Monday, 29 March 2010

Hand History - Part 7

"Ring in the new year with double player points."

This was the wording of Full Tilt's rather depressing advert at the time, displayed on the top panel of the Full Tilt poker client.

"The thing is I have to go to Cardiff to get any good games."

A depressing man in his late twenties talking to another at Gloucester station, somewhen in January.

The most depressing thing about that man is that he looked a little how I might look in ten years... if I wasn't careful. He was heavy, scruffy and had clearly lost his spirit somewhere along the way.

I vowed never to become that man. I decided that my relationship with poker would be a healthy one and it should not interfere too much with the rest of my life. It certainly shouldn't dictate it.

Nevertheless, I did play quite a lot during the Christmas holidays and for a good chunk of the term. At the very end of the previous term (Christmas) I had decided to see what I could do with a $600 bankroll. This was a little less arbitrary than previous attempts and designed with longterm profit and game improvement in mind. I put $150 on four sites - Party Poker, Ladbrokes, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

To start with things didn't go very well, and I was down to $500 fairly quickly. Ladbrokes subtly increased their cashgame rake to 6.25% (there was no announcement, I had to spot and quantify the change myself) and there weren't enough STTs or good MTTs for my liking, so I withdrew from there fairly early on in the project.

During this period I generally played 25NL, $5.50 or $6.50 sit and goes and MTTs of buyins up to $5.50. It was fairly strict bankrolling but I didn't mind - I really was playing with the long run in mind. I did, however, manage to play my first $26 MTT on Full Tilt after winning a ticket in a player points freeroll. I believe it was a Bounty MTT. And I did win a bounty, but failed to cash, coming 60th whereas only 45 were paid.

One Bounty MTT I did cash in was at PokerSoc, my third ever cash there. Two weeks later I made my first ever win. That was a good moment, and it was made all the sweeter by the fact that I beat 8 Years, that being his name on account of the fact that, through his Undergraduate, Graduate and PHD studies he had now been at the university for that amount of time. I didn't have anything personal against the man, but he epitomised a number of aspects of poker playing I didn't like: greed, misplaced testostrone, and an over reliance on 'maths'. He was shoving all over the place. So when I got KK on the small blind, I knew I had won the match. I limped. He instashoved. I called - his K9 was in pretty poor shape against me and the £110 prize was mine. It wasn't just a personal victory though - Mike (who had already won PokerSoc back in October) came third. 8 Years had got pretty frustrated with me for apparently softplaying against in - Mike was on the big blind with two more big blinds in his stack. I folded my 45o from the small blind. 8 Years asserted that I should shove 'any two' in that spot to try to take Mike out of the tournament.

Over the course of this term I resumed my relationship with her, and things were simply brilliant. But soon she and poker would collide. She had never liked my hobby for the same reasons most women wouldn't - it was gambling and seemnigly a waste of time. If it was just my time I was wasting however, she would probably not have minded. But it soon got directly in the way of our relationship.

To cut (what seemed like a very) long story (at the time) short, I was at a poker tournament one night when I really should have been with her. I'm not particularly proud of what happened next, but I think it was the best option at the time: I basically opted to stop playing as it it were proof that poker basically meant nothing to me. The same day I withdrew my remaining online money.

Truth be told, I came to regret this decision a little. Given the choice betwen her and poker I chose her, but I regret having allowed it to degrade into such a dichotomy. In truth, I still played some poker. I didn't go to PokerSoc and I didn't play online much, but I continued to play against my friends (nothing would have prevented me from that). I just toned down public appearances. At the time I was too cowardly to be completely honest with her.

However, one thing I did would have happened either way. On April 1st I banned myself on PokerStars and FullTilt, for two and three months respectively. The reason for this was my need to buckle down and do some work, as I had a degree to salvage. I did this fairly well, considering the mess I had made of things in Term 1, and managed to pullthrough with a mediocre but stable 2-1 for the year.

DKSOP continued as normal, and when Ryan came to live with us on a more permanent basis we had five resident poker players. Results of the serieses were as follows.

Alex 91, Housey 88, Mike 20, Johnny 20, Seby 10, Ryan 10
after ten games

Housey 70, Mike 60, Alex 53, Seby 15
after eight games

Mike 80, Alex 40, Ryan 40, Housey 30, Seby 20
after eight games

MAY 2008
Seby 140, Alex 105, Mike 55, Ryan 43, Johnny 30, Housey 20
after nine games

That's right - I won a series. Finally! During my birthday month too! We had had four different winners for four seasons, so the June series was, supposedely, going to be something of a climax!

It wasn't though - we hardly played at all (credit exams and people going home early) and so there wasn't really a series at all.

In the next part of Hand History I will talk about the eventful playing of the Summer.

But I can't help but look back at this installment (Part 7) without an air of sadness and lameness. My relationship with poker had gone from one end to another. No one forced me to tone down my playing. I didn't have to.

judge for yourselves

Friday, 26 March 2010

Oh, and the Election?

My prediction is the same as last week - I see no particular reason to change it.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

A Pledge

To clean my room and stop suffocating in this mess of dust, used tissues and empty cereal bowls. A spring cleaning is due - stuff needs to be cleared out so that there is space to walk and think freely.

Once I've finished I'll happily do the same thing for the House of Commons.

Election Astrology

"Unpopular government tries for a fourth term. Vibrant Opposition team lined up to have the reins of power handed to them. Incumbent PM faces first general election after being elected by his party a few years earlier following the resignation of the previous leader after ten years. Uninspiring economic situation. Opposition cheered by the polls but not carried away by them. But could the government make a surprise recovery at the last minute? Are the people really ready to let the other guys into power? No. They haven't changed. They'll do more harm than good. Give'm another five years in the wilderness.. they're still not ready to govern. Always keep ahold of Nurse, for fear of something worse."

