Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why I'm not David Bowie

I didn't play last year's IPPF so when I said to Mick Mccloskey I'd go with him to this year's version, in my mind I thought I was going to a game with 100 or so runners. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn it'd be more like 400. On the drive down, I made various business calls and found other ways to play with my new smartphone, all the time trying to drown out Mick's complaints about dereliction of navigation duties.

Day 1 went pretty well. I chipped up throughout without any major incident. My table did get progressively tougher as the evening wore on with the arrival of Colin Hammond, John Keown and Ciaran "Tag" Taggart. Otherwise, the highlight of the day was one of the great characters on the Irish poker scene Nicky Power mugging it up for the cameras to take the piss out of my Twitter parody account (choke_doke).

There's always been a bit of a banter culture around Irish poker and I seem to be attracting it a lot lately. I also had to endure a piss take blog from my friend Lappin (see later), and Daragh Davey and Nicholas Newport bowing down every time I entered the room at the weekend. I don't mind a bit of banter though and I guess if you're going to get it, having a couple of young ballas bowing down is a nicer form than anonymous Twitter death threats :)

I was happy to bag up comfortably above average having almost doubled my starting stack. By contrast, Day 2 couldn't have gone much worse. I missed the opportunity to triple up when Jamie Flynn opened for the umpteenth time. I was about to threebet light with T7s when I noticed the guy beside me was almost wetting himself with excitement, leading me to suspect he had a hand. So I let the hand go. My read was spot on as my neighbour threebet Jamie. After Jamie peeled, they got it in with 88 and 99 on a J98 board! The board didn't pair so my T7 would have scooped.

My favoured strategy in softish live events with a good structure is to try to chip up steadily using a smallball approach, rather than making any premature big moves. However, there inevitably comes a time when you have to kick on as blinds and antes escalate. After Gavin Flynn opened to 1700 utg at 400/800 with a 100 ante, I elected to flat call with AK in the small blind. I prefer flatting in these spots out of position against a good player when the effective stack is 40 to 55 bbs, as the threebet just inflates the pot and makes it likely that if we do get it all in pre, I'm going to be flipping at best. I think the threebet also folds out most of the hands in Gav's range that I dominate, while the flatcall disguises my hand. It allows me to get away cheaply if I miss the flop, but potentially win a big pot if I hit. The big blind came along. The flop was 8 high all hearts (I had the ace of hearts). In my mind, I now have enough equity that I'm happy to get it all in, and did after the big blind potted it, Gav folded, and I check raised. I assumed I was flipping nearly always with two overs and a flush draw, but wasn't in this case. I was up against a queen high made flush and didn't get there.

I didn't really think too much about the hand until a good player at the table told me later he didn't like how I played it, preferring the 3 bet pre, and the check call on the flop. I strongly disagree though (I don't like putting in a chunk of my stack when I'm going to have to fold most turns and can add about 30% to my stack without showdown if the check raise gets through), but I ran the hand by Lappin and Rob Taylor (who both play it same as me).

I was back later for the side event. I made a strong start doubling my stack early on without any major showdowns. There was one funny hand with Ciaran Cooney. Ciaran 4xed the button to 200 over a limper, I threebet to 550 from the big blind with queens, the limper flatted, Ciaran 4 bet, and after a little deliberation I decided the fold was most prudent here. Ciaran showed 93o. He told me later he'd done it because in his very first live event a few years ago he'd 6 bet me with 23o and got me to fold, so I guess Ciaran's timing is good in that he finds me with the one hand I'd be 3 bet folding here (everything weaker gets flatted at this point, and everything stronger is not getting folded). I'm fine with the fold though, there's nothing wrong with folding the best hand from time to time (it certainly beats calling with the worst every time), and a couple of top players told me they'd make what Lappin calls a "boxy" fold in this spot.

I ruined my good start the next time I got queens. Having raised in late position and got called by both blinds, I chet when checked to on a 542 flop. Smurph called and the big blind now shoved. My instant read on him was that he wasn't strong, he seemed just to be fed up of my constant raising, so I figured he was either overplaying something marginal, or making a spazzy move assuming I couldn't have hit that flop. So I called. Smurph now reshoved and my gut was I was now beaten. However, I only needed to be good about 35% of the time to call, and convinced myself I could be up against a smaller overpair or a pair and a draw hand involving a three. However, on reflection I don't think I'm good here often enough, so not exactly my finest hour. The big blind had 94o, and Smurph a set of 4s. I never recovered from this, being forced to wait for a decent spot to shove. A7 over a couple of limps looked like one but ran into AJ behind. That ended my weekend on the playing front.

