The GUKPT is entering its 10th year, and I’m proud to say I’ve signed another contract to represent Grosvenor Poker for not only another year, but this special year celebrating the UK’s biggest and best poker tour.
Winning one of the side events at the GUKPT Grand Final at the end of 2015 can’t have done me any harm when extending my deal was mooted, so as the 10th season got underway, I was determined to add to my collection of seven GUKPT winners’ trophies.
It was January 2007 when first GUKPT was held up in Bolton.
It was carved up by two guys I’d never met at the time, but now are two of my closest friends in poker, Karl Mahrenholz and Praz Bansi.
I played my first event, having organised the holiday from work, a couple of months later in Cardiff, and didn’t cash at all until February 2008 in Walsall, when not only did I cash, I won the title, and £84,000.
I’m proud that every time I’ve cashed, I’ve made the final, a record nine times.
But I feel like I should have won more than one Main Event (as someone who prides themselves on their heads-up play, and the first Brit to win the World Heads-Up Championship, I’m not happy at coming second three times!).
A lot of players have come and go in that time, some have won so much they don’t much bother with £1k buy-ins any more, but most have gone the other way and would love to play another.
I’m blessed that Grosvenor want me to represent their brand, and in return, I have to do my best to keep up with the very best players and keep challenging at the top.
Adding to my seven side event wins would be a good start, and the introduction of the Mini Main Event, an innovation for the 2016 Tour, was my first chance at GUKPT London.
The Mini Main has the same structure and starting stack as the GUKPT Main Events, and provides proper deepstack poker at a budget.
I’m not sure it’s really aimed at the pros, and it certainly seemed to drag on a bit on day one, with the guy to my left literally asleep in between being woken up to fold his hands (and no, it wasn’t my badbeat stories that set him off!).
Day one lasted from 7.30pm to 3.30am, with day 2 the next day from 6pm.
I believe it finished around 6am, certainly deep stacked!
The feedback from the recreational players is this is just what they want, deep stack, can still go to work and not have to skive off in they make day 2 – for me, I think I’ll enter late (you can enter up til midnight!) and make the days shorter.
My new plan may be borne of a frustrating day one where I got to level nine still with my 20k starting stack. Still, as I know from playing countless GUKPTs, 20k is plenty around the 400/800 and 500/1k levels, and I found the right spots just in time.
First I found the aces, and with Louise Duffy raising in early position, I knew firstly she’d have a hand, and secondly she may think I was sticking it in lightish with one eye on the clock and having to come back for day two.
She eventually called my 20k shove over her open with AQ.
The aces held and all of a sudden I was just about average.
I could play a little now, and picked up some small pots, before the last hand of the night, when a guy who had just had his kings cracked and looked thoroughly fed up, raised to 3600 from his 25k stack on my big blind.
The small blind peeled off his massive stack, so when I looked at two jacks, I thought shoving again was correct, probably getting called light from the opener and making chipzilla pass.
It worked to perfection, the fed up shorty called his 25k off with deuces, the big stack passed his KQ, and the board came KKQxx, avoiding all deuces, annoying all big stacks, and leaving me with a healthily above average 75k for day two.
Day two started perfectly.
I raised pocket threes in early position and peeled when a big stack three bet me, finding a third three on the flop. He played well to not do his whole stack with his aces on a king high board, but I was still nicely over 100k when the average was more like half that.
I played pretty snug, just taking advantage of situations and position, although I did three-bet one guy with my AQ – he folded pocket tens face up.
About 20 minutes later, the same guy raised my blind from the button.
I found AQ again and three-bet him again, making his 7k open 19k. he had 75k total which I obviously called off when he four-bet. He flipped over Q8 and started putting his coat on!
Of course there was no need, the poker gods see that people like him need their help, and duly dug out an eight on the turn to award him the 150 pot and leave me with 10bb.
