Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Reviewed

I've been blogging for four years now and each year I've done a yearly review. The previous ones were relatively successful and always included a few decent scores. This year's review reads basically; got knocked out, got knocked out, got knocked out etc etc...

From a personal point of view I really enjoyed myself in 2010. I enjoy the lifestyle and freedom poker has afforded me over the last five years and last year was no different.

The highlight of the year for me is always Vegas. The highlight for my ego was being on the cover of Cardplayer magazine, although the airbrushing was a bit iffy. I also started a monthly column in Bluff magazine, which I enjoy and seem to get good feedback from.

It was a great honour to represent for the year. I feel these days sponsorship from a site involves a lot more then turning up at a tournament and wearing a patch.

I'd like to think I have added value for Boyle's from a marketing position and hopefully was seen as a good ambassador for the site.

From a poker perspective, the first five months of the year I was worried if I'm honest. I couldn't seem to get anything going, exiting loads of events without getting above the starting stack. A lot of these tournaments I felt I was just making up the numbers and didn't think I was playing well.

The last seven months I think I played very well, accumulating stacks freely in the early to middle stages of events. However, I kept falling short in tournament after tournament. I've practically never bubbled over my poker years, so seeing myself outlast 75-85% of fields in event after event and then exiting was surprising to me.

I like to think I'm pragmatic about how I'm playing and couldn't see how I was doing anything wrong over that seven-month period. All I can put it down to honestly is variance catching up with me.

Win a race here and there, the main event day three springs to mind, and it could be very different looking back. Basically that's how small the margins are between a great or terrible year in tournament poker, a flip here and there.

When I did a 'well' on the old boards forum, (John is doing an excellent job on his one, at ATM, check it out). Tony 'Flushdraw' Baitson asked the following question...

What is your poker expectation from 2008?

I answered, "Because the variance is so much in MTTs,i wouldn't be surprised if I didn't have any results that register for all of 2008 on the Hendonmob database. On the other hand I wouldn't be surprised to have ten results on it for the year. That's the nature/reality of being a live tournament player".

When I did my poker accounts at the end of the year it showed around €20,000 in profit. The only reason it was in profit was were picking up the tab for most of my tournament entries.

As my poker expenses over the year would have been close enough to €20k. The bottom line is a bad losing year relative to my buy-ins, but not on my pocket.

This isn't the first time I've had a losing year playing live MTT's, 2006 was similar but well offset back then by online profits.

The past two years I'm more of a recreational online player, playing just some of the big Sunday tournaments if I'm at home, or the odd tournament during the week. I did have a decent enough year punting golf, which always helps.

Looking towards 2011, I'm confident, if I keep playing like I have since June, it's only a matter of time before I click again. I do intend to play more online over the coming year.

I've never been much of an online MTT grinder but my intentions are to get stuck into them this year and see how it goes.

I kind of fell out of love with playing online, but I can feel a real zest for playing building in me recently. I even bought a new desktop and installed hold'em manager this week, in preparation.

Anyway, I hope people have enjoyed reading the blog for the year gone. Have a great 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brain Pain

I travelled to Cork on Friday for the three day Christmas festival. Having got through day one with an average stack, I was having a good day amassing a healthy stack through day two.

When we took a fifteen minute break at nine I had about 10% of the total chips in play, with 24 players remaining. For the first twenty minutes after the break I hit a brutal run of reversals, losing four all-in pre flop showdowns in the space of about eight hands - Unkown suit 7Unkown suit 7 v Unkown suit AUnkown suit 4, Unkown suit AUnkown suit K vUnkown suit A Unkown suit 9, Unkown suit QUnkown suit Q v Unkown suit 9Unkown suit 9 and Unkown suit KUnkown suit Q v Unkown suit 4Unkown suit 4.

Throw in losing with KK and JJ in between the showdowns and I went from chip leader to short stack. A fairly brutal turn of events and I never recovered, eventually going out with a badly timed shove in 13th position.

