My London take-home ticket:
Online players, before going into live poker, should learn the live aspects first. These are two very separate fields, with live poker requiring not to try to win the pot every time, otherwise you’ll come up short.
Playing poker professionally throws plenty of challenges your way, particularly the seemingly never-ending production line of excellent, experienced and eager young upstarts.
GUKPT London seemed to be chock-full of such players. When the topic of conversation in the bar among the latest crop is how past it Chris Moorman is and how the game has moved on since his heyday, it’s easy to feel like an old man in a young man’s game.
Fast forward four days to the final table however, and I was taking my seat at a final table full of players who, bar one, would all regard themselves as live pros, and whose average age must have been around 35.
I played with tens of really good online players in this 240-strong field, but until the majority of them learn how to adapt to live poker, and stop trying to win every pot, they’ll continue to come up short.
My starting table was a dream, with Jerome Bradpiece one to my right the only player or pedigree I recognised, and I had immediate position on him.
The table was pretty wild, with a gambling Italian making for some big pots, and a couple of guys who literally seemed to be calling everything, so I set about running up a big stack.
I’d moved up to 25k without too much trouble when I found a lovely spot, raising an under the gun limp and being three bet by the Italian, who I’d now decided was a pretty good LAG, on the button.
My raise looked like an isolation play on the limp, which encouraged the Italian’s play
When the limper now flat called, I had the opportunity to four bet, and seeing as I wasn’t isolating, but had two black kings, that’s what I did.
The Italian, as expected, was making a play, and folded, but the under the gun player, who had got himself in a right mess, eventually decided to move all-in with his two jacks, and the KQQ flop was pretty conclusive.
Up to 50k, and among the chip leaders, I had the perfect platform to push on, and played pretty aggro all day, though it could have gone horribly wrong.
I’ve never been a fan of eating at the table, and in any comp at the Vic instead of a buffet break, they always serve you a bowl of food, as well as ‘nibbles’ all the time, but that might have been what saved me.
I raised it up with pocket eights and got called in mid position and the button, but the small blind was in the middle of moaning at the waitress as he waited for his food while everyone else tucked in, and he folded despite great pot odds.
On the AA8 flop I fired once with the flopped house and the Italian guy called with what I figured was a raggy ace.
On the turn I bet big and he folded, saying he knew I didn’t have an ace and that his pocket pair was good.
It was then that the small blind started cursing, saying he’d folded A8 because he was dealing the waitress!
I got in two other pots of significance. In the first, I called a massive (5x big blind) raise on the button with pocket fives against another big stack, in the hope I could stack him if I flopped a set.
My plan went awry when the small blind moved in for three times the bet, but when the original raiser just called, I was priced in to call too.
I flopped a five and bet it, the raiser passed 99 and the allin player’s queens were no good, giving me a sizeable pot.
Playing the last six hands, I played another significant pot, calling a big blind shove after my button raise with KQ. I knew I was dead when, on seeing my opponent’s A5 off, the guy beside me said ‘there’s no way KQ doesn’t win this’.
Even though the king-high flop gave me hope, it came 5-5 to ship a 40k pot the wrong way and leave me with 101 k after day one, fifth in chips on my day and 10th overall of the 66 survivors.
My table on day two was a bit trickier, with three or four good online players, but they tried to win every pot and managed to knock each other out while I played tight aggressive.
I knew I would be viewed as playing tight, so when I button raised with T-J, and the young guy in the small blind three-bet, I clicked it back and he quickly folded.
The benefits of deep stacks and good reads
With the bubble approaching I moved table and played a massive hand blind on blind that sent me once again towards the chip lead.
Passed round, I raised the small blind with two black jacks, the big blind called.
I bet 5k on the 773 flop, and got min raised. There was two diamonds the flop, and I thought the big blind must have a flush draw, the way he rechecked his cards.
Obviously I called the min-raise with my overpair and in my mind said ‘please put the jack of diamonds down there’.
The dealer burned and turned the jack of diamonds!
Hopefully he’s completed his flush and is drawing dead to my jacks full. I checked and he shoved 50k into the 25k pot. I quickly called and was a bit disappointed to see he was still drawing live with his 9-7 offsuit, but I avoided any pair up and was up to around 250k.
