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March 29, 2006

Poker On The Radio?

Surely not!.....

Well, i am telling you, it happened! - I was invited by BBC Radio Nottingham to appear on their Breakfast Show yesterday morning (Tuesday28th March) to talk about on-line gambling, on-line poker, the pitfalls, the merits etc. - There was nothing really in it for me as such but it sounded like fun so i thought why not.

Why me? i hear you ask.....Well, it turns out that my phone number was given out to a producer or researcher or someone connected to the show by my dear old mother of all people at an awards ceremony earlier this month (she won a BBC short story competition). - Mother's huh! :-) . Not satisfied with introducing me to my girlfriend over two years ago and practically setting up a blind date, she's now pimping me out to local media. It turns out the researcher and her got talking about gambling and the recent application by Mansfield Disctrict Council to have one of these 12 new UK super casinos in the town when she mentioned to him that i had quit work to become a gambling poker playing black sheep of the family and that i would be happy to talk to them about it. - consultation not required of course - mother's know best :-)

Anyway.... Despite having doubts about whether or not to go, off i trotted to the studio and it was all quite strange and surreal. I used to host the breakfast show on Newcastle Student Radio (NSR 107.5fm) when i was at University there and i kind of had that set-up pictured (dark, dingy, full of empty beer cans, discarded play-lists, fag packets, empty cans of red-bull and a room the size of your average bird cage.) However, this was proper Radio and it was all very professional, state of the art offices, equipment, computerised jingles, plasma screens and a professional sober presenter and people that knew what they were doing.

I was introduced to the presenter, who asked me a few questions. He introduced me to the listeners and we got going. He played a clip of some American kid called Ryan, who had gone broke and had started chasing his losses and was now back waiting tables at some restaurant. We talked about his plight, the dangers of gambling on-line, the merits of gambling on-line and then we talked about my last 12 months, my story, where i used to work, what i had done prior to finding poker and how much money i had made from the beautiful game. It was all done and dusted in about 5 minutes. - I am not sure what benefit it will be to the listeners or in deed how interesting it was to the audience but they asked me to do it, i said "yes" and it was good fun.

I think you can listen to it on the BBC Radio Nottingham website 'Listen Again' feature if you have Real Player loaded on your PC.

I haven't heard it yet and haven't got real player but i am told i sounded like a sensible chap and came across well. Maybe i should ask them for a job if i go broke :-)

You can click on the below link to read the article they have done about me.


March 22, 2006

Hands Up.... Are You a Fish or a Coach?

Hands Up…………………..

………………..If you’re a fish…… ><((((‘)…….. or are you the coach?

Now a fish isn’t probably something you would admit to being is it?! - (Why is it that fish have such a bad name in the poker world anyway?) – I happen to quite like fish, such tranquil, simple creatures that get to spend all day swimming around in cool water without too many cares in the world. – I think it’s about time we gave the fish some respect and pick on some other animals, like err…. Donkeys or pigeons or ….Camels maybe? - no offence meant there Keith. :-)

The Poker Coach Outbreak - They're breeding like rabbits!

Everyday, I surf the poker press, other poker blogs and poker forums and it is amazing how many times I hear tales from these now rapidly increasing breed of poker coaches on how they made such and such a ‘world class’ move but fish A or fish B was too god dam fish smelling to fold his fishy pair etc. When I play on-line I quite often read the chat, which seems to be full of useful titbits and information and tips from obviously great players (I mean surely you have to be great to tell another player how to play – right?)…. So why are these great players playing the $22 Sit and goes?

When I play live I listen to the players talk and to say it’s a £50 re-buy I am amazed at what great players populate the game – I mean I am assuming they are great players because they give a post mortem of EVERY hand and are so kind as to tell the others what they should have done to avoid losing that last pot.

Overall, what I read and hear on a regular basis is quite frankly scaring me. It seems like there are no bad players around anymore, everyone is now qualified to coach others and even those players that have been playing for five minutes and are 15 yrs old are calling their opponents fish! I am becoming more and more confused as to how I can possibly win at this game when it appears that everybody knows everything there is to know already and even those players and forum posters who populate the micro tables and $1 re-buy comps offer their wisdom and tell tales of how they would be playing such huge levels as $1-$2 if it wasn’t for the ‘idiot calling station fish’ that they come across and can’t beat everyday.

Anyway, rant over, I suppose it’s a game of opinions after all. I am just off to walk my pet fish round the block. – cheers!

March 16, 2006

Re-living the Embarrassment – The TV Horror Show.