"Discredited government. Desire for change not overwhelming, but decisive. A series of bitter industrial disputes. Government warn that the Opposition will damage the economy and induce unemployment. General mood indicates that a change of government and economic direction is inevitable and neccessary. Government seen as outdated. Opposition get into power on a 5% swing and form a goverment with a working majority."

"General feeling that the current government has been around far too long. Sleaze, incompetence, corruption and leadership disputes all add to the notion that some fresh blood is needed. The young, optimistic and newly revamped opposition provide a clear, positive message for change, aiming to make a break from the politics of the past. Britain can do better. Although economic circumstances appear to be improving, people are not giving credit to the governing party. The governing party poll exceptionally poorly and on election night itself barely scrape 30% of the vote."

"Expectation of low turnout and high number of votes for third parties. Close result projected, but has the feeling of a reluctant poll - neither party seems overwhelmingly popular. Rather than one party set to win the election, it seems both parties are set to lose. Frequent media discussion over the possibility of a hung parliament. SNP poised to damage Labour in Scotland. Opposition take a narrow lead in the new parliament but unable to maintain a stable coalition or rule as a minority, and a fresh election is held."

"Opposition unable to get rid of their old, unpopular image despite leadership's best attempts. Government enjoying improving economic circumstances, and while many feel disollusioned by their policies there is a general understanding that the opposition simply don't have enough gravitas to form a government. Though it is widely understood that the Opposition will increase their represenation in Parliament on the back of remarkably poor showings in the recent past, the sheer number of seats they need to win combined with the fact that there is no genuine impetus for change implies that they have no real chance of forming a majority. Opposition leader obviously a talented orator and debater, but is for the most part singularly uninspiring and unable to muster popular support. Opposition gain a few dozen seats but remain a clear second place in the eyes of the electorate."

Sound familiar?

The previous paragraphs are descriptions of past general elections: 1992, 1979, 1997 and February 1974. The last quote could apply both to 1987 and 2005.

Yet all of these could apply to 2010.

This is no coincidence - what I have done here is show how easy it is to find parellels with past elections, and the vast array of different results you can anticipate depending on how you seek to interpret the opinion polls. The fact is we don't really know what the 2010 is going to be. Despite polling, we have only the roughest idea of the range of results. It is still concievable that either party could form a majority government. Wishful thinkers on all sides might wish to stretch this. A 1997 is possible for the Conservatives. Labour will hold on in a 1992. The Liberal Democrats must secretly hope for a 1974 - after all, a coalition government is the only real chance the Lib Dems have of getting into Whitehall.

Despite claiming that we shouldn't try to compare 2010 too much to any specific election, I do believe that looking at the swings in the past (as I posted about on Friday 19th) is a good way of contextualising the current expecations of swing. They provide a useful benchmark and provide a way for us to compare the public desire for change as it is now to how it was in the past.

However, I'm afraid to say that if there is any real desire for change it is a little more fundamental and bitter (if a little desparing and apathetic) than just which party governs them. I think there are many who would rather there was no party at all. Or no government at all.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Hello. It's me!

Or is it?

Yes it is.

I suppose whenever I leave my blog blank for five or more days I feel compelled to inform y'all that I'm still here, just that I haven't had time to write anything. Or have had the time but not the inclination. Or had the inclination but not the time.

I have nothing to write.

On an unexpected note, has anybody else noticed this 'Anonymous' who keeps commenting on my blogposts? If not, scroll down and have a gander at some of the comments on earlier posts. I did not know such a thing as blog-spamming existed. This spam, however, does not seem to have any real purpose! Nothing is being advertised, there are no links posted, and the comment content has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter.

If this 'Anonymous' is actually a real, living, breathing person make yourself known, for if you are an actual human being you have done a very good job of hiding it.

Friday, 19 March 2010

General Election - my prediction *updated - now with historical swing data!

In seven weeks time we shall wake up with a brand new parliament, and perhaps a brand new government.

I've seen a lot of people posting their rather naive predictions as to what the general election result will be.

Well, I don't suppose mine will be any less naive.

Anyway, I shall make an estimate of the swings between the various parties and use this as a basis for my result.

In 2005 the share of the vote for the parties in Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) was as follows:

Labour: 36.20%
Conservatives: 33.24%
Liberal Democrats: 22.64%
Others: 7.92%

It should be acknowledged that the main impetus for the Lib Dem's high level of support in '05 was their opposition to the Iraq War. Well, there is no such impetus now, and I see no reason to expect they will do any better. LIBERAL DEMOCRATS DOWN 4%

The Others support will rise by the same amount - while I don't believe any extra 4th parties will be represented in the new Parliament, their over all collective vote will increase, especially with UKIP and the BNP fielding so many more candidates than last time. OTHERS UP 4%

As for the Labour/Tory swing, I see no reason why it should be too dramatic. Sure there is dissatisfaction with the incumbent party, but the Tories do not seem to be offering a firm alternative, and I honestly think it's a little too late for the Tories to do anything about this.

Nevertheless, I think a decent swing is likely. I was torn between 4% and 5%, so I will just go with 4.5%.


This would mean new support figures of:
Labour: 31.7%
Tories: 37.74%
Libdems: 18.64%
Others: 11.92%

Obviously it seems odd to combine precise figures (05) with such rough estimates, but there's no real need for me to round up to the nearest percentage point either
Based on a uniform national swing, these support figures would yield the following result in terms of seats.
Tories: 295
Labour: 277
Libdems: 47
Others: 13 (plus 18 from Northern Ireland)

Thus no party would make it past the winning post of 325, the number of seats required to form a majority government, by defintion having more than half the seats in the Commons.

