Friday, 17 January 2014

A bit of heat to start off the new year

My year started out far removed from the poker world on a beach in South Goa, India. The trip was originally planned to celebrate my good friend Rishabh's wedding in Mumbai but my friend Mike and I decided it'd be wise given we both had a bit of spare time to hit the beaches after the wedding over christmas and new year. Not only is it really, really cheap in India once you're actually there, but the wedding was a whopping 7-day event so even though I wasn't anything to do with the festivities, I felt pretty shattered afterwards and in need of some rest and relaxation.

Goa itself was fantastic and I'd thoroughly recommend it to people looking for a nice holiday spot during the cold winter months. The weather is just perfect over there, in fact, I don't think I saw a cloud in the sky the whole trip. Highlights include having dinner with a Gherka Colonel, getting lost motorbiking off into the South Goa/Karnataka jungle and bumping into snakes and monstrous sized spiders, chilling on the golden beaches and of course spending lot's of good time catching up with old friends.

Financially the year's started off on a great note. On the first Sunday and my first session of the year I was fortunate enough to win the 888 "mega-deep" tournament. Mega-deep is no understatement either, the tournament lasted just over 14 hours and it took 75 minutes to drop from 8 players to 7 players. Needless to say, what with being back from India a couple of days before and being up all night grinding this tournament out til 7:30am I was definately ready for bed. No rest for the wicked though as I had to jump in my car and race down to heathrow battling rush-hour coming out of Nottingham to make my flight connection to Miami. When will it end right? Ha...I managed to arrive in the knick of time and smoothly boarded the plane with 20 minutes to spare. To tell the truth I didn't even feel that shattered at this point, I think the adrenaline rush of winning my first major Sunday tournament in a good while and the sweat to make my flight resulted in me having an in-built caffeine boost that kept me up.

I arrived in the Bahamas on Tuesday and immediately got grinding. Fortunately the trip was a good one for me. I didn't get much going in the main event busting relatively early on day 2 in a standard flip spot. However, the side events treated me much kinder. I managed to get a solid deep run in the $2k side coming in 21st/~310 players and I believe 23rd in the $2k superKO bounty turbo tournament (which actually resulted in me making a loss on the tournament but that's a different story all together).

I did however manage to get another trophy for my cabinet in the $1k triple stud event! It was a small field with only 29 runners and $10.8k for first, but still a win's a win and I'm particularly happy as although I wasn't the best player in the field, I feel that my stud game has come on a long way in the past year and I've put a fair amount of effort in at improving. I ran pretty good 3-handed vs Kuhns89 and David Bach who were probably the best players in the field overall so it was also somewhat of a confidence boost that I didn't get totally run-over by some of the better mixed game pros. So it's nice to get my first live mixed game win under my belt. Hopefully this is just a warmup for the world series in the summer in Vegas where these mixed fields actually draw decent numbers with big money up top.

Overall my PCA trip was fantastic. I had a good balance between grinding hard, enjoying the resorts facilities and spending a good amount of time catching up with friends and going out for meals. A couple of Brits, good friend Max Silver and Tom Hall got really deep runs in the main but just fell short of the ridiculously huge money coming in 9th and 10th places respectively. I expect more big things to come from the Brits this year especially in the live arena.

So what's next for me? I'm off again on Saturday jetting off to Vegas then straight onto Vancouver for a couple of weeks skiing in Whistler with some friends. The trip coincides pretty nicely with the Pokerstars TCOOP schedule and given how West coast Canada has an 8 hour time difference to UK I can actually wake up relatively early in the mornings, grind out a bit of TCOOP then ski late morning and afternoons. In theory this all sounds like it will work out pretty well, however, if I know my friends they'll be wanting to go out drinking most nights, so I'll just have to see once the jetlag leaves how realistic this idea is! 2 years ago I was in Las Vegas during TCOOP and last year I was in China (which has the worst timezone for MTTs out there) so I've not actually had a proper go at the series. I'm not sure how much volume I'll be getting in whilst in Canada but it'd be nice to keep up the early year heater with a nice quick turbo score to celebrate out there.

GL at the tables

Friday, 13 December 2013

Escaping the British Winter

As the weather in England to continues to decline and the nights seem to get endlessly darker, I've found myself in a very fortunate spot to be heading for warmer climates again this year through mid-December through to early February.

One of my very close friends, Rishabh, who was one of my housemates during university is getting married in Bombay next week and I've been lucky enough with a friend to be invited to his wedding. He didn't have to ask me twice, as soon as he mentioned it I was immediately checking out the first flights over to India in December. I've never been to an Indian wedding before, so I'm not entirely sure what to expect but I do know it's a multi-day event spreading over 7 days so I'm sure there'll be lot's of good food and alcohol involved in the mix. This will be my second trip to India and it's definitely one of the countries which has left a lasting impression on me. Everything from the culture, the climate, the people and of course the food is like nothing I'd ever witnessed before. It's not an ideal holiday destination for everyone, but if you have an adventurous side and are open for new experiences, I couldn't recommend the country anymore. It honestly feels to me like stepping into a different world. Hopefully I'll have some great stories and photos to share in a future blog entry.