Since the final of the William Hill Poker Grand Prix, which was filmed back in October 2005, there hasn’t been a day that hasn’t had me thinking back to the way I played and how it could have been oh so different had I just been a little more cautious, shown more composure and just taken it a little easier. I crashed out first in the final of the competition which I worked and played so hard to get to. It’s not the going out first that truly bothered me; it was the way in which I went out. I often lie in bed or sit on the sofa thinking of how I blew my chance at some serious money, recognition and maybe even the attentions of a lucrative sponsor. However, I never felt I could properly grieve for my loss and exorcise the demons until it aired on the TV and I got to hear what some proper players thought of my play (not that I consider or take note of the opinions of Lucy “shudda gone all-in” Wocach) but Andy Black is someone I have met a few times and have respect for and was interested in hearing his views along with those ‘players’ and friends that watched the WHPGP on the TV.

The general consensus amongst those I have sought an opinion from (and some that I didn’t) is that after building up an early chip lead, I then played my one massive key hand very badly in deed. For those that didn’t see it, - it went like this…

I raise 3 * BB from mid position with 10-J (everyone is playing really tight so I want to get busy early to try and build up some chips, and I assume everyone else has me down as ‘the tight guy’). I get called two seats later by Ram Vaswani, who has already called one of my raises and re-raised me once – I know he has drawn a great big target on my forehead and is deliberately going to try and outplay me – so I am in my mind ready to stand up for myself.

The flop came down as 8-Q-K (not bad, I have an open ended draw)…. but I am not sure what to put Ram on in his position. I should have led out here with a standard continuation bet but I didn’t. I guess it was because I felt Ram was going to re-raise me anyway and I was out of position against the only player on the table I didn’t want to get involved with – weak I know but I guess these were my reasons for not betting. I checked. After my check, Ram led out with a predictable 2/3rds of the pot bet. I seriously thought about check raising him here but I had convinced myself he may just call or move all-in and with it being early on in the game I didn’t want to over commit (I guess from Ram’s point of view that’s the power of being a known fearless aggressor and all-in merchant – it can occasionally stop people betting against you. I opted for a call knowing that if I could catch my open ended draw I would take the lead in the pot but I also hoped would leave ram with two-pairs or maybe he had a set of eights already – to tell the truth I didn’t really give Ram’s hand enough consideration, I was too busy playing mine and fighting off the bad play demons in my head.

The turn brought a jack, which leaves me with an open ended draw and a pair (albeit third pair) – I thought about making a bet here to try to represent something but I didn’t think he would believe me so I went for a check again hoping he would slow down and let me hit again for free. It wasn’t to be, he bet again but I read his bet as a weak follow up designed to get rid of me (I know he is capable of continually firing at a pot). With this in mind I wanted to define my hand here – did he have anything? – I check raised him another 3 times his bet – I wasn’t going to be pushed around. He thought for a moment and then called – I now knew he had a hand – perhaps two pairs (QK, QJ or maybe a set of 888).

The river was so cruel it almost brings me to tears. It came a 9, which made my straight on a no flushing un-paired board. I thought I really had him now and bet for value on the river fully expecting him to reluctantly call and show me something worse and shake his head at me catching up on the river but my daydream was broken by an immediate shout of “all-in”. OMFG, I couldn’t believe it and I almost shovelled the lot in without even looking up but I re-checked the board just to be sure. – No pair on it, no flush was possible; there were five cards there so we had definitely reached the end of the betting. Then all of a sudden, the horror hit me, although I had made my hand I had failed to account for the possibility of A-10 (which was the nuts), I had 10-J, which was the second nuts and I had assumed it was good enough (ram wouldn’t play A-10 in that spot would he?). I didn’t know what to do. I had no option but to replay the hand bet for bet in my head to check for the possibility that Ram could have A-10. The way he played it just didn’t lead me to that hand – it was the flop bet that fooled me – I thought he would check and take a free card on the flop but he bet his gut-shot draw, so I immediately put him on some of the flop and the fact that he only called my check raise on the turn with the absolute nuts totally baffled me. I really thought with the nuts here he would go all-in at that point. I eventually deduced that we had the same hand (10-J) – I told myself that he called my pre-flop raise with a good drawing hand and bet his open ended draw on the flop and when I checked again he bet his pair and open ended and then moved all-in on the river with the straight hoping I had a set of KKK or QQQ or something.

I decided my read was good and once I have made a read I like to stick with it. Although I wouldn’t normally call thinking it would be a split pot at best if the pot was smallish but the pot was huge, we had both put so much money in that getting my share back was definitely worth calling for. My other main thought was that I knew Ram to be a mover (just watch his heat – it was brutal) and I knew he wouldn’t be scared of going out first (see last years poker million heat too). He could well have been playing on the fact that I didn’t want to be first out and survival meant more to me than most of the players at the table. Third and probably worst rationale of all was that I didn’t want to be seen folding such a powerful hand on the TV and getting outplayed in front of so many people, I would never be able to hold my head high having been bluffed out of such a key pot with the SECOND POSSIBLE NUTS! – So I called and to my chagrin he showed A-10 for the F***ing coconuts. – Bollocks!

I have never been so deflated, embarrassed and full of disappointment at the poker table – nothing can get anywhere near the anger I felt at my own actions and the annoyance the poker gods for such a cold decked set up. I was inconsolable – it meant so much to me.