Yes, I think it really is that close. Although the Tories are likely to do better in the marginal seats than the Uniform National Swing suggests, this might only amount to a dozen or so extra seats. But we'll take this dozen into account and predict the Tories 307 seats.

The polls fluctuate all the time, and different pollsters offer varying figures, caused not just by natural variation but also influenced by the polling methods. My figures are based more on my insticts than the polls, though it so happens that my own support figures are not too different from the current averages.

I enjoyed teasing my father about the possibility of the Conservatives having the most seats but Labour and the Liberal Democrats forming a coalition government, by whose end in 2015 the country would be ruined. But I really don't blame people for not having an awful lot of faith in the Tories.

Still, though I stick to my prediction I think it's fair to say that it's anyone's game, and to be honest the game hasn't really started yet. The board has been layed out and the player tokens have been removed from the box, but nobody has rolled a single dice!

I will update my prediction every Friday morning in the run up to the general election. I may change it from week to week, I may be satisfied and leave it unchanged. My aim is not to reflect simply the current state of the polls, but just my general aggregate perception of whether there is an "air of change". For you see, that is what it's all about. For Conservatives to win they need to get enough people who voted Labour or Liberal Democrat last time to vote for the Tories instead.

Here is a list of historical swings for those who are interested (God knows I am).
The summary swings have been rounded to the nearest half.

1945 - Labour Victory - Landslide (145 seats)
Labour: +11.7%
Conservative: -11.6%
Liberal: +2.3%
SWING: CON to LAB: 11.5%

1950 - Labour Victory - Wafer Thin Majority (5 seats)
Labour: -3.6%
Conservative: +3.8%
Liberal: +0.1%
SWING: LAB to CON: 3.5%

1951 - Conservative Victory - Small Majority (16 seats)
Labour: +2.7%
Conservative: +8.0%
Liberal: -8.1%
SWING: LAB to CON: 2.5%

1955 - Conservative Victory - Increased Majority (60 seats)
Labour: -2.4%
Conservative: +1.7%
Liberal: +0.2%

1959 - Conservative Victory - Substantial Majority (100 seats)
Labour: -2.6%
Conservative: -0.3%
Liberal: +3.2%

1964 - Labour Victory - Wafer-thin Majority (4 seats)
Labour: +0.3%
Conservative: -6.0%
Liberal: +5.3%

1966 - Labour Victory - Substantial Majority (96 seats)
Labour: +3.9%
Conservative: -1.5%
Liberal: -2.7%
SWING: CON to LAB: 2.5%

1970 - Conservative Victory - Comfortable Majority (31 seats)
Labour: -4.9%
Conservative: +4.5%
Liberal: -1.0%
SWING: LAB to CON: 4.5%

1974 (Feb) - Hung Parliament - Narrow Labour Lead
Labour: -5.9%
Conservative: -8.5%
Liberal: +11.8%
SWING: CON to LAB: 1.5%

1974 (Oct) - Labour Victory - Tiny Majority (3 seats)
Labour: +2.0%
Conservative: -2.1%
Liberal: -1.0%

1979 - Conservative Victory - Workable Majority (43 seats)
Labour: -2.3%
Conservatives: +8.1%
Liberal: -4.5%

1983 - Conservative Victory - Landslide (144 seats)
Labour: -9.3%
Conservatives: -1.5%
Alliance: +11.6%

1987 - Conservative Victory - Comfortable Majority (102 seats)
Labour: +3.2%
Conservatives: -0.2%
Alliance: -2.8%
SWING: CON to LAB: 1.5%

1992 - Conservative Victory - Small Majority (20 seats)
Labour: +3.6%
Conservatives: -0.3%
Lib Dem: -4.8%

1997 - Labour Victory - Landslide (179 seats)
Labour: +8.8%
Conservatives: -11.2%
Lib Dem: -1.0%
SWING: CON to LAB: 10%

2001 - Labour Victory - Landslide (167 seats)
Labour: -2.5%
Conservatives: +1%
Lib Dem: +1.5%

2005 - Labour Victory - Comfortable majority (66 seats)
Labour: -5.5%
Conservatives: +0.6%
Lib Dem: +3.7%

Well, you can see that a 4.5% swing is actually fairly large when considered historically. That doesn't mean it's impossible - it just means that the level of disatisfaction with the government and level of enthusiasm for the opposition has to be pretty tangible.

This week's prediction: Conservative Short of a Majority by 18 seats.

Thursday, 18 March 2010


Stuff, but no nonsense, I'm afraid.

Well, not really much stuff either.

Hadn't written on this blog for ALL OF FOUR DAYS so thought I'd make a splash.

Watching Question Time. Pretty fun panel. Margaret Beckett reminds me of Margeret Thatcher. Caroline Lucas looks like Ian Hislop. But she is standing as the Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion. And Ian Hislop isn't. Charles Kennedy is his usual uninspiring self. He actually reminds me of my father a little. Not in appearance, thankfully, but just his manner of delivery. Even his accent is similar, which surprises me, as they are from different provinces.

There's also some Tory in suit. Landsley or something. Or Landsdale. I forget. But David Starkey seems to be a far better and clear-cut representative for the Tories. Forget David Cameron, give me David Starkey for Prime Minister!

I don't really mean that as a joke either. I instintinctively favour historians. I graduated in history, and feel that studying history gives you a fairly wry understanding of human nature (and its repetative and tragic charecter) and a sense of perspective essential for government.

Ah but politics is fairly rotten.

