Goliath18 will go down as one of the biggest, most enjoyable, amazing poker festivals ever held in the UK.
The side events were massive, the casino and poker rooms were buzzing throughout, and of course the Goliath Main Event, the star of the show, had more runners on each of the seven days compared to last year as it broke its own record as the biggest ever live poker tournament outside of Las Vegas.
In total there were 11,377 entries over the eight day Festival, with 7,584 the record setting final number in the Goliath itself; what a week of poker at the Ricoh Arena.
You’ve got to hand it to Ian Bryan, whose hard work behind the scenes is so ably carried out on the floor by Janis, Dena, Raj and their team, just imagine planning to get 11,000 people sat to play poker over 16 events.
As the dust settles on an amazing week in Coventry, I caught up with Ian having a well deserved beer, and already his mind was turning to how next year’s Goliath will look, how the increase in numbers year on year can carry on, how we’ll get 8, 9 or maybe even 10,000 runners and a £1million prizepool next year.
I’ve been with Grosvenor since before the first Goliath in 2011, but this year the build up was different, with so many people talking about the Goliath, when it started, how to win a seat, tactics for how to play it and more.
There were 750 seats guaranteed on GrosvenorPoker.com, ideal to get in cheaply and spin up a small investment, pennies in fact, into life changing money.
For the pros though, we had non playing matters to deal with that take precedence over actually playing, at least on occassion.
A couple of months ago we were asked if we’d be the trainers for a 2018 version of the David v Goliath promotion Grosvenor had run a couple of years back.
The idea was we needed six grassroots, inexperienced players with ‘Dav’ somewhere in their name, be it forename like David or Davina, or surname like Davies or Davison.
The Training Camp
Either way, we weren’t privy to any more information and we had to get on for planning our work with our six winners, Moyra, Kelly, Nicky, Dave, Dave and Dave.
Two days before the first of Goliath’s seven day ones, I headed to Coventry with Katie Swift and Joe Beevers and we set about planning four sessions of training over two days of Bootcamp, plus a couple of sit n go’s to let our students put their new found knowledge into practice.
Our Daves had mixed experience, but with Kelly playing her first ever game of poker and needing to start with just learning hand rankings and what beat what, we started at the very beginning, something the others probably found useful too.
After a morning spent on basics – hand rankings, starting hands, blinds, position, bet sizing – and an afternoon looking at c-betting, extracting value, realising equity and other more, our Daves were ready for the first SNG.
Fixing the Leaks
Blackpool grandmother Moyra had been cured of her limpness, entering pots with raises instead.
Kelly quickly learnt not to check her hole cards before the action was on her, to three-bet in position when the time was right, and to play tight and patiently to start with.
David Dale learned the hard way not to cold call three-bets from the blinds in a tough hand where Joe flopped trips and Katie held an overpair, while David Cook also found himself making life difficult by playing big hands slowly and finding ugly runouts.
David Mak and Nicky Davison both played pretty solid SNG strategy but got coolered early, and we all headed for dinner happy that plenty had been learnt on day 1 of Bootcamp and we’d laid some solid foundations for day 2.
With the basics covered, we looked at situations that are good or bad to run a bluff, spotting and concealing tells, as well as looking back to when we first started to play, and also previous Goliaths, and some of the rookie mistakes that we wanted our Daves to avoid.
An afternoon of analysing 10 big hands from previous Goliaths and GUKPTs on video and spotting the mistakes and we were ready for the finale, a sit and go featuring the three pros and six Daves where the winner would receive a Summer Sizzler seat.
After a top quality tussle, where our Daves showed just how much they’d been listening, Moyra ended up heads-up with David Cook, with Dave just getting the better of her to claim the seat, though Moyra did get the last laugh by lasting longest in the Goliath the next day to claim to £560 GUKPT seat which we’d added as a prize.
With the Dave v Goliath Bootcamp done, we could turn our attention to the famous sports star and prepare to announce him to the world.
The three of us had been asked to coach him and appear at the unveiling news conference before the final day 1 of Goliath.
Rather than get to actually play, I headed back to London as TalkSport had asked me to appear on their Sports Bar show in the perfect for poker midnight to 1am slot.
After some fun on the radio it was back to Goliath, but an early morning, a couple of hours travelling to the Ricoh and registering really late turns out not to be optimal, and after turning by 25k into 35 quickly, I lost a succession of pots and eventually decided I’d had enough of being 3bet and 4bet pocket deuces all in, straight into a pair of kings.
With Friday already close to selling out, I’d decided it wasn’t the day to be sat grinding only to miss out on getting to play again, so an early bath and a visit to the bar was the order of the day.
Thursday was our bounty comp, the Joker is Wild, and with £2k added by GrosvenorPoker.com, like most things in Goliath week, it was bigger than ever with 428 entrants!
All of the side events exceeded expectations – the women’s event, hosted and promoted so well by Katie, had 205 runners, which we think is the biggest ever ladies comp in Europe, the PLO had 289, the 25/50 had 657 and the £335 Super High Roller had a massive 321 (shout out to Katie’s Mum Sue O’Connor, who like her husband Dean last year, took second place!).
The Joker is Wild is always fun, though somehow I managed to play for three hours without ever getting dealt the joker, eventually going out with QQ against Joker5, a match up that was very confusing and pretty hard to win!
Late Thursday we were still discussing and finalising the 10.30am press conference, what we’d be asked, what was expected and with a 7am meet up, it was time for bed.
As always in Goliath, I joined a proper friendly table, and after the morning’s Press conference, With a 25k starting stack, even four levels in I was super deep, and after testing the water with a couple of raises with not much, I was lucky enough to not only find the aces, but find a shortish stack behind with AK to 3bet all-in.
