Manchester holds some mixed memories at a poker table. And when I say mixed, I mean bad.
It was at GUKPT Manchester four years ago when I went head-to-head with the phenomenon that is Moorman.
…not Chris, but his old man Simon.
We both had massive stacks as we got down to three or four tables. In his first ever comp, Simon raised my blind, I called with pocket fives and flopped a set. I check-called the flop and check-raised the turn, only for ‘Moorman2’ to river a bigger set with pocket sixes and send me spinning.
The following year, the UKIPT held its first ever UK leg in the same Manchester G Casino, and this time I got even closer to cashing, getting my average stack in with aces pre-flop against the tournament chip leader during hand-for-hand and seeing him make a house with 34o to make me the pure bubble. I’ve always seemed to get stacks together, but never really done anything with them, though I’m not sure I can take the blame for that. If in doubt, blame bad luck. I’d played a couple of side events last week at the GUKPT festival to no avail, so I needed to make a run at the Main Event to make the trip worthwhile.
All the talk was of an overlay in the £200k guaranteed tournament, but I was just focused on playing well and making good decisions. After all, it’s nice to have an extra £20k (as it turned out) added for free, but it’s no use unless you get your grubby mitts on some of it. I ended up sitting beside one of my best mates, Andy Booth, and I think that helped us both in terms of playing well, for fear of the other taking the mickey, and staying focused on beating each other.
There was a kid two to my left who was proving annoying, both because he played pretty well, and because he was one of those who try to collect all the small change on the table. And I don’t mean by winning them, I mean by putting 100 in for your 25 ante every hand and making the dealer get change. Boring. I bluffed three streets into him early on, so I knew he wouldn’t be quick to give me credit if I made a hand. Three levels in, and with the big blind sat out, I managed to river the nut flush on a paired board… He showed the queen-high flush after paying me off. A few hands later I raised with pocket deuces and flopped a set on 7-4-2 rainbow.
With four players in the pot, I bet 60% of the pot and he fumbled in some kind of under-raise. He’s said raise though, so it wasn’t a mistake, and he was made to make up the min-raise. This cleared the other two out of the pot, so I just called and checked the turn, which was a five. I checked and he bet less than we’d both put in the street before, so I check-raised and he quickly called. I bet half the pot on the ace river and he called, showing A7. He grumbled about how unlucky the river card was, but after raising an early position raiser who wants to fire on a 7-4-2 board into three opponents, I didn’t have that much sympathy.
The run good continued when I flopped the nut flush with A5hh on a king-high all-heart flop against Justin Devonport, who held AK. I’d got up to one of the biggest stacks in the room when I tangled with the kid two to my left for the third and final time. He opened under the gun and I three-bet the small blind with two kings. The big blind, new to the table, had double my raise, and after a bit of thought, he cold four-bet all-in. It felt like, and was, pocket aces, but that’s just one of those things.
However, the kid, thinking I was three-betting lights (and presumably pretending the big blind didn’t have pretty obvious aces!) then re-shoved his 60bb stack with two jacks and I made the call. A jack in the window looked pretty sick, but he was just hiding his old man behind, and three kings scooped the whole pot and gave me a massive stack, including all the small chips collected for me earlier! While I got a bit of stick on twitter from day 1a chip leader John Eames (oh you beat aces with kings, makes sense!) I picket up around 40k in that pot, but finished day 1b with nearly 160k, so all in all, a great day.
I have to say it was great to see the legends walk in, JP Kelly (two WSOP bracelets), Jakes Cody (triple crown winner), Matt Perrins (two WSOP bracelets) and Tom Middleton (EPT Barcelona winner for almost €1million recently) and to finish the day ahead of them all was pretty sweet. Only 20 were paid though, and with 69 coming back, there was no time for resting on laurels. Jake was on my table on day two, and it’s a pleasure to watch him play. I noticed by the first break, two hours in, he hadn’t once turned over the best hand, losing every showdown, yet he’d still increased his stack a fair amount. I knocked Jake out of his first ever £1k event, a good few years ago in Blackpool. He’d proved a right pain three to my right, raising and three-betting every hand. Eventually I made a stand, three-betting AQ and five-betting all-in when he, as expected, min four-bet me. He had two kings, had completely got me where he wanted me, and I had an ace. Some young kids in their first tournament would go off on one, who they’d deserved to win, what a donk I was. Jake came round the table, said nice hand and nice playing with you, and off he went. At the next GUKPT a couple of weeks later I went and bought him a drink, told him how well he’d played and said his attitude was brilliant. He was fine about it, an attitude he still has now when you knock him out, as I found out later on day two.
First hand of day two I three-bet pocket queens from the big blind and won a fairly bit pot to increase my chip lead, and while it wasn’t all smooth, I was atop the chip standings or thereabouts all tournament. As chip leaders do, I was in a lot of pots, and played one significant pot that could have been a monster. The guy to Jake’s right had caught our attention early on when he four-bet a guy all-in when he couldn’t pass on the flop with 10-high and no draw, and I got the feeling Jake was targeting him. He limped under the gun, and after Jake passed, I took the opportunity to isolate with K7hh. The blinds were 800/1600 and I made it only 3500, which attracted GUKPT London winner Martin Bader in from the big blind too. He said he couldn’t pass and was getting value and flicked it in, and the limper obviously called too.
