Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008, guess thats a wrap

2008 has been a strange one for me poker wise. I stated two goals for myself at the start of the year. One was to make the transition to online cash; this I failed miserably because I never attempted it. The second was to make more cash then I would if I had been working, which I achieved. It's my fourth year running making a decent profit as a live tournament specialist. A fair achievement when most logic tells you that this is nearly impossible to achieve long-term.

One of my strengths as a player has always been my enthusiasm for the game. While I feel as eager as ever when playing a decent buy in, I have definitely lost the motivation for smaller games and grinding hard online. This loss of dedication eats into my bottom line and needs to be addressed. Playing poker for a living is not easy, drive and focus are required. The inertia and basic laziness of my disposition towards "my poker work ethic" needs addressing.

The soccer cliche of a game of two halves can certainly be used to describe the year past. I was more or less break even for the first half of the year and had a good second half. Online I made meagre €10,000. Most of this coming in a six week period from the start of July, when my declining bankroll dictated that I needed to "get the finger out". A €40,000 touch in Cork mid August saw me get lazy again and those six weeks were the only online poker of any consequence I played over the year.

The two key occurrence of the year for me were the sponsorship deal I signed with BrucePoker and chopping the Irish Classic in Cork. I was delighted to sign with Bruce's and it was a lovely confidence boast for me at the time. I subsequently found out that another site that I had been in contact with were about to table a larger offer to me. Again I found this very complimentary but I had no regrets as I was very happy with the Brucepoker deal and feel that we have established a good understanding/relationship where a mutual progression and growth is our focus.

The year started with the IPC, which was hosted in Galway for the first time. My exit in level one was on the TV table and involved trying to pull poker wheelies against Mike Sexton. I finished forth for the second year running in the Bigslick team event in my home town. As ever this has a very decent field so it felt as the year before; a deep run at a difficult tournament wasted.

I had decided not to play any satellites for the Irish Open but some how ended up playing about a dozen. This one was the most memorable as the player in the hand I describe won his ticket that night and ended up finishing second in the open itself for €400k n1 Donal.

I did manage to win entry but left it late, the pre event supersatt to be exact. I started well in the open getting a second level double against Conner Tate. The pivotal hand of my Open was against Liam Flood where blind on blind I flopped a set and he turned a flush. I managed to reach day two but it was desperate shortstack stuff after that hand and I eventually exited KK v AK for a semi decent pot.

May saw the inaugural JP Masters. I've tried to support JPs games where possible as I have always found him to run marvelous tournament; this was his first "bigger" festival and it ran seamlessly. I had a great run at the title but a bad last two hours on day two eventually running AK into KK saw me bubble the final table, a horrid spot to finish.

June and July were very quiet as I wasn't going to Vegas. A number of factors influenced this decision, the main one being bankroll. I could of went but it would of been a stretch and in the end I decided prudence to be the best option. There was a ten week gap between JPs Masters and the Irish Classic and I secured sponsorship in this period.

My first outing in the Brucepoker shirt saw me chop one of Ireland's most prestigious events. I had more or less the perfect tournament in Cork and while I played very well a lot of things also fell into place. I was never in danger of exiting this one until after the prize monies were chopped four handed. After the deal myself and Rob Tayler got 60BBs each in pre with AJos and Rob won the hand; this would never happen had a chop not happened. I really should be aware of the importance of taking the title as my profile increases and more so because of the fact that I'm sponsored. It was a mistake by me to treat the game nonchalantly once the deal was struck and its not a mistake I will make when I find myself in that position again.

I chopped the Waterford leg of the IPC tour the following week and it was great to get a result in my home town. The first week in October saw an amazing 800 starters for the wonderfully run killarney festival. This festival was an amazing achievement by Connie and Bigslick and although I didn't feature in any of the events I had a super weekend. Brucepoker were however well represented in the prize money with both my bosses, Paul and Thomas making the cash. I was over the moon to see one of my buddies lucky Jimmy take the event down for 100 large.

