It’s Grim Up North

I’ve always said it’s very rare for poker players to go from not winning to scooping a big event, there’s normally a fair degree of hitting the crossbar before you finally get that goal.

After a trip of a couple of weeks to Newcastle, Nottingham and Manchester, it’s fair to say I’ve worn out the woodwork and have got my Alan Shearer goal celebration at the ready sooner rather than later.

The Newcastle event was the Grand Prix Poker Tour, and in all honesty it only appealed as I’m a lifelong Newcastle fan and former season ticket holder and I wanted to play at St James’ Park.

I departed the Grand Prix fairly late on day one in a massive pot with jacks against nines against AK – no complaints, though winning that flip would have put be in a great position to do some damage.

A more interesting hand had come up in the High Roller

A £550 buy-in event held before the Main at Newcastle’s Aspers Casino.

I knew the majority of the players and was settling in for a long night, with all the levels and 50,000 starting chips, when I got knocked out!

I’d just seen Ian Simpson double up when he isolated 56 on the button and found the old 347 flop. The big blind had come along and called a bet with his A7 before going broke on the ace turn.

A few hands later I raise Ian’s blind at 100/200 with pocket threes. He three-bet by 550 open to 1700 and I called and saw a lovely flop of T63.

I called his 2200 continuation bet, then bet 7000 when he checked the 5 turn. I firmly had him on an overpair given his play, so wasn’t scared when the 7 fell on the river. I bet 13k and Ian check raised all in. Given he’d just shown down the nuts when shoving a few hands earlier, I thought he might be using that to his advantage, and having put more than half my stack in, I had to call.

Any 4 made a straight, and he held pocket fours to knock me out.

I really don’t like his play, although maybe he just thinks I’m not very good and will let him win a lot of pots without showdown.

That deep I’m never raising with anything I’m folding to a three-bet, and am likely to call most c-bets too, hoping to either have the best hand or just be able to take it away from him on the turn.

With that in mind, you’ve got to run pretty pure to make pots big out of position and be profitable, but that didn’t seem to prove a problem.

From Newcastle it was off to the UKPC at FDTD. This is a great event, full of recreational players who have qualified for pennies and are all there for the fun and a chance at a min cash. If you can get going in this one, you’ve a real chance at over £200k (should be more in a £1million guarantee but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it!).

I’d had to set off at 8am to get there in time for the midday start, only to find out the day before that they were now putting on a 4pm start day too for some reason. However, my train was booked and I was up with the larks.

The standard of play was as ropey as ever, all the better for the good players to get a stack, or so you’d hope.

The first hand I played, I raised the button with 45dd. The small blind called and did so again when I c-bet the KhQh3c flop. I was hoping I’d pick up some equity with a pair or straight draw on the turn, but when the nine of hearts fell, completing straight and flush draws, I gave up and checked behind.

The queen on the river also looked a bad card, given my opponent could have called the flop with second pair and improved, so I just checked behind on the river with my five high.

“Eight high,” she announced.

I did a double take of the board. How could she have eight high if the flush got there on KQ3? I must have misread the board.

Nope, there was definitely a third heart on the turn. Maybe she misread her hand?

Again, nope, she flipped over 87 offsuit and scooped the first pot.

The table seemed full of recreational players, especially an old boy in seat nine who was having the time of his life bluffing every hand, until he ran out of bluffing tokens in level three.

The two empty seats at the table, one and 10, were unfortunately taken by good players, Leo McClean and Richard Kellett.

My stack drifted down, but I was still more than comfortable when I got involved in a massive pot three-ways.

Leo was not having a great day, bemoaning his luck from his first bullet and saying this one was going even worse. He was raising a lot of pots and looked in a bit of a hurry, so when he opened and I looked down at ATdd in position, I decided to call and see what happened.

I could three-bet here but Leo didn’t look in the mood for folding and may even four-bet light, so I decided to see a flop in position with a decent holding that may well have him dominated. Of course the disadvantage of this is it allows others in too, and sure enough, the button came along from the next seat.

The flop fell KQ5 with two spades, one diamond. Leo c-bet, I called with my gutterball and so did the button.

The turn was the eight of diamonds.

Leo checked and now with the nut flush draw to go along with my straight draw and overcard, I took the lead and bet 6500.

The button, who I hadn’t really considered could have a hand, thought for a while and now raised to 15k.

