Tuesday, December 02, 2008

De Wolfe: Wasted literary genius? Discuss...

This is a strange entry, but I was recently handed a piece of paper that I didn’t know what to do with, so thought this was the best place to dump its contents.

To set the scene: I went to the Maidstone studios for a stint of commentary with Jessie May, and had two heats of the 888.com Open to work on. The morning heat was full of the usual Matchroom players: Marc Goodwin, Rolan De Wolfe, Dixie Dean, etc. and the second one was interesting in that it had Eddie Hearn himself playing in the tourney.

Now if you’ve never seen Eddie and Roland teasing each other, you’ve never seen man-boys recreating the playgournd while in their ‘mid-thirties’.

Eddie basically ribs Roland about being a ‘failed gambler who forever needs bailing out’ while Roland likes to suggest that Eddie ‘would be nothing if his rich daddy hadn’t given him a job’. Sometimes this row can go on for hours at a time. I once left a dispute, did commentary on a four-hour game, and came back to find it still going on. (I sh*t you not). Oh, they also spend a lot of time calling each other ‘fat’.

So this one particular day Roland was particularly unhappy to not be asked to do the commentary as he was relishing the thought of being able to attack Eddie constantly while Eddie was helpless to do anything about it. Needless to say Eddie asked me to work the heat rather than Roland which left him gutted. However, Roland didn’t waste the opportunity; scurrying away with paper and pen, and later presenting me with his ‘helpful notes’. He was keen that I try to use as many of them as possible during the broadcast. Needless to say, I didn’t.

Ladies and gentleman, may I present to you (word for word I hasten to add) the brain spillage of Mr Roland De Wolfe:

1. Eddie is nicknamed Darren after Darren Furguson, because he got his chance because of his dad but he’s nowhere as good.
2. Barry wanted Eddie to take over his whole business affairs, but rather like Fredo he is the useless limp son, so he gave him the poker department.
3. Eddie dated Jodie Marsh at the posh private school they went to.
4. Eddie was put on the board of Leyton Orient by his father. He has overseen a slump from top to bottom of the league and an Orient fans spokesman said "It’s like being lumbered with Barry Evans from Eastenders"
5. Also, Eddie is terrible at poker. Lost to Barry in 888 heads-up. Also, he is fat and orange like Tangoman.

So, hopefully you can see what I’m talking about here; some genuinely useful notes. Not.
Oh, and Ian Frazer didn’t get away scott free either. We continue…

1. TV specialist Frazer tried to move in on level 3 at the WSOP main event coz he thought that’s what you were meant to do.
2. Ian was asking for Marty Wilson to make a ruling at the Vic believeing he was the TD.
3. Frazer’s the richest man in Europe, owns half of Kent, and has four Ferraries.
4. Grabs people’s bollocks when drunk.
5. Relegated from Premier League for ‘abysmal performance’.
6. Couldn’t beat a £5 NL cash game or a £100 tournament that was open to all-comers.
7. Actually paid £50k to Matchroom to get in Premier League.
8. Old and washed up.

Now it’s important for me to make it clear I neither put these forward as serious opinions from Roland, nor do I agree with many (sorry - I meant ANY) of them.

Roland is a wasted writer in my opinion. His most recent Facebook status said: Roland is in Poland. It’s freezing and it appears to be 1992 here.
Genius? Discuss.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Tools at the Table

Though I like to almost entirely ignore poker in my writing (perhaps just including the word “poker” itself as a token gesture in the first paragraph) I thought I’d break the mould and respond to a question I faced recently about an apparently massive over-bet I made that came back to bite me in the arse.

The hand in question occurred during the Virgin Poker Festival at the Loose Cannon (doing a dazzling impression of a sauna thanks to a ‘heating malfunction’). Initially I was put on the dullest of tables; stuck out the back, dripping sweat onto my cards and enjoying the exploits of a player to my left who simply couldn’t grasp the fact that saying “raise 300” when there was already 150 on the table didn’t just double the bet to A TOTAL OF 300, but added 300, creating a 450 pot. Add to this constant over-building of the pot the fact that he was a serial calling station and, well… you can imagine the ‘fun’ we were all having with him. I pride myself on being polite and non-abusive at the table, but on a board of AQ994 I bluffed out a pot-sized post-river bet with air and got called because he had a ‘4’ in his hand, I couldn’t resist asking “is there anything you WON’T call with?” as the collective table slapped their foreheads for the nth time. Anyway, enough whinging…

I held my own through the first few levels; mostly just playing ABC poker against ABC opposition (and may I just remind you that if you ever find yourself up again a more ‘enthusiast’ than ‘professional’ field, continuation bets are the absolute bread and butter of building your stack). Finally our table was broken down and I was moved to a new spot in the centre of the room. I was immediately more comfortable as this was a chattier table, featuring some juicy stacks and a few ‘characters’ (i.e. plonkers).

The first thing I like to do when I arrive at a new table is spend a few minutes making entirely unfair, unfounded and - frankly - cruel assumptions about my opponents. Anyone who asks “how much is it?” every round or waits five minutes before looking at their cards when it’s their turn to act (and a further five minutes before folding so as not to give away any ‘tells’) is immediately labelled ‘numptie’. The numptometer also swings to “11” if I see anyone carefully laying out their chips a foot from the rail in neat, sequential piles; never mixing colours or amounts in case the universe implodes. I also like to imagine that anyone fat is also stupid. Don’t hate me; it’s just the way I am.

