Friday, January 8, 2016

Scenes from Prague (part 1)

We've been in Prague a couple of days, settled into our well appointed apartment secured by my roommate for the trip, Gareth Chantler. As an experienced world traveller who has zig zagged the globe as a nomad for 6 years, Gareth can be counted on for this task, and he comes through.  Not only is the host landlord friendly and the apartment great, but it's conveniently located halfway between the WPT venue and the EPT one, a 20 minute walk from both. Gareth describes himself as a hopeless romantic (his definition of which seems to be "openly ogles every attractive female who crosses his eyeline"), so when I meet him for breakfast, I am unsurprised that his selection of venue seems to have been made less on the basis of menu than of waitress who brings us said menu. 

The waitress in question is a chic young local who seems initially impressed not even to the point of indifference by Gareth's attempts at charm. After I order, he tries to break the ice with a crack about my age. Her facial indifference turns to something closer to hostility and he quickly retreats. He tries a different approach whispering what he thinks is the Czech word for thank you as she leaves. We have no way of knowing whether he got it right or wrong from her non reaction. I helpfully suggested after she left that maybe central European girls don't think it's cool or charming to mock the elderly. 

Gareth took this on board, and after he had paid my breakfast and held the door open for me, her iciness seemed to melt a little, and she almost smiled at his goodbye. Or at least considered it. 

It's only when you play other events that you appreciate how amazing the Stars Live events team is. WPT Prague is particularly shambolic. The tournament appears to have been badly promoted so numbers are disappointing, particularly early. More and more tournament organisers are trying to boost numbers by allowing later and later registration (in this case you could late reg on day 2). It's a bit of a mixed strategy because invariably it makes for short handed tables early on. I found myself rueing my decision to sit down when I found myself sandwiched between Chris Dowling and Guy Jenkins. 

I could write a novella on how bad the event organisation was but I'll restrict myself to some sample points. There was not a proper clock, but four competing ones (every screen was connected to a separate laptop and the different laptops were not synchronised). Smoking was not only allowed in the venue, it was positively encouraged. Some of the dealers could barely count, much less calculate side pots. The best dealer in the place and possibly the world (Andy Tillman) seemed to spent most of the day compensating for the appalling table service by bringing people drinks and clearing away their refuse. Andy's can do attitude is admirable, but surely one of the incompetent dealers could have swapped places with him. And the table service......At one point Chris ordered coffee and water. After the mandatory one hour waiting period, just the coffee arrived. Chris asked where the water was. The waitress looked confused. He repeated the question more slowly. She told him the water was in the coffee before disappearing never to be seen again (maybe she retired). 


I've been in Prague a week already, during which time I've already bricked the WPT, some side events, and Eureka main event.  I'm either a glutton for punishment or an idiot, because my plan to end this streak involves entering three flipouts. I made my live flipout debut in Malta, and ran so bad that in the 12 rivers I saw there, I had a cumulative total of zero outs. So obviously I'm due (that's how it works, right). 

Somehow I win my first flipout table to make the final table. I'm playing that when the second one starts, so I need to leave my final table for the flipout portion. I quickly lose both flips (the format for those who don't know involves 6 player table where players start with two chips, one of which must be wagered on the first two hands. At that point two players normally have 6 chips each which they wager blind to determine a winner) and scurry back. 

By the time the third flipout starts, I'm 2/4. I again have to leave, hoping at the very least for a quick resolution of the flips. The poker Gods clearly know this and decide to mock me. The first flip is chopped. With only five players at the table, the dealer is unsure who to give the extra chip to. So floor has to be called, to my dismay given I can't return to my final table before I'm eliminated from this final flipout. 

After that's resolved, I chop the second pot with one of the guys who chopped the first one. I get the extra chip on this occasion, leaving my opponent with 5 chips, me with 3, and the other guy with two. The dealer is now unsure as to whether we are supposed to wager one chip each, or go allin, so once again floor has to be called. The decision is that since we are not yet headsup, it's one chip per hand rather than all in. The guy with 2 chips wins the next hand, moving him up to 4, level with the other guy, leaving me with two chips. I win the next hand to leapfrog to 4, while the other two have three each. After a few more hands I finally gets headsup with a 6 to 4 deficit, which I convert to a win two hands later. So now I have to multitable two live final tables. 

I rush back to my first table and play a few hands while I wait for the other one to start. I'm 2/3 when I leave to go to that. When I get there, I'm told three of the players have agreed to go allin blind first hand, and I'm asked if I want to join them. I quickly decide that while it would normally be in my interests to say no (because the allins  are just handing equity to the guys who sit back and wait for three of the others to bust), on this occasion I'm incentivised to agree to it on the basis that worst case scenario is I chopped third through sixth place prize money and am freed up to go back and give the one where I'm 2/3 my full attention). As luck would have it, I chop the four way all in so there are only two eliminations, and I find myself joint chipleader of 4. I'm about to go back to the other table on the basis that the blinds there are much higher and it's three handed, but as luck would further have it that table is going on a break.

I play through the break on the second table and build up a large chiplead. When the other table resumes, I quickly lose a 65/35 against the short stack, and then bust next hand against the big stack. 

Back at the other table, I eventually get headsup with a small chiplead. When we went on a break, my opponent asked if I'd be interested in a deal that gave me most of the money and him the trophy and the official win. I quickly realized that the battle for the trophy was not a zero sum game as it meant very little to me (I already have a lot of trophies I'm going to prize a lot more) but a lot to my opponent, so quickly agreed to a deal that gave me three quarters of the money (I had two thirds of the chips). 

It's Stars party night, and I join Daragh, David, Elena, Christin and Ludovic for warmup drinks. It's so cosy in the Hilton that by the time we get to the party, a lot of the free drinks are gone and guests have left. Nothing will likely ever top the Barcelona Stars party in my mind, which was graced by the presence of the Lithuanian beauties Daiva Barauskaite  and her best friend Sandra, and where Daiva showed an unparalleled ability to glide gracefully through a mobbed free bar and return with free drinks for her companions. But the Prague bar and company was still decent, and perked up at the end when a blond bombshell suddenly exclaimed "Dara!" in a distinctive English accent and launched herself into a very vigorous hug. I quickly recognised Samantha, who I first recognised in Vegas when she was blogging the event I got headsup in. Since then, I had great fun being interviewed by Samantha for a running magazine, and reading her many wonderful articles on such topics as the link between poor grammar and sexual perversion, and what it's like to speed date while drunk. 

Samantha and her group were going to a bar called James Dean, so we agreed to follow them to there. While they waited for a cab, David Daragh and I decided to walk there (we'd all heard horror stories about cabs in Prague). Anyone who suspects David and I of possessing any intelligence needs to consider this: on the two previous occasions we have trusted navigation responsibilities to Daragh, we have got hopelessly lost. He was unable to find the Hippodrome on opening night in the centre of his home town of London even with the aid of a map, and he was unable to find the casino in Bristol at the recent UKIPT despite having walked there the previous day from the hotel. And yet, David and I still thought it a good idea to follow him on a circuitous and uncalled for tour of the streets and alleys of old town Prague. We covered so much ground it was almost inevitable we would even stumble across the place by pure luck, which is what happened. By which time we were too tired to do anything but slump ourselves at the bar until closing time. 



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