Playing hand for hand I was one of the bigger stacks, and tried to bully the shorties, but for every one I successfully bullied and set in, I doubled another up, and without any hands, basically maintained my stack.
The bubble was a drawn out affair, lasting well over an hour, but when it did burst, it came with two pieces of good news for me – not only had I locked up at least £3300, the unfortunate bubble was also the only guy who could prevent me winning the online last longest, which sees G Casino giving the best performing online satellite winner the buy-in back to use at future events, another £1500 locked up.
Because of the lengthy bubble, and the flattish payouts, the post-bubble period was pretty manic, with all the shorties getting it in and gambling. It was here I ran bad for about an hour, and that probably cost me a realistic shot at winning the tournament.
I didn’t really get unlucky, just kept running decent hands into slightly better ones, while also losing a couple of races
And when I moved to my new table I was down to around 100k at 3-6k with 14 left.
I’d had the same stack as Praz Bansi just about the whole way through the tournament, but as I slid out of contention, Praz came out on the right side of the post-bubble gamble, beating 9-9 with pocket jacks, A-Q with jacks again, and then getting lucky with A-J v A-Q.
Praz plays so loose aggressive that he never has trouble getting action on his big hands
And while he got lucky in the third one, he really earned the luck with excellent pressurising play.
We soon got down to the final table bubble, and playing five handed with Praz and Karl Mahrenholz, two of my best friends in poker, proved interesting.
They didn’t particularly want to knock me out, but there’s no friends at the poker table, and I could see Praz especially was keen to set me in when he could.
Sharing the record of five GUKPT finals, I was pretty keen to become the first player to six finals, and was clinging on with about 10 big blinds at 4k-8k when the biggest pot of the tournament played out between the two chip leaders.
David Rudling raised and Praz three-bet him preflop, David calling. The flop was 7-8-9 with two clubs, and David, holding A-Q of clubs, check raised all-in for a massive bet that he knew Praz would have trouble calling with just about every one of his three-betting range.
Unfortunately for him, Praz had three-bet with T-J and flopped the nuts, and after two bricks and a third of the chips in play being shovelled over to the man with two bracelets, the final table was set.
I was pretty proud of making my sixth final, but knew from now on it was about getting an early double up in the final and making a run at the win.
There were two other shortish stacks, and both of the got it in bad, only to river a double up, before I made my move.
That was pretty frustrating, as if the best hand holds up I trouser another £5000 without doing anything, not to be sniffed at.
I’d managed to stay afloat shoving once a round, and then shoved over Gary Lindsay’s 20k open at 5k-10k, for only 40k more.
He found a fold, later telling me he miscounted my stack as he’s an online player who wasn’t used to playing live, which was a shame, as he had two unders to my pocket jacks and a full double up would have been perfect.
I don’t think it made much difference in the end though, as even if I had 130k and not the 90k I shoved in my exit hand, I don’t think I can pass A-T in an unopened pot.
Unfortunately for me, Manig Loeser, next to act, had A-Q and his hand stood up
I stayed around to rail Karl and Praz, both of whom seemed to be playing really well, and it looked for a while like a repeat of the first ever GUKPT final, when Praz beat Karl heads-up in Bolton, was on the cards.
Unfortunately, Karl bust fourth, leaving Praz to claim his second title against the impressive German Loeser, making another brave call with the nuts when his opponent moved in with top pair on a KQJx board, drawing dead to Praz’s A-T.
I’m disappointed that my last few GUKPT finals have seen me exit pretty early after coming first and second in my first two, sometimes unluckily, AQ v A6 in Bolton, sometimes coolered, kings v aces in Luton, and sometimes because I’d not played aggressively enough in the run up to the final (Coventry).
This time though, I was pretty happy with my play
I just needed to get on the right side of the post-bubble gamble.
Praz played great and was a worthy winner but I wished I’d got a stack to take him on – it’s always good to test yourself against the best, and no matter what the young online guys think, Praz is the best in the UK and one of the top 20 in the world, all IMO, obv.