My thoughts here were I’m not really deep enough to catch my card on the river and I wish I’d just tried to get their cheaply.

However, the action wasn’t over, as Leo now shoved for his 18k total.

Now I was getting a much better price for my draw, may well get the full double up if I hit, and would still be in, albeit with under 20bb, if I missed.

I persuaded myself gambling was the best idea and went with it.

The button obviously called the extra scratch and we saw a third spade hit the river, Leo flip Q8 of spades for a rivered flush (he’d flopped a pair and a flush draw and turned two pair and a flush draw so had a monster) and the other guy muck, looking very much like he must have had a set.

Now short stacked, I spend an hour just shoving once a round just keeping my head above water, before winning a couple of pots and getting back to 30k as my table broke.

On my new table I played an amazing first hand.

Mid position raised by blind, the small blind made it up so I flicked it in with A7 suited.

I flopped middle pair on 874 and it was checked round, giving me the impression I may well have the best hand.

The turn ace convinced me of it, but I checked again in the home that the preflop raiser with had AK/AQ type hands, which made a lot of sense given she’d checked the raggy flop, or she would represent it.

She went for it, and bet 3500. I raised to 10k with another 20 back, fully expecting to pick up the pot there and then. However, she now raised again, to 25k. This was either a monster and I was out, or an outrageous bluff, but either way, I had to go with my hand, so shoved for about 5k more.

She instantly passed! Happy days, back up over 60k and still yet to show a card!

A few hands later I called a raised with pocket threes in position, and when the button three-bet and the raiser called, I came along in the inflated pot with hopes of catching a crab!

I did just that, the flop falling 853 all hearts.

Because of the monotone nature of the flop, I felt leading was the best play – I didn’t want to see this get checked round and someone catch an ugly flush on the turn for free.

I bet 15k, the raiser called and the early position guy folded.

The turn was an ace, which I hoped might be a good card. Given I didn’t have a heart, I hoped the preflop three-bettor may have called the flop with AK with the ace of hearts and now couldn’t pass.

I shoved for 38k and he went into the tank. It became evident he didn’t have a flush draw and couldn’t beat an ace even, thinking I had picked up top pair with my flush draw. He did still find the call though, flipping up two black kings, and although the fourth heart did hit the river, I was up to 120k and loving life again!

I went to work wreaking havoc in the last level, given a new lease of life while my table mates were not enjoying things nearly as much as I was, and finished the day on 255k.

Day two started quickly too.

I was the biggest stack on my table, and maybe people thought I was using that fact to bully, but the first two raises I made were with KK and AK, and I got shoved on by 77 and AQ respectively, quickly taking my stack up to 450k and close to chip lead.

From there though, things started to go wrong.

Redmond Lee moved one to my left and in about five hands took all of my stack over the next hour.

Twice it was passed to me on the button, twice I raised, KQ and KJ suited, twice Redmond called from the small blind, and twice the board ran out AKxxx for him to get two streets out of me with his AT and A8 respectively.

Those pots cost me 50k each, but they were just flesh wounds.

The real damage was done when he caught gutshots on me twice in five minutes.

The first, in a blind on blind skirmish, I’d flopped top pair and bet and he raised the flop with his gutter, getting there on the river to make the nuts.

After that came the more painful one, when I raised with Toby Lewis, 8T of clubs, and loved the T97 flop. I bet, Redmond was the only called.

The turn 8 gave me two pair but put four to a straight.

When it was checked through though I figured Redmond would bet 100% of his hands on the river, so called his bluffy looking bet only to be shown J9.

I certainly could have folded both rivers to him, but without having played with him, and only knowing of his reputation of being good and aggressive, it’s easy to say in hindsight.

I doubled my 100k back to around 230k when it was passed to me in the small blind. I’d already decided I was walking Redmond with a lot more hands than I would normally, hands such as the T7 I’d made it up with earlier.

When I looked at KJcc though, it was too strong to fold. I raised to 22k, he made it 65k. I can fold, call or shove here, and I chose to shove my 230k. He dwelled for a long time before calling with AJdd, a dwell that shows I would have gotten folds from a lot of hands.

The first two cards to flop were the case jacks so a call or limp wouldn’t have saved me, but no king and I was outa there.

I stayed the following day to rail Richie Pearson in the final, and was persuaded by overlay to play the £550 £25k guaranteed side event.

