Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Can't be SlowDoke

So I'm on the final table of the Low Roller (as Richie Lawlor dubbed it) at MPNPT Vienna and there's a typically boisterous Irish rail. One of them yells "Cmon the SlowDoke", which prompts the following table talk in German between runaway chippy Dennis Wilke and his partner, WPT Vienna champion Jamila von Perger:

"SlowDoke? SlowDoke is here?"
 "I think they mean the Irish guy"
"There's no way that's SlowDoke. They must have been joking"
"SlowDoke is Irish though"
"Yeah but he doesn't play tight. He's a maniac"

Not for the first time, I didn't let on I understand German as the argument raged on as to whether the oul lad in seat 5 could possibly be the online maniac known as SlowDoke.

I got to the final table with barely over starting stack, so with only 4 paid it was going to be a battle to get to the money. I fancied my chances though even at a tough table as I genuinely believe my final table game and understanding of the intricacies of ICM are the strongest parts of my game.

The stacks and payout structure (min cash was almost three buyins, first place less than nine), plus an unfavourable seat draw was the main reason I played like an old nit. I had online cash Twitcher Espen Uhlen (check out his Twitch stream at https://www.twitch.tv/uhlenpoker some time if you want a change of pace from all the tourney streamers) to my immediate left for the entire tournament, which was fun because he's very friendly and entertaining, but not fun because he's very good at poker. First hand I opened at the final table had to be folded when he threebet. My hand wasn't good enough to call but was almost good enough to turn into a light four bet shove, but after some consideration I decided to stay disciplined as I was a pip or two too far down to go with my hand. Note to self: no more light opens.

I nitted it to the bubble with even less chips than I started with, at which point the runaway chipleader had run further away, Jamila was also prospering and myself Espen and a German kid were eyeing each other wondering who was going to be bubble boy. Bubbles when the short stacks understand just how tight they have to call and the big stacks just how wide they can open or shove can be torturously long, and this one dragged on for almost four hours. I had pretty much the worst seat with the chipleader to my immediate right meaning I never got to look at my cards in the big blind without hearing the words "all in", but I kept my discipline patiently folding all the hands I'm supposed to fold in such a situation. When I folded 88 in the big blind to a shove from the chippy (who showed ace nine) that seemed to be the final straw for the German kid who was the one playing a little too loose already for the situation. A few hands later he made a light shove into the chippy, got snapped off, and bubbled to sevens.

That allowed myself and Espen to start climbing out of the ICM coffin we'd been in for the last four hours, but not entirely. Lagging so far behind the other two meant trying to outlast each other to lock up third was the main priority. Thankfully that mini bubble didn't last as long, with Espen falling to a marginal shove that ran into a dominating hand. He asked me afterwards if I thought it was the right side of marginal or not and I answered honestly that without running it through an ICM tool I wasn't sure. The very definition of marginal.

Finding myself three handed with barely over 5% of the chips meant the handcuffs were well and truly off and I could flip with impunity. A couple of won flips later I was actually able to start playing poker, and clawed myself past Jamila and close to Dennis in the chip conte. Game on. Then game off. Dennis offered an ICM chop and I snap accepted. Even though the three handed was going well up to that point, it's important not to get carried away and think you're suddenly a poker God when the prudent thing is to deal rather than flip for thousands. By now it was 7.30 am and even if I felt less tired than the other two (Dennis seemed barely able to make change at this point), the thought of locking up more than second place and more than a third of the remaining money before heading to bed had a lot of appeal. I also didn't feel this was a good spot, sandwiched between Germany's power poker couple.

I know some people (mainly recreational players) don't like the idea of chops and view agreeing to them as a form of cowardice, but when you're a professional, your job isn't really to gamble for thousands when there's little or no edge to be had and it's inevitably going to come down to who runs best. Your job is to claim your fair share of the equity provided by the players you have a genuine edge on (usually the very same people who shout "Chops are for pussies" :)).

There was other success for the Irish travelling contingent, with Richie final tabling a turbo side, Keith Cummins continuing his recent impressive live run with a second in the last side event, and David Lappin was unlucky not to go further when he bust the main event three tables out. Sean MacCarthy also cashed the main.

There's always a great atmosphere around MPN events, something the MPN live team and skin reps like Nick and Sean work tirelessly for. Poker tours ultimately stand or fail on the recreational player experience, and special credit as ever to the very ladylike and demure Clodagh Hansen who leaves no stone unturned and no photo unbombed.

Vienna itself is regularly towards the top of lists of great places to live, and it's not hard to see why. On my day off Mireille and I went sightseeing in the centre, and with lots of palaces, churches and great places to eat and drink, there are few better places in the world to have a day off. David and I weren't too impressed when the girls forced us to pose for this photo, but it was a small price to pay for finding ourselves in one of the greatest cities in the world.


So all in all a very enjoyable trip, and it's good to get the live year off to a profitable start. I always enjoy catching up with old friends and making new ones on these trips. David and Saron have a baby on the way so this might have been the last trip me and David make together for a while, which makes me a little sad as we have had some truly great times together on these trips, and I just want to pay tribute to him as a great friend and travel companion.


I'm looking forward to a few weeks grinding online. Next up live is the Dublin Poker Festival, centred around the tenth running of the European Deepstack. This event will always have a special place in my heart as my first live score came with my win in the first running in my first year playing poker. After that it looks like my next event will be the Unibet Open in London at the end of the month. Unibet events are always great fun too so that's definitely one to look forward to.


Ah the memories, it really was a great start to the live year in Vienna with the MPNPT, hope they make it back here soon!


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