Not that I'm an expenses-scandal bleater.

But I'm beginning to question the premise of representative democracy.

And debate is tired.

"I believe this."

"Well I believe this."

"I guess we're never really going to agree."

"No, you're never going to agree."

I'm glad that most of the hard work of government is done in committes rather than simply being based upon the empty jeering of PMQs or Question Time (or Any Answers on Radio 4 which often collapses into populism).

No wonder people have no faith in politics - they only see the spectacle.

Actually I have quite a lot of respect for MP's. From all I can see it's a pretty hard, unrewarding job.

Can't remember whether I've linked this yet or not.

It's a site all about political polling in the run up to the general election.

And yes, I'm more interested in the numbers than I am in the issues.

May the best man win!

Or woman.



Sunday, 14 March 2010

Hand History - Part 6

Summer holidays were long - three months in total, from the end of June right through to the last gasps of September. Being a man of leisure, I spent much of this time playing poker. Near the end of June I deposited on Full Tilt Poker, a modest sum of $150. I mainly played low stakes cash (25NL) and MTTs with small buy ins.

I didn't too well at either. With the MTTs I must admit I was rather unlucky. In a $5 Six-Max MTT I bubbled with Kings against Ace King (top prize was over $200). Worse still I was sitting on the stairs while playing as my connection was having trouble, so it was a doubly inconvenient and frustrating experience. As for my 25NL experience, I falled into the 'any two' trap again. If someone raises to $0.75 and you're in the big blind with 69o, you should call, yes? Not only do you have a good chance of making a straight, but it will be a really disguised one too. And hey, if you hit a pair it may well be good. And if you don't... outplay your opponent!

Well, alas 69o does not have a good chance of hitting a straight. And if you hit a pair you are unlikely to get paid off if you are beat. And I simply wasn't good enough to outplay my opponent.

It's worth pointing out at this stage, lest this account seem too depressing, that I was slowly creeping up the stakes and raising my comfort level, even if I wasn't neccessarily making any money. If this all seems a bit one step forward one step back, I assure the reader that it was really all four steps forward and three steps back.

On the first day of August I wrote a little bit of self-education on my poker game - reminding myself that tight is right. I was down around $100 (£50, or four buyins) and sort of realised I hadn't been playing in a logically sound way. I don't remember much about my playing in August - there were no major successes or heavy losses. It was a little socially poisonous though, something which got worse in Septemeber, where once again I got all excited about bankrolling. I had around $100 on Ladbrokes poker, and a few dollars on some other sites, and promised myself to keep extra-tight records.

All rather pointless as you can guess. The trouble with all these bankroll projects is that there was no real concrete aim to them. I was bankrolling for the sake of it. I wasn't trying to improve my game and I wasn't really trying to make money. I was just playing within a completely arbitrary framework. Of course, I didn't really realise it at the time.

I was still playing too loose. When I came to Warwick for a few days in early September, it was even noted how I was 'calling more' preflop. Alas, I had fallen back to the loose logic of 'any-two'. I lost around £70 over the course of three days, which felt like a lot at the time.

My Full Tilt roll had been dwindling fairly consistently too. I just wasn't winning anything! I did play a little 25/50 H.O.R.S.E., something which I mentioned briefly on my old blog.

Once I settled back at Warwick for good I was back in the company of all my poker-playing friends. And we did indeed play a lot of poker. Though I enjoyed the freedom to play (it wasn't always easy to play at home: connection, family et cetera) I continued to suffer a string of fairly depressing results, both live and online. On one visit to Stanleys I got knocked out fairly early. As it was a Sunday afternoon tourney and started early, it was still light outside as I walked home in the heavy, sticky rain, wondering how I had got myself into such a situation.

The most nostalgic and symbolic episode of this period was the computer room sessions. Alex's friend Dave was a PhD physicist, as well as being a regular at our poker games. While the physics computer room was open to all during working hours, thanks to Dave we were able to access them out-of-hours. From this ability stemmed all-night online poker sessions, including plenty of tournaments on Ladbrokes. We occasionally ordered from pizza hut, having them deliver to the place under the bridge by the physics labs, where one of us would pick it up. We would usually go home at around 6am in the fresh, cool morning air. For me this soon became the walk of shame - the long walk down the physics concourse and the twenty minute crawl home gave us time to mull over our losses like the desperate gamblers we were.

Near the beginning of term I broke up with my then girlfriend, also at Warwick. If I haven't mentioned her before it's because this is meant to be about poker, and not a chance for self-indulgent recollections about other personal malaise. But I mention it now because it fitted into the general theme of uuuurgh that became Year 2 Term 1 which, as you are about to see, was probably the single most decadent, and the break-up marked the dividing line between Sebastian Evans the civlized, reluctant gambler and Sebastian Evans the lazy degenerate.

I didn't go to all my lectures, I didn't keep in touch with old friends and I maintained frosty relations with her. I was nervous, unhealthy, tired, smart-alecky and vapid. My poker game had become even looser and, to make matters worse, I was playing a lot. I often got knocked out of PokerSoc which due to blindingly obviously unneccessary bluffs and staying up fairly late playing low stakes tournaments on Ladbrokes. Sometimes, desperately, I tried to play while simultaneously study - a formula which never works and don't pretend it does. We had a very poor, overloaded little internet connection which often caused the online poker rooms to hang.

I also played on Stars a bit, where I was in a rush to clear a bonus. I was playing $5 STT after $5 STT to accumulate enough VPPs. My understanding of variance was still fairly poor, and on one occasion where I played 4-tables at a time (for the first time in my life) I was genuinly surpirsed that I failed to cash in any of them. WHAT ARE THE ODDS. OH MY GOD.

