Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Twenty thousand pairs of appalled eyeballs

Malta and me

I often get asked how so much of what used to be called The Firm in Irish poker circles ended up living in Malta. The answer is a banal chain of events leading to a strange outcome. It started with David Lappin who had been living with Daragh Davey deciding to move out to move in with his girlfriend Saron. Needing a new flat mate, Daragh turned to another Firmy Jaymo who wanted to move out of his parents down the country in a place called Drumlish, the existence of which has never been satisfactorily proven (to me at least). Jaymo jumped at the chance, but not before he went to Malta on a lads' holiday. He liked the place so much he decided to stay. When he informed Daragh, he decided it would be easier just to move in with Jaymo in Malta, so he did that. Some time later David and Saron visited on holiday, and also liked the place so much they decided to stay. 

All of which means that whenever I visit Malta these days I feel more at home at least in a poker sense than I do in Ireland since so many of my closest friends moved. I had a little over a week at home after my Montreal trip, but made pretty good use of it winning a Powerfest, my 8th PocketFives Triple Crown, and having my most profitable week online in quite a while. So I went to Malta in high spirits. 

72o and me

I arrived in the Intercontinental Hotel shortly after midnight on the Monday. A cash game featuring other Unibet ambassadors was in full flow. Having only got out of bed at 4 pm after a long Sunday grind, I was wide awake and hopped in. I only remember playing a total of three hands in three hours (live cash is fun!) but escaped with a small profit, mainly as a result of winning one of those hands with 72o (the 72 game was in effect). 

Veni and me

Tuesday kicked off with a team meeting and a drawing of partners for the tag team event. The concept was to pair a poker ambassador with an Esports player. The draw was random and I have to admit I don't know enough about the world of Esports to know who my partner Veni was, but my close buddy from that world and fellow ambassador Alan Widmann (who I was quite open about wanting to be paired with: I may have even asked to rig the draw) assured me he was a very big deal. He may also have had a word with Veni about me, as Veni was noticeably more upbeat about our prospects after I saw him chatting to Alan :)

As it happened, we were the second team eliminated. A considerable consolation was that for the first time in quite a while in a team event I wasn't the one to bust our team, meaning Veni was the one with the sad guilty face in the photo afterwards. 

The event was won by my study buddy Daiva and her partner STPeach. Diligent as ever, Daiva made the effort to bond with and coach her partner (a total newb to poker), and was rewarded by an unexpectedly competent performance by her teammate. Their victory was both popular and deserved. 

DSO and Vendetta in Valletta

I jumped straight into the DSO, and busted with AKs (losing to KJs) three from the money to finish a long day feeling pretty tired. I therefore decided to take Thursday off and play 1B instead. I did rail the "grudge" headsup match between Ian Simpson and David Lappin for the full ninety minutes, and got to witness a couple of very interesting hands we may look at more closely on the Chip Race. It was a best of three which Ian ended up winning conclusively two nil. Ian is often accused of being a luckbox but on this occasion he brought a well thought out game plan which he executed with his A game and thoroughly deserved his victory. David had the edge early on deep stacked in both matches, which encouraged him to stick to a smallball strategy, which Ian countered with a strategy that included bloating pots with a depolarised threebet range that then allowed him to proceed as the preflop aggressor postflop more often than not. David made one significant postflop mistake which probably cost him the first game (and maybe the match) which we will be analysing in a forthcoming Chip Race strategy segment with former headsup specialist Sameer Singh. 
After he'd lost the first game, I couldn't resist the temptation to be a backseat driver and advised David to start four betting more. He immediately pulled out his first four bet of the match (albeit with aces) but also his last. He may have made one smallish postflop error in the second game, but overall played very well too even if I didn't fully agree with the preflop strategy he chose to stick with. 

I went to the Welcome Party that night and had fun chatting with some of the qualifiers that included a charming Belgian lady Ann-Roos who was there with her mother, and Steve Dunnett. There was also time for a catchup with other friends from home who relocated to Malta, Tony and Gillian Baitson. 

Main Event and Queen Rules

Late on Friday in the main event I was moved to the feature table short stacked. An early double (tens versus nines) left me healthier, and then I played a strange hand against Jamie Munro where I was sufficiently bamboozled by Jamie's unorthodox sizing on all the streets that I almost talked myself into a hero river call that would have ended my tournament there and then. I did eventually find the fold after turning away from the dark site back to game theory and reminding myself I was at the bottom of my range facing an overbet. 

After bagging for the night, I railed Daiva in the Ladies event which she obviously final tabled and cashed (when does she not in Ladies events?), and my new Belgian friend Ann Roos. They both made four handed, alongside that other Ladies perennial form horse Dehlia De Jong, and Daiva's partner from the team event Lisa (STPeach) who completed a remarkable double by cashing this too. In the end Ann Roos was thrilled to beat Dehlia headsup (Daiva finishing third) to top off another enormously successful Ladies event played in an atmosphere of maximum fun.

Day 2

By now the late nights of drinking and socialising were catching up on me and I almost overslept. I made it to my seat for day 2 with seconds to spare.  Day twos when you come back sub 20 bigs boil down to patiently waiting for good shove spots, and hoping you win the first all in. I executed the first part perfectly but not the second: my tens had only to fade an ace or a jack and did so until the river, meaning I was eliminated about twenty from the money.  I decided that was it for me on the live poker front this trip, volunteering to relieve David Vanderheyden in the commentary box so he could go to the players party. I got to commentate with Kat Arnsby (which is always fun), Jack Sinclair (a new thrill for me: his analysis was top notch and I strongly advise anyone wanting to improve their late stage tourney game to give it a listen) and of course Lappin. We all made a late appearance at the party where I was chatting to Spanish based Irish exile Darren McCarthy (who I'd previously run into at the headsup and who decided to stay on and play the main event after coming second in the DSO), Chap In A Chair and his lovely wife Gudrun, and streaming and casting giants like my buddy Alan and Koolein kept bringing me whiskey (at one point I was holding three). 

Dirty Dancing

The night ended rather surreally with me deciding to catch the 3 am bus with Kat. She went to say her goodbyes to Lappin. It turns out Lappin has a very different way of saying goodbye to any non deviant, as the short two second video I serendipitously shot proves. To be honest I was so drunk and tired I barely remember shooting it, but when I met David for brunch the next day he said Kat warned him I'd filmed something. 

Once I'd found it on my phone I couldn't but tweet it (be rude not to) and by the time we finished brunch it had racked up its first thousand views. It continued to garner attention, most of it decidedly horrified, so that by the following morning as I left for the airport it had been witnessed by 7k traumatised eyeball pairs. As I was getting ready to board, STPeach retweeted to her 150k followers, and it really took off, so that by the time I touched down back home in Dublin it had gyrated its borrow past twenty thousand pairs of appalled eyeballs. If only it was that easy to promote the Chip Race. 

As ever at Unibet events, I had so much fun I was drained by the end, so I'm looking forward to four weeks at home finalising my preparation for this year's WSOP. As usual I will be putting together a package that people can invest in if they so wish (look for it soon on my Twitter). The plan for those four weeks is to put in decent volume online, do a lot of study, and get myself into as good a physical shape as possible for Vegas. 

There's a decent chance this will be my last ever WSOP campaign, so I'd like to go out with a bang. Or better yet, a bracelet. 

If you fancy a sweat in my WSOP this year, I'm selling 30% of myself in selected events. Full details here.



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