After the weeks wedding celebrations in Mumbai, I'll be heading to the beaches of Goa to spend the last few days of the year sipping beers and chilling in the sun. That does mean I'll be spending my second year in a row away from family on Christmas day which definitely has its downsides but a sacrifice I'm currently very happy to take.

Directly after the Indian trip I'll be heading to the other side of the world to participate in the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure, which could well be my favourite stop on the poker tour all year. I went 2 years ago and it was amazing. The poker schedule looks amazing for it and I've sold a fairly large package including lots of side events. I'm hoping that I can add a few more Bahamas flags to my hendon mob on the trip, but even if it all goes horribly wrong on the poker front, there are far worse places to be stranded for a week in the world!

Finally, in late January and early February I'll be jetting off to Vancouver for a ski trip to Whistler with a big group of friends. I love skiing, it's definitely among my top hobbies and I hear the Whistler resort is one of the best in the world. I'm debating getting an instructor to tackle some of the more challenging off-piste runs available at the resort. There's something about off-pisting which has always drawn me despite the obvious dangers associated with it. The feeling of going through fresh powder no-one else has skiied down is one of the greatest feelings and often the adrenalin of whizzing down slopes coupled with amazing scenery gives you such a rush almost unmatched anywhere else. Oh, and you can't flick in a trip to North America without a cheeky detour via Vegas on the way home of course!

So a very busy, hopefully fun, probably expensive few months coming up!

As far as the poker's concerned, things have been going pretty decently lately. No huge scores but nothing catastrophic either. I managed to get supernova on pokerstars for the first time this past week which is somewhat of an achievement for me. Prior to 2013 I'd never really played that much on stars, always tending more towards the lower variance, smaller fields on the euro sites. These days though I feel that large parts of the pokerstars schedule are pretty unmissable for a mid-stake MTT grinder like myself. I plan on keeping up my stars volume heading into 2014 and hopefully if the stars align can land myself with a few decent scores on there once I'm settled back in England again in the spring.

On the live front, things have been relatively quiet recently. With so much travelling going on in the next few months I fancied some more time at home to spend playing online and seeing my girlfriend and hanging with my other non-poker friends in Nottingham. This all changed when the UKIPT rolled into town a couple of weeks ago which was certainly an experience. I somewhat naievely decided that my new bungalow that I'm living in is more the size of a mansion than it actually is, so after inviting 6-7 people round to crash at mine during the series, only on the first night when everyone arrived did we start to realise there may be somewhat of a logistical problem. And so the Nottingham poker homeless shelter was established! At least temporarily... Even though everyone was huddled together slightly more than we all had planned it was great to have so many friends staying at mine for the week with the highlight being Jon Spinks using some of the house run-good and shipping the £2k high-roller with Mickey Peterson coming in a close 3rd. Represent guys!

For me personally, I just played the £1100 6-max main event. Whilst it was a ton of fun, I didn't get much going in the tournament and sizzled out on the last level of day 1. To everyone's somewhat surprise there was an overlay on the £500k prizepool that Pokerstars guaranteed. Whether that be due to the 6-max nature of the event not attracting as many players, the tournament just coming up to Christmas which is always a difficult time for families financially or that there were less satelittes due to the huge promotions Pokerstars were offering for the previous stop on the tour in the Isle of Man. Most likely it was a combination of all the factors. Huge props to Pokerstars though who after acknowledging the overlay immediately sent press releases out advertising the next seasons stop in Nottingham boasting an enormous £1million guaranteed prize pool. Perhaps the Nottingham poker player homeless shelter will open it's doors once again in April for this event...that's if I haven't put everyone off staying at mine in the meantime!

With that all said, I'll be using my travels over the next few weeks to really evaluate my year and set my focus and goals on what I want to achieve in 2014 and where I will want to be.

 Here's hoping for big things in the future.

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year and of course good luck at the tables!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Heating up for Christmas


After last months very hectic online schedule, it was time to take a little break and hit the live felt hard. I always seem to find myself having a bit of a love-hate relationship with live poker. On the one hand, the thrill of going deep, building huge chipstacks, travelling to glamorous events and getting to play for huge sums of money in often relatively soft fields is a huge draw for me. On the other hand, live poker can be a draining, withering and expensive experience. I've played a lot of live poker over the years in various parts of the world in various game types, and for me, it is what you make of it. After realising the huge opportunity cost and expenses often associated in a live tournament series, I've come up with a few rules I like to try to stick by when playing live poker.

If I can't comfortably drive home in less than 2 hours then the event needs to meet the following criteria:

1) Be in a nice setting with a good climate
 -Vegas ticks all of these boxes. Part of the huge draw I have to Vegas every year is the amazing weather. A lot of people don't like it, and a Nevada summer certainly can be unbearable. But coming from England, there's something that just makes me smile every day when I wake up and look out of my window and see blue skies and can get away with wearing flip-flops, shorts and a tshirt every day (until I walk inside the Rio poker-room but that's another story!)

