Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ch-ch-changes and choo choos

Three years ago Mrs. Doke accompanied me to Deauville for the EPT. This is noteworthy because since I switched from running to poker, she stopped coming with me on trips.A wholehearted helper in the world of ultrarunning, she gamely did everything asked of her while her husband ran ridiculously long distances (duties which included feeding me what a normal person eats in 8 days over the course of a 24 hour race, massaging me when I cramped up, keeping me informed of other runners progress, and some less pleasant duties it is probably best I don't go into here). With no such role in poker, she quickly decided that following me around to poker tournaments served no useful function.

That year, Stars installed their qualifiers in the Normandie Barriere Hotel, one of the grandest hotels we ever stayed in. Having gamely followed me around the world staying in a variety of hostels, athlete villages (usually just another word for hostel) and B and B's, this was the first improvement over running that she could see in the world of poker. She liked the experience of living like aristocracy so much she asked me to make sure I qualified every year from now on. I failed her the following year, and last year was unable to even try last year due to a scheduling clash with another tournament I was committed to. When I told her I had qualified this year, her excitement was several notches higher than any previous poker "win".

These are recessionary times however, and this year Stars decided to install us in the considerably less regal Royal Barriere, which while being a parfectly nice hotel feels a bit like the poor relative after you have stayed in the Normandie. Cue the lament from Mrs. Doke. I didn't have the heart to tell her that the way things are going in general in poker, we might be staying in hostels again or even worse (Travelodge!) in a few years.

If all is changing away from the table, the same can be said at the table. Last time I played Deauville I prospered on day one at a table where most of the locals thought it was acceptable to get several hundred big blinds in if you hit any sort of a pair, and finished up among the chipleaders. This time, the table talk was all about makeup and backers. It is becoming increasingly clear that the whole staking phenomenon is accelerating the pace with which young talents can move up levels. Guys who prove themselves in low stakes online can progress quickly up through the levels without ever building a roll (they just need to find the right backer) and be playing EPTs and WSOPs in no time. The downside of this is the fields are getting tougher quicker. Far be it for me (as someone who has done pretty well out of the whole staking phenomenon) to complain though, so I won't. Just saying there is a kind of race to the bottom going on at the upper echelons of poker right now.

As for my own main event, well it's hard to bust a 300 bb stack in under 4 levels but somehow I managed it. I actually made a good start, up to 35k in the first level, just through chipping up in small pots. Went into reverse then, and was back to starting at end of level 2.

Level 3 was something of a nightmare. I got rivered in one big hand after turning the nuts (a straight) but at least minimised my losses by checking behind on the river when the board paired. Then a weird hand where I open QQ to 325 in the kidnap (seat before hijack). Tightest player on table who has only played 2 hands to date (and shown down just one, AK, which he threebet pre) seemed to think about threebetting but instead flatted. English maniac squeezes button for 1225, I flat, and the tight guy instantly makes it 5k. Maniac folds as did I after a tank. My read was he had a monster which he considered threebetting but decided to flat with three maniacs behind likely to squeeze. Once the squeeze came in, he raised enough to make it unprofitable to setmine. He looked supremely confident as I was tanking so I figured kings or aces (I think he threebets AK as he had previously). Felt weird folding queens pre but I ran the hand by a few top players after and they all fold so I am happy with the fold.

The hand that did the real damage started with English maniac (good maniac though: won the Brawl recently) opening in MP. Bad French player flats, as do I out of the sb with tens, and the BB comes along. Flop AJTr and I check call a 50% pot cbet. English player had shown (and actually declared to English guy beside him) willingness to triple barrel live so I decided to play the hand passively to extract maximum value from his bluffs. Turn was a 9 and I check call again. River a 2, I checks, and he pots it. I was prepared to call a 50% pot bet quickly but I tanked this one as I'm only beating a bluff. I wasn't able to bring myself to fold against this guy though and unfortunately he had the hand he was repping (KQ). This was the only hand I wasn't happy with. I don't think the river call is horrible but possibly I could have got away at that sizing.

That left me in the 20 big zone a lot earlier than I had hoped. I picked what I thought was a good spot shoving in with sevens over a guy opening any ace any pair anything pretty from any position, and ran into AK behind in the big blind. K high flop, gg me.

As I said, hard to bust a 300 bb stack in under 4 levels, and particularly hard to do it and not feel a bit stupid afterwards. I could possibly have played less hands and nitted it up a bit more but my game plan was to try to accumulate in the early stages (similar to what I do online).

Normally I get over exits pretty quickly unless I made a bad mistake but this one took more out of me than most so I took a few days off rather than relaunch myself into side events. It's very much part of my whole approach and philosophy than no one tournament should ever matter too much, but I suppose I wouldn't be human if the big ones like my first EPT in almost 2 years didn't sting a bit. As I write this David Lappin is still very much in the mix (average stack as the bubble approaches) so hoping he will at least provide me with a good sweat. As ever with David, there has been quite a bit of quality stationing going on and his declared ambition is to become the first person to check call his way to an EPT title. Plan is to rail him and do some online and maybe a few turbo sides. Deauville's not a bad place to spend a lazy week at this time of year.

Unfortunately I had to miss my favourite Irish tournament of the year the European Deepstack due to the clash with Deauville. It pretty much all started for me there 5 years ago. The following year I mounted a credible defence of the title all the way to the second last table, and the year after that I became the first person (alongside Jason Tompkins) to final table it a second time. At the weekend, Marc McDonnell became the latest member of that club. 5 years ago, the final table swung on a big preflop confrontation between Marc and myself, my AK holding against his AQ. More than anyone else in Irish poker Marc always seems to get unlucky right at the death when it matters most. It is to his credit that he keeps picking himself up and coming back for more and I think most of the country were rooting for him at the weekend, myself very much included. Unfortunately it wasn't to be (well done to Declan Connolly who did claim the title) but one of these days Maccer, one of these days...



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