I had a cracking time at the new table; starting with decent hands, connecting with flops, and then continuation betting or re-raising to victory without having to show any cards. To the untrained eye I appeared to be the ‘table captain’ they’d all read about somewhere in a magazine. Actually I was just a lucky fish being hit round the head by the deck (don’t tell anyone – tee hee!)

I’d grown my stack to a comfortable 11k with the blinds still at only 200/400 when ‘The Hand’ happened. One of the numpties previously designated ‘Neat Stacks’ made an early min-raise to 800. Now we all know this is meant to indicate one of two things; either a monster hand or a tricky hand that players feel they should raise with but deep down don’t really fancy (i.e. pocket tens in early position). A hairy player two to my right called, and I looked down at KK. I had a think (which we’ll come back to later) and then pushed all-in. That’s right – 11,000 into about 2,000. Bonkers eh?

‘Neat stacks’ called for his 5,000 and I knew he had aces. Bollocks. The fun wasn’t over yet however, as ‘Hairy’ had a real quick think and then also called for his total 7,000. Now the question I imagine is running through your heads is ‘just what can hairy have other than aces that warrants a call here?’ Well I can tell you that ‘Hairy’ had AK. Yes – all his chips with nothing more than ace-high and only 800 previously invested. And THAT, my friends, is why I pushed with KK in the first place. Consider this: if ‘Hairy’ is happy calling all his chips off against TWO opponents all-in with AK, imagine how wide his calling range is if I hadn’t run into aces!

If I’d chosen to re-raise pre-flop from 800 to 2,400 I think my opponents are bad enough to still just call with lesser ‘premium’ hands, and then I run the risk of being outdrawn and losing a big chunk of chips finding out if I’m still ahead with KK post-flop. By making the massive over-bet I either take down 2,000 (which is fine by me thank you) or I force a numptie to make a massive pre-flop mistake with the likes of JJ, QQ, AK and possibly even AQ if they are particularly bad. On rare occasions I have run into another KK making this move, but generally speaking there is only one of the 1,326 distinct starting hands you don’t want to run into, and that is aces (I guess I just got lucky this time!)

No one improved on the board, so I gave 5k to ‘Neat stacks’ but took 2k off ‘Hairy’ in a side pot and was more than fine with 8k considering the blinds. The push might seem like a mental play, but it’s one of those situations where – if you don’t respect the abilities of your opponents much – you can find yourself 4-1 favourite against the likes of QQ and JJ, or 70% favourite against players who simply over-value AK.

Give it a go some time. Just don’t blame me if you run into aces (it does happen occasionally). Happy hunting!

Monday, October 06, 2008

“NEWS:” E-Dog swaggers proudly around the house after killing an intruder

Ever since poker pro Erik Lindgren beat a burglar to death with a five iron in his house last month he won’t stop parading from room to room like some vigilante king. Lindgren’s wife, Jean, is grateful that her husband protected the family, but his constant bragging is beginning to wear thin: “He acts like nobody’s ever killed an intruder before.”
For his part, E-Dog says simply: “I AM A HERO.”
Lindgren has now requested that the police give him the burglar’s ears so he can string them into a necklace.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The best / worst seats in the house

Having recently been out to Las Vegas for the WSOP I was looking forward to heading back there with absolutely no work commitments to get in the way of actually sitting down and playing some poker. A decade ago, taking a 'poker holiday' in Vegas required some serious planning. You needed to know exactly when the few decent poker rooms in town were running their juicy games, and be prepared to leapfrog from one tournament to the next to minimise dead time and maximise value. Sitting at the table was as much about finding out the good 'tourney routes' from other players as it was about taking their chips.

These days the poker comes to you. Even the smallest casinos have a poker room, even if that 'room' is nothing more than a couple of tables with a rope around them. My basic plan for the trip was to enjoy the Vegas sun (what with the British 'Summer' being the usual mixture of snow, wind, piss and general misery), hit a few shows, drink a few cocktails, and make some strategic decisions about where to play my poker.

We are forever harping on about profitability in poker being about game selection... When it comes to making money in Las Vegas the game selection goes as far as deciding which casinos to sit down in.

Consider this: Big Dave fancies himself as a bit of a poker player (having 'totally pwned' a £5 sit 'n' go on Betfair... twice!) Where would you expect him to go to play poker? O'Sheas? Casino Royale? That shitty little casino made of wood that I can't even remember the name of that nearly got blown up because everyone forgot it was hidden behind Stardust? No; of course not. Minutes after his fat head bobbles into McCarren's arrivals lounge, Big Dave will be swaggering into The Bellagio's sweet-smelling poker room looking like something out of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The locals will take one look at him and - quick as a flash - metaphorically have his pants down, his Pringle jumper up over his head, and be sending him tarred and feathered back out into the blistering sun, scratching his fat bonce and wondering where all his beer money went.

Which is exactly why you WON'T find me down The Bellagio, The Wynn, The Mandalay Bay, or any other casino that might be considered 'nice'. Why? Well let me ask you another question: where do you think the meek, timid, new-to-the-game, first-live-experience enthusiasts are going to go to pop their poker cherries? How about all the sh*t-holes that are entirely unlikely to have any 'proper' poker players sitting there!