2) Have great cuisine on hand
 -This isn't just about bingeing on comfort food after making a day 3 without cashing, but at various poker stops it's pretty common to meet up with lots of friends also travelling to events and going out for meals. I'm a fat-bastard at heart and food is always really high-up on my priority list. Fortunately, I'm also not a fussy-eater so I can usually tick this box in most places in Southern Europe (mmm Italian/French), Asia and America. 

3) Have outdoor activities to do outside of poker
 -This is something I've really tried to work on more the past few years, living a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. I think focus at the poker tables can be greatly improved, even if just by going on a small 1-2 hour hike and getting fresh air the day before being sat down at a poker table for 12 hours. I think going out and drinking with friends is always going to be great fun, but it's about getting the balance and having alternatives to indulge in. Plus, does anyone ever play their A-game with a hangover? Certainly not me!

So with that, it means I'm going to be looking much more at playing tournaments in places like Vegas, Italy, South France, PCA in the Bahamas and much less likely to want to fly over to places like Ireland or Germany for a tournament. If I didn't live and grow up in England, I certainly wouldn't be flying here for tournaments either, that's for sure! 

I made somewhat of an exception to my rules in early October and decided to venture out and play the full UKIPT/EPT schedule in London. It was my first proper live tournament grind since Vegas in the Summer and I was starting to get that itch again. Sure, London doesn't have the greatest of weather, it's seen as one of the tougher stops of the EPT and it's REALLY expensive but it does tick the right boxes in a few other categories. From a purely financial perspective, it was probably a little irresponsible to go given I'd had to rent accommodation for the week in central London, but fortunately this time I ran pretty hot and managed to win 2 tournaments :)

The series had a ton of side events which is always a plus for me and they're pretty much all in a range that I'm very comfortable playing (£300-£1000 buyins) where I treat the tournament very seriously but at the same time feel very comfortable with the buy-ins and won't be nervous leading up to bubble situations. In total, I played 8 tournaments on the trip securing a win in a £1k turbo tournament for £22k after a chop with good friend Timothy Finne, a win in the £300 turbo "win-the-button" event and a min-cash in a £1k single re-entry tournament. Live poker's a lot of fun when you run good! Neither of the fields in my two wins were particularly huge, especially in comparison to other EPT stops on the tour such as Barcelona or Deuville. I'm not sure whether that's to do with the current state of live poker in the UK or whether a lot of people were put off by the fairly high travel expenses required to stay in central London to play these events. Regardless, the schedule was amazing, and I have to give big props to pokerstars for including some other fun events in the mix like an affordable 8-game. When the general public realise how much fun playing live 8-game is compared to NLH grinding I think, or hope at least, that there'll be a big boom in mixed games particularly in Europe. Already PLO is catching on a lot so it'd be nice if that extended over to the mixes too. I expect that without the TV-coverage and the intimidation factor that even a £500 buyin can have, this might be more hope rather than expectation that the games start to pick up in popularity however. 

Outside of the poker I managed to visit a lot of old friends in London and had some great meals out and about town including a night out with friends to the London leg of Oktoberfest. I'm sure it doesn't compare remotely to the real-deal in Germany, but I had a great night regardless. I was also really happy to see the introduction of both five-guys and shake shack to London. Hopefully that'll be the start of the expansion of amazing fast-food in England. The English love burgers and fast-food, but are options are SO bad compared to what you can get in America. So seeing two of the best US chains setting up shop in London AND being really popular is great! I was most impressed with Shake Shack - it might well have been the best fast-food burger I've ever eaten and if anyone's around Covent Garden I'd say it's a must to try it out. 

All this burger talk is making me hungry, so back to the poker. One thing I'm really excited about that DTD is leading the forefront in is combining live and online poker together. Now for the monthly deepstacks you can play day 1 online! Not only is it amazing for the players like me, who often find live day 1's a bit of a grind but it makes perfect sense for the club as I assume they generate far more money on their online skin than the live club itself. It's really awesome being able to play a regular MTT schedule and have an online day 1 on the side which collaborates with the live day 1s and comes together at the club on day 2. Not only is my hourly significantly improved, but it should also reach a wider audience. Going back to my point above, who'd want to spend a 3-day weekend in Nottingham if you could just make day 2 online from the comfort of your home and then travel up for day 2 when the poker's a lot more fun and intense and you're playing for decent money without anywhere near as many expenses on the side. 

Following on from this, with the launch of the online poker brand in Nevada, it would be amazing next Summer if whilst in Vegas you could relax by the pool in the evening and play a quick $150 online satelitte to jump into the following days live $1500 buyin. Especially if they could generate decent exposure and get some nice megas with 50 seats guaranteed etc. ala pokerstars do for their WCOOPs. Hell, the WSOP might even have online day 1s in the future where you could play the first x levels online and then rejoin with the live day 1 crowd on day 2. Although that's probably several years off in reality. But I can still see it happen. Like many industries, it makes perfect sense to combine both live and online platforms especially as online should in theory be more profitable from charging the same rake but with significantly reduced expenses and having the ability where people can be playing and paying rake in multiple tournaments or cash games at once. Exciting prospects in the next few years I believe!

