Jeff Kimber looks back on a successful trip and gives analysis on some unique situations in tournament poker.
Sir Alex Ferguson used to call it “squeaky bum time” and while we’re not fighting to be top of poker’s Premier League, the last three events of the GUKPT calendar – GUKPT Luton, GUKPT Blackpool and the Grand Final – do feel like they can make or break your year.
With two £1000 Main Events followed by the £2,000 Grand Final – and the bigger side events that accompany our bigger buy-in legs – performing well in the GUKPT ‘run in’ can make or break your poker year.
Last year I made the Main Event final tables in both Luton and Blackpool and did okay in side events, but continuing the football analogy I probably did well enough for a Champions League place without ever looking like a title winner.
I was due to go to Luton on the Thursday to play the £150 4/5/6 PLO, a tournament I finished 4th in last year, but I just couldn’t resist the other side events and headed up early to play Tuesday’s £300 sidey.
Side event success
With 20k starting stack and a two-day structure I didn’t plan on getting involved early, but first hand I played I managed to lose half my stack doubling up WSOP bracelet holder and former GUKPT Grand Final champ Mike Ellis.
Luckily for me Mike had already lost half his stack when he defended my button raise with 42. I had raised with A7 of clubs and thought the 742 with two club flop was pretty good. We got it in after his check raise, mainly because I thought Mike had a lot of flush and combo draws I had crushed in his range. His deuces and fours held and as I counted out Mike’s double up and wondered how things could get any worse, late regging Will Kassouf came and sat in the seat in between us!
The lack of runners was a little sad for such a good tournament, but we had a really fun table, mainly with Will getting caught at it a lot and me doubling up with the nuts or close to, once defending 56 in the blinds and getting it in three ways on the turn of a 234Q board against pocket kings and a set of fours, and again raising with aces and finding the A88 flop against a big blind defender who held one of the other eights.
As the end of day one approached and we were down to seven with six paid, Terry Jordon made it obvious he’d rather not come back for day two and his chips were very much on offer. I tried a number of times to catch Terry, but failed in each and we ended the day with Terry the big stack and me the shortest, although I still came back with 30bb.
Terry played a little more sensibly now we were back for the second day, and quickly we were in the money when Andy Hills raised with AK and got it in on the AT9 flop against the big blind’s set of nines.
With Terry raising a lot, and the pay jumps not that big til we got to the top three, I took a shot with the nut flush draw when Terry c-bet in a fiveway pot on a KJ2 two spade flop. My A5ss was just about flipping with Terry’s K3 and I got there on the river. I really like playing with Terry, his aggression puts you in unusual and difficult spots and he never moans whether he loses and has a lot of fun.
When we reached the first break I’d taken the chip lead with five of us left and I felt favourite to win the trophy, but Terry had a card rush making him extra dangerous given the rubbish we were used to him turning over!
First Joe Beevers shoved from the big blind with AJ, only to find Terry with the dominating AK, then Kevin Twigg did the same with AT when Terry again had the goods, QQ.
Three-handed, the short stack only had 10bb, so I took a shot when he shoved, Gheorghita Turcanu’s AJ holding against my QT suited.
I still had about 23bb when Terry raised from the small blind and I looked down at A5. Knowing Terry peels a lot of 3bets, and happy to take down the pot there, I moved all in, Terry said something along the lines of ‘I know I’m losing but I’ve gotta take the shot to get rid of you’ and his KT rivered the nut straight to knock me out in third for £1880.
The other two chopped up the money and Terry took the title.
Buoyed by that performance I played the £200 8max and £150 PLO but to no avail.
I got a pretty nasty one in the 4/5/6 PLO, seeing a flop of 5s7h8h with my big blind hand of 75 of clubs and 69TJ of hearts.
I checked and the big stack potted it and got one call. I repotted and we got it in, thinking we’d have the same hand (the nuts). I was up against just the same bottom two pair I had, plus the nut flush draw. I had four hearts in my hand, there were two on the board and two in his hand, plus I killed the 5h as that gave me a straight flush, but my opponent still found a river heart that knocked me out!
The main event
The Main Event was a slog, with little going right. I raised with pocket kings and picked up one caller, seeing a J55 flop…he had 56, which cost me plenty. I did get lucky to double back up when I peeled a 3bet with A9 against a guy who had played pretty aggro. All plans to get creative were abandoned when we saw the T87 flop and I decided I’d happily take the race if he did have the big hand he was repping, but which I didn’t really think he had.
My read was wrong, as I got it in against pocket kings, but I rivered an ace and had another chance. Unfortunately, my other premium hand of the day, pocket queens, saw me knocked out. I raised and picked up two big stacked callers, one mid position player who had just had the aces v kings coup for an 80k pot, and Tom Hall in the big blind, who had sat down and first hand got it his whole stack in three-ways with KK v QQ v 88 and held.
Safe to say they were both enjoying their day more than I was, and when we saw an 875 two diamond flop I decided to check to the guy in position, let him have a stab and check raise all-in.
Despite his dwell, he couldn’t ever pass K7dd, a pair and a flush draw, what flop are you waiting for when playing K7 suited if it’s not this one, and when he did call he saw the ace of diamonds on the turn to give him the nuts and see me depart.
Fortunately, I have a little stock of previously won online seats, so after a half hour break to clear that slog out of my mind, I went back in as a reentry and managed to grind my stack to 25k coming back for day two.