Another deep run came in the winter festival finishing 13th of the 427 starters. I lost a monster pot with KK v AA about 10 off the money, which wasn't reported on and subsequently won three or four shortstacked pots as a big dog which were. Once in the money I got my stack to a very healthy 268k before the end of play. I came back for day three ahead of the average, but never got anything going eventually exiting in 13th position.

November saw the launch festival at the greenisle hotel. This was a super weekends poker and I was proud of the show Bruce's put on. Paul put a lot of work into this and it was nice to see him pull it off with JP as ever doing a great job with the tournament logistics. I managed two small cashes here which was pleasing.

My last two tournaments of the year were across the water and both disappointed. I didn't play well in London for the GUKPT grand final. I did play well a week later in Bristol for the Gala final but both tournaments ended close to the end of play on day one and both were a small let down.

All in all I played around ten tournaments of any consequence over the year; to chop one and run deepish in two others has to be considered a success. I clocked about $80,000 on the hendon mob database and finished the year with a very respectable ROI. Not as good as last year but overall I'm happy with 2008. Last year I established myself as one of the top live tournaments players in the country and I think I have done enough this year to consolidate that position.

I am however very aware that the difference between a successful and losing year in this game is very fickle. So much so that winning or losing a specific race in any given tournament can mean the difference between a good or bad year. Because I've had a few good ones in a row means nothing and I need to stay focused and rediscover my work ethic for the game. Although some will see me as a veteran I still feel very new to the game. I've only been playing four years and I'm still learning all the time. I see 2009 as a crucially important year for me if I am to progress in this marvelous game we play. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gala Final Bristol

England for the second week running for the Gala final. I was looking forward to the game all week and was hopeful of a good run as I had been told that there would be many mediocre players in this one. Derek and Jude were flying in from Galway Friday morning and myself and my boss, Paul Smallwood decided to ferry over Thursday night. Paul was doing the driving; his assurance that he was a great driver became very debatable after he drove down the busiest trough fare in Bristol at 3 am Friday morning while we were trying to locate the hotel on the wrong side of the road.

We met up with the Galway lads Friday morning and discussed best strategy's for relieving all these bad English players of there chips. Lol, what a joke that turned out to be. My starting table had Neill Channing to my right and Roland De Wolfe two to his right, two to my left was Roberto Romanello and next to him last weeks GUKPT winner Pab Foltyn. Channing commented " last year he played this event he didn't know eight players in the field, looking around now I'm struggling to find eight I don't know". Guess the only value in this one was the WOSP, Aussie Millions and EPT packages added by Gala for the first three finishers; a nice added incentive.

Second hand of the tournament I pick up QQ and get taken to value town by an elderly Asian lady's KK on every street. Down 3000 of my 15k starting stack in the first minute. The next four hours were a continuation of the previous weeks tournament; raises and continuation bets snapped off and no premium starting hands. I was however enjoying the game and still hopeful as we broke for dinner.

Shortly sfter a very nice if rather rushed Chinese I pick up 1010 in the bigblind. Theres 4 limpers and the small blind bumps it up to 2700. I'm thinking my 1010 might be in good shape here as the SB seemed to be thinking of making up the blind before making the raise. So I push and after a long dwell the SB calls with AQ. After winning the race I'm above starting stack and start playing a few more pots.

I really started getting into the game and enjoying the table over the next 90 minutes leading to the biggest hand I played in the event. I raise two black tens to 1200 with the blinds 200/400; De Wolfe calls in the BB. Flop 8s5x3s, De Wolfe check-shoves his 14,000 stack over my 2000 bet. I go into the tank for a bit, I'm 100% facing the flush draw and some pair gutshot or overs combo. When I consider the money already in the pot and the fact that I hold a spade out I decide the maths say a call. Then I consider the qualitative aspect of whether I want to race against the best flipper in the world. In the end I go with it and he shows Ks9s, the turn brings a 6c giving him even more outs and the river king gives him the pot and leaves me with 4025 chips.

