My Manchester take-home ticket:
Take risks and experiment with your tournament style. This way, any player is forced to stay on top of their game.
I love going to Manchester any time, but after months without a GUKPT, it was with extra vigour I boarded the train up north to play the first leg of 2011.
The return of the tour is like the first day of a new school year, a chance to catch up with old friends before getting on with the hard work ahead. This year there’s been some tweaks to the way the tour works and the £300,000 of ADDED money is distributed.
A nice starter was registering online on the Blue Square/G Casino site got me into every tournament juice free, so as I checked into what can loosely be described as my hotel, I was ready for the £500 comp having paid £500 to enter, not the £550 those turning up at the casino on the day were charged.
Already I felt like I was ahead of the game
Another innovation this year is the high hand in each tournament gets a seat in the revamped champion of champions, which itself has been re-jigged into a much better format.
Instead of the year ending festival in Coventry or Luton, which had felt a bit of a damp squib after the big Grand Final festival at the Vic, the champion of champions is now an online sit n go style tournament held the week after each event.
With around 20 entrants – the winners of each comp during the week, plus the holders of the high hands, the first person out of the main, and the lucky punter sat in seat five on table five – the £10,000 free-roll feels very winnable if you can secure a seat.
I sat in the monkey comp and within an hour we had quad tens on my table.
The rule was that the hand must go to showdown
Which could make people with monsters check their hand down rather than seeking value, with the champion of champion seat more important to them than winning a larger pot.
The tournament staff asked a few of us during the tournament if we thought it might be better to take away the stipulation that you must go to showdown, and all the players felt it would be better to allow the hands to play to a natural conclusion and if there’s no showdown, allow a hand to qualify if it is merely shown, not necessarily at a showdown.
Hopefully they’ll consider changing that as the showdown rule could change the outcome of a tournament, and no-one wants that.
It’s good to see the players getting a voice on the tour though, and the powers that be seem keen to listen and consider all decent ideas.
I felt like I avoided some potential tournament-ending coolers, four-bet folding AQ into a loose player who turned out to have aces when he shoved, then finding a fold of K-Q on a KK8xx board against an aggressor who flopped a house with pocket eights.
As the last level approached I had lost a few races and ended up starting the 600-1200 level with just 7000 chips.
A race won here, a big hand there and a bit of stealing in between saw me finish the day 40 minutes later with 50k and among the chip leaders of the 14 coming back.
Day two lasted all of two hands
On hand one I folded, the guy to my left opened, the big blind peeled and check folded to a c-bet, the next hand I opened with Q-J of spades, the same guy peeled again from the small blind and open shoved 45k into a 9k pot on a Q-9-3 two-diamond flop.
I possibly should have folded, though his hand just looked like it must be a draw, but I knew if I could win this one I could push on to win the comp.
He had an interestingly played K-Q…the turn was a jack, he managed to get half a moan in before the king on the river.
After a short foray into the PLO comp, it was onto the main event
I felt I’d played pretty well leading up to this, and after paying no juice on the two side events, I was in profit by £80, or so I tried to tell myself.
I’d qualified online for the main, so I was in with a chance of being the ‘Shoal Survivor’ – the longest lasting satellite qualifier gets a free entry into the next GUKPT thanks to another new innovation this year.
I was in a quandary, as it was my birthday on the Saturday, day two of the main, and my family were all coming to Manchester to celebrate with me, so my idea was to get big or go home in the main, and not crawl through with my usual plodder’s stack.
I’ve often experimented in smaller comps with different styles, but this was the first time I was gonna go at it like a maniac in a £1k, and I was quite looking forward Malllu-ing for the day, as we say in the business.
I was opening most pots that had been passed to me, and was only meeting any resistance from Will Fry, a really good loose aggressive player who has an EPT title on his CV and was a real action player.
Will had already more than doubled his 15k starting stack thanks to Andy Bradshaw four-betting all in on an eight-high flop with A-J against Will’s flopped two pair, and he’d also cracked aces with a set to start really well.
I, on the hand, was not faring so well
I managed to cold four bet with queens from the big blind only to be met with a five-bet all-in which I passed to, and had a couple of other damaging situations when I raised 8-9 suited UTG.
A tight player re-raised me small with what looked like a big hand and the two of us saw a flop of 8-7-6. I was happy to get it all in here with my get big or go home attitude against his aces, and the river five saw me back to starting stack.
I chipped up to about 30k when in level three the inevitable clash between me and Will occurred.
I raised 9-7 suited in early position and he called from the small blind and we saw a T-8-3 rainbow flop. I c-bet my up n down draw and when Will check-raised I felt we were deep enough to peel. The turn was gin for me, the six of hearts, giving me the nuts with a heart redraw, so I just smooth called a three-quarter pot bet.
The river paired the three, not really the card I wanted to see as a set was definitely in his range, but when he set me in for me last 18k on the river I had to call and he quickly mucked to send me hurtling towards 50k and the chip lead.
From there I hoped to push on, but a couple of lost races, most notable with queens against A-K, cost me dear, and I ended up making day two with 35k, just below average, exactly what I didn’t want!
After a Friday night spent watching TNA wrestling at the MEN Arena (long story!) I was ready to play fast again on Saturday, and had the perfect table for it, with a load of short stacks, and the one big stack at the table having no player yet.
I raised relentlessly and picked up plenty of blinds to get over 40k, before someone eventually played back at me and three-bet all-in over my usual raise.
This time I had the goods though, queens, and his A-9 was drawing to three outs
No problem sir. Sigh. Back to 15k and life support.
From there I just moved in again and again, and once I’d picked up a few blinds, I then started three-bet shoving over almost any raise. All of a sudden I had 50k again even though I hadn’t even seen a flop.
Having not seen a hand bar the cracked queens, looking down at two tens felt like the nuts, so when the guy beside me raised, I again shoved all-in, hoping for a call this time. The call duly arrived, but instead of the race I hoped for, I was drawing thin against two jacks, and with no help from the board, I was a goner.
To rub salt in the wounds, I was the second-longest surviving Shoal Survivor, winning nothing, while Priyan De Mel, who exited just moments after me, scooped the free GUKPT seat.
Still, I got to spend my birthday with my family for the first time since I was 18 and go for a nice meal and think about what might have been.
I think experimenting with your tournament style is essential to keep any player on top of their game
And my super aggro attacking style worked well for me in Manchester. You never know, for the next leg in London, I might die my hair blonde, stick a Sweden football shirt on and become a real Scandi machine-gunner.