And that, my wily friends, is exactly why you'll find me trying to peel my shoes off the sticky carpets at Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon, sucking down warm beers at the soon-to-be-demolished Imperial Palace, and generally rubbing shoulders with the voucher-obsessed tramps who frequent the - shall we say - less salubrious casinos Las Vegas has to offer.

While my more image-conscious friends are trying to make a name for themselves in the beautiful surroundings of the Caesar's Palace poker room (with its fancy perfumed air-conditioning and yet-to-be-pensioned waitresses) I'm sat at the Flamingo's entirely adequate poker room between a rock and a hard place (i.e. two fat blokes) enjoying the juiciest cash table I've ever witnessed.

On a future occasion I shall share some specifics regarding the games I encountered during this latest trip, but suffice to say that upon my return my MSN 'tag' screamed "A VEGAS WINNER!" at my friends for a full week. Truly, it was the best of times (the results), it was the worst of times (the surroundings).

It's a hard job, but someone's got to do it...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Leaving Las Luton

There’s something magical about returning from a poker game late/early enough that the sun rises as you drive home. Sharing the near-empty dawn roads with delinquent foxes kicking over dustbins and smoking cigarettes (I think I saw one lighting up) the trip back from Luton takes the time my Tom Tom optimistically said it would take to get me there originally. I knew better than to trust the lying bastard on the way up simply because my Tom Tom lives in a glorious world where feckless morons don’t crash into each other ever five minutes, and the never-ending road works on the M1 are a thing of fiction. I’ve got used to adding 30 minutes onto everything it says. It’s a bit like having a wife who says she‘ll be ready by 7pm but never is. The bitch.

Anyone who's followed my blog for a while might remember I used it this time last year to whine and moan about missing a couple of last season’s Luton GUKPT events by mere minutes thanks to crap traffic, a GPS system that looked at every potential journey through rose-tinted specs, and an antiquated casino law that meant to not be in the building at the start of the game was to miss the entire thing. This year I took no risks; arriving for event #1 with hours to spare, and immediately buying-in to every game that tickled my fancy.
There was one particular game that caught my eye, and though only a tiddler compared to the main event, it occurred on the 8th of the 8th, starting at 8pm. Now I’m not a superstitious man, but to miss a game so steeped in lucky 8s would be folly. And thus it was I headed to Luton for the “8.8.8”…

Now some people like to meditate before a big game, some like to pump themselves up listening to Metallica or System of Down. I chose - and please don’t ask me why - to drive up to Luton listening to Level 42. I can’t pretend this got my heart racing, but I did manage to annoy the fuck out of myself and those around me by thumbing bass lines on the poker table for the following nine hours.

Into the card room and luck makes its first appearance, landing me in seat nine, table 15 - right next to the free hot drinks machine. Bingo! Hand #1 convinced me further that my investment was a wise one, as a limped Ks7s hit an A-K-7 flop and continued with a turned 7 to clinch the deal. Game on!

Some hours later I begged with luck for the first time. Holding 77 against a 7c-6h-9c flop, a student-type pushed in on me with what turned out to be the nut flush draw. He missed. More tea Mr Luck?

I’m later moved to a new table (still within reach of the drinks machine, lucky me!) and spend the next 20 minutes trying to work out if it’s the dealer or the player in seat nine who stinks. For the record, it was seat nine (who could have done with a hair wash too). With this important business out of the way I can once again focus fully on the game.
Down to the last three tables, and fearsome blinds and antes coupled with plenty of short-stacks keep luck very busy indeed. I suck-out in a KT vs. AJ confrontation, only to lose a TT vs. Q7 fight moments later. It looks like karma’s joined the fray. The git.

I then participate in one of the strangest hands I’ve ever played... At 400/800 +50, seat five makes it 1,500 to go and I call, but for some reason he thinks I’ve folded and turns over the ace of spades. The dealer now tells the embarrassed-looking player that only I can now instigate any action; effectively giving me the option to check it all the way down if I chose to do so. And then the flop arrives: 8s-9s-10s. I’ve now flopped the nut straight but he either already has the nut flush (if his second card is a spade) or at least has the draw. What to do? Check it down and give him two free cards to hit his flush, or hope his second card isn’t already a spade and put him to the test. My brain farts out loud: “All-in” much to the amazement of the table, spectators (and, to a degree, me) and I watch my hands push 11,000 out across the felt. Thankfully there’s no insta-call so I know I’m not already ruined, but he does eventually call for his last 9,000 and I make luck aware that it has a lot of work to do. The turn is red, as is the river. Yehaw!

The next milestone is the money bubble, followed by the final table. I bad-beat out of the game (Ad4d out-flopped by the chip-leader’s QsTc). I shake hands, exit the game, pull a funny face at luck, and collect my winnings.

Oh, and for the record, I came 8th on the 8th of the 8th '08. Funny old world isn’t it.

Monday, August 04, 2008

“NEWS”: Greenstein’s brain sacrifices survival instinct to make room for advertising jingle

Doctors are saying that poker professional Barry Greenstein’s brain subconsciously made room for a catchy TV jingle by deleting valuable space required for his survival instinct. Now severely injured, Greenstein only became aware of the change later, having accidentally walked through a dark alley filled with knife-wielding yobs. He told us: “I knew I should have been running in the other direction, but all I could think was: ‘I feel like chicken tonight; like chicken tonight’.
Greenstein’s uncle died under similar circumstances when his brain traded the part that controls breathing for enough room to accompany the Bird’s-eye Potato Waffles song.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Viva Las Vision

I have a tendency to make my life more complicated than it needs to be. Having finally committed to heading out for the WSOP despite a distinct lack of work to justify the time and expense, I then went about making things as difficult as possible.