You'll never hear me moaning about how I run. Variance is a huge part of tournament poker and I generally take the bad with the good and just get on with it, but I must admit to feeling a little sorry for myself on the drive home after that run.

The Macau Winter Festival was the first tournament I ever won on a national stage back in 2005. That year there were 67 starters at a buy-in of €1,100. The tournament was televised on one of those magazine type poker shows Sky used to do. I'd say the make-up of the field in 2005 was about 33% locals, with the remaining field consisting of sponsored pro's.

This year there were 75 starters at €550, with probably 90% locals. The tournament is a good example of how the landscape of tournament poker has changed. In 2005 there was a handful of national level tournaments, these days there seems to be one every other week and no doubt the prestige that the Macau Christmas tournament once held, has now been vastly diluted.

There has been a plethora of new successful events that have sprung up over the last few years. These events have generally been smaller a buy-in, with larger fields then the traditional "big" tournaments that existed.

Seeing the success of the new tournaments, it seems that the organisers of the existing events have decided the best way forward is to reduce the buy-in of their events to mirror the new successful games. This has been seen over the last two years, with The Irish Championship, The Irish Classic, European Deepstack, JP Masters, Macau Winter Festival all reducing their entry fees.

I totally understand why the promoters of these events have reacted in the manner they have. Poker festivals make money on cash game rake not the tournaments, so it's understandable that the promoters have all adopted the pile them high, sell them cheap logic.

However, I think they have in general made a mistake. They should have embraced the uniqueness of the events instead of just falling back into the pack. Events with legacy have lost their potential for real continuity. In most cases, instead of promoting the unique selling points of these events, the easy option has been chosen.

What we now have is a calendar packed with more and more none-descript monkey buy-in events. Instead of six or seven must-play unique tournaments that attracted overseas visitors we now have two, the Winter Festival and the Irish Open.

This has left a gap in the market for bigger buy-in games and it seems that slack is going to be taken up by the overseas tours. This coming year there's an EMOP coming to Ireland late in July. There are also solid rumours of a leg of the Unibet tour and WPT hitting these shores.

I have no idea how these new events will run in the current recessionary climate. What I do know is I would much rather win a 400 field €1,500 buy-in, Irish Classic or European Deep-stack, then EMOP or Unibet leg.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Following on from my unplanned visit the previous week, it was back to Galway on Thursday for the UKIPT-IPC.

The weather had become a lot worse in Waterford but I was sure once I got about 20 miles west, the rest of the trip would be ok. As I suspected it was, and it took me the standard three hours to get there.

I found it quite amusing when Neil Kelly told me that he had decided his best option was to get to Galway by motorway, so he went Waterford-Dublin-Galway, taking a wonderful eight and a half hours, WP!

When the event finally kicked off after a day's delay, my starting table looked horrific with Rory Rees Brennan, Dermot Blaine, the eventual winner and benefactor of my chips was Nick Risk, who I'd played at the IWF and Nick Silver who won the UKIPT Dublin last year, basically ten pros.

The first real hand I played, I spewed about chip_icon.jpg4k of my starting twenty in a bad spot. The second hand I played, I went out in an odd one.

Nick one raised and was called by Nick two. I decided to just call from the small blind with Unkown suit QUnkown suit Q, disguising the strength of my hand. Rory also came along from the BB. The JXX dry flop was checked to Risk who bet chip_icon.jpg650, I called and the other two got out of the way.

The turn was an innocuous three and I checked again. This is where the hand got a bit strange. Risk bet chip_icon.jpg6100, which stunned me a little and took me a few seconds to assimilate.

He'd either mistaken a chip_icon.jpg5k chip for a 500 one, was making a rather strange bet or was pulling an angle for me to believe he'd mistaken his chips. I was leaning towards the first and this was confirmed, when Silver pointed to his bet size and his face dropped.