Our table broke and I shoved the 10 bigs in with KJ when it was passed to me on the button. As the small blind dwelled I could see the bad news on the big blind’s face, and sure enough he got to make the call with his two queens and send me on my way, while Q8 guy went on to enjoy the fantastic structure and tournament!
I had intended to play more, but feeling a bit fluey on the Thursday, I decided to get an early night as the Main Event was the real business of the week.
It was my birthday, but off I went to the Vic, and was given a present straight away when Terry Jordon – he who got me a week earlier in PKR Live – was drawn beside me and in the mood to gamble.
Terry had had three bullets on day 1a, and told me he’d lasted all of one hand on both the first two, finding someone to go all-in blind with him on each of his first two tables and losing the flip.
I knew it would be fast and furious.
And having lost a pretty nasty set under set coup against someone else, I quickly relieved Terry of his 13k or so he had left, three-betting AK and betting every street of a king high board, getting him to call it off with second pair.
Some people don’t like the way Terry plays, but each to their own, he pays his money he can do what he wants, and he had the last laugh, rebuying and building up a massive stack to finish day 1 as huge chip leader.
Having enjoyed my dalliance with Terry, I was less than impressed to see Adrian Mateos replace him beside me.
For anyone who doesn’t know Mateos, he’s 21 and has already won the WSOPE Main Event and EPT Grand Final Main Event, both for € 1million pay days!
He was on my table at the GUKPT Grand Final and impressed me.
And in this first event of 2016, he was even better, showing such great instinct for when to try and bully his way to pots, and when to give up. He’s a real tough nut to crack, and I think if I could have got rid of him my day would have been a lot different.
I had my chance when I found AJ of clubs in the small blind to his button raise. I could have three-bet here, but thought he would fold a lot of his rubbish and I’d rather disguise the strength of my hand.
It didn’t matter either way as it happened.
The flop fell 8-4-4 with two clubs, and I checked to him, knowing he would c-bet with any two cards. I raised on the semi-bluff with my nut flush draw, but aware it would look like I was just playing back at a c-bet, so wasn’t that surprised when he raised again for a quarter of his stack.
I shoved, he called with two red kings and he was all in for 20k. I had 60k, so this was either get rid of the best player at the table and have 80k and be flying, or have 40k and have the best player on the same stack.
Alas, a black turn was followed by the king of clubs, painful, my nut flush losing to his full house, and the day got trickier.
I’m not sure if I played badly, just ran into situations, played fine and was unlucky or what, but I know from having 60k early, I didn’t expect to be out in level 7.
An active young guy raised to 700 at 150/300, Dave Clark, former GUKPT Luton champ, peeled and Mateos three-bet the button to 2500. I had 99 in the sb and my 40k stack, and decided the raiser and three-bettor could well be full of it.
I made it 7500 and called off Dave’s 19k total when he shrugged and shoved.
The raiser and the three-bettor did indeed quickly fold, but Dave’s jacks were good and I lost half my stack.
Nines in the small blind were to prove my demise, although running tens into kings first cost me a few.
I was down to 18bb when Mateos raised the button for the hundredth time, and I found the nines in the small blind again.
I shoved all-in and got the dreaded cold call from the old guy in the big blind.
Mateos of course threw his muck away, and the big blind’s aces held up for him and sent me home.
It’s a weird feeling not being sure if it’s bad luck or bad play that has cost you, normally I’m very sure (usually bad luck, sometimes bad play!). I certainly ran into some hands, but I also wouldn’t normally cold four-bet nines, so maybe I let Mateos presence get to me.
I certainly wasn’t trying to outplay him or let him know I was boss, I’m too old and experienced to get into any pencil waving contests, but I do know he played really well and I was very impressed.
As ever, when I see a good player play, I try and look into their game and work out what makes them good, and hard to play against. I reckon there’s a couple of things to work on from my brush with the young Spaniard, so at least I got something out of my week in London.
Only a month to wait til the next GUKPT, in Manchester starting on Feb 28th, to put my new tactics into action!