First up I invited a friend along - which in itself wasn’t a massive problem - but I then also decided to up the ante somewhat by organising to have eye laser surgery during the trip. That’s right; voluntarily paying American doctors to slice open my eyes, fire lasers into them, and then send me off half-blind into Sin City to play tour guide. Sounds like a shit comedy screenplay doesn’t it.

Things started about as crap as you could imagine, with a mere seven separate incidents on the M25 to Gatwick. Let’s think about that… SEVEN sets of dickheads who have somehow mastered the art of changing radio stations, adjusting their seats, and applying lipstick on the move, but can’t seem to stop smashing into the back of other people’s cars. Now I’ve never managed to be so fucking stupid that I can’t stop my car before it enters the same physical space as another car so I don’t entirely understand this problem. I have taken, however, to dealing with this constant frustration by winding down my window as I pass by the relevant drivers and shouting “COCKS!” at them as they sit scratching their fat, empty bonces on the central reservation while a grown-up from the RAC collects up bits of Mondeo.

The various delays also mean that the nice man who was waiting to meet and greet my car at the terminal has now buggered off for a brew so I have to call him back out again. Meanwhile, a uniformed job’s-worth traffic drone is insisting that I can’t wait at the terminal, so I pretend to have a ‘leg problem’ and shuffle back and forth with single items of baggage, killing time until the chauffeur turns up. Halfway through an award-winning performance (think Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump) the driver finally turns up. I grab my bags, shout “It’s a miracle!” and sprint up the ramp to the check-in.

The pain continues as we discover that we can’t sit together. What was to be an incredible plane-based poker and beer festival now looks more like eleven hours watching The Royal Family and episodes of The Simpsons from back before Homer got his own voice right. FFS.

And then… as I plod through the gate… just as eleven hours of misery stretches out before me… I hear “come back, sir”. Oh great. What now? Has my friend hilariously stashed 20 kilos of cocaine in my backpack ‘for a laugh’ and I’m about to meet a hulking customs official called Bubba who likes to make finger puppets out of sphincters?

But no – instead the lovely gate lady utters those beautiful words that all travellers dream of: “You’ve been upgraded” BINGO! And then I catch my friend’s face. Oops…

Sadly it was only me that got upgraded and my friend still had to face eleven hours stuck between a man with no love of deodorant and a women more interested in piercing every square inch on her face than brushing her teeth.

I patted him on the back, commenting: “Good job we weren’t sitting together or that would have been a real tough decision for me”. Needless to say, BOLLOCKS would it have been tough! I would have been off up those stairs before you could cough the words ‘complimentary pretzels’ into a free glass of champagne.

I try to play down the generous leg room and free fruit as I visit the hobos down in economy a few hours later (I think my friend was pleased to see the banana I brought him, but perhaps asking him to “dance for it like a monkey” was a step too far.)

Before my Vegas trip I’d bought a new toy: a small video recorder no bigger than a mobile phone that grabs an hour of high-quality footage. I used this now to play my chum footage I’d taken ‘upstairs’, pointing out the spacious aisles, the orgy of free booze sitting about the place, and the entirely more attractive class of traveller that made up the higher echelons I liked to frequent.

At this point the slob next to my friend farted freely into the very air that he’d be sucking back down his fat gullet in a recycled fashion for the next eight hours, so I excused myself and headed back upstairs where I believed a small group of more fragrant passengers were putting on some impromptu Shakespeare. My friend waved goodbye with a clenched fist. And some spitting.

Settled back into the comfort of my small couch, I opted to watch I am Legend. If you’ve not seen it, he dies in the end. There: that’s two hours of your life I’ve just saved you. I also watched National Treasure 2 with Nicholas Cage. I don’t mean I watched it with him, just that he was in the film. He didn’t die (in case you were wondering) but that bald bloke out of The Abyss did. Again, I’d give it a miss if I were you.

Anyway, with a couple of hours eaten up by shit films, I put on some protective foot wear and venture back to the post-apocalyptic wastelands of economy to check that no feral dogs have eaten my friend yet. I ask what he ate for dinner. “Some chicken shit” is his reply and I decide it’s best not to mention the banquette my stunning hostess presented me with earlier (although I can’t resist showing him a video I took of my gorgeous metal cutlery). He tries to hide his plastic spork under a napkin but it’s too late, I’ve already seen it. The poor bastard.

It’s a tearful goodbye as I disembark, and though I’d like to think that the fact I was upgraded on the way out could mean I’ll get upgraded again on the way back, I think both the stewardess and I know that our time together is over. She doesn’t look quite as gutted about this fact as I am, but I’m pretty sure she’s just putting on a brave face. If only I could see under all that make-up I’d know for sure…

Once on the ground and back in the land of unexceptional average people, I slip back into the moribund disguise of my hollow life with ease. To look at me you wouldn’t know I travel as a sophisticate, but I don’t mind. I like to spend time with ‘the normals’ as I think it builds character.