I hung round on day 3 as a couple of my friends were still in and going well. Unfortunately it went pear shaped fairly quickly for both Daragh Davey and Padraig "Smudge" O'Neill so it was time to get clane out of dodge, or to dodge out of Clane, and back home for a Sunday grind. I had a bad one, but had the consolation of ending my night railing Daragh and Lappin deep in some majors. Lappin, playing his first major in ages, romped into the last 100 of the Milly like the classic thoroughbred he is, and just as we were both getting excited about the 200k plus up top, unfortunately ran tens into kings with 67 left. Great show by the talented Mr Lappin though, who has also made me the subject of his latest entertaining blog which explains among other things why I'm not David Bowie. He assures me the entry became his most read ever within 24 hours.

Daragh Davey, who bunked on the couch in the suite myself and Mick shared and got a lift back from Clane with us demonstrated his true grit within a few hours. Shaking off the disappointment of playing brilliantly for 3 days to just double his money, he ended headsup in the Ipoker 200K, and was unlucky not to win when his AT was outdrawn by KQ. I'm on record as an admirer of "other" Daragh, and my admiration is based at least as much on his temperament, discipline and attitude as it is on his poker skills (which are considerable). In a world where people often confuse flamboyance with talent, and arrogance with accomplishment, Daragh prefers to just get on with the business quietly and with class. I'm pretty sure this is the first of many big results.

Well done to Danny Maxwell for his great blogging and photographs this weekend (including those that adorn this blog). Danny's blogging for IPB of Irish live events really adds to the occasion. I also ran into Breifne at the weekend, promoting his new venture, The basic idea is to have a ranking list for live and online events. Irish Eyes are running a number of qualifying events at quarter past eight 5 nights a week. I've been hitting these up when I can with spectacularly unsuccessful results (I've yet to cash!).

This blog is being typed up on the plane to Madrid, where later today I play 1a of Estrellas. Then next week I'm off to Prague (with Daragh Davey) for EMOP (and the live final for last year's leaderboard). With the deepstack following that and then Galway UKIPT, it's going to be a very busy month on the live front, making it harder to keep ticking away online. I rose to an all time high on the PocketFives rankings list after my recent rush of results (in the top 300 hundred in the world, and number 3 in Ireland, although I slipped down to number 4 at the weekend as Jude tore up Stars to move back ahead of me). With more and more top class Irish online players emerging, it gets harder and harder to stay near the top of the Irish list. When I broke into the top 10, I wasn't even in the top 1000 worldwide: now you need to be around 500 or so worldwide to make top 10 in Ireland.

Finally, speaking of top class online players, a big well done to two of the Dungarvan gang, Mark O'Connor and Gavin Flynn, for chopping the main event in Clane. Both lads are part of the Dungarvan group of players that seem to feed off each other's success, and you'll be hearing a lot more of these lads in future. I heard that two of Ireland's "live pros" were taking the piss out of what they called internet players on their table on day one. While it used to be the case that many online players struggled to transition to live, I think it was noteworthy that when the dust cleared at the weekend, it was two young online players who had risen to the top. The last few years have seen the online kids rise to dominate the international stage, and the next couple will see the same thing happen here in my opinion.

Having viewed my latest career change with a mixture of shock and disdain initially, my daughter Fiona seems to be coming round to the view that there may be something to this poker lark. When she was home for Christmas, she asked me to give her a crash course so she could play with her housemates.  It took only 15 minutes or so as she's a very quick learner (it's clear that whatever talent for the game I possess she has inherited). She's still a novice though, and I got the following amusing text from her this weekend:

"If you're playing holdem and you accidentally say straight instead of flush before you show your hand, do you lose the pot because of it? Or is it just a stupid rule the lads just made up?"

As I texted back to her that they'd made it up, I regretted that we never had that Daddy-daughter talk where I explain that lads are sneaky. Limerick lads especially.



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