November so far has been quite relaxed, I've been spending a lot of time with friends and family and chilling in my new house. I've been trying to spend a lot more time working on my game away from the computer, specifically my NLH game. I'm still not at the point where I think I'm one of the best regs in the stars games I play and it's something I really strive to be and I understand how much work I have to do and put in to get to that point. Poker's such a crazy game. After playing so many millions of hands over so many years and there is still so much more to the game that I don't fully understand and areas that I still need to improve on. In a way, it's a good thing as I think that if I thought I was at the point where I was the best or had solved the game, I might have very little motivation to continue ploughing forward. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case maybe, I'm far from that point yet!

So on with the grind...

Gl at the tables all.

Friday, 4 October 2013

September: the month of close calls

September is always a huge month for online poker and in 2013 it was no different. In fact, it was probably my biggest month to date with me wagering more on tournament buyins than in any month prior. Unfortunately, it also turned out to be a pretty frustrating month with a lot of close-calls but to act as if months like this aren't going to happen (and with some frequency!) as a tournament professional would be a huge naievity on my behalf.

 I have to say, despite the frustrations, I did have a fun month hardcoring on the grind. I can mainly thank Pokerstars for this and their excellent World Championship of Online Poker series that they held for 3 weeks this month. Alas, this time I didn't manage to reach one of the elusive final tables, however, I did manage a 3rd place in the 5card PLO8 6max second chance tournament. I had close runs as well coming in 12th in one of the big $320 NL events (which I final tabled 2 years prior) as well as a couple of other top 1% finishes which don't always guarantee too much money given how many runners in the field and how small payouts can be outside of the final tables!

I decided this month as well to step my game up and really try to give some of the better structured $1k, $2k and the main event a try. Despite no real success I had a really good time playing the super-deepstacked structures and felt very comfortable in them. I had top 20% finishes in the big Sunday $2k, $2k HORSE and the $5k main event but fell short of the money in all of them. Bit of a shame, as a cash in any of those would have been my biggest mincash to date online but I'm not too disheartened as I feel I played well (oh doesn't everyone think that!) and will keep trying to put myself in these positions so with a little added run-good can make a run for the final table and victory!

Alongside the Pokerstars WCOOP I was also playing my regular schedule as well as the Winamax series and partially selecting some of the MiniFTOPs series. The Winamax series I loved, the MiniFTOPs less so. I think that FTP with their MiniFTOPs series really need to cut down on all the novelty tournaments like Irish, Courcheval, 6-card PLO and go back to a more traditional series replicating more the WSOP. Sure it can be fun playing some of these weird poker variants, but they're often hard to multitable and there's usually a reason why the games never run as cash-games or are popular outside of the series. With the lower buy-ins of MiniFTOPs as well I was finding myself less and less motivated to play on the site as the series progressed.

The Winamax series on the other hand was a lot more fun. Their series is much more NLH-focussed and I believe to be much better representation of what the players actually want to play. Myself, Alex Goulder and BobaFett did a little motivational prop bet on the series working playing all NL events 6max+ and to see who cashed for the most. To tell the truth, we all performed quite poorly without a single final table between us all! I managed to secure the win in the prop-bet by making a few deep-runs final 2-tabling four of the tournaments but falling short just before the big money. C'est la vie!

I always find it funny how heater and downswing cycles work. I regularly play on 7-8 sites throughout the week and it's interesting to see which sites I find myself running like Usain on whilst simulataneously finding I can't win a showdown on other sites. This month I seem to be heating it up on Party Poker which is really ironic as after their latest update it's probably my least favourite site I grind on now. My ROI in their nightly $100 turbo (which is more like a $100 hyper on any other site) is way over 100% at the moment, seems sustainable..!

So after a long month of being a slave to my computer, I'm giving myself a bit of a break and heading down to London for the UKIPT and EPT series. This is the first proper series I've played live since Vegas and I'm really pumped for it. I've sold action for all tournaments above £500 and can't wait to get back into the action.

Interestingly, I've noticed that buying and selling action is starting to dry up a little bit, and I'd say it's probably about time. I'm noticing more and more in the 2p2 marketplace packages that used to sell out very quickly stalling for days and often not selling out at all. Over the past couple of years, from my observations alone, I feel that the marketplace has really been a sellers market with a lot of over-valued packages, very few "good" buys and lot's of "bad" buys that are quickly selling out. Naturally, as the long-run progresses, a lot of these "bad" buys tend more towards their natural EV and a lot of buyers either run out of money or become disheartened at constantly losing money by paying such premiums for peoples action. Now, whether it is because there's less money in the poker economy (which after WCOOP and the WSOP isn't suprising) or people are becoming more educated and knowledgable about buying action and reasonable markups the demand for packages has slipped a lot. Whilst this does effect me, as a mid-stake grinder, who semi-frequently sells action to live events, I still think it's a good thing.