With a tight schedule and plenty to do, it’s almost immediately off to the eye clinic for me, as I have a batch of tests to sort before my scheduled operation the next morning. Everything’s going well, right until they bring me a wad of disclaimers to sign.

Now I’d never sign up for a treatment involving burning light being fired into my brain on a whim, so prior to the procedure I’d talked to various people who’d been through the surgery themselves, read up on supportive statistics and grilled the hell out of my own surgeon on email for months. Nothing, however, could prepare me for the list I was presented with now. The likes of: “I understand that I might end up blind” was top of the sheet, followed by such gems as: “I understand that I could spend the rest of my life trying to tell the difference between men and women using only the power of smell”.

My nurse was a classic Las Vegas woman in her 50s, with way too much make-up and a sun-baked face that wouldn’t look out of place at the World of Leather on the A13. “Elenor” I asked, “Is this form designed to make me shit myself?” She smiled back. “I wouldn’t worry about it honey,” she reassured me. “I had my eyes done a while back and it was fine.” With that she handed me a pen, gestured for me to sign away all responsibility, and left the room. It was only once she’d gone I realised she’d been wearing glasses. Oh fuck.

It was, however, too late - my mind was made up. The next day I went back, had a man cut off the tops of my eyes, fire lasers into them and then put the tops of my eyes back on. ‘Weird’ doesn’t quite cover the sensation, but then again nor does ‘fucking awful’. It was like being abducted by aliens, only aliens with an eye fetish rather than a propensity to stick things up your arse while mutilating cattle (which on reflection is probably a good thing).

Later that day I stood at the top of the Rio’s VooDoo lounge looking in wonder and awe as the Las Vegan sun went down over the mountains and the lights came on along The Strip. I’d like to pretend my tears were tears of joy brought on by seeing properly with my own eyes for the first time, but actually it’s just that they really fucking hurt. It would be wrong of me not to thank Ladbrokes for inviting me to that particular party as it was a hell of a way to test out my new peepers. The invite did come at a cost though, as I had to bear witness to a bunch of teenage cheerleaders attempting to get us all to chant “We love Ladbrokes” (pronounced Lad-Brokes rather than Lad-Brooks). It was like being at a Nazi rally (I imagine). Needless to say the predominantly British crowd stood with their arms folded and their lips clamped shut. It was painful, but not as painful as my sodding eyes so I just shut them and waited for the cheerleaders to go away (not a sentence I ever thought I’d find myself saying, I can tell you).

I made good use of my new bionic eyes during the next few days, watching some amazing poker, bumping (quite literally) into some of the best players on the planet (inlcuding - might I add - one Kara Scott!) and discovering the delights of beer pong (more on that another time perhaps). However, I’m probably due for more eye drops sometime soon so i’d best go give them a rest.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I didn’t get upgraded on the way back, but I did steal a spork and looked through their underwear with my magic eyes, so effectively I had the last laugh. The tight bastards.

Friday, June 06, 2008

PokerStars guarantee a 2008 World Series of Poker Champion by sponsoring every poker player on Earth

Pokerstars today secured its chances of owning the next World Series of Poker Champion by signing up every poker player on the planet to Team Pokerstars. The company’s CEO made the announcement in a morning press conference at the Rio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada: “With these acquisitions we’re in a position to finally nab that elusive 5th WSOP Champion”. The PPA approved the signing, noting that there was no reason why other companies couldn’t remain competitive just because they lack players.

Hallelujah! Praise be Rule 36

Apart from the obvious general excitement of the tournament, something I’m very much looking forward during the 2008 WSOP is the introduction of Rule 36. In case you’re not familiar with this new section within Hurrah’s terms and penalties, it’s basically designed to do something I’ve always wanted to do: namely punch Hevad Khan squarely in the mouth as hard as I can.

If you’ve not witnessed this poker penis in full flight at the table, might I suggest that you very quickly run a youtube search for “Hevad Khan Montage” or just dump this url into your browser: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=kh49fHFMUTg

Watched it? Good. Have you EVER seen anyone so desperate for a camera crew to come round and take their picture? (And did your arse not heal over with embarrassment as the ENTIRE audience dismissed Khan like a retarded child as he attempted to get them to play along with him?) Seriously, I don’t think he could have been any more off the mark had he invited them all to finger paint in human faeces with him.

I can’t help it – I just HATE this sort of behaviour at the table. I mean the guy is an adult! He MUST have played poker before. He MUST have been called with the best hand before. He MUST have won a pot a few times. The guy is meant to be a ‘professional’ poker player. Just how excited can you get every time something goes right?
Though I don’t often play in the sort of games that are likely to throw Hevad and I together on the same table (I don’t think he is a big fan of the £100 freezeout down the Loose Cannon), if it ever does happen I fear for my future. If he pulls any of that “BULLDOZER!” malarkey near me I am likely to lose it and go about seeing how many $500 chips I can fit into his eye sockets. Similarly, if he starts dancing with any chairs while in a pot with me I WILL burn him repeatedly with a car cigarette lighter. That’s just the way I roll…
Thankfully I need not fear any ‘hilarious antics’ from such idiots this year because Rule 36 is here. Thanks to this little beauty, Hurrahs will be stepping in to penalise players who display: “excessive celebration through extended theatrics, inappropriate behaviour, or physical actions, gestures of conduct.”