I decided to just push, as I felt he wasn't putting another chip in the pot if he was bluffing and I was getting called by many worse hands because of the odd dynamic. He vocally made a crying call which made me think I was good, but was in fact drawing to two outs against a turned set of threes.

It was disappointing; I'd probably have lost a third of my chips in the hand anyway but would never have burst. When I found out that there was a table re-draw for the tournament after the second level, this tilted me a lot more as the starting table should never have been.

It was a simple error, whereby the shuffle button on the software on the list of entries was never pressed. This meant that the players were seated in the order as they were received. Basically all Stars' qualifiers were seated together, same for live qualifiers, direct buy-ins etc.

I think someone should have copped what happened earlier when the four Pokerstars pros were seated in a line on the same table.

For the rest of the weekend I played two side events, lasting until the last three tables in the first and murdering my chips in the second.

I said before the event that I wasn't a fan of reducing the buy-in, as I felt it reduced the prestige of the Irish Championship. The event was hugely changed from previous years and for me just hadn't the same buzz.

It's a pie in the sky dream but I'd love to see two top tournaments in Galway, a UKIPT leg and bring back the old IPC.

I did hear a funny story from the cash tables late on the Saturday night. One of the players wasn't happy with a ruling given by the floor staff. The irate punter somehow thought the matter merited the attention of the guards, who duly arrived and arrested him!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Quick Trip

I made an unexpected trip to Galway on Saturday. I was chilling at home around two, losing money on the afternoon's racing when the phone rang. My buddy Danny Guiney, who had qualified for the final of the BOSP 2010, was sounding very disappointed as his flight had been cancelled.

I told him to get a cab straight to my gaff from the airport and I'd get him there. My thinking was, I'd save money by missing the rest of the racing and be guaranteed a good night out in Galway, as is always the case.

The roads up were grand once we hit Carrick, but for the first 15 miles they were fairly bad and Danny was crying like a little girl that he wanted to go home as I was doing my best ice-trucker impersonation.

The tournament was running about 90 minutes when we got to the Eglinton and Danny had eight BBs. I left him to get on with it and rounded up a crew, (Derek Murray, Knuckles and Eoin Dixon), for the session. When we checked the live stream from the hotel bar, Dan was heads up for the $10,000 sponsorship package, but unfortunately he just fell short to Richard Campbell.

So it was commiserations to Danny, I know it was gutting for him. However, congratulations to Richard and welcome to the team.

The night didn't disappoint anyway, it was quite nuts. Big fair play to Fintan, who went out of the way to show us the top Galwegian nightspots.

Unfortunately for Danny, his run bad for the weekend didn't end just yet. The following morning Danny asked me would I mind if he got the plane home. This suited, as I'd rather face a three-hour drive dying with a hangover alone. As I was halfway home I got a call from him telling me his flight was cancelled, hopefully he's gotten home since!

It's back cross-country tomorrow for the IPC. I'm not sure how the numbers will turn out with the current prolonged bout of weather, hopefully it gets 300 as the tournament deserves a good sized field. I'm really looking forward to the event anyway.

I probably should be feeling down about the game with the year I've had. Conversely, I don't think I've ever felt as positive as to where my game is at. It's possible I'm totally deluded, but either way I can't wait to get going the coming weekend.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More Malta

Well, a semi-promising start to the trip here has ended like most of my year, cashless.

I played the IPT €1,100 side event last Saturday. I had a lovely starting table and was going along nicely, until I hit a major reversal. Unkown suit KUnkown suit K on a QXX flop versus Unkown suit AUnkown suit Q, Aces on the turn and the river left me with about 3k.

I hung around for four more levels grinding this back to about chip_icon.jpg10k, but a badly timed cold four-bet put paid to me when I ran into the Kings.

I couldn't really face the other side event but did play online on Sunday. My room had the best connection in the hotel that we were in, so the lads set up camp there for the big Sunday. Myself, Jude, Tom the Bomb, Derek Murray and Chris Dowling all played in a small enough place.