I really feel like too many people panic when they look around at big stacks in GUKPT Main Events, I had 25bb for day two and while I’d like 100bb or more, I’ve made it to day two with both big and small stacks before and they don’t matter too much. A poker tournament is just one long grind anyway, just because level 9 ends on day one and level 10 starts on a different day doesn’t make any difference.
A tricky day 2
My day two table was tough with big stacks all around, including John Eames, who went on to win the whole thing, to my direct left. First hand it was passed to me in the small blind, I 3x-ed it to 3000 with A7hh and John peeled off his monster stack. The flop gave me no pair and no draw and I just decided that given how much firing a c-bet would hurt my stack and the only cards that would really improve me if I got called were the three aces, I just check folded. Down to 22k, not ideal!
Again it would be easy to let the amount of chips on the table lead to panic, but with 20bb I was fine, and soon I got the opportunity I wanted, KK on the button and a big blind that wanted to set me in with KT!
Up to 40k, I had some breathing room and was comfortable at the table. Talk had turned to the afternoon’s big horse race, the Czarevich, and one or two at the table had revealed themselves to be sports bettors and race horse owners. In my experience these kind of poker players tend to err on the side of aggression and are generally more gambley and impatient, and while that still might be true, that knowledge might well have cost me my tournament life.
I’d just doubled up again, this time in another blind on blind clash with Eames. It was passed to me again and I looked down at pocket nines. I wanted to let John think I didn’t have much of a hand the first time we’d seen this scenario, where I’d ended up 3x-ing then check folding, so I made it 3600 at 600/1200 playing 35k.
John thought for a while, counted down my stack and decided to set me all in. I quickly called and had his pocket deuces dominated, and a clean board saw me up to 70k.
Next hand I was on the button when the action went raise in early position from a guy who was opening a lot of pots. The guy to my direct right, the racehorse owner who was more sports bettor than poker player, but who I’d played before and he’d looked a good, aggressive player, 3bet to 6500 and I found two queens on the button. I made it 16k and everyone passed to the original raiser, who dwelled forever.
Eventually he folded, and the 3bettor asked to see my stack before setting me in. I didn’t think for too long, I was pretty sure he had AK and didn’t want to pass the best hand, although Phil Hellmuth definitely would have! As it turned out I should have thought a bit longer, I called and flipped my queens and he showed pocket aces.
I’m pretty sure the raiser said he had passed the other two queens, so it was no surprise when I didn’t get any help from the board and was left to rue a rollercoaster day where I’d really got going and maybe should have done better.
Certainly this is the second tournament running where I’ve had to grind it out on day one, made day two relatively short and then got a big stack going before dusting them off before the money.
At GPS Edinburgh I’d made day two with 38k and got to 130k before losing a race to bust. I’ll definitely think twice before making huge tournament defining decisions on day two in my next tournaments.
Win the button tactics
I joined the Tower for a bit of commentary before late regging the Win the Button tournament. I’d won one of these already this season, in Manchester, and I really like them, they really get you thinking, make you form rivalries, get you into levelling wars and make you adapt to the changing circumstances.
I made the final with average chips and had a good seat to start with, with big stacks to my left winning a lot of pots and meaning I wasn’t paying many blinds.
However, as the short stacks departed, and Lawrence Houghton, one of the OG online players who is back on the live scene, started winning a lot of pots two to my right, life became more difficult.
As Lawrence himself pointed out, Win the Button is almost the opposite of a normal tournament. He was sat with all the bigger stacks to his right and the shorter ones, me included, to his left, yet we were passing a lot and the big stacks were able to pepper his blind, playing in position and forcing him to pay more blinds.
I should have bubbled – with 7 left Lawrence raised again and I found pocket sevens and my 12bb stack was going in. However, the player to my right stuck his similar sized stack in with Q9o, Lawrence snapped with AK of hearts and had us in the money after the all heart flop!
I managed to grind my stack as far as it would go, and enjoyed the three-handed spell where Lawrence had all the chips, was raising every hand, I was shortest but ‘only’ paying a small blind every time, and the medium stack, paying a big blind every hand, had to pass for ICM reasons.
I eventually succumbed to eventual winner Lawrence to finish in third place for £840, my second third place of the festival.
Sad to be out the #GUKPT Luton Main but another 3rd in another side event, this time Win the Button. Will take it
— Jeff Kimber (@jeffkimberpoker) 15 October 2017
While a couple of thirds in sides isn’t bad, it’s the Main Events that get the juices flowing and where the big money is to be won, so I’ll be hoping to better last year’s 4th place in Blackpool. I can’t wait to get the train up north in a couple of weeks, as always I’ll be going for the whole festival and enjoying the unique mixture of poker and nights out that Blackpool’s GUKPT is famous for.
The tournaments are great, the cash game juicy and the nights out legendary, it’s no wonder Blackpool is known as the party leg! I’ll be playing the twice weekly satellites (Tuesday and Sunday) on grosvenorpoker.com to try and bag another seat should I need it in Blackpool, and hopefully it’ll be another great week of poker fun and I’ll win some money too!
— Grosvenor Poker (@GrosvenorPoker) 23 October 2017
You can follow all of Jeff’s action on Twitter, @jeffkimberpoker
See you there.