I'll be quite happy to see the marketplace transition more towards a buyers market, with a lot more good value packages on offer so that investors can get exactly that; an investment rather than a roulette spin. In the current climate, there's really not that many good short-term investment opportunites as there is. Hell, even short-term saving rates in banks at the moment are often running below inflation (so the actual value of your money is decreasing even in a savings account) so to have more investment opportunities in an industry that I understand and feel confident in for myself is a good thing. Similarly, I'd go as far to say it's better for poker too. There are some professionals out there, without naming names, who rely day-in and and day-out for selling action to tournaments. They're not elite regs in the games and certainly not players that you fear at the table but they're also not big losers in the game either. If in tournaments you get a big influx of marginal regs who need to sell action to get into the game and all have between 0-15% ROI in the tournament, it does significantly reduce everyone else's edge in the tournament itself. That return has got come from somewhere, either by reducing other regs ROIs or further increasing a weaker players loss rate. And when these players can charge a 25% markup on their action it's generally just reducing the overall profitability and money being spread around the poker community.

Bit of a long-ramble there and I'm not sure all of my points are totally accurate as I have no figures or evidence to support them but I'd be pretty suprised if I was wildy off-point too. I also think these points and the trend will only continue and become more apparent as the number of higher-buyins on the online and offline circuit increase requiring players to have increasinly large bankrolls (or backers pockets) to support the events. As an example, you only have to look at highrollers to see how saturated that market is becoming. In London this month there's a EPT super-highroller £50k re-entry, £100,000 WPT Alpha8 as well as the usual £10k highrollers and £2k UKIPT highrollers. This is a trend that can only be exaggerated at the lower limits. So where will the money come from to support players in these events?
So an exciting couple of weeks ahead of me in London with the poker festivities. Then I'm debating going up to Edinburgh for a few days to see my Dad and friends up there and after that depending on how things are going it will probably be time to head back to the online grind again and try to earn some money to pay for all of this!

Good luck at the tables

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

I'm Back!


After a long hiatus I've decided to return to the blogging  circle to document the swings and swongs in my life as I  continue to try and make a living playing tournament poker!

It's been over a year now since I last posted and I can't  promise that the updates will be regular but I'd like to try  and do at least one blog post a month.

So what's been happening in my life in the last 12 months?  Well, a lot. Here's a some-what scaled down version.

I made it out to Vegas for the 2012 WSOP - did not return home  with a gold bracelet, but had a great time. Played my first  non-NL hold'em event; $1500 PLO 8 or better and it was the  most fun I had playing a live tournament for a long time. I  was also shocked at how soft the field was in comparison to  the NLH events.I made it my goal over the next year to learn  mixed games and get better at them for next years WSOP.

Came back to England post-Vegas, got back on the MTT grind,  studied mixed games on the side. Had a few personal issues  with the girlfriend and was becoming increasing burnt out from  just grinding tournament poker so snapped up a chance when a  good friend of mine living in Guangzhou, China invited me to  come out and live with him for a few months.

I left England in October, headed to Hong Kong, Macau and then  finally mainland China with not much of a plan other than a 6 -month visa.

Still feeling burnt-out from poker and wanting to develop  myself in other ways I started to live a polar-opposite  lifestyle for a few months from my previous poker playing  ways. My childhood friend, Atti, a sereal-entrepreneur owns a  successful English teaching agency and was interested in  starting up another project on the side with me. We decided to  venture into the (soon to be found out) topsy-turvy world of  real-estate in a communist country. And I thought there was a  lot of variance in tournament poker...

I was going out every night, meeting lot's of people, learning  Mandarin and a bit of Cantonese, eating amazing food and  working on our ideas and start-ups in my friends office in  downtown Guangzhou all week. Often we'd then end up heading  over to Macau to go partying and gambling at the weekends.

After a couple of months of living a more "normal" lifestyle,  the poker itch started to come back. Due to the time-zone, my  social commitments and the office work, MTT's were pretty much  out of the question. So I spent most of my free-time studying  and playing small stake mixed games trying to improve and  become a better player.

Come March, my visa was coming to an end. I really had the  most amazing 6 months out there and felt like I developed some  really strong friendships with the ex-pat community living out  there scraping by a living one way or the other. One of the  highlights definately being a big group of us going to  Cambodia over Chinese New Year and then road-tripping up to  Bangkok afterwards. Unfortunately the multi-million £ business  idea was starting to show some serious flaws and we were  having some real legal issues being foreigners trying to  establish a business in a country that prides itself on  keeping as much money within it's borders as it can.

I had a lot of time to reflect on where I wanted to head in  life, where I see myself in the next year and what I wanted to  achieve. Although in many ways it pained me to leave China and  my friends that I developed over the past 6 months, I decided  to come back and stay in England for a little while, refocus  on poker and really give the game another shot. Afterall it  was and still truly is a huge passion of mine and without  trying to sound too much like a cliche I am blessed to be  doing something that I love for a living.