Having these lads at your disposal to bounce hands off can only improve your game.

The second major tournament of the trip was the EMOP at a €1,650 buy-in. The structure for the EMOP events are fairly fast, with the first four levels at 45 minutes and a couple of levels missing from the standard (75/150 and the 150/300 repeat). I wouldn't advocate this fast a structure for all events, but I did enjoy it here. You basically know you have to get in there from the start.

My starting table had Reesy and Chubs on it, luckily enough they were both to my right. The first hand of any real consequence I played was against Andrew, who had lost half his stack at this stage. It was a button on blind situation, where we got them in racing and my Tens held.

I played well over the next few levels chipping up to around chip_icon.jpg50k, but it all came unstuck when I ran AK into AA for an 80k pot, with the blinds 400/800. The rest of my chips went, when I ran into the Aces again.

Well done to John, who put in another super performance and never looked anything but the winner until coolered three-handed.

I enjoyed the two weeks in Malta, it's a lovely spot and my mate Alex made sure I didn't get caught up in the usual hotel casino loop that goes with poker trips, so big thanks to him.

I did however leave the island with a fairly sour taste in my mouth, after doing my stones in sports betting. I had been on a very good run since Vegas in that department, but it turned on me two weeks before I hit Malta.

Golf is where I do most of my punting and I always seem to do serious twine when the tournaments go to the Far East. Every year I tell myself to reduce my stakes when they move over there, but I always seem to end up chasing and punting higher. Throw in a few boredom days playing roulette on the nags and it turned into a disaster of a trip for the bankroll. Hopefully I can win the IPC next week to clear October's loses!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

IPT Main Event

I was well up for this, feeling great about my game and full of confidence when the tournament started. Four hours later I was thinking of the side events, but that's generally the way of tournament poker.

My starting table had some Italian team pro and an Irish one (Jude). It was an OK table with two definite soft spots.

There really wasn't much to report over the first three levels, I'd lost about 25% of my starting stack. Most of this went on a river bluff with air on a straight-flushing board and getting called by a pair.

My exit hand was interesting enough I think. There's an early position raise and one of the the soft-spots calls the button, I call from the big blind with heart_4.gif heart_6.gif, the blinds are 100-200. I like the heart_ace.gif heart_5.gif Unkown suit 4 flop. The initial raiser bets chip_icon.jpg1100 and button calls, as do I.

The turn is a black nine and the initial raiser bets chip_icon.jpg3k and is called by the button after my initial check. I'm confident the initial raiser had a big Ace here and I'm almost certain I'm ahead of the button whom I'm putting on big connecting hearts.

It look like the perfect spot to me as I'm picking up chip_icon.jpg11k in the middle for my chip_icon.jpg14k if I can fold them out, and while I think it's possible the button can call with his draw I'm happy enough to take that given my equity.

When I shove the initial raiser folds quickly enough, the button looked like he was in pain and seemed to be trying to fold on a number of occasions. However he eventually called and I wasn't pleased with what he showed up with, heart_jack.gif 9h. I had read it almost perfectly but hadn't accounted for him pairing his nine on the turn.

It was still a pretty big call on the turn by him for about 60% of his stack. I think the deciding factor in his call was being taken off a hand, not long before by the Italian stars guy. All in all I think I played the hand well and it was just a bit unfortunate he binked the turn. I hadn't seen semblance of a hand all day and it was time to try and force it a bit so can't complain.

There's an €1,100 side event today at five so I'm hoping for a better run at that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stones and Bones

I couldn't make JP's main event but I did head to Tallaght for the €250 side event on Saturday and the €150 Shoot-out on Sunday.

Saturday's game was good craic with some enjoyable hands but I never really got going, exiting level seven. I spent the rest of the night boozing heavy; culminating in a few old style JP Sit & Go's which were fun.

