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.