I returned to England and with all of my stuff being in  storage and no place to live, spent the next month or two with  friends. I'm especially grateful for Jon Spinks who I stayed  with during SCOOP (Pokerstars Spring Cup of Online Poker);  he's had such a huge impact on my game and I really feel has  helped progress me a lot as a player.

Although SCOOP itself didn't treat me too kindly, I was loving  being back in the tournament scene again, grinding hard  everyday. As soon as 2 weeks of SCOOP was up, the very next  day I was off to Vegas for the full 6 weeks of fun in the sun.

Feeling ever-more confident in my mixed game ability I put a  much greater focus on the WSOP and the mixed games offered  there. I found myself getting deep-runs in a lot of events  including the $2500 OE (limit o8/stud8), $5k HORSE, $2.5k 8- game but falling short before the money. Fortunately, I ran a  little better in the $2500 10-game tournament placing 22nd  from the 372 entrants that started. I have to say, other than  winning a tournament, it was the most fun I think I've ever  had playing live poker. I felt so zoned in and comfortable  that even though it's only September, I can't wait for next  years world series to have another crack at some of these  events.

I also managed to get a deep run in a couple of the NL events  out there coming in a slightly frustrating 14th from 1819 in a  $1500 event but again feeling very happy to get a decent 5- figure score under my belt ensuring a small, but profitable  trip out to the states.

So now I'm back in England, I've moved into a new place in  Nottingham and I'm getting set up and ready to re-commence the  grind. I feel like I've come along way in the past 12 months  not only as a poker player but also as a person. It'll be  interesting to see what the next 12 months bring...

Monday, 4 June 2012

Summer is here!


The month of June has kicked off and the Summer has officially arrived. The days are getting longer, the weathers improving and poker players from all around the world are flocking to a little town in the Desert to battle hard for shiny gold bracelets. What a fantastic time of year!

Since my last update in April a lot has happened with me on the poker front. The higlight of which being my second live tournament win and also by far my biggest ever score. It came in the FPS-Amneville; a €1100 pokerstars run tournament in East France. After 3 long days battling on the felt I managed to run good enough and maintain focus to come out winning it for €70,000, keeping €54k for myself after a chop heads-up. In hindsight, and hindsight is such a bitch, I do kind of regret doing a chop. My heads-up opponent wasn't great but his willingness to get it in relatively light preflop meant heads-up could be pretty high variance and the €26k jump between 1st and 2nd was and still is pretty huge for me especially as stacks got shallower and the blinds slowly creeped up as the night progressed. The tournament on the whole was incredibly soft though, partly due to being in France and partly because the SCOOP online series was going on at the same time resulting in not many competent players being in the field. Despite that, as the cream normally seems to rise to the top in these events, the final table was by far the toughest table I had played in the tournament thus far. Although saying that, I probably also ran-good on table draws which is another factor many people overlook. We got down to 3-handed and thanks to PokerStars' excellent structure in these events found ourselves all pretty even with 50bb a piece. And I thought the grind was almost over. We entered 3-handed play at 6pm and after many swings and fluctuations in my chip-stack I managed to finally win all the chips by 4:30am. An extremely exhausting but truly gratifying experience.

After the win, my next priority was to get out of France as fast as possible. The sun was shining, the food was delicious, but I had one thing on my mind; grind on the mind! With my new-found bankroll boost and just one more week of SCOOP left to donate/make money in I was surprisingly more motivated than ever to get back online and start grinding hard. I really enjoy grinding hard in these online poker series especially ones with mixed games with good structures.

For me personally I rarely get involved in mixed-game tournaments, usually when I'm grinding for simplicitys sake I like to stick to NLHE only and think that most mixed game tournaments on Stars either have very small fields or the buy-in is just too low to bother with. I could grind the weekly $200s but they're normally on Saturday or Sunday when I'm overloaded with NLHE tournaments and I ideally like to reduce my tables whilst playing other variants of poker and really concentrate more on optimal lines. Whereas I think I can play mixed games in that I know the rules and basic strategies, I'm far from competent in any of the variants but love the challenge and genuinely do enjoy playing them.

So that's what I started to do. In the SCOOP I got deep runs in the $50 LHE 6max, $24 Stud-hi, $27 Razz and the highlight of my SCOOP being a 6th place finish in the $215 NL Omaha hi/lo. I'd not actually played no-limit omaha hi/lo before (other than the satelitte to the event!) but have played a fair amount of cash in FL H/L, pot limit H/L and PLO so I had a fair understanding of what I was doing. I have to say I think it's a really really fun game type and something I'm going to be looking to play more of in the future. It's much more suited in my eyes towards tournament play over cash games but that's fine with me as I prefer a tournament grind any day of the week. I also managed to cash 4/4 times in the Sunday $27 and $215 6max tournaments. I don't play a huge amount of 6max tournaments as they do require a lot more attention than full ring. But with the amazing SCOOP structures I was able to play a relatively solid style and watch people spew stacks left, right and center and was lucky enough to be the reciepient in a lot of cases. My best run in these was 37/5200 in the final $200 6max. All I can say now is bring on WCOOP!

