I’ve been itching to go to Edinburgh Zoo ever since they got the two pandas, but I was a bit surprised to find myself there playing poker on the GUKPT!
The tournament was at the Maybury, one of Grosvenor’s new casinos acquired from Gala, but we stayed at the Holiday Inn which was attached to the zoo.
I asked for a panda-view room on check-in. The fella looked at me like it was the 20th time he’d heard that. Since breakfast. I decided he was playing up to the stereotypical dour Scotsman image for the tourists and quickly dumped my bags and went out to meet a mate who lives in the beautiful Scottish capital, plus the kings of updating and commentating, Peekay and the Tower.
I think it’s important to enjoy the local areas we travel to when playing poker, so we enjoyed it til about 4am, including some excellent live music bars where Tower showed the Scots just how to dance to Donald Where’s Ya Troosers?!
I woke the next day like a panda with a sore head, but I’d already planned to play the PLO on Thursday and the Main Event on Friday.
There was a great crowd, a lot of players I hadn’t faced before which is always fun, some good at poker, others good at drinking, but there was a great atmosphere at the tables.
After an early bath in the PLO, the Main Event seemed to be going the same way.
I deliberately regged a bit late, as I find I get involved in too many pots early on when the blinds are small, but that couldn’t stop me doing half my stack in the first orbit as I twice bricked flopped combo draws.
One of the main changed I’ve made to my game this year is to be mentally strong, not think oh well it’s one of those days, but be positive and think if I lost that race I’m due to win the next.
I raised under the gun with pocket deuces, picked up three callers and a guy checked raised me all-in on an A-2-x flop with his slow played AK. Not only was I chuffed to get above starting stack as my set held, he was pretty chuffed himself, coming back 10 minutes later to shake my hand and show me his print out from the roulette machine, where he’d binged in £20 to de-tilt after busting and won over three grand! Everyone’s a winner.
I’d sat in the cash game after the previous night’s PLO and built up quite a dynamic with a young Chinese guy, getting in lots of pots and felting him a few times.
It just so happened that he moved to my starting table, so having not known anyone, I was now facing a guy with the needle against me!
We soon got in a pot which I lost, but could have been much worse.
He raised in early position, everyone passed to me in the small blind and I called with pocket eights. The big blind peeled too.
I flopped a set on an 8-9-10 board that also had a flush draw, so proceeded with caution.
It was checked to the raiser who c-bet half the pot, I called, and the big blind check-raised!
The Chinese kid quickly called and I was a big confused.
From playing him the previous night I was pretty sure he’d raise again with a made hand, though I was wary that we were now playing in a £100k guaranteed £500 comp, not a £1/£2 cash game.
The check-raiser was most likely drawing, so I could try and get it in, but I thought it was very unlikely I’d get much action against a hand I’m beating, and I certainly could end up in a big flip against a combo draw.
I decided to call as well, disguising my strength if the board paired and also keeping the pot controlled.
The turn was a queen, one of the worst cards in the deck. I felt the check-raiser’s hand was most likely TJ or something like that, and the preflop aggressor could well have c-bet and peeled a hand like AJ.
I checked ready to give up, but it checked round. I was confused again, surely a jack would bet here, if only to protect against the flush draw which someone must have if they don’t have a jack?
The river was a brick and myself and the big blind checked again. The Chinese kid had a long think, and I was now pretty sure no one had the straight, how could they?
He bet about a quarter of the pot and I quickly called, thinking he was either value betting very thin, or completely bluffing a missed flush draw. The big blind folded (thanks for making this pot big mate) and I was shown top set, three queens.
I must have been miles ahead on the flop, and possibly should have won the pot with a bit more aggressive play, but I preferred to pat myself on the back for losing the minimum in one of those set under set coups, and also wonder how much I’d have lost if the board paired!
In the final hour my starting table broke, and I took my big stack to a table where the only player I recognised was my Grosvenor teammate Joe Beevers.
Joe was chatting a lot to a young guy from London who also had a lot of chips and he obviously knew, while the rest of my table was made up of locals.
With the end of the day approaching, I was looking to keep building, but I found one or two bumps in the road.
Twice I raised a local guy’s blind, once with kings, he defended 22 and flopped a set. The second time I raised KT and flopped top pair on T66…he flopped four sixes!
I was trying to stop the bleeding when I played out a massive hand that left me handily placed come close of play.
I raised TJ of diamonds and the young guy Joe knew three-bet me. We were deep enough for me to take a flop, and it was one I liked, A-J-T rainbow.
I check-raised the flop, he raise again and I moved all-in. I was pretty convinced he had AK or AQ, he was pretty pained and thought forever.
Eventually, despite me willing him to call, he folded, and I bagged up just under 125k, chip lead for day 1b and a very healthy stack. Coming just a week on from winning PKR Live, I was feeling in great form.
Ian and his GUKPT team scheduled a special break for the Grand National, a great idea, and the atmosphere in the bar was fantastic as whichever horse Neil Channing had told me to back romped home!
Channing had tipped up the winner in the previous race too, so I already felt like a winner as we went back with 50 left and the average still only 75k, half of my stack.
As the bubble approached I hit another of those bumps in the road, losing AK to queens to fall below average for the first time in ages.
There was still some fine players left, with bracelet winner Dominik Nitsche running over my table. However, EPT London champ David Vamplew was one of two players to bust on the other table and we were in the money.
Somehow I have this great record of finalling every GUKPT I cash in, and I was determined to make it a record nine final tables, but as the blinds went up it was a tough battle.
I won a crucial race, this time having the queens against the AK, and managed a flairy four-bet all-in with T-3 off against a guy who had blatantly had enough of me nicking his blind.
I had 200k at the day’s end, with still 12 players remaining, but I managed to knock two out in the early skirmishes of day three, and made the final with 390k.
The stacks were very even, with about five stacks of 350-550k, so the final started in cagey fashion until I managed to cooler Dominik, calling his four-bet all-in with my pocket aces. His AK was no match for my hand, and all of a sudden I was chip leader and had removed my most dangerous opponent.
Andrew Teng sat one to my right was playing very well and also built up a big stack. As the others busted I felt Andrew would be the biggest obstacle to me winning a second GUKPT, but alas the poker Gods turned on me and I bust in fourth for £7,800.
I had three-bet a young local guy a few times, and he had pointed out he’d seen the trash I’d done it with on the live stream.
I three-bet him again just after he told me that and he folded with visible frustration, and I made a mental note to not do it light for a while as he looked ready to pile it in.
To be fair, he did had pocket nines four-handed so was never passing, but I was in a great position to take the chip lead with three left when I flipped up my pocket queens.
A clean flop had me looking for what backdoor outs I didn’t want him to pick up. No spade I said to myself, as I didn’t want him to pick up a flush draw. The turn wasn’t a spade…it was a nine, and I couldn’t find the re-suckout on the river.
After a countdown I was left with three big blinds, which I got in next hand with a suited ace, dominated by Andrew, who despatched me.
I’d played as well, if not better, in Edinburgh after last week’s win in London, but it wasn’t to be. Andrew did as expected pick up his second GUKPT title, and it makes me all the more determined to add to my Walsall win sooner rather than later.