Personally I can’t wait to see Khan win a meager $T250 pot in the first level and then receive a 10 minute penalty for getting his arse out and pooing on the table in celebration. Maybe it won’t happen, but I’ll be keeping a very close eye on YouTube for the next six weeks I can tell you!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Devilfish pronounced ‘Dead on the Inside’

Emergency medical technicians admitted today that they were two years too late to resuscitate David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott, who had apparently succumbed to a long battle with crippling disappointment.

After unsuccessful attempts to revive Ulliott’s soul with the promise of half an hour in the back of a limo with Shannon Elizabeth and Vanessa Rousso, Devilfish’s was pronounced dead on the inside at the scene.

Paramedic, Kevin Baxter said: “If we could have got to him before the Premier League began we might have had a chance. No one can withstand that kind of emotional trauma.”

Ulliott’s soul is survived by his own hollow shell, which is expected to sleepwalk through a meaningless existence for the next thirty years.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Toys Toys Toys

In the process of researching for the various articles I write, I get to play with all manner of poker-related toys, many of which - needless to say - are aimed at online players. Not least of these virtual gadgets are the various applications that plug into your online game and promise to make you a Hold ‘em god by working out everything for you; often going as far as telling you exactly what to do down to the last FOLD, CALL and CHECK. How exactly you’re meant to have fun watching one piece of software tell you which button to press on another piece of software is beyond me, but some people swear by these glorified calculators. If that gets you going, why not pay to watch one robot to toss another robot off. Just a thought…

These bits of software are clever to be sure; calculating things like pots odds, remaining outs in the deck, the time in Berlin, personal horoscopes, etc. but they also remove the need to think - much in the same way the invention of toasters removed man’s essential need to create fire.

Though these applications position themselves as great tools for beginners, I couldn’t disagree more. If you don’t learn to play poker by fruitlessly chasing wild hands with unfavourable odds, how will you learn not to? If you don’t make up the small blind with 8-3 only to have the BB push all-in and make you dump the junk you should have folded in the first place, how will your game ever develop naturally? It’s like telling kids not to touch the iron. It’s not that children don’t believe you; it’s just that it becomes MUCH clearer why you shouldn’t touch an iron once you’ve actually touched an iron. You can’t be afraid to get your fingers burnt in the name of education.

Obviously please do feel free to fire up one of these little toys because it’s interesting to see the logic that drives what (hopefully) has become your poker instinct. Just don’t just do what it says without thinking or the next thing you know the dishwasher will be telling you to make it dinner… and you’ll do it.

Some of my specific issues with these helpful applications include:
1) They just aren’t always right (anyone who has been told to fold K8s in an un-raised pot by Sky Poker’s ‘Hot-O-Meter’ will fully appreciate what I mean by this).
2) There’s no room for your own style to shine through (I personally love to raise with 7-5o in the cut-off with three limpers before me)
3) If you learn how to play poker with all these computerised crutches, how the hell will you cope when you have to play without your suite of Batcave enhancements?

Someone once said, “No pain, no gain” and they weren’t just referring to those gym-frequenting men who look like sausages, shout “Who’s your daddy!” a lot, and are a little too fond of mirrors. You can certainly be told how to play poker, but that doesn’t mean you’ll instantly understand how to play poker. Comprende? It’s not just the destination my friends, it’s the journey.

So learn as millions before you have. Lose a ton of games and win a few. Run your KK run into AA twenty times on the trot. Basically enjoy the process of building up your own feel for positive and negative situations.

In a world where too many folk learn poker online and then fall apart in live games (when expected to know what’s in the pot without it being conveniently displayed in Arial font on the table somewhere) I personally can’t think of a worse way to learn poker than these HAL wannabies (“I’m sorry Dave, you can check. Are you sure you want to fold? Mary had a little lamb…”)

So, young padawan, be like Luke Skywalker when he turns of his targeting computer (and scares the absolute shit out of the people likely to be blown up if he plops his bomb down the wrong hole) and turn off all the HUD displays currently fighting for space on your screen. Turn your back on the quick and easy path and go ‘poker commando’. Oh, and may the force be with you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


If there’s one reason to get up early in Vegas (and let’s be honest, early morning aren’t exactly what Vegas is about) it’s to beat the morning tournament registration queues that have become a regular occurrence since everyone else became interested in poker. The sods.

One particular morning I even went down to the MGM poker room in my pajamas and complimentary dressing gown as a dirty protest against not being able to register remotely. The fact that no one raised an eyebrow or mentioned my choice of dress just confirmed that I was indeed in Vegas.

On the morning of this particular tale I was fortunate enough to bump into a rarity at the poker tables: a genuine psychic. No, really… Having organised my registration (and then danced gaily along the massive queue, waving my slip like a Willy Wonka golden ticket) I headed off for some hang-over breakfast action.

Returning 35 minutes later from a ludicrously large egg-based breakfast at the New York New York, my guts were fit to burst and gurgling like a dishwasher as an epic battle took place between three embittered factions: Sunny-Side-Ups, Scrambled, and Over-Easy. Happy in my egg-bound way (no toilet break would be required for at least 16 hours) I sat down at a limit cash game to kill some time before the tourney started.

For an impromptu time-filling game I did pretty well; with a couple of players on my table being kind enough to keep pumping their chips into losing pots like hemorrhaging Hungry Hippos. The rest of the cash session was actually reasonably dull until the poker room manager started calling for the tournament to begin and I played one last hand in a "getting-up-ready-to-leave" fashion.