I was losing consistently in DKSOP too, and though I was never told, suspect people must have noticed how badly I was playing. We did have some fun, big games though. There was a 25p/50p Dealer's Choice game with Felix. I ended up losing my £25 buy in an Omaha hand. A3 on an AA3 board versus an Ace with two fullhouse redraws one of which, the Jack, hit.

We also hosted our first MTT. Eleven people showed up, putting forward £10 a piece. I went out with TT versus AA. He had 4-bet preflop and I came over the top for not a lot more. My justification for putting so much value on a pair of tens was... "I put him on Ace King".

We once hosted a £5 rebuy. It attracted 5 players, Mike Alex and I along with two non-DKSOPers. Annoyingly enough, it was the two non-DKSOPers who walked away with all the cash: £100 for 1st prize and £45 for second. Thus the average buy in had been a hefty £29!

We regularly held cash games, which were very popular with the Indian contingent of the University of Warwick PokerSoc. They were noisy and loved betting 'pot'. They also loved smoking it, so it transpired, but that's another matter.

On one such visit we were playing 5p/10p with fairly deep stacks. I flopped a set of sixes versus one of my opponents kings, an overpair to the board. We managed to get it all in. However, it had been so long since I had won a pot that I asked whether it was OK to run it twice, despite my being a 92% favourite. I won both runs.

You'll be revieved to know that things came to a head in December, though not after getting slightly worse first. For four nights in a row in Decemeber I saw the Ladbrokes 5am server refresh. That is to say, I was busy playing on Ladbrokes for four 5ams in a row.

As it was winter, this essentially meant I got up when the sun was already going down - a very depressing state of affairs.

Fortunately, some sense was soon talked in to me, and over the next two years never again would the decadence of this term be matched. I have covered this period with distinctly negative hues. It wasn't that bad really. To be honest, for all the moments of despair, I quite enjoyed it. In its own way it was a fun and relaxing existence. It's not something I hope to repeat, but at least it's a period I learnt something from.

If any DKSOPer reading this has any further anecdotes about this period please post them under comments. You can even post as anonymous if you're really ashamed!

For the record, there were no official 'seasons' during this term either, hence my not posting any season results.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Hand History - Part 5

Well, here we are again!

I spoke at the end of Part 4 about how the first few months had been something of a Golden Age in my poker playing 'career'. Indeed it had been. Not only had I enjoyed it, but I was probably around £150 in profit by the end of term. This didn't represent a huge boost to my financnes - nor would losing it have been a particularly significant burden. But it was a lot considering the average buy in we played was somewhere between 3 and 5 pounds.

However, the term Golden Age is neccessarily comparative, and decline soon followed. Quite how long this decline lasted, you shall see.

The 5 week Easter holiday was fairly boring. I was tired, uninspired and lazy. Despite, or perhaps, because of my winning, I was over-cautious in my poker. Rather than doing what I had been doing for the last three months (playing casually, enjoying myself, winning) I started employing artificial bankroll strategies and projects. For instance, one project called "$100 Guaranteed" (a reference to prizepools) involved playing ten five-seater $2 STTs on Ladbrokes. There was no real point to this project at all, I just caved in to my life of arbitrary schedules and plans.

It wasn't only Ladbrokes I was playing on. I also deposited on PKR. At one point I had all of $50 over two the two sites, and as I had developed a bankroll-fetish I theorised as to what sort of games I should be playing. Again, no real point to this as I had plenty of money to redeposit if I wished to.

Despite my cautious approach, during this holiday I had one of the most depressing poker experiences of my life. I was playing a $1 6-person STT on PKR. I had already reverted to a top-down view, the 3D gameplay of PKR being fairly offputting once the novelty had worn off. As we were down to the final 3 the chip leader started talking to some observer. They seemed to know eachother. The observer said he'd played with Tony G recently. The chip leader started talking about some $100 tournament he had played yesterday.

Out of the blue they started insulting me. I think it's because I'd chosen a deliberately stupid charecter profile - thick glasses and a huge affro. When I asked this 'pro' why he was playing a $1 STT, he said "for fun". They suggested I "wait for my carer to come back". I had never been insulted at a poker game before and was pretty frustrated. I ended up coming second to the rude guy. For the record, I was a substantial favourite when the chips went in, yet he thought it a sort of victory when he sucked out. I was so agitated I had to take a walk in the park. Of course, the joke was very much on me. Why should I get emotional about being insulted at a $1 STT? Whatever childishness there was on their side, there was plenty on my side too.

I did manage to finish up £9 though!

Slim consolation. It was a generally frustrating start of term too. As far as my poker was concerned, I starting playing looser, adopting the 'any two cards' philosophy that it doesn't matter what your hand is - play your opponent's hand. The chances are they haven't hit either!
Obviously such a method only really works if done at the right place and right time. However, I was doing it for its own sake and gave up on the things which had made my game profitable in the first place: tight-aggressive play. Rather than choosing my spots carefully, I regularly raised Q4o on the button because it's above average in this situation.

I was doing poorly in DKSOP. Now I am aware of variance. I was then, too. I may have been running above-average in Term 2, and below-average or average in the first few weeks of Term 3. But just because you're running worse, doesn't mean you're not playing worse too.

The results from Season 3 were as follows.

SERIES THE THIRD (Apr-May '07, 4 weeks)
Da Nuts: The Dragon
Da Bluff: The Conjurer
Da Outdraw: The Lion

1st 2nd and 3rd respectively. Note that none of these three players are me.

DKSOP then adjourned for exam season.

