The Derek Kavanagh Cup – a time to be proud to be a poker player

Happy New Year everyone! Early January is  generally a slow time for poker players as the tours are yet to start and the only big tournaments are either thousands of miles to the Caribbean, or further than that Down Under.

As I planned my diary for January though, there was one event I wasn’t going to miss ‑ the Derek Kavanagh Cup.

Now this isn’t a £10k High Roller, but this one was super important to me because of the fella whose name adorns the tournament, Derek Kavanagh (Kav to his mates).

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, Kav is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in poker, always game for a laugh, chatting away at the tables, and generally supping a pint of the black stuff to make sure his whistle stays wet!

I’ve known Kav a few years now, firstly from playing in a GUKPT on his table and getting chatting, then seeing him at another event and enjoying a pint with him, and then seeing him here there and everywhere at events.

Over the past 18 months of so, Kav has been fighting cancer and, when I say fighting, that’s exactly what he’s been doing. Tackling every hurdle like it isn’t there, running through walls, never moaning, never letting the pain or the tiredness from endless treatment get him down, determined as he is to beat the big C.

Heart breakingly,in November 2014, Kav was told his cancer is terminal, and he was given a couple of months.

Still, Kav has taken that news in his stride too.

If ever you want to see the definition of how to handle the most devastating news with class and dignity, you’ll want to meet Kav.

Kav loves his poker, and has plenty of mates in very casino, especially those in the North West, so when his mates Rick Gilby and Keith Singleton came up with the idea of throwing a poker tournament in Kav’s name, he loved the idea.

Kav Maxine Rick Lee Keith

Putting on a poker tournament isn’t easy, and is probably harder than the guys imagined, but together with Maxine, the GM at Manchester’s Grosvenor G Casino, they went about putting on the inaugural Derek Kavanagh Cup.

They made it a £50 with one rebuy or add on, with the reg fees going to Cancer Research. Maxine rolled the dice and stuck a £10k guarantee on it, pretty brave considering it’s the second week of January, nobody’s been paid since before Christmas AND most people are pretty skint!

Rick and Keith set up Facebook groups and put the word bout on forums… “Come and have a game of poker with Kav, he’d love to see you there” read the invitation.

What happened next is pretty amazing.

The G decided they would open up a maximum of 200 seats, and what’s best is they sold out before the day of the event! They opened up another 30, putting them at max capacity… of which sold out in minutes. By the time we got to the casino on Saturday afternoon, having already registered, there were 50 on the alternates list! Eventually 280 people made the effort to come and play poker with their old mate, and what a day it was.

The G Casino cardroom was full to the brim. The place was buzzing like day 1a of the WSOP Main Event – it couldn’t have been any better.

Cardroom 2

Before the off there were some speeches from Keith, Rick, and Kav himself and, while all the big, strong poker players got that speck out of their eye (!), it was revealed there were two bounties, a £500 GUKPT voucher on Kav and a £1k Unibet package on Mike Hill.

On top of that, there was £1000 of GUKPT vouchers donated by Grosvenor, plus other donated prizes, including money can’t buy review sessions with the two top ranked online played in the UK, Patrick Leonard and Rick Trigg, all part of the raffle.

I love a raffle, if only because it gives me the chance to use my ‘that’s cheaper that Spearmint Rhino, go on then’ when the seller tells you it’s ‘£5 a strip’. Bit awkward when it’s a fella selling them mind.

I managed to get nowhere near winning any of the prizes, but one of the biggest cheers of the night came when Paul ‘ActionJack’ Jackson won the to hour online review session with Trigg.

ActionJack Keith

Some people said maybe he should have passed up the prize but I wouldn’t have, and like me I’m sure Paul thinks someone as good as Trigg can teach him some new tricks.

As for the poker, I played quite tight. It was one of those games you didn’t want to get knocked out from.

A few levels in though, half the entrants had departed for the bar, including Kav himself, so I wasn’t hanging around.

I felt like I was playing well.

I’d finished third in a small tournament in Billingham the night before as a warm up and made some nice reads. I did the same here, but I didn’t run so good.

Two players limped in min position, and I saw exactly what Greg Hunt was doing when he shoved his 15k over their 800 limps.

Greg recently won the Grosvenor North West Christmas Cracker for the second straight year, and is an old mate who I know can play, so I knew he didn’t need to be strong here.

I looked down at two nines and that was more than enough to reshove my 23k. The limpers folded and Greg had that ‘got me’ look, as he flipped 56 of clubs.

The flop came K82 rainbow, how safe is that? Well, not safe enough. A second club came on the turn and before you could say there’s always a sweat, I was on my way to the bar.

To be fair, I was happier there on this one occasion. I got to have a few beers with Kav, met his partner of 25 years Janet, the lady who he’s finally marrying this week, and his daughter Jess.

Many stories were told as many pints were sunk, though Kav was strictly on the mineral water as he had one last important duty left to do.. present the first ever Derek Kavanagh Cup (donated kindly by Kev Bloor).

That trophy eventually (at 7am!) went to Adam Southworth, who won just over £6,500, defeating Mike Thomas, who took home £5,000, heads up.

Kav Trophy Presentation

Sometimes when you get asked what you do for a living, you’re not too proud to admit you’re a layabout poker player. That Saturday night in Manchester, in a room full of people who had travelled from far and wide to see their old mate and play a game of cards and have a beer with him, I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud to be part of the poker community.

What a great event the Kav Cup was, raising over £7,000 for Cancer Research, well done all concerned. Anyone who wants to contribute can do so here.

I hope it’s an annual event and the man himself will be there battling to lift the trophy that sports his name in January 2016.










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