Wednesday, October 17, 2018

High Rollers, Brighton and Millions

As many of my readers know, before I was a poker player, I was an international ultra runner. I won the New York ultramarathon, a 6 hour indoor race in the Czech Republic, a 100 km race in the Netherlands, and the Irish 24 hour running championship. Before that I was a decent marathon runner who won one in Cornwall. For almost a decade before that, I was a very average recreational marathon runner.

One conversation I had with a work colleague proved crucial in my transformation from recreational to competitive runner. It started innocently enough with me bragging (yes, even back then I was a braggart) about my endurance and how fresh I always felt after a race. My colleague, who had been a serious rugby player before a snapped Achilles' tendon put a literal halt to his gallop, was less than impressed.

"That's because you never push yourself outside your comfort zone"

He went on to lecture me that anybody hoping to achieve their full potential in any field of human endeavour needed to constantly challenge themselves and push past comfortable. I took his words to heart and started pushing harder in training and races, up to the point of exhaustion.

For some reason I found myself flashing back to that conversation half a lifetime ago as the dust cleared after my return from Vegas this summer. As I've already written in a recent blog, I didn't feel like my preparation thus year was the best, but was happy with my performance over there, and philosophical about the fact that it hadn't worked out this time. This was made easier by being at a point in my career where a losing Vegas makes no significant difference to my life. I was comfortable with whatever happened. Then I thought of this old conversation, and also the words of my old running coach.

"Losing is supposed to hurt"

My career in poker has not been without its periods of discomfort. I started online as a limit cash player, but quickly eschewed the easy regular profits from that to master a new format (sit n gos). When I reached the point I was making a more than comfortable living from that I left sit n gos behind. At the start of this decade I was barely rolled for $50 games online, but was playing higher online and much higher live (EPTs).

But the last few years have been undeniably comfortable. I've reached a point in my career where money can no longer be the only motivation. A new challenge is needed. I need to play games again where losing hurts, just to see what that feels like. I need to challenge myself to learn more so I can compete with the very best.

Two weeks ago I played my highest ever buyin, and bust eight from the money. Afterwards, as I remarked to Gareth James in a strategy video we made two days later, I felt physically sick. Once that cleared, I wondered if the experience would take a while to recover from before I could go back to grinding my regular games. The following day I got up and had my answer: I went straight back on the grind with all my customary enthusiasm.

So the plan for the next while is to try to kick things up a notch and compete at the highest level against the very best players. As such, my recent foray into the world of High Rollers was not a one time experiment: there will be other shots. If I fail I fail but will at least have the consolation that I at least tried. Because in my book, in all my books off all the different things I've done, not giving it my all is the only true failure.

Somehow We Always End Up In Brighton

Before I became a Unibet ambassador 18 months ago, I'd never been to Brighton in my life. Since signing, I've been there to play poker more often than anywhere else, including my home town of Dublin. Every trip there has been memorable in its own way. The first trip there witnessed the rebirth of the Chip Race. The second was memorable because I witnessed at first hand Donna Morton's ability to get lost at roundabouts. On the third trip I told Lappin a story from my childhood that proved unexpectedly popular when I blogged about it.

This latest trip was memorable too, mainly for the company as I met up with some old faces (Richard and ) and new ( and ), and the fact that Daiva made it all the way to the final table.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay for the full FT as my lift to Nottingham (Jamie Nixon) was leaving. Daiva nursed a short stack from a long way out: one thing we have common to both our games is that we don't panic or get impatient when we find ourselves short stacked. There may not be much perceived glory in getting the maximum out of a short stack as it won't win you many tournaments but it is a vital skill if you want to make money in tournaments in the long term. Daiva certainly did that nursing it all the way to seventh place.

(Photo credit: Tambet Kask)

DTD Millions

I arrived in Nottingham for the DTD Millions committed to staying for the full thing and intending to play a High Roller or two. Having built up a war chest of PPL from satellites over the previous few weeks, I even toyed with the idea of playing the 25K.....until I saw the field. I had decided pretty much to play the 10k High Roller unless I was still in the main event. As it happened, that unlikely event transpired.

I was sharing a room with Espen in the Holiday Inn (walking distance from DTD). It seemed the hotel was filled with poker players, which made for good company in the bar every evening (including Sam Grafton, Ryan Riess, Lithuanians Cimbolas and Merfinis, Niels, Kenny Hallaert, Aaron McBride and Shirley Ang). Special shoutout to Shirley who kept me amused, entertained and informed throughout the week.

Day 1 of the main was atypical (for me at least) in that it was all plain sailing. I got off to a good start when I got lucky against a short stacked Jack Salter, and bagged up 3 million (starting stack was 1 million) without major incident or setback.

Day 2 was a lot choppier. I dropped all the way back to starting stack before a double up late in the day got me back to 2 million.

I came back short on day 3 but an early double with jacks got me off to a good start, and I kicked on to be above average as the bubble loomed. I posted the most interesting bubble hand on ShareMyPair, and it generated quite a bit of discussion and disagreement on social media and beyond. A few people thought the hand was completely standard and uninteresting, which is clearly not the case as some absolute beasts disagreed majorly about how I should have played my hand. I think the reason for this was some top notch players don't understand how big a factor ICM plays in these spots and how much it changes optimal strategy. In earlier years I used to get frustrated over these spots where great played disagreed, and there was no way of knowing who was right.

These days, thankfully, we have solvers that can help, and after a few days playing around with it I had a clearer idea of how the hand should have been played, and why. I won't spoiler the results here as the hand will feature in the strategy segment of the next episode of the Chip Race (season 7 episode 5).

I got through the bubble safely and bagged up in or around average. Day 4 was a grim struggle for survival. I dropped as low as 6 big blinds several times, being forced to play even tighter than normal because of a 100K Last Longer promotion I was in. I played a crucial hand against Alex Foxen when I was short that I will look at in detail in next month's Bluff magazine.

Photo courtesy of Daiva

I clung on grimly and managed to avoid going bust with two pair on the feature table to make the unofficial final table. I came back 9/9 and managed to ladder one spot when Ryan Riess bust before me, but the miracle spin never realised. I was card dead for the two hours I survived and eventually busted shoving 87s on the button. As I said my goodbyes I gave Tom "Jabracada" Hall a hug and told him I was rooting for him now (which I genuinely was).

Although I was disappointed not to get a proper run at the final table, I was satisfied I'd got the maximum out of my tournament. I was very grateful to my boisterous rail that featured Daiva (who despite feeling poorly dragged herself out of bed to catch an early morning train from London, which for her is the equivalent of most people climbing Mount Everest :)), Barry and Gina Carter who travelled from Nottingham, Bergie, Espen and Jack Sinclair. Thanks to them and all who railed virtually: after a lacklustre 18 months life it's nice to put a couple of results together recently and prove there's life in the old Doke yet.



Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More