I bubbled Sunday's shoot-out. Cruised through my first table and all the other second tables were finished when I made a bit of a gambly call with Unkown suit QUnkown suit K on the bubble of mine. I had a couple of 70-30 reversals during the table and with the blinds rising had to get them in I think. As it turned out, I wasn't in a great spot as the big blind woke up with aces.

By this stage of the weekend there's fairly bad weather and I'm bricking it about the following morning's flight to Malta. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a great flyer at the best of times so you can imagine my state with a severe weather warning in place. Luckily it was wrong and the morning flight took off in very calm conditions.

I'm staying with my friend Alex Collier who moved here 18 months ago so I called around to his work place so he could drop me to his apartment on arrival. Alex used to build rally car engines in Ireland, so it was amusing to see him suited and booted in his new role (flogging up-scale time shares).

We went to the casino on Monday night and I managed to pick up entry to this week's IPT €2,200 game in a small 30ish field tournament. I ran pretty well here, betting all streets in two hands on the final table and backing into the nuts to the indignation of a few of the locals and Italian players. Nice start to the trip anyway.

Alex brought me around the whole island yesterday showing me all the sights. This basically involved seeing a number of very old stone structures. These included the oldest man made stone thing in the world and the third largest free standing dome, all very impressive.

We did go to catacombs which were interesting. We kind of got a bit away from the official tour and I had to stop Alex taking a piece of a skeleton which he wanted as a card protector. After some time noising around the lights went out, the tour was finished and it was the tour guide trying to give us a bit of a fright, it worked.

I'll move into a hotel tomorrow closer to the casino and Derek, Jude and a good few more of the lads are getting over Thurs/Fri so hopefully one of us can get a touch in the wonderfully sounding Italian Poker Tour.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cork still loves me anyway

I played the Macau monthly tournament on Friday night in Cork. This is a €275 entry, €10k guaranteed one night tournament that I try to make every month.

I almost turned back about a third of the way through the drive to Cork, traffic was at a standstill due to an oil spill before Dungarvan. By the end of the night I was glad I stuck with it, as I managed to take the lion's share of the purse and even got to suck out on big Al.

The tournament has a good structure but inevitably gets a bit fast as the night progresses. By about 4.30am a deal was suggested whereby the remaining six players get €1,500 each, leaving €1,000 for first and €700 for second to play for.

As the payment for 6th was a measly €400 and I was the shortest stack, I was only too happy to agree to the deal, I've never been one to turn down free money. I then proceeded to run like god and secure the extra grand for first.

On the drive home I couldn't help thinking that if I had run that good at the previous week's IWF, I could have probably wrapped up the three-day event in two.

Next up is JP's mini World Series festival. I'm heading straight to Malta after JP's game for two weeks, taking in the IPT and EMOP final. I'm also looking forward to catching up with my good buddy Alex Collier who moved there eighteen months ago.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Winter Festival Blues

I was looking forward to this one. The IWF boasts the second largest prize pool of the calendar year and with good runs at the title the previous two years, I was confident entering the tournament.

My plan was to arrive late to the Burlington on Friday night and get a good night kip. I checked in at ten and was in the bar at 10.05. Wally told me he'd been playing cash all night and asked could he use the spare bed in my room for a kip the following morning. I got to bed about five, Wally woke me about 7.30 carrying a bag that suggested he intended to stay longer than the original nap time requested.

I started the game a little hung-over and a lot jaded, after my two and a half hours kip. My starting table had Derek Murray, Pauric (Digiman on IPB) and a decent American player who recently won the UKIPT Scotland.

The first two levels were just feeling out the table. In level three I lost a few chips to Pauric, trapping Unkown suit AUnkown suit A into his turned flush. There was a decent enough Latvian player on the table whom I got a very lucky double from playing about 12k.

He had call numerous three-bets showing up with hands like Q8, so I wasn't that worried when he called mine while I was holding Queens. I got very worried when we got it in on the Jack high two-club flop, with him holding top set. I picked up a flushdraw on the turn and rivered a Queen.