The flop fell KdJh7d, jackpot. I couldn’t think of any hand I could be losing to with this pair, but with draws galore I bet 6600 into the 10k pot. Martin, playing about 100k to my 200k, raised to 16.6k and the limper got out of the way. I knew for a fact I was winning, with QT or diamonds Martin’s likely hands. I could make it 40k here, but I have to call a shove, and with a draw he’d love to get the last bet in, so I just moved all-in. Martin was a bit taken aback by the size of the bet. He thought forever, counting his stack down, telling me I mustn’t have known quite how much he had. The average was around 85k at the time, so Martin could still fold and be above average, and eventually he did, having called a clock on himself. He had J5 of diamonds for a pair and a flush draw. It’s a big hand on that flop, but playing deep when he check-raises he has to think about what I might do, and if he’s calling a shove, otherwise he’s throwing away a hand with plenty of equity without realising any of it. I think I would call it off after check-raising, you’re not in too bad a shape against even top set, but check-calling the flop makes more sense in a tournament where you can’t reload. Progress was smooth until we played hand for hand before the final table.
I doubled up Gordon McArthur with KT v AT, pretty annoying, and lost a few to the super aggro Baz Hussain. We were first and second in chips when I three-bet his open, he just moved all-in (!) We reached the final with just under average, sixth of nine. Not too bad, but a bit disappointing having been ahead so long, but three chip leader had under double my stack and three or four of us were very close. I’m really proud to hold the most GUKPT finals record, and I extended it with this, number eight, though it was almost over before it began. Again I lost a big pot to Gordon, defending AJ in the big blind and calling all three streets on a jack-high board against a set of jacks. Bring yer own flops day. However, I was ready for Ian Simpson, the Irish Open champ, who I knew was pretty aggro. I had the best seat on the table, with Ian to my right and Sunny Chattha, the only aggro good experienced player one further over. Just as expected, Ian tried to dominate from the off, raising Sunny on a 7-2-2 flop in a blinds battle, then just giving up when he called. Not the best flop to represent.
Next time Sunny raised, Ian three-bet and I found A-Q next to speak. The blinds were 5-10, Sunny made it 20, Ian 46 and I had 150k total. I cold foured it all-in, knowing if either had a real hand I was dead, but Ian called with JTo after Sunny passed and I held. Soon afterwards Ian open shoved 15bb and I knocked him out with pocket 10s. Perfect, dangerous player out and chip lead restored.
I was pretty card dead, but each time I found a decent holding ,someone had already shoved. The next hand I played, some 40 minutes later, another guy had shoved 15bb with JT and I found AK behind.
At dinner break we had five left and I was in third. My stack was very similar to Gordon’s and Sunny’s, with one really short stack, and Baz with the lot. The lot became even more when I lit the blue touch paper by button raising with K9cc. Gordon made a smallish three-bet that looked super strong. I was already thinking I’d be passing when Baz announced all-in from the big blind. I folded, Gordon called with the aces and Baz tabled 10s. Gordon was looking good to double, but a sick 10 on the river saw him eliminated. I got the guy in third with AQ v 88 and we were three-handed. Sunny had half the stack of me and Baz, who were very close, and a deal was proposed. Next out got £24k, and the deal gave me £43k. I thought it prudent to agree, and we played on for the title and added seat to the Grand Final.
Play livened up with the money settled, and Sunny went to down donking from the big blind after I’d raised the button. Unfortunately I’d raised with two queens and flopped a set, so I took a big pot. Very next hand I played the rush, defending Baz’s min-raise with K-7 and flopping top pair and turning three kings. I bet big on the river and Baz sigh called with pocket queens. Now I had them both under 15bb. Baz shoved the button for about 10bb and Sunny sighed and said he was all-in as well. I looked down at A8cc and thought even if it’s the best ace it would probably be a chop. I should have taken a shot though, as I’d be heads-up with equal stacks if I didn’t win the hand, and I win the comp if I scoop. I just didn’t think long enough, less than a second. They flipped K6 and A6 and of course I would have won the tournament if I’d called. Annoying.
Heads up we playing fast and loose. I’ve known Sunny for about seven years and actually cheered him home from the rail when he won his first GUKPT.
Very early on I flopped top pair with 87 on an eight-high board that was fairly draw-y. I check-raised all-in to rep the draw, but Sunny had me crushed with 98 and I doubled him up.
Having already lost A8 v KQ three-handed to get him, it felt like it was Sunny’s day, and so it proved. I didn’t flop better than one pair in the 45 minutes two-handed, and eventually shoved with 45hh and couldn’t get there against Sunny’s KJhh. Second for the second time this year and the third time in all. Always the bridesmaid? I was disappointed, but realistically we play poker to win money, and along with Baz I’d won the most in this tournament, so I’ve got 43,000 reasons to not be too down.
I love the GUKPT, and I’m determined to win another. Twice I’ve come close in the past three months, the third time I’ll get there, I’m determined, starting in Luton. I kept my hot form going by winning another £1k seat for £100 in the online satellite on Grosvenor Poker, time to turn it into a trophy!