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 pokerstars.fr 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!