Having spent the previous evening in the bar at DTD with bracelet winners, EPT champs and all-time leading money winners such as Sam Trickett, Toby Lewis, JP Kelly and Craig McCorkell, it was time to get back to the grassroots of poker and head to the £120 buy-in Goliath at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
With Dicky P doing the driving, and the 80s tunes banging, the hangovers had just about cleared as we walked into the sumptuous Coventry venue for what turned out to be the biggest tournament ever held outside of Vegas, pipping last year’s Beijing Millions!
The place was buzzing, players everywhere, events going on in various parts of the casino, loads of cash games, bar full, entertainment on in Lady G’s, extra attractions like radio-controlled cars to race, human roulette and a golf simulator….it was all going on!
We’d got there on Thursday, day 1e, and as the week progressed the number of runners had shocked everyone involved. The queue was huge on Thursday, with Dena doing a great job getting the players in and keeping them in touch with what was going on. Over 700 just on the Thursday, the day before the ‘busy’ day!
I decided to have a spin that evening, sitting at the last possible moment, starting with 25k at 200 400 so still plenty deep enough.
I quickly got down to 15k before getting them in in a flip and losing.
So no complaints, just had to do better that evening.
I headed to the bar and got the great news that buckets of Sol were a tenner! After a few of those it was time to play the ‘Beat the Team’ tournament. It was supposed to be against the tournament staff, Dena, Ian and the rest, but with so many runners they were swamped in the tourney, so Joe Beevers and myself said we’d go in as bounties, as well as Rory, head of Grosvenor Online, and Karl, the cardroom manager at Coventry.
The tournament started disastrously, with Joe spilling his pint over me.
But the cards were falling my way, and I quickly built up a big stack!
There were four bounty prizes, three of £50 and one of a free buy-in to the Goliath, though as Joe was knocked out, that prize went with him.
Myself and Rory plodded on, not sure if we wanted to win or not really. We were playing for charity, but with the Goliath to play in the morning, and also a load of guys trying to get into the money, I decided to play super aggro on the bubble and either get the lot or preferably get to bed, after all it was 3am.
I stopped any bubble deal being made, saving the awkwardness for me and Rory as we weren’t playing for ourselves, and started open shoving. It worked for a few hands, and I was probably in about fourth place out of the eight left, when my pocked deuces (the best hand I’d had in shove mode) ran into the pocket aces of a fella who was enjoying the four beers for a tenner offer more than most! I left but knew Rory wouldn’t let his chips go easily.
The next morning I woke to find a text and picture of Rory with the trophy and £900 plus
All of which he donated to charity, a good job all round!
Next day the mania was doubled, people everywhere! There were hundreds on the reserve list already, as the 800 capacity had been easily filled.
Still, everything was running super smoothly; there were so many floor people that everyone easily found their seats and the dealers were first class.
I found my seat, and despite being a bit late, I was given the full starting stack and cracked on.
I didn’t know anyone at the table, but loved the fun atmosphere. Everyone was there to have a good time, some were on the beers already.
The buzz in the room was reminiscent of the Amazon Room at the Rio Hotel in Vegas during the WSOP
I started like a house on fire. I’d already decided that one of my many faults as a poker player is calling too much pre-flop, so I decided if I was to enter a pot, I’d do so with a raise if it was unopened, and a re-raise if it was. This policy served me well.
I took a while to realise that to get a raise respected it had to be much bigger than I was used to, but I could also exert a lot of pressure once I built a stack, as no one wanted to get knocked out, especially with a long queue to join if you wanted to re-enter.
I 3b 53 suited, flopped a gutter, turned a flush draw and rivered a backdoor flush to win a big pot.
I then flopped a set of eights to take down another.
A couple of levels in I’d built my 25k to over 100k and as dinner break approached I knew I’d be close to chip lead.
I then got in a massive pot where I embraced the variance, knowing I was winning and dismissing the possibility that I’d lose, which I would one in three times.
With about 5k in the pot, my opponent check raised an ace high, two heart flop all-in for 75k. I’d 3b pre-flop with AJ and was sure my opponent had a flush draw, but it was whether I was willing to put in most of my stack to see if my hand would stand up.
I did, it did, and I was over the 200k mark.
At dinner I’d reached 235k, and the next biggest stack on my table was 55k, with the average at 45k!
I was loving life over dinner, but on my return things didn’t go so well.
With the blinds going up, and the pots being bigger than I was used to because a mainly amateur field did a lot more calling and a lot less folding than most, it only took a couple of raises, cbets with nothing, and being forced to fold to make dents in my stack.
Still, I had 150k left when the key hand came up.
An aggro player at the other end of the table was becoming visibly frustrated and having folded to a 3b the previous hand, I decided to play back at him the very next hand and see how he reacted.
He made it 6500 at 1k 2k, the small blind called and I had 77 in the big blind. I made it 18.5k and he went into the tank. He had about 130k and eventually decided to go all-in. The small blind quickly folded and I had a think.