Since SCOOPs winded down I've taken a couple of weeks to relax, get away from poker and catch up with friends. I've just come back from a hiking holiday in the Scottish highlands and I'm currently relaxing on the south coast in Devon stuffing my face with far too many pasties and cream-teas! The tough life ;)

I'll be getting back on the grind as of next weekend. It'll be a week and a half until I leave for Vegas so I'll see it as a good warmup and hopefully run hot enough to get a good run going before the live grind later on this month.

As for Vegas, I'm not 100% sure what I'll be playing yet. I'll be there for just over 2 weeks to grind side-events and then there's the main. I think at the moment that I'll be keeping my own action in the side-events and will put up a package for the main event. Although I'd love to start grinding some of the mixed games at the series, I don't know if I can justify playing them. I'm still not competent enough or put the hours in off the table to be confident enough in my abilities to be playing tournaments at the top of my buy-in range in mixed events. But damn, would they be fun. I might try a couple of punts this Summer but over-all it will just be the No Limit grind. I'll probably be spreading most of my action between the Rio and the Venetian with possible trips downtown or to Caesers. I'm slightly concerned with playing the lower buy-ins on my own roll rather than putting up a bigger package to play larger buyin WSOP events. Whereas the competition will be tougher in the bigger buy-ins (and I'm talking $2ks/$3ks not $5ks or higher) due to the better structures and much lower rake they may in fact be more beatable. I'll have to have a think about this one. I always prefer keeping as much of my own action as possible, but in the past this has led to nasty downswings where I've been playing pretty under-rolled. Regardless, with my new bankroll boost I'm really pumped to get out there and start grinding in Vegas. It's going to be amazing win or lose I'm sure.

GL at the tables guys, unless something huge happens the next update will be in Sunny Las Vegas!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

2012 So Far


My last blog entry was in January after I was just returning from the PCA and a short Vegas excursion. Since then a lot has happened and I have a lot more planned for 2012. This is definately shaping up to be a fantastic year so far...

So after returning from my American adventures I had three things on my mind; get back on the online grind, get back on the health+fitness grind, my girlfriend. And not necessarily all in that order! I always find that I feel the same way on my return flight every time I take a trip across the pond. Everything always seems to cost so much more on these American trips than I originally budget for. Coming from England where it's pretty clear how much everything costs it can be a slight shock to the naieve Brit to see how much you are actually paying for everything out there. A simple example is going for a meal in a restaurant. You might order a £10 meal in England, after the meal you'll pay the £10 charge and if you were satisfied with the service leave a tip. In America however, the prices are very deceptive indeed. For one, the price never reflects the true cost of the good or service as tax is never included in the advertised price. So a $10 burger can end up costing $12.46 at the cashier. Similarly tipping is more of a compulsary social etiquette where you can really be frowned upon if you don't tip the expected amount despite how you might rate the quality of service. I still remember how shocked I was in my first Summer in Vegas where me and my house mates went for a meal and had some of the worst service I've ever have in a restaurant. The waitor was rude, got our orders wrong, put no effort in and really put no effort in creating an enjoyable experience for our party. However, one of the house-mates from California despite the agreeance amongst us of the bad service felt compelled to pay a full 15% tip just because that is the norm. It's the same for dodgy taxi drivers. It's pretty obvious from my accent I'm not a local in America but I've been often enough to know my way around Vegas pretty well so when a taxi driver takes you on the long-route to bump up the fare why the hell should we tip for that? Ha, enough of the rant. Overall I think service in America really is significantly better than in England which is weird as they expect tips almost all of the time whereas in England you'd expect a greater effort for tips as the expectation isn't always there. Similarly, I admire the corporate hustle. Corporate service-sector America seems to have successfully brain-washed the population into believing that as customers one should be responsible for effectively paying the wages of the employees on top of the price of the service rather than the corporations paying their employees a proper wage themselves.

Also the fatness. It's scary. I love my food. There's not much more that I enjoy in Vegas than digging my teeth into a giant double-double animal style burger from In'N'Out with mountains of cheesy fries on the side and washing it all down with a full-fat milkshake. The difference being that in America, in Vegas in particular, it's far too common a site to see the results of what this kind of diet can lead to. And it is scary. Just take a look at the World Series Of Poker in the Summer at the Rio. The amount of people that rely on over-sized shopmobility scooters to get them around the casinos because they're too big to walk around themselves is just shocking. In Britain walking around you rarely see the kind of obesity that you see over there. Sure, it's fair to say the average 40-50 year old male has a bit of a beer belly and maybe devoured one too many pies in their time but not to the same extent. I think it would be far too easy to slip into a destructive lifestyle with the availabilty of cheap and tasty fast-food out there and it's certainly a route that I'm determined, despite my weakness for all things fatty (except the ladies!), to steer well clear of.

So as I came back, grind was officially back on my mind. I mainly focused on grinding online and was off to a great start in February starting the year off on a nice heater after a slowish start. Unfortunately I hit somewhat of a standard downswing online donating back ~$15k in a 2 week period. With an average buy-in of around $40-$50 you can imagine how those two weeks went!