No accidents and we were off building a stack to make day 2. Press conferences, training Daves, documentaries are all good, but at heart I’m a poker player and I love Goliath, one of the THE best tournaments of the year, so it felt good to be back to the day job.
It soon became evident that the fella two to my right was on a sponsored play as many hands as you can effort! He seemed to be playing every single one, raising every now and then but generally limping into every pot.
He wasn’t averse to a big bluff, and whether he got caught or got it through, had a great big smile and was loving the game.
We played two hands back-to-back which showed how hard it was to put him on anything and what a fun challenge he was to go up against.
In both hands he limped, I isolated him and we saw a flop.
In the first the board ran out 843Q5 and I checked my A4 on the flop, bet the turn and my opponent check/called, and we both checked the river. His 83 won.
In the second hand, the preflop action was the same. A 995 flop looked lovely for my pocket tens, I bet and he check/called. The turn was a beautiful 10 giving me a full house and definitely the best hand. He check/called a half pot bet.
The river was a jack, he checked again, I went for the lot, shoving for just under pot and he called, said nice hand and threw two queens into the muck face up!
This guy definitely had some leaks in his game – he somehow got to the river (despite action on every street) and first to speak shoved all in on a 77586 run out with Q9o to double me and my 76 up, but he was having fun and with a little work and advice could definitely be a decent player, my mind was already switching to training people again!
A Tough Table
As he departed, our table broke, and I went to a far tougher looking line up.
The guy two to my left had at least double my 200k stack as the last level started, and I got into a pretty meaty pot against him where I c-bet the flop with nothing, picked up the nut flush draw and fired again, and having missed the river thought about going for the third barrel.
Discretion proved the better part of valour and I check/folded to a bet that I was pretty sure indicated he’d slow played a big hand.
I wasn’t happy that I’d chosen to tangle with the biggest stack on the table and things could have got worse when a couple of hands from the end I decided raising J4cc was a good idea when action passed to me. I flopped bottom pair and a flush draw and of course bet it.
My opponent quickly called and I was pretty sure he had top pair on the king-high board. I missed the turn and it was decision time, check and give up and bag up 120k or keep barreling.
I couldn’t bring myself to check/call or check/fold so I bombed it and eventually got him to fold and allow me to bag up 265,500 for day 2.
After such a big day, I couldn’t wait to get to bed, but after a good night’s sleep I was ready for day 2 and liked my first table. Twice I flopped straight flush draws from the big blind multiway to pick up decent pots, and as the bubble came I padded my stack over 300k before winning a big one soon after it burst.
My table broke not long after we were all in the money and I was one of the bigger stacks in the room with over 600k.
Again I found a table where one guy was playing a lot more hands than eveyone else, and while I love playing with these guys, it proved to be my downfall.
I’d seen this guy call a 3bet shove from a woman I didn’t see play another hand before or after with A8o and lose to her AJcc, reshove 44 over a 15bb all-in with aces and crack them, and 3bet shove for about 30bb when I raised his blind with A9hh, so I knew he was lively!
At 8k/16k I raised to 35k in early position with pocket threes. True to form, the only caller was the guy playing lots of hands and I thought I had him on the AJ3 flop, where not only had I flopped a set, but it was ace high, which hopefully meant he’d flopped a top pair he’d be reluctant or unable to pass.
I bet and he quickly called. The turn brought a third spade, but with the ace of spades on the board I figured that at this stage of the tournament a flush wasn’t too much of a danger.
I continued for 75k and was quickly met with an all-in. What could he have, and why all-in now? An ace with a big spade kicker perhaps? Two pair like AJ that didn’t want a lone spade in my hand to hit?
Either way, I couldn’t pass to this guy, called and was shown K8ss for the nuts.
No pair up and a 1.2million pot when the average was 350k headed to my opponent.
Down to less than a small blind, 7k at 8/16, I stuck it in blind. Someone else shoved pocket fours, I flipped my Q4 and hit a queen. Next hand I shoved blind again and my K7 beat the big blind’s A5. After a walk in the big blind next hand, I successfully open shoved J4 from the small blind next hand and all of a sudden I had 200k again!
The comeback wasn’t to be though, I chanced my arm once too many times and my 9T couldn’t beat AQ and it was off to the cash desk for my £350 for 392nd place.
I love that the Goliath Festival still has plenty of side events after the Main Event is over.
While I’m not (quite) old enough to enter the Masters (seniors) I did late reg the ROE with 9bb and managed to last half an hour, get it in good and rivered, before playing the Super High Roller, which really was a great comp.
Somehow I managed to crack aces and kings in that comp yet still never get a stack together, and bowed out 10 minutes before the end of day one.
Still, that freed me up to spend a few hours in the commentary box with Katie, Tower and Jay, and watch Florian Duta put on a clinic in closing out a comp to turn his single £125 entry into over £100k!
Tower and Jay were still as enthusiastic eight days in as they’d been on day one, doing a great job bringing the excitement and flavour of Goliath to the masses, and with PK, Scottish Dave and young Mikey all working extra long days yet still putting out a product Andy Booth of Cardroom Direct and Grosvenor can be proud of, they all deserve a huge pat on the back.
If you missed out on the Goliath, or are keen to play poker again after your shot a few weeks ago, the Summer Sizzler is just around the corner. This is a regional series of £20,000 GTD tournaments. Plenty of satellites are running now on grosvenorpoker.com. An online day 1 is being held on Sunday the 19th August at 7.30pm. For more information visit https://www.grosvenorcasinos.com/poker/summer-sizzler