I grind the short stack back to about 10k and get a table move with about 90 minutes play left for the day. My new table boasted James Akenhead, Joe Beavers, The Camel, the frightening looking character in the photo and was joined by Marc Goodwin and Surinder Sunar. I was struggling to find any spots on the table when the following hand occurred. I raised to 1800 with QJos blinds 300/600 and get called in the BB by an American, Mark Friedman. Flop KK9 two hearts; check/check and he leads for 2k on the turn. I'm playing 8k and I'm obviously not calling 2k on the gutter but decide to go back through the hand before I fold. This guy was the bigstack and had been extremely aggressive especially towards the short stacks and 3 bet a number of times from the blinds. When I think about it I'm strongly weighing his range towards suited connectors and small ones at that. I decide that my Q high is good and decide to call and also call any non heart river. The river brings a ten giving me the straight but unfortunately he held the same holdings.

My exit hand came with 20 minutes of play remaining. I pick up 99 in the bigblind, Friedman opens for 2400 which is much bigger then what he has been normally opening for. Akenhead calls which worries me a little as he is three betting a fair bit but having seen pocket tens twice and QQ once in over seven one hour levels, the nines are looking very pretty at that moment. I go with them and push, Friedman immediately announces all in isolating me and I'm very happy to find myself in a 20k pot verses 88. The 6 8 10 flop gave me a little hope of the resuck but it wasn't to happen.

I really enjoyed this tournament, I dont get to play with class acts like Channing and De Wolfe often and I relished the opportunity. De Wolfe is a class player and always putting you in interesting spots; himself and Channing are real talkers and good craic to play with. The poker room was deadly and Bristol itself is a very nice city but if anyone tells you to go there for a poker tournament because the players are value, forget it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

GUKPT Grand Final

I was fearful going into this that with all the deep runs I've been getting lately something had to give. No matter how good you are at tournament poker you can only cash in a certain percentage of the tournaments you play. Something that has been on my mind for a while now is how huge a role luck plays in relation to the different buy in levels that I play. We hope that variance in the cards will even out in the long run but I wonder if variance coupled with a wide range of buy ins ever will.

For example; the Macau in cork is probably my favorite place to play cards. Every month this year I have traveled to that casino for the €250 monthly game and not cashed in it once. I did however manage to cash for over €40k in the only €1500 buy in tournament I played there this year. This in my mind is a huge slice of luck. I was unfortunately on the wrong side of this buy in differential variance in London the weekend in what was one of my biggest buy ins of the year.

With 180 starters there wasn't going to be a huge amount of value in the field. My starting table had my old sparing partner Marty Smyth and the only others I knew were Fran Egan from Drogheda and Micky Wennick. The table is introduced in this Video from the Nutz TV from 2.10 in and pictured above. I'd say it was one of the easier tables in the event but that didn't do me much good.

I really haven't much to write about the event itself. I started the tournament with 15,000 and lost them in small increments until I eventually got knocked out very short in level seven. There was no real hands of consequence and the tournament as a whole for me was disappointing but that's just the way it goes sometimes. I didn't make any mistakes, didn't take any beats or didn't get any starting hands. Even though the tournament was a non event in itself I will have gained experience from it and I'm totally confidant that although it was a very difficult field I still had a decent edge. The Victoria casino is a smashing job and I enjoyed a few beers with the other Irish lads there over the rest of the weekend as no side events were scheduled; I'm sure I'll be back there with a better result in the future.

On a lighter note, at the bar in the Vic the other night. The gukpt tournament director comes to the bar and says "Marty I nominated you for two awards, player of the year and performance of the year". Marty replies " oh right thanks, for the boards awards is it". TD " no, the European poker awards in Paris next month ".