The rest of the day went very well. I gradually grew my stack all day without playing any big pot or ever being in danger of going out, eventually finishing with chip_icon.jpg78,000. This was a top twenty stack with 110 left, so I was in a very healthy position.

It had been a very long twelve-hour day's poker, so I decided to skip a post play drink and retired to my room for that over due good night sleep but I hadn't factored in Wally. I was awoken from a coma state about six, as he had decided to watch the Malaysian Grand Prix at full volume.

Back to the tables and not as refreshed as I hoped, the first two hours were spent protecting my stack, as I wasn't finding any hands. When I eventually found AK I got it in with a shorter stacks Unkown suit AUnkown suit Q. The Queen on the river was unfortunate. It meant the difference of having 50 or 25 big blinds nearing the period, where people are thinking of making the cash.

I did chip back my losses in the hand fast enough, by upping my aggression but was out soon. While playing something between 70-80k, I raised the small blind and Funkymonk from IPB over shoved from the big. I more or less snapped with Unkown suit AUnkown suit J and lost to his Tens.

I'm sure my hand played well against his pushing range and if I had known his hand, I think I would have taken the race anyway. The implied advantage of getting my hands on 150k in chips, twenty-five from the money in a tournament with a huge amount of satellite winners is fairly massive.

Ultimately, it was another disappointing tournament, continuing the run of getting my hands on chips but exiting with around 20% of the field remaining. I wouldn't be human if I wasn't finding this run frustrating. However, I'm playing well and getting my hands on chips, so I'm actually feeling very good and positive about my game.

I was unlucky not to get a draw out of the tournament in the end, as I had backed eventual third, Tom "The Bomb" Finnernan at 50/1. Tom's a top player but couldn't catch a break on the final table, having entered it 4/1 favourite to take it down. It was still a great and well deserved result for Tom.

The weekend wasn't a total washout, as I was lucky enough to back Jonathan Byrd in the PGA event in Las Vegas at 60/1. It was some buzz seeing him get a hole in one to wrap it up on the fourth play off hole.

I'll spare everyone the story of Wally waking me up at six that morning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

IPO Weekend

Firstly, a big well done to Lisa, Ciaran, Jerry, everyone else at Boylepoker and Poker Ireland for yet again producing the biggest poker tournament of the year outside of Las Vegas.

I can only imagine the amount of work that goes into pulling off the IPO, but pull it off they did and what a great weekend it was again!

I played golf with the usual suspects (Paul, Marty and Julian) in the K Club on the Wednesday and Thursday before the event. Honours were split but if you saw the trashing Marty and myself got on day one, you wouldn't have backed us at 10/1 to recoup our losses on day two.

We headed to the Regency on Thursday evening and were settled in at the bar for the Montpelier rugby game. Marty said he was going in heavy on them to cover the handicap earlier in the day. I had a grand on and while I shouldn't say Marty's bet, it was 10x mine anyway.

Five minutes into the match, Marty came out with this gem of a question. Are Montpelier in the blue or grey? Something he probably should know, with a five-figure wager involved you'd think.

Montpelier, in the blue, won handily and the rest of the night was spent enjoying a relaxing few drinks.

I really enjoyed the whole tournament. I had a very pleasant starting table and the whole room seemed to be enjoying the game. I never really got going and just before dinner I ran Queens into Aces, which left me with five blinds. I needed to get these in before the blinds hit me and unfortunately I ran my J4os into Kings.

I did, however, last long enough to get a few quid from Mr Smyth in a last longer

Over the rest of the weekend I did three stints of commentating for the live stream, got two rounds of golf in and many more rounds of drinks.

It really was a hugely enjoyable weekend. Mickey May summed it up late in the bar on the Sunday night when she said, "The atmosphere at the IPO is something special, it's the people's tournament".