Wednesday, May 1, 2013

David Hasselhoff, graphs and.... something else

Everything just seems to make sense in Germany. Things are organised in the most logical and efficient manner. The trains run on time. People show up when they said they would. When you're in Germany it even seems to make sense that David Hasselhoff should be a major recording artist. 

According to a very bad pop song, life is a rollercoaster. I always felt that was a bit of an oversimplification, but certainly the poker life has more than its fair share of (occasional) ups and (mainly) downs. This point was brought home to me when I followed one of the highs of my poker career in Cyprus with being turfed out of Berlin Cup shortly after dinner on day 1.

Afterwards my friend Max Heinzelmann (who dipped down with Schnapps king Marco Drafehn to rail me at one point) commiserated saying I had an unusually tough table full of good regs. That may be true but I didn't play particularly well either. My timing was off, a few bluffs got snapped off and an unfortunate piece of stationing left me coming back from dinner to play 5 and a half big blinds. I did manage to more than triple my stack and then after looking down at kings felt I had every chance of getting back to starting stack. Not to be though as I ran into aces.

I met Smidge and Liam (fresh from his Tramore triumph) for some food. We went on to a place I'd been brought on my last trip that combines the German love for two things: beer, and round numbers (they proudly proclaim themselves to serve precisely 100 different types of beer).

Back in the hotel bar for "one last one" we ran into some of the German heroes including Max, Marco and Martin "moertelmu" Mulsow. If there's one (more) thing Germans like (apart from beer and round numbers) it's a good graph, and the first thing most of the young Germans said after being told who I was was "wow, your graph is very good". A little amused or perhaps bemused by the acclaim I was getting one of the Irish lads remarked "Jesus Doke, you don't get this at home". Afterwards, one of the Germans asked me if this was true. After I assured him it was, his response was "This is because Germans judge by graphs and Irish judge by... something else".

It was interesting to observe the culture among the German players, which is a strikingly supportive one. If there's one things Germans do well it's teamwork. If poker ever becomes a proper team sport the rest of us are probably screwed. It's not exactly fashionable in the English speaking world to express admiration for the Germans or to admit to supporting them at the World Cup when your own country fails yet again to qualify, but I hereby admit to both. Germans have a wonderful directness in their communication. They tell you what they are thinking and they ask you what you are thinking when they don't know, rather than trying to guess. Having created Europe's oldest and arguably richest civilisation, the Germans have a knack of owning anything they put their minds to. So it's no surprise to me that the Germans have established themselves as one of the world's strongest poker nations in such a short time.

The following morning I relayed some of these thoughts to David Lappin via Skype, explaining the reasons for my admiration of the German way of approaching things. He commented "kinda like what we are trying to do with the Firm". I never really thought of that before but it's spot on. Perhaps we should change our name to die Firma.

If the Germans are to be admired for their discipline, work ethic and logical approach, there's also something to admirable about the Irish alternative. I'm no surer how to characterise it than the German was with his "something else". Blind optimism? Illogical faith? The English also struggled with how to characterise our often bewildering lack of logic before eventually deciding there was no other way to describe it other than as "a bit Irish". Maybe it's a historical hangover as a small country but we seem to value success based on the sheer improbability of it.

To illustrate, consider the fact that in the midst of deep recession with card clubs all over the land struggling, not one but two new ones opened in the Dublin region on just one day last week. Last Friday, popular TD Luke Ivory opened a new place in Rathmines, while I headed to Newbridge to cut some ribbon at the new Full House Card Club, run by Mark Day, Daniel Olmer and Ladas Lux. The lads have a lovely room there and deserve to succeed, tough though that will be in the current economic climate.

I hung around to play the opening night tourney. A bounty had been put on my head, three times the buyin. This meant everyone at my table was quite keen to get in pots with me. Contrarian that I am, I nitted it up and played a total of 4 hands in 6 levels. The last two were against a  delightful character called Mick who I played against a few years ago in Carlow and remembered as a man with a lot of favourite hands, and got dealt them so often he never had to suffer the annoyance of folding preflop. He particularly liked hands that had either a 6 or a 2 in them. This strategy had resulted in the necessity of an early rebuy for Mick, and he had already done half his second stack when we finally got in a hand. Folded round to Mick, he opened for his standard four and a half big blinds (playing 15). After everyone else folded I had the problem of what to do with eights in the big blind. I decided that since I was well ahead of Mick's range that included any hand with a 6 or a 2, the only thing for it was to wager all of my chips. Mick looked a little upset at this unexpected development (having seen me fold all night he was clearly rooting for that trend to continue), but called and turned over QT. After the KKJ flop I pointed out there was a lot of ways I could lose this now, and an ace on the turn was one. As he raked in the chips, Mick remarked "I was sure you had aces when you shoved....but I called anyway". Now there's a man who has no truck with trends or graphs when it comes to decision making.

Next hand he limped (which basically meant he had a hand he wasn't mad about, and almost certainly lacking a six or a two), and I now considered the problem of what to do with queens in the small blind. Given what I knew about Mick and his distaste for throwing in the towel preflop, I decided a big raise was in order here. I considered the shove but thought that might be overkill, not to mention the possibility that it might be the only bet size that would get a fold. So instead I went for the hefty pot committing third of stack raise, and got the snap call. The rest went in on a K42 flop. Mick had K7o and my bounty, a fitting reward for a man doggedly determined to keep chipping away against the odds.



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