As I thought and stared at my opponent he jumped up, shouted to his mate he was all-in, then sat again. After a minute of sitting he was up again, pacing round his seat.
He just looked so uncomfortable, he couldn’t keep still, I was sure my hand was best
I was almost certainly up against two big cards, probably AK, though it was also possible that he’d made a stand with a smaller pair that I was dominating.
That swayed my decision, and I made the call. He had AQ, and if I won this flip,I’d be back up there as tournament chip leader or thereabouts.
Unfortunately, he hit his ace, and I was down to about 25k, starting stack. No complaints about my hand not standing up, I knew it was probably a race, and I’d won the first big confrontation with the AJ against the flush draw.
I doubled up straight away and had about 45k when I lost my final hand, 44 v AK, losing another race that would have taken me back to average.
What a great event, a chance to win £60k for £120, you don’t get that chance every day
I headed to the commentary booth with the Tower, the TV table, streaming online, looking great, with all the players wanting their chance in the spotlight.
Next day, while the 500 odd players got together for day two, I played the 25/25 series
This again broke records, with over 400 players making a prize pool of over £80k.
I never really got going in this one, eventually squeezing all-in with 78 from the big blind after an early raise and five calls in the penultimate level of day one.
I got past the raiser, but the first caller looked me up with AJ, and despite the 8 in the window, an ace followed and I was out.
The Blind Man’s Bluff tournament was just starting, and I couldn’t resist playing what proved a great fun event
We had Grosvenor branded head bands, and one-by-one in position had to pick up our cards without looking at them, sliding them up into the head band and showing them off to all opponents without ever seeing them ourselves.
We all looked ridiculous, and had to look at each and every opponent to weigh up their hand, it really was the most fun you can have at a poker table.
Having thought it was a bit of a splash about, it quickly became obvious there was some skill in this game
Reading opponents’ reactions to your cards and others, spotting the betting patterns or others and trying to work out what to do when you have a big hand against you, whether it’s best to just shut down, or which guys were happy to fold.
The biggest hand I played saw me raise in early position. I felt raising was better as it helped get a handle on the strength of my hand by the way the next people to act reacted. If they just folded, it was likely my hand was pretty good, especially if there was nothing to fear behind, which of course I could see.
Rory from Grosvenor 3b me, which I could see (remember he couldn’t) was with 85 offsuit. A few folds later, another player called (with 83 offsuit) before the big blind put in a cold 4b (with 86 offsuit!).
I knew I couldn’t have much of a hand, but how bad could it be against three bad eight highs?!
I got it all-in, and all three opponents, obviously seeing the rubbish which the three opponents had, did the same!
I had pocket threes, and was quite happy at the situation. I was even happier when I flopped a three, and the turn – all three opponents were drawing dead!
With my massive stack I could put the pressure on, and tried to do just that
On the bubble I raised again, as it turned out with three high! The lady next to me saw this and re-raised all-in, only to allow the next opponent to move all-in. I passed my 32, and the lady had 52 and little chance.
The all-in player only had 97, but flopped a nine and we were in the money.
At that stage, with it getting late and all sat really deep, we decided to chop it up and took £200 each. Earlier in the week, both card-room manager Karl and receptionist Toni had shaved their heads for cancer research, so I donated my £200 winnings to Karl’s fund and headed off to bed!
Sunday came and it was the final day of a fantastic week long Goliath festival
I didn’t know any finalists, but it didn’t take away from a fascinating final as I headed back into the comms box with the Tower.
With ninth place getting £2710 and first over £63k, it was amazing to watch how different players coped with the massive pay jumps. Some sat tight, some obviously didn’t care, some played like they didn’t know!
Throughout all that, it quickly became clear that the youngest guy at the table, Ryan Foster, was the class of the field
He played with great control and skill, and put pressure on those feeling the pressure, and let his hand go when needs be too.
With three left he really impressed me, putting all the pressure on the second biggest stack Mark Adams, as Neville Price, the short stack, looked on.
The difference between Mark taking on Ryan now, or once they’d got rid of the short stack, was over £13k, and Ryan’s understanding of ICM allowed him to put Mark into a number of annoying spots that ultimately help him build the stack to win the whole thing.
Mark put up a brave battle heads up, but eventually Ryan got the upper hand, and turned his £120 into £63,320!
We all headed to the bar and joined Ryan for a beer. Far from being a cocky young kid, he was an absolute top guy who’d worked 80 hours in a factory the previous week to make sure he had time to get the train up from Devon to play.
He’d got in as an alternate on Friday evening and therefore had only one bullet
He’d only really played live once before but loved the comp and rather than get extravagant with his winnings, his plan was to use it as a deposit on a flat near his mum so he could get his own space.
What a great story to finish a great week of poker at the greatest tournament ever held outside Vegas! Roll on Goliath 2015!