Stars seems to be somewhat a big factor towards my $15k downswing. Variance on that site can be really nasty and I'm sure I don't help myself out with my game selection. I usually just play the big 109/big162 and then flick it in for some of the late night turbos and of course the Sunday majors. Not exactly the low-variance route I should probably be taking but in playing these select tournaments on a regular basis without much filling them I have to come to the realisation that $20k+ downswings can almost be viewed as 'standard'. Not something I like to think about too much! If you're playing just on Pokerstars like a lot of people do, I would really recommend filling in your schedule with lower-variance tournaments while you play. Be it big-field soft tournaments (like the big11 if you're really over-rolled for it) cap-tournaments and 180man games. Exclusively playing big field tournaments with big guarantees can of course offer the chance of that big 5-figure score, but just be prepared for the variance that comes a long with it!

In terms of live I've played a fair bit, but mainly kept it local at Dusk Til Dawn. I'm really liking the way the clubs shaping up. Recently they had a £500 (re-entry)/£250k gtd that beat the guarantee and last weekend was the mahooosive UKIPT Nottingham with a £1million guarantee on the £770 buyin tournament which again beat it's guarantee. A great sign for UK poker and I'm just so greaful that the clubs right on my door-step. Talking about UKIPT Nottingham, those who follow my twitter might be aware I made a deep day-3 run in the event in the end busting 41st/~1700 people for a £2.7k payday. This was my first day-3 in well over a year which was really refreshing. To be fair, most of the tournaments I play are usually over in 2 days (not that I'd know :p) so I can't really complain. But it was such a big morale boost to actually get a run together in one of these tournaments. I've actually made a suprisingly high number of day 2's this year mainly in DTD deepstacks but haven't had the fortune of turning that into any financial gain so this deep UKIPT run was a real motivational-boost.

This is my second UKIPT of the year after making the trip across to Galway in February for the weekend. I didn't have much success over there as I ever have really in Ireland but off the felt I had one of the best poker-weekends I've had. So many people I knew made the trip over for this and despite playing in Dublin a few times my experience in Galway was far superior. Without going into too much detail, as due to the amount of guiness consumed on the weekend my memory is a little hazy, but Irish pubs are the best. I really enjoyed it over clubbing for instance. Socially it was far superior and the atmosphere with live music made for some really great nights out.

Onto the future!

I have a lot planned and many exciting trips for the forthcoming weeks. First off is the Marbella Poker Festival in South Spain this coming week. This plans to be a great festival. About 15 of the guys from the midlands area have rented a couple of villas for the week and we're all pretty pumped to play the WPT-regional which is in effect the main-event of the festival. There is quite a few side-events too from the €200-€700 range which I'll be grinding. I'm sure there will also be a healthy mix of beer/sun/beach/bbq/pool parties mixed into the works to make a quite memorable trip..We shall see!

After that I'm heading off to FPS-Amneville, a €1k tournament in east France. I qualified for €100 so hoping the expenses aren't too high for the trip. I've had a lot of success on so far this year, in fact I'm pretty sure it's the site I'm up on the most by a considerable amount, so I feel like I'm quite well adjusted for whatever spewy lines the French throw at me. Also despite somewhat common consensus amongst poker players I really like France. It's the only other language than English which I have any chance of having a conversation in, I love the food and scenically much of the country is quite stunning.

A few more tournaments in and around Nottingham and then it's Vegas time again! This'll be my fourth visit to Sin City as it's effect certainly isn't wearing off on me just yet. Despite only being there in January I can't wait to go back and getting grinding the Summer tournaments. I'm going for 3 weeks this year rather than the 6 weeks I've done the previous two years. I know once the series kicks off and I start reading peoples twitter updates about how they're doing in the side events I'll be longing more than ever to catch the next flight over, but resist I must! I'm really hoping I can get a good, cheap online qualifier to the main event. I'm in for roughly $1k already in qualifiers without any sweats of an early main event package bink. Hopefully it won't take too long or cost too much to qualify this year. Last year I qualified on AP relatively early on in one of the $640 qualifiers. That didn't mean much though as my $10k is still sat on their site with my withdrawl still 'processing' over 12 months later. If I ever saw a penny of that money again I would be a very very happy bunny!

After Vegas, I'll be heading north to Montana for a week in the great outdoors. I'm expecting lot's of hiking, shooting, fishing, quad biking and basically a week to recover in nature after the 3 week Vegas grind. I've always wanted to explore more of America since my first visit but have felt in previous years that after 6 weeks in the desert all I really want to do is just get back home and get back to normality. After that it's home for a week before jetting off again for Turkey for my first non-poker related vacation for a long while with friends from home.

Couple all of this with the upcoming Party Poker poker-fest and Pokerstars SCOOP I have a very busy few months planned. As always I'll be trying to squeeze as many online-grind sessions in in the meanwhile and hopefully I'll get out of this mini-downswing soon and have a sexy upward graph to gloat about in my next blog post!

GL at the tables!