I didn't play an awful lot of poker in May despite not having an awful lot of exams. I continued to indulge in artificial 'bankrolling'. Sometimes I would buy in for $13 on a Ladbrokes $0.10/$0.20 table, because $13 represented approximately 5% of my profit since January. I didn't to too well at these $20NL games and, in hindsight, was playing beyond my abilitiy.

If the story up till now depresses you don't worry - June offered a little gasp of progress.

I made up my mind that I should make a serious effort to get good at poker, even if this meant lowering my stake.

I had played on Stars before, albeit only for play money stakes. It was the only site with regular play money 5 card draw games, after all!

But in early June I deposited exactly $200. I had also recently bought a copy of Poker Tracker 2, though I had not installed a HUD.

My plan was to play $10NL. I hadn't decided how many hands I was going to play, nor for how long - only that I was going to play on one table at a time. I had never really multitabled in the past, and was not ready to start.

I did very well, and over around 2,000 hands (which took... a few weeks) I was up to around $300.

I also managed to get to the Final Table of an MTT. It was the 10.00am (or 15.00ET) $2 tourney. This tournament still exists at the same time and format (1500 chips, 15 minute blinds) as it did then. From a 629 player field I managed to get into 8th place. The guy (witchypoo) who had sucked out on my earlier in the tournament ended up coming 7th. My prize was twenty-something dollars. Not an awful lot obviously, and immediately after the tournament ended I realised that I had been playing too cautiously in the endgame phases. As Mike had warned me earlier on in the tournament, "in order to live... you must be willing to die."

It was a nice way to start on Stars, and ever since then it has been my main site. Though the circumstances in which I started this bankroll project were rather grim: bored, unshaven life-apathy, I still look back on this as the model for success: play at a stake you are comfortable with, stay focused, don't rush or over-complicate things and... win!

After exams we squeezed in another DKSOP series. The games were almost exclusively higher stakes than the ones earlier in the year, a reflection of the fact that it was the end of the university year and everyone wanted to splash out. We had our biggest tourney yet: a £10 buy in with an optional rebuy and add on - total spend £30. I didn't do too well in this tournament, but it was very fun, and by the time we finished heads up (Housey versus Alex) the blinds were 2000-4000, with a total chip count of around 160,000.

SERIES THE FOURTH (Jun' 07, 1 week!)
River: The Dragon
Turn: The Conjurer
Flop: Royal Fish

On the topic of big numbers, it was over June that we saw some of the biggest and sickest games. I didn't play in all of them, but here's a brief of some of the bigger action.

Alex vs Felix
Played a £40 Heads up match against Felix (a German friend working in Leamington) on the evening following the £10 1R1A. Alex lost, but he was confident that he could beat Felix is they played again. Which they did... for £80. Alex won that one. One wonders whether they would have played a third time had he lost.

Alex vs Ryan
Played a high stakes cash game with their blackjack profits. I do not believe either of them were sitting on any more than £150, but at one point the blinds were raised to £5-£10. At one point Alex made a huge bluff, covering his face in his shirt for the agonising few minutes while Ryan pondered the decision. He folded.

DKSOP 10p-20p cash game.
Not ridiculously high stakes. Alex bought in for £400 though. Well, I managed to double up a few times and rolled my initial £10 buy in up to £105. It was my biggest winning session to date, and was shortly followed by another winning session where I made another £70 or so. I remember walking back home at 5am once (by myself, the others had elected to sleep over but I had to be on campus the next morning). By the dawn's early light and under the humid balm of the Midlands summer, I remember thinking to myself that I may as well just go professional. I didn't, of course. Nor did I inted to.

I had not been keeping strict records during this Term and do not really feel well placed to estimate whether I finished up or down. By June I had returned to my tight, aggressive, lucky ways. I now expected to win whenever I sat down at the table.

Soon this would give way to callow and careless cockiness, but it was a good way to end the poker playing year.

I talked about my name 'Royal Fish' earlier, and how it evolved from Straighting Flush Meadows.

The reason is thus: one I got a Royal Flush in February I temporarily changed my name to Royal Straighting Flush Meadows. I simply abbreviated this to Royal Fish.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Hand History - Part 4

It being the new year (2007), and I having a penchant for keeping records, I started an Excel file in which I reported all my poker fluctuations.

As luck (and some skill) would have it, the first three months of 2007 were one long unbroken upswing. Halfway through January I was already £50 up, and very, very smug about it.

I approached the game with a new found aggressiveness. One of my catchprases at the time was "it can't have helped you... 500 [chips]". I also realised I didn't have too much problem folding big hands pre-flop.

I started playing on Ladbrokes poker in late January, and it sort of became an outlet for my rationality. I would just calmly win sit and go after sit and go - usually $2 buy in, sometimes $5 buy in. Once when I was in Brighton for the weekend I even played a $1 5-card draw MTT, in which I bubbled with trip fours against trip fives.

That said, I seldom played any online MTTS, or cash games. Indeed, I still had a sort of revulsion towards cash games. This owes greatly to the fact that even though I love playing poker I'm not a huge gambler. And while a £5 tournament buy in offers a sort of 'damage limitation' (you can only lose £5), a £0.05/£0.10 game means you can lose £10 on any given hand. Worse still, you would have to risk another ten pounds if you wanted to keep playing!

In DKSOP I faired fairly well. We expanded a little, and it wasn't rare for us to have 7-person games. Though the core players remained Alex, Housey, Mike and myself, we had a large stock of semi-regulars who rolled in occasionally.

Usually these people were coursemates, PokerSoc players or random people from nearby kitchens. However, one of the fellows we played with was a friend of Alex's from the Stanley's Casino in Coventry.

