effectively the end of month, rebranded as part of the festival. I ended up bubbling the final table. When I reshoved A6s over Dave Masters button raise and got called, I was happy to see him turn over A4o. Two rag aces are often a chop, but when the first card to flop was a 6, this was looking less likely, and it seemed I was on my way to a doubleup. However, a 4 appeared beneath it on the flop, and another on the turn to send me packing. Dave went on to chop the event with James Waldron, both continuing a fine run of recent form. Also well done to my friend Padraig "Smidge" O'Neill whio chopped this last month and was unlucky not to do so again this month after final tabling.

I took Friday off (or rather grinded online) but was back the next day for the main event. First there was a diversion to Ken Doherty's place to contribute an interview to Eoghan O'Mahony's documentary on Irish poker. I ran into Parky who was there to do livestream commentary on the IPO final table. Anyone who has read his recent blog will know he was less than happy with the performance of his team, in particular one member. He filled me in on the gory details and other gossip from the event.

After my interview with Eoghan, I stuck around Brady's bar where they were streaming the IPO final table. There was a brilliant atmosphere there: all the final tableists brought their own supporters, particularly Rory Brown whose cheer section was led by the inimitable Tom Kitt. There was also a good crew of the young Waterford lads I've become pally with this year, to support Mark O'Connor. Mark's online record suggests he was the strongest player on the table, but was hampered by being the short stack. In those situations it often means you need to get lucky early on, and he did just that, getting it in dominated but getting there to double up. The other Irish lads started short too, but any worries about them being first out were quickly allayed. Rory played a waiting game early on and his patience was rewarded when he caught a few big hands to propel into the chiplead. He and Mark got it in virtually flipping, and Rory was looking good to win when he held. However, it was Paul Purcell who stayed under the radar to get headsup with the eventual winner. Well done to the 3 lads though.

From there I sped into town with Nick Newport who drives like he plays for the Fitz main event. I could have had an easier table: Conor "TommyGunne" Fennell a few to my left peppered me with three bets, and further on down there was Smidge, and IWF champ John Keown. I managed to keep out of trouble and chipped up steadily to end the day with over 80k despite losing a couple of big races. The biggest pot I won eliminated John Keown: I flatted a raise called by John in the blinds with tens, flopped top set, and got the lot in on the turn which gave John a smaller set. This left me fourth in chips overnight much to many people's surprise given my reputation as someone who grinds short to medium stacks rather than accumulates big ones. In fact, I think I get big stacks as much as most top players, but the fact that when I don't I tend to hang on longer than most with the short stack creates the image of a short stack specialist.

In the event, my status as a big stack didn't survive long into day 2, half of it disappearing when I lost a race. A while later I lost another one and was looking at elimination with just 4 big blinds left, but I staged one of my trademark recoveries to make the final table. With 6 left, three of us were approximately level in chips, and the other three while shorter were not yet desperate, so a deal seemed prudent. Eventually we agreed that my good friend Rob Taylor, Declan O'Connell and me would take €8500 each, with Big Mick G, Jude McCarthy and James Waldron taking €7500 each. We played on for the remaining €2250, which Jude claimed after he overcame a 3:1 deficit headsup with Rob. It was another great effort by Rob who hasn't played live much this year but has still managed to final table the Irish Open and chop the Fitz end of month tournament a few times. He was unlucky not to claim the win here: had his jacks held against Jude's A4o ghe would have, but it was not to be. Big well done to Jude too who was a reg when I started going to the Fitz first 4 years ago and is one of the few regs from back then still in the game.

The following night, Rob and I were back for the team event. Calling our team the Old Nits, we were joined by Smidge and possibly the best online mtt player in Ireland Lappin (David, but generally known by his surname which is also his screen name). Rob only made himself available at the last minute and I had been intending to ask Daragh "Mongoose" Davey (in my opinion one of the best young live players on the scene if not the best) to join our team. In the end, Mongoose (as he is affectionately known) assembled a team of his own that included Nick Newport. On paper, they looked like our main competition, and once the tournament got underway it became clear they saw us as theirs, as they were targeting us specifically. With all four of them having immediate position on all four of us, this gave them a big advantage, and seriously curtailed our play. In team events, it is almost always the team which keep all four members in the tournament the longest that ends up winning, so it's crucial to avoid early bustouts, and we all managed this. Rob and Smidge are nits by nature, and I reverted to my original style for the occasion, which just left Lappin to worry about, but he assured us he would do his best not to get a hundred big blinds in preflop with AQ early on :)

I got almost nothing to play with and with Team Mongoose member Noel who I have a fair bit of history with sitting to my right making it clear he was calling my shoves with any 2 and trying to verbally goad me into shoving light, I let myself get a lot lower than I would have in an individual event while I waited for a decent spot. Noel was good to his word and when I finally found a pair of fours in the small blinds, he called with J3o. I held, which bought me some more time. Next time I shoved I wasn't so lucky, my AT losing to his Q9. I was less than pleased by some of the Mongoose celebrations that accompanied my exit (I know it's a team event, but still) and a comment Noel made to me in the heat of the moment, so I went for a walk round the block to clear my head before coming back to rail my remaining teammates. I came back to find Smidge had also been dogged and eliminated by a Mongoose. Things weren't looking that promising for us until a moment of madness by my vanquisher Noel was trumped by a moment of genius from Lappin. Having raised a pair of eights, Lappin saw Noel and the big blind call. The T44 flop was checked around, a 6 appeared on the turn, and Lappin made a weak looking quarter bet pot, called by Noel. A 5 on the river saw Lappin check, and then Noel unexpectedly shoved for several times pot. Lappin quickly concluded that, in his words, "the bet made no sense" and called. Noel had king high and had crippled himself and propelled Lappin into the chip lead. Both he and Rob outlasted the remaining Mongooses, to clinch the team title (in the end, it was Marc Brody's American team which almost snuck up the inside to take advantage of the Nits and the Mongeese spending too much time worrying about each other). Poker's not really a team sport, and as the Fitz paid us and took our "winning team" photo they commented that we were the only team that stuck around to rail each other, but these team events are always good fun and a pleasant change from the ruthless individual events.

The biggest problem with playing all this live stuff is it eats into the day (or night) job: grinding online. I eased myself back in Tuesday, and managed a few final tables on Stars. Then it was back on a plane, this time heading for Manila (via Amsterdam and Hong Kong) for Manny Pacquaio's World Poker Open.


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