This was an eight-max tournament and I managed to bubble that one, A2 in the bb v Aj in the sb for the chip leader. Still, Richie scored for £30k and I had Manchester to look forward to!

The first event I played was the six max, an event I won last year. I couldn’t defend though, bowing out when I got short with KQ against a pair.

The  4/5/6 PLO was also a mild success last year, when I came 4th. This year I managed the same, though having had half the chips in play with four left, that was a disappointment.

The Main Event in Manchester is one of the highlights of the poker season for me.

The cardroom do a great job qualifying locals that it feels like a real Manchester event, yet for us travelling pros, playing over 100 qualifiers who may be in the biggest comp of their life is perfect too.

Early on I ran aces into kings on a king high board and lost just 2000 chips – I felt like I was playing my A game.

I’d just called a preflop raise, everyone else folding. It came K73 and the raiser checked. I bet for value, and did the same when the jack turned. The river paired the three, a good card for my aces as I’m now beating all two pair hands like KJ, but my opponent fired into me a full pot bet.

It didn’t make much sense, but he looked and felt strong. I decided he may have jacks full, having check called and taking off after the jack turn.

I folded and said as much and he replied, “I’ve better than jacks” and showed kings full. Bullet dodged and a pat on the back.

I ran my stack up to 60k without any massive pots, but a late table move cost me half of them.

I raised two hands, and both times Jonny Gray, he of the nines v my queens at the Edinburgh final table two years ago, three-bet me off his massive stack.

I passed the KQ, called with 88 and called against on a 543 flop but gave up to another bet on the 2 turn.

Then, as last five hands were called, I got coolered in a sick hand that cost my mate Mark James his whole stack.

Mark Evans, a decent player who has won a GPS, was raising a lot of hands off his 25k stack, and it seemed to me he wanted to get them in and either double up or get off home.

Mark called from the small blind so I called from the big with K9.

The flop fell nine-high all spades, and with top pair and the king of spades as back up, I felt if I didn’t have the best hand now, I had the best draw (note to self: couldn’t be more wrong).

Mark led and we both called.

The turn was a red ace and Mark bet again, and again we both called.

The river was a red king, giving me kings up.

Mark led a third time, for 9200. I called and almost hoped Mark Evans would called with an AQ type hand.

So when he shoved, and Mark reshoved, I was sick. I folded and both of them showed flushes, Mark James 78ss and Mark Evans AJss for the nuts.

Horrible, but I was still in.

Day 2 started well, with a few blind steals on the streaming table to get me going and a turned two pair against a pair of queens (which annoyingly were folded face up when he realised he was behind!) but then all that good work was undone when I found kings on the button, the small blind shoved with AT and rivered an ace.

I was starting to wonder when the last showdown I won was.

I won the next one, but we showed down after the river when my deuces full were already 100% against the other guy’s two pair – I’d still not won one since two tables out in the PLO!

I ground my stack up and was feeling good about making another deep run here, but while I chopped GUKPT Manchester for £40k+ two years ago, I’ve also had some near misses, bubbling last year with QQ v TT on a 10-high board and the unfortunate clash with Chris Moorman’s dad, where I flopped a set and let him make the pot big before shoving the river, which he loved, giving he’d rivered a bigger set!

With three tables left we were closing in on the money when the ladies let me down again.

The chip leader, who I’d played with a lot, raised the button to 10k at 2k/4k. The small blind shoved his bowl of rice for 18k and I found QQ in the big blind with 150k total.

I couldn’t just call even if I wanted to, given the shove in between had opened the betting again, so I made it 37k.

The button asked how many I had behind and promptly shoved, putting me in a horrible spot.

In the end I decided it was too likely he had AK and that I couldn’t passed, but of course he had the aces, and one blank board later, I went from cruising to out in the space of a minute. That’s no limit hold ‘em for you!

Personal disappointment aside, you have to say what a great festival!

The staff at Bury New Road should be congratulated, they made a massive effort to get as many local qualifiers as possible, which is great for everyone – the locals get to play the biggest comp in their cardroom of the year, the pros get to play against a load of people who have never played so big, and the tournament itself gets a flavour of where it’s at by the local feel of it.

Next up it’s the Irish Open – don’t forget if you register on the all new Grosvenor Poker online site, not only do you miss the queueing and hassle of changing your pounds into euros to buy in on site, there’s a free Last Longest with £500 for the winner just open to those players registered online!








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