And during this term I would, for the first time in my life, step into a casino. 'Twas the Saturday of the 24th of February that we rolled in: the main four along with Pascoe. I liked the place immediately, despite being a little nervous. It seemed fairly friendly and quite prosperous. And yes, there were no windows.

The tournament was a £5 rebuy. Something which, looking back, surprises me, is the fact that we had not arranged any sort of splitting of action. We were all playing with our own money for our own prize.

I stayed fairly quiet for the duration of the tournament, both in terms of my play and my demeanour. But somehow I, along with Housey, Mike and Alex, managed to make it to the final table of ten. We were very pleased with ourselves. I believe, however, only Alex managed to make it into the money - top five places were paid. I believe I went out with pocket sixes, but my memory of it is very hazy.

Still, it was a lot of fun to play in the casino environment. The tournament structure was a little crapshooty, but I had been used to crapshoots my whole life. First in school, then in pokersoc, and by now in DKSOP. Over the course of the term we had nearly 200 tourneys in DKSOP. This, over the course of a seventy-day term, presents an average of three a day. We would often have long sessions, sometimes going over to Alex's house (he was a non-Fresher and did not live on campus) and staying there the night, else taking a cab back to campus at 2am.

On one such evening we played the biggest game to date: a £15 freezeout. The stacks were 10,000, the blinds 25-50, and the blinds went up every ten minutes. There were seven of us - top prize was £70, 2nd prize was £35. Well, I won. Even though I have won larger prizes since, the calm elation I felt on winning was amongst the purest and best I had ever felt. My life was going quite smoothly at this time, and so the victory seemed to just fit in with this.

10 minute blinds may not seem very 'deep' to you. Well, it wasn't. However, this compared with the fact that we often played 5, 6 or 8 minute blinds.

On Monday 26th of February I had my first real success at PokerSoc. It wasn't a win, as you can see, but it felt so good. It was the first time I had been close to making a big score too. I hadn't folded to the money, I am pleased to say. Indeed, when we were down to two tables I was all in more than once. In once such instance, I was called. I remember saying "if a four on the river comes, I think I'll vomit over the table." One guy took my comment literally, and said he'd never seen someone vomit over the table before.

Luckily the 4 didn't come, and I didn't vomit, and do this day I have never been physically sick at the table, although I was sick back in Demcember '06 a few hours after the Australia v. England freeroll, although that had everything to do with a bacterial infection and nothing to do with a bad beat.

In early March a few of us went of on a JailBreak journey, and ended up reaching Cologne Airport. I won't talk to much about the JailBreak right now. I mention it only out of the curious fact that we actually played a little bit of Poker while in the airport. We each had ten chips (blinds were 1-2) and played a 'skill series' where the only moves pre-flop were all in or fold.

On the fifteenth of March we had our biggest game yet - a £20 Deepstack tournament. Stacks were 10k and blinds went up every 20 minutes. With a seven player field, this was about as large an event as we could get. Given the date, I remember warning the participants to beware the ides of March! Little did I expect an actual incident. Alex, who had already secured the season lead, was the first person to get knocked out. Johnny had a phonecall someway through the game and said he had to go, but wondered if Alex (who was still hanging around) could take over from him. Pascoe was furious at this suggestion, as he reckoned Alex to be a far better player than Johnny and thought it was unfair to effectively give Alex two shots at winning. It was unfair on the EV of the other players, after all.

I suggested that Johnny could withdraw from the tournament and take his £20 back from the prizepool. His stack was around average and so there didn't seem anything too objectionable about this solution. But Pascoe objected, as did Alex, as apparently it affected the gameplay too dramatically. In the end Johnny agreed to just go and allow himself to be blinded out. In the end, Gee (Alex's friend from Stanleys) came first, while Mike and I split second place money. The three of us agreed that the Johnny incident was somewhat unfair and so we pooled £20 from our collective winnings to return his buy in, a sort of gentlemanly affirmation that the spirit of friendship was slightly more important than a few measly pounds.

It was a messy end to the DKSOP season. But what a season it had been!

SERIES THE SECOND (Jan-Mar '07, 10 weeks)
CHAMPION - DragonRack, 720
RUNNER UP - Royal Fish, 625
BUBBLE - The Conjurer, 576
4th - River Goblin, 464
5th - Komeback Kid, 203
6th - All In, 98
7th - Gee 'The Law', 95
8th - Jonny Two Pair, 83
9th - Will 'The Shark' Lees, 73
10th - Jawad 'Batman', 43
11th - Steven, 8
12th - Adam, 5

You notice how many names there are on this list. The bottom two people literally only came for two games, but the points distribution is a good indication of the distinction between regular and semi-regular players.

The term now over I... went home. As you might expect. My game was better than it had been at the end of last term. Though I still didn't think especially strategically. But I was making the transition from a tight-passive game to a solid game. I was capable of being aggressive sometimes, but still playing in a fairly tight and effective style. I just didn't do stupid things and didn't lose chips uneccessarily. Sure I still had the reputation for being tight. But I was winning

If I had to think of a Golden Age for my poker playing days, this period would probably be it. It was exciting, yet never dangerous. We didn't play for life changing amounts, yet there was a real sense of competition. We had hundreds of games and yet we never seemed to tire of playing. There was nothing quite like the simple pleasure of sitting at a table with chips, cards, snacks and an evening to spare. Though the most interesting poker experiences were yet to come, these were surely the most fun, and consistently so too.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


EDIT: Have updated the times. I had made a Daylight Savings Time shift error!

Mini FTOPS is coming!

Unlike the last Mini FTOPS, at which time I was getting a little bored of poker, I am pretty fired up for this one.