I suppose now its out in the open and the program has been aired I can begin to move on and forget about it. I will learn from how I played this hand and hopefully it will make me a better all round poker player and I will come out the other side a better man.

March 09, 2006

Happy Anniversary

Last week marked the anniversary of me quitting ‘proper work’ and opting for a life of smoke filled card rooms, hotels, travel, blinking avatars, bad beats and poker stories. In some ways it seems like only yesterday that I was handing in my resignation letter, banking my wad of Walsall ‘wonga’ and booking my flights to Vienna filled with anticipation, excitement and hope of a future as the ‘next big thing in poker’ – well, I could have been :-). Although it does literally seem like yesterday, when I look back on my experiences and remember the games I have played and places I have been it also seems like an eternity ago too – I guess 12 months is a long time in poker.

I thought it would be useful for me to outline my thoughts and reflections on this experience mainly for myself as a reminder but also as a guide for anyone thinking of taking on such a journey themselves. – So it reads clearly, I’ll set out some sub-headings….

How did it start?
I had been playing some really good poker (IMO) at the back end of 2004 and had managed some nice results at Nottingham in the £20 and £30 competitions. This form continued into 2005 and in February I managed to win the monthly £100 PLH competition for £7500. The following week I played a £50 super satellite for the £1500 main event at the Walsall ‘Midlands Medley’ and managed to scrape a seat. I played the best poker of my life in the main event a few days later and managed to get 2nd place winning £36,800. For detailed trip reports on this competition click this link to get to the start and then work chronologically through the archives for the rest as its in parts 1,2 & 3.


Armed with enthusiasm, confidence and a tentative offer of some sponsorship I jacked in the job, I paid back all my student debts and my car loan and took what was left of my new found wealth off to Vienna for the E-WSOP.

Where have I been?
I decided that my best strategy of achieving some sponsorship, recognition and results was to ride the wave of my recent success and form. I planned to top load my schedule and play as many main events and high profile tournaments I could reasonably afford without crippling myself – although I knew I was nowhere near bank rolling myself correctly but I was taking a shot at the big time and didn’t have time to think about a little thing like bank roll management. With this in mind I travelled to Vienna, then on to Dublin, stopping off at Sheffield, Luton, Blackpool, The Vic, and back in the sky to Jesolo (Italy). I then hopped over to Las Vegas for the WSOP, which was an amazing experience. My final big competition of 2005 was the made for TV, William Hill Grand Prix, which was filmed at the Enfys TV Studios in Cardiff – I think I made quite an impression! It’s been a fantastic journey, filled with some good results but a lot of disappointments, I’ve met some great people and some of the inevitable toe rags as well but I’ve pretty much loved every minute of it.

What have I learnt?
I feel like I have learnt a tremendous amount about myself, other people and of course about the beautiful game. I feel like a much better player than I was a year ago and it’s become obvious to me that you never stop learning at poker and no matter how good you think you are there is always someone capable of outplaying you or worse still – getting lucky!

What have I achieved?
I feel I have achieved a lot over the past twelve months. I have won more money than I ever thought I would, although nowhere near as much as I would have liked since my 2nd place finish at Walsall. I have managed to sustain a living from the game, move out of my parent’s house, pay off all my debts and generally live how I wanted with no pressures of work. I have found a game that I think I will love forever, I have met some great people and some new friends and I’ve even been on the television :-). What more could I want?!

What have I enjoyed?
There is no doubting that life outside of the 9 to 5 grind is one that cannot be underestimated or undervalued. You can do what you like, when you like (within reason). Get up when you want and generally you are your own boss. There is no rush hour traffic, no office politics and no annual review with the boss and best of all… there’s no tax.

What have I disliked?
There is a downside to the lifestyle though. It can get a bit repetitive and boring when not travelling around the circuit. If you’re at home for a few weeks then long sessions of internet poker tend to ensue, which can be boring. However it’s only a small downside and I guess if your disciplined, have plenty of other things to do and structure your days correctly there are huge benefits.

What’s Next?
The main difference to my life now and my life 12 months ago is that I now have responsibilities; I have a beautiful girlfriend who I want to spend time with rather than be sat in a room passive smoking with ugly old timers. I have a mortgage, a house to furnish and upkeep and bills to pay. I decided to invest a lot of my winnings in a house and consequently I don’t really have the bank roll now to continue travelling around the poker ‘circuit’ and can no longer stump up the big buy-in’s to main events that I use to – I pretty much pick and chose when I want to play and have to budget my gambling spend. Maybe I will be back at work soon – you can’t live off fresh air forever! Or maybe there’s a huge win just around the corner… who knows? I will continue to write poker articles, update the blog and play as much poker as I can when I can. Whatever happens, it’s been an experience so far, one to remember and draw on in the future – here’s to the next 12 months of poker.