Friday, November 30, 2007

Don't feed the animals

I’ve probably said this so many times over the last two years that it’s becoming more farcical with each utterance, but I REALLY want to play more live poker.
I recently picked up a sponsorship deal that evaporated almost before it had begun, when the company decided to almost instantly fuck off out of the industry (I’m only 90% sure that their departure wasn’t my fault).

Anyway, before the wheelbarrow of cash trundled off into the distance I managed to be late for two of the staked tournaments (days before the law changed to allow late appearances!) made the final table bubble in another comp, and – as I write – am days away from playing in the last of my sponsored games. I’m so glad I have a garage filled with branded T-shirts.

The key point here thought is not about the sponsorship (I just needed to get it off my chest) but about the joys of playing in live games.

Yes, it helps develop your game; yes, it helps you develop your reading skills; yes, it’s a more social ways to approach the game. Yes, yes, yes…

However, what I’d like to concern myself with today is the fact that playing live poker allows you to meet the freaks. Smelly, stupid, egotistical, bullying, know-nothing morons who play a £10 sit and go like it’s the WSOP and are more than happy to pretend they’re Tony G when it comes to slagging you off for calling their minimum raise with 8-8, hitting trips and cracking their pocket aces.

I recently found myself in a £20 afternoon freeze-out at the Gutshot as part of a media event. Things were improved by the fact that a fellow journalist and keen poker player was sat to my right, so I could at least enjoy his company (as well as re-raise him for chuckles every time he tried to enter the pot.)

We sat examining our table chums… and BOY had we struck gold! I kid you not, it was like the poker zoo was in town and all the animals had stopped at our table to graze.

Exhibit A: The Donkey.
He handled his chips like they were oversized carrots and, when he accidentally made an under-bet, was told by a friendly player ‘it needs to be at least double the previous bet’. The donkey looked insulted. “Yes,” he honked, “I DO know how to bet”. He then proceeded to prove otherwise by calling a raise and a re-raise for all his chips with that monster of hands A-Q off-suit (I, incidentally, folded before him with AhQh, so his chances were ‘slim’ at best). As he trotted off sans chips I wondered if he even knew how to spell ‘Bet’ let alone how to do it.

Exhibit B: The Ape
This physically large specimen was all over the table like a hairy rash. Lining up flops, tidying chips, sorting out side-pots that didn’t involve him… he didn’t care what it was; if it was happening on the table he was in charge of it. At one point I needed a wee and was worried he’d come down with me to ensure all was ship-shape in the trouser department.

He’d routinely pretend to be Thomas Kremser, spouting rules based loosely on the actual rules, but displaying none of the authority, poise, or actual knowledge required to take over a table in such a way. He was also the master of calling your hand, and even after 10 or so miserable failures, was still more than happy to announce “Jacks” with all the certainty of a man telling you how many feet he had regardless of the 7-8 in your hand. When he was finally out of the game, he was able to tell us all in great detail exactly why it was his fault for playing too well against such ill-equipped competition. Whatever. We didn’t care. We had all his hairy chips in our stacks.

Exhibit C: The Peacock
A magnificent puffed-up prancing cock with his glorious tail feathers on display for all to see. He was a hardcore poker pro who’d obviously been there, seen that, and had played poker for more years than you’ve had hot dinners (sonny). He even knew a chip trick. Yes, ‘a chip trick’. The only problem was that he had to bring his own ‘special’ chip (that his mum probably made for him) in order to do this trick, making it somehow less special, and also that much more sad. Oh, and he also had a lucky stone that protected his cards. Seriously, this boy was well kitted out for a £20 freeze-out. If he could have afforded to bring a masseuse to the room I’m pretty sure she would have been there; reluctantly squeezing his fat bonce while he played with his little pebble.

When my chum raised into his big blind, the peacock stared him down and spat: “the next time you raise my big blind I’m going all-in blind”. I don’t think our roaring, table-slapping, howling laughter and five minute piss-take was quite the result he’d hoped for, but it certainly made our day. He even stood up and put his jacket on every time he went all-in with the absolute nuts. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Anyway, you get the idea. Don’t sit at home enjoying poker, get out and enjoy people. Some of them are quite decent folk, and some of them are fucking hilarious. Happy hunting.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It ain't easy

Probably the Holy Grail for most poker players is getting some kind of sponsorship deal. The thought of being able to play with the best poker players on the planet without having to personally stump up thousands in cash sounds like a dream come true. Oh, and the prize money is hardly a put-off either…
I recently had this dream realised, when a company called WINunited decided to make me a sponsored player – representing them in a bunch of UK tournaments.

Now I always thought the tough part of the tournament circuit was the long hours of focus required at the felt; the punishing ‘fold fold fold’ of card-dead levels; the grim buffets; having Tony G slag your mum off to your face while Devilfish tries to get off with your girlfriend, etc. However, I’ve recently found that the hardest part of the gig is actually getting to the bloody games in the first place!

With the GUKPT taking place in nearby Luton, it seemed the perfect opportunity to unwrap my freshly-branded shirt and get things going at the tables. Having had the funds transferred to my account, I logged into the official GUKPT site just to be sure I had the details right. There it was: Wednesday 8th August, £300 PL Omaha, 8pm. Superb. With Luton about an hour’s drive from my gaff I thought I’d set out at about 5:30pm, giving myself plenty of time to get familiar with the venue, have a natter with anyone I knew there, and just generally prepare myself for the event. If the traffic was bad, I’d still be there no later than 7pm (7:30pm if it was REALLY bad).

I found myself too distracted to work during the day so ended up killing time playing Mah Jong for money (I’ll tell you more about that another time) until about 5pm when I thought I’d start gathering up my bits and pieces and prepare for the zip up to Luton. As well as the iPod, I’d also remembered to power up my trusty Tom Tom so that it could take charge of dragging my lazy arse up to Luton without having to think. I often worry that I’ve become too reliant on the Tom Tom. If it ever breaks down I’ll have to make a life for myself wherever I am at the time – I’ll never find my way back home without it.

Anyway, I decided to do a quick internet search to get the venue’s postcode for the GPS, so Googled the casino rather than jump direct to the GUKPT site I’d mostly been referring to. Up popped the address, along with the tournament listings. But something was wrong... On this site it had the £300 PLO as a 6pm event. The fools! They’d only gone and put the wrong time on their own site! How laughable. I mean… unless the official GUKPT site had got it wrong.... Nah. That was a ludicrous idea. I mean, how likely was it that the official site would be so stupid as to get the time wrong for their own event? Gulp…

I decided to call the card room anyway, you know, ‘just to be sure’: “Hello there. You’ll probably think I’m being silly (chortled I, nervously) but I just wanted to check that the time of the £300 Omaha event hasn’t changed.” “No sir,” I was reassured, “it’s still at 6pm.” AAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGG!

Sadly, no amount of Tom Tom-foolery or disregard for British speed limits could get me round the M25 and up the roadwork-laden M1 in anything less than an hour and a half, leaving me standing in the tournament room watching everyone play in MY tournament. I’ve never really understood the phrase crest-fallen, but my ‘crest’ was not only fallen, but dragging along the floor like a prolapsed anus.

All I could do was use the opportunity to register for the £1k Main Event in two days time, grab a free coffee, and shuffle back to my car and the pitiful stare of my GPS. “Take me home Tom Tom, take me home…”