78 offsuit would be my last hand of the game, kindly transforming into two pair on the flop. Now I've not mentioned any of my table chums yet, but hats off to the Vietnamese guy to my left who had attained the ranking of shit-faced before the clock even struck eleven. He was also ‘gifted’ with mystic psychic powers; magically able to tell you exactly what cards you had… (once you'd shown them to him, obviously).

It was pretty hard to take him seriously and also a tad tedious to be sat next to him. However, as his mind-bending powers hadn’t prevented him from financing my own personal rampage I’d been more than happy to let him dazzle himself with Derren Brown flights of fancy while I siphoned off his beer money.

Anyway, back to the 78 hand, which had developed into a surprisingly large affair thanks to my psychic chum and a solid player opposite raising and re-raising everything I threw at them. The board had become, frankly, fucking scary; with both flush and straight possibilities that had started to make my two pairs look somewhat wobbly… but I stuck with it, praying in turn to each of the many poker gods I worship (well, you have to hedge your bets) for a little act of kindness. Miracle of miracles, the river sent another 7 my way for a full house, and I knew for a fact that Mystic Mong hadn’t vaguely got a read on me despite his apparent Jedi mind-powers. Anyway, I went for maximum pay-off, pushing as much in front of me as the limit allowed. The smart guy opposite finally got out of the way allowing me and Brainiac to get on with it; handbags practically on the table at this point.

Now clearly I’m a particularly petty, self-centered man, so I couldn’t help but smile my absolute arse off when he flipped over his nothing of a hand and I dropped the bomb, only to hear him issue forth: "I knew you had the straight".

"Look again Mesmo!" I spat, finally reaching the point of no return, “I’ve got the house!”

"Yes,” he said, “I knew you had that".

“So why did you say you knew I had a straight just three seconds ago, you muppet?”

As I heard myself, I realised I was doing little for the game or people’s opinions of how Brits behave at the poker table. So I took a deep breath and gathered up my chips - spending an ENORMOUS amount of time lovingly arranging them into a rack while my ‘friend’ watched - before heading off to the tournament.

Behind me all I could hear was some mumbling and yet another bottle of Corona being ordered - no doubt to be opened using only the power of his awesome mind. Shazam.

Monday, January 21, 2008

We are the champions

Picture the scene: Tiger Woods has won yet another golf tournament. He’s been followed round the entire course by cheering fans and well-wishers for the entire time. His opponents have played valiantly - nay brilliantly - and given him a real run for his money, but ultimately he has triumphed.

He steps up to receive his trophy in front of the assembled press, turns to the cameras and says: “You are nothing to me. You are all losers and turds. I am the best in the world, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I get bored playing on my own I wouldn’t even acknowledge you exist.” He then throws his clubs to the ground and strops off muttering to himself about how totally rubbish everyone is apart from him.

Then we turn over to BBC2 and find six-time snooker World Champion, Steve Davis, watching his opponent pot the final black against him in a frame. He turns to the camera and mouths the word “CUNT” before spitting at the lens; his fat lugie slowly sliding down millions of screens nationwide…

Now let me make it perfectly clear that neither of these events actually took place – nor do I imagine they ever would – and that’s the point about REAL champions. They aren’t just champions in their chosen discipline; they are champions in life. It’s easy for us to see this because of how they behave outside their arenas; i.e. how they respect their contemporaries and how they carry themselves day to day.

Oh, and then there is Phil Hellmuth. Yes, Phil ‘Poker Brat’ Hellmuth. A man who appears to derive no joy from the millions of dollars he’s made both on and off the table. A man who is never content enough to simply sit and ‘be’. A man who has to berate and insult ordinary decent folk during a GAME OF CARDS to feel like a real man.

I recently watched a WSOP show in disbelief as Hellmuth proceeded to blast anyone who appeared to be able to even vaguely play back at him; spitting insults, criticising every move, and referring to anyone with less than 11 bracelets as mere “internet players”. After being patronised twenty times (and being continually called “kid” by Hellmuth) one player on the table - Ben Fineman - ventured, “Phil, we’ve been playing each other for days now. Do you even know my name?”

Every time Hellmuth was all-in (or up against an all-in) he would parade for the cameras; showboating and negotiating insurance with a spectating Phil Ivey, regardless of the poor schmuck sitting waiting for the circus to end so that he could find out if he was still in the tournament or not. Imagine what Phil would do if you made him wait five minutes while you dicked about before the flop was dealt? He’d explode!

At one point Ben Fineman called an all-in with A-K against Dustin Holmes’ K-10 only to watch as Dustin rivered trip tens. If that had been Hellmuth just imagine how much of the level would have been wasted while he blarted curses into the sky like some angry poker trumpet. All Ben did was turn to a sheepish-looking Dustin and say “Don’t sweat it buddie”, before sitting down and carrying on with the game. Amazing composure - truly.

And then there’s Phil’s exit hand. He raises with Ac-10c and Beth Shak calls with Kh-Qh. The flop comes 10-Q-x and Beth shoves all-in. Phil calls and when he sees that he has the worst hand, does he acknowledge that he has made a mistake? Oh no – it’s HER fault!! “I can’t believe she called!” he bleats. “How can she call!?” Well Phil, maybe it’s the fact that she was in the big blind, was getting 2.5-1 on her money, and then flopped top pair! And the thing is, we KNOW that Hellmuth knows this, so his wining is even more pitiful to behold.

I’d love to think that it’s all just for the cameras, but it clearly isn’t – he really is that much of a moron! Hellmuth is the kind of person that I pray no one watches on TV and wants to be like.

Do I want his success? Of course. Do I want his personality? Christ no. Personally, I want to be like Ben Fineman, who proved to me that just because you have to sit next to a total imbecile like Hellmuth doesn’t mean you have to act like him.

I go back to my very first thoughts in this entry. Go on: chose any sport and think of a champion from that sport. Now try to imagine them behaving the way Hellmuth does.

Roger Federer smashing some kid in the face with his racket? Alex Furguson calling Wenger an 'utter wanker' live on Match of the Day? Johny Wilkinson drop-kicking a toddler into touch if he loses? It’s just not going to happen is it…

So why, then, is Phil Hellmuth allowed to act in such a rude, insulting, pathetic way without penalty? Burn him - I say - and burn his face first (metaphorically-speaking of course - I have to add for legal reasons). Anyway, thanks for listening. I feel much better now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Don't stand still

About three years ago the most common question I got asked as a TV pundit was ‘what starting hands should I play with?’ We, the presenters, just looked at each other, sighed, and replied ‘pocket pairs from 9-9 upwards and A-K’ (while probably mumbling something sarcastic under our breath incorporating the words “Christ” and “Muppet”). It was – suffice to say - an unsophisticated answer for an unsophisticated question.

Jump forward in time to present day and I’m now more likely to be asked (by a beginner I hasten to add) how to trap a tight-aggressive early-positioned opponent in light of a raise and a re-raise while holding the nut straight with a second-nut flush draw. There’s a very good chance that this query will be accompanied by a full hand history and Poker Tracker data. Times – my friends - they are a’ changing.

The interesting thing for me is identifying those people within the world of poker who move with the times and those that sit, quiet and smug - entirely self-assured that they are the real-deal - while the rest of the world accelerates off into the distance waving ‘ta-ta’ back over their shoulders.

Curiously, the development of industries is not a subject new to me. A large part of my training to be a marketeer (don’t worry – this was during my old life!) was looking at case studies for various companies in various markets. If there’s one thing that holds true across all of them, it’s that change is inevitable, and if you chose to stand still you must be prepared to watch your competitors sprinting past you for the finish line, no matter how far ahead you were when last you checked your rear-view mirror, so to speak.

This entire train of thought/rambling/BS (feel free to delete as you find applicable) was kicked off by two strategy pieces sitting back-to-back in Poker Player Magazine.

The first piece was from online marvel Brian ‘sbrugby’ Townsend. It contained the kind of deep, analytical thinking that has become synonymous with today’s online professional. For example: “…unless my opponent has a pocket pair larger than Jacks, a bigger flush draw or a set, I am at worst even-money from this point forward. If he has A-9 without the flush draw I’m still a 52% favourite. He could be holding Jacks or better, but it’s unlikely as I viewed the player as loose and one who’s willing to gamble with marginal hands.” Wow – is this guy’s opponent screwed or what!

Then we turn the page and bump into the familiar grinning mug of Phil Hellmuth. Ah Phil… bless him: the only man on Earth who can tell you story where he gets the crap kicked out of him but he still emerges (somehow) victorious. It’s like Alan Partridge ending every painful anecdote with, “Needless to say, I had the last laugh.”

So, on the back of Brian Townsend’s thoughtful insight, what kind of tactical analysis can we expect from ever-humble Hellmuth? Well, Phil kicks off with: “Imagine this: I’m playing poorly in the $5,000 No-Limit Short-Handed event at the WSOP.” What!? You’re playing poorly? How am I meant to imagine that, Phil! I mean, I like to think I have a pretty vivid imagination, but that’s simply too much to ask of me!

Anyway, in a beautiful Hellmuth-shaped turnaround (totally unexpected, obviously *ahem*) Phil suddenly turns on the heat and becomes brilliant again. Phew - thank god for that!

He talks us through one hand, ending with: “I love the fact that I stayed so aggressive in this hand.” Do you Phil? Do you really love it? Do you love it so much that you went home and pleasured yourself? I do hope so…

Other classic story-ending statements of self-congratulations include: “Player A folds and I feel like a superhero”, “Wow, what a beautiful three hands!” and my personal favourite: “One theme common to all of the above hands is this: I was either reading my opponents well or throwing them off the scent by giving out false tells”. Remember kids: Phil Hellmuth is remarkable. Just ask him. Or his mum.

I guess my point (that’s right folks, I have a point!) is that Phil is old school and starting to sound like a poker-parody joke. Indeed, as ludicrous as it may seem this early in their careers, to a degree even the likes of Esfandiari, Laak and Hanson are ‘old school’. Today’s poker players are younger, fitter, healthier, and less worried about TV time and selling DVDs than they are about playing good poker. They’re hungry poker machines that want to eat chips and poo pound coins (or wads of dollar bills depending upon relative nationality, aspirations and anus size).

Right now the spotlight still moves to highlight the dancing clowns first, but more and more it seems the majority of the audience are turning to watch the clever young jugglers over in the corner. So, you just have to ask yourself; do you want to be entertained or educated? Well, whichever you chose, please enjoy the circus.