Whether I play or not in an event will, of course, have to depend on the circumstances of the night. If I am doing something better or have work, then I will obviously do that. If I don't really feel like playing, then I won't. However, these are the events which I may very well end up playing.

Event 4
Friday 12th March, 6pm
$22 NLHE 1 Rebuy 1 Addon ($62 spend)
$300,000 guaranteed
6.5k (total), 10/12/15 minute levels

Event 7
Saturday 13th March, 8pm
$11 NLHE Rebuy
$350,000 guaranteed
x * 1.5k, 2k addon, 10/12/15 minute levels

Event 8
Sunday 14th March, 5pm
$13 NLHE Knockout ($2 per)
$250,000 gauranteed
5k, 10/12/15 minute levels

Event 10
Sunday 14th March, 9pm
$33 NLHE Freezeout
$600,000 gauranteed
5k, 12/15/20 minute levels

Event 13
Tuesday 16th March, 5pm
$33 NLHE Shootout (Six-max)
$150,000 guaranteed
3k, 6 minute levels

Event 16
Wednesday 17th March, 5pm
$22 7-Game
$50,000 guaranteed
4k, special incremental structure

Event 20
Friday 19th March, 5pm
$22 NLHE Freezeout (Six-max)
$200,000 guaranteed
5k, 10/12/15 minute levels

Event 25
Sunday 21st March, 5pm
$26 NLHE Knockout (Six-max)
$300,000 guaranteed
5k, 10/12/15 minute levels

Main Event
Sunday 21st March, 9pm
$55 NLHE Freezeout
$800,000 guaranteed
7.5k, 12/15/20 minute levels

Playing Event 4 is only a possibility, but really depends how I feel on the night. 6pm is hardly the ideal starting time and $62 seems like a lot. However, we'll see.

Event 8 also starts a little early.

Events 7, 13, 16 and 20 and 25 look like fairly safe bets.

As for Event 10 and the Main Event, they start a bit late and have long structures. They do look veeeery nice though.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Eye 1257

Is fairly amusing. But more importantly, it was taken along Brighton Beach. The Conservative Party Conference took place down here over the last weekend of February. I wasn't actually here at that time, but if you look carefully in the picture you can see a statue. From this distance it looks a bit like a hook, but if you look here you will see what the real shape of it is meant to be. This is the Peace Statue, which marks the border between Brighton and Hove and, back when I was running, was the starting/finishing point for my jogs.

I will be getting back to running shortly. Became rather unhealthy in February after my injury. Have realised that feeling unhealthy is not exactly to my liking, so am trying to eat better and just generally be healthier. Specifics may follow in later posts.

On the matter of electoral politics, I recommend this blog for all your opinion-poll needs. There seems to be a large number of pundits following the blog, and the discussion is for the most part non-partisan, which is a great relief.

Currently grinding my way through Seldon's Major: A Political Life. Is 700 or so pages but flows well, so shouldn't take me too long to read. Am still halfway through three other books.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Review: The Story of Maths

The Story of Maths is a four-part television series written and presented by Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford. As the title suggests, the series deals with the growth of mathematics in the ancient world all the way up to the current frontiers of mathematics.

This is no easy task, given the breadth of the subject and the small amount of airtime (c. 4 hours) provided to cover it. While it does delve into some of the fundamentals of mathematical thinking, the lack of detailed explanation can be frustrating sometimes, and one is often left feeling that a particular topic could have been covered more thoroughly.

However, one must remember that the purpose of the series is not to console and flatter those people who already have a decent understanding of mathematics, but to spark an interest in those who are less familiar with the subject. Which, let's face it, is most of the population.

The series covers a progression of innovations and discoveries, such as the evolution of the number and concept of zero and the discovery of calculus. The presenter himself, Marcus, remains at the forefront of things throughout, in a similar way to James Burke in Connections. However, during the first two episodes it is hard to get a grasp of Du Sautoy's personality.

The reason for this is clear. During the first two episodes Du Sautoy is dealing with the non-European, and gets rather too excited about how the East thought of everything before the West did. There's a lot of truth in this; for millenia the centres of mathematical thinking were not on the North European Plain but in India, China, the Middle East, Ancient Greece... et cetera.

This isn't so bad in itself, but in attempting to be honest about the West's deficit in understanding, it is easy to overcompensate on behalf of The East, which is what Du Sautoy ends up doing, a sort of reverse-Orientalism. Everything is 'fascinating' or 'ingenious' or 'incredible'. He puts the achievements on The East on something of a mathematical pedestal from which it can be appreciated and gazed at uncomfortably.

One senses, however, that once he enters the third and fourth episodes, which deal with post-Renaissance mathematics, he feels more at home. As the mathematics becomes more complicated he is able to take on the persona of the matmetician, rather than the historian. As the surroundings become more local, there is less pressure to patronise the audience into squeezing the eastern lemon for every last drop.

In the fourth episode, however, we are reminded (though not explicitly) how far removed from everyday practical mathematics the current frontiers of research seem. The activities that modern matmeticians seem to involve themselve with are almost playful and trival. For instance, the solving of Hilbert's Problems seems like some sort of party game, and the quest for different sorts of inifinity makes no sense unless the purpose of it is discussed in more detail which, in the programmes, it isn't. I am not saying this is true of all modern mathematics either - I don't know. But in a way, that's the point. I do not know, but this is the information the programme presents me with. In this respect, where the programme seeks to popularise it is in fact adding another layer of mystery.

Thus the viewer is left a little bewildered, and does not have any clear idea of where mathematics is heading or what it is meant to achieve, as if it had become a self-absorbed, elitist discipline like any number of Humanties subjects.

This was the impression left on me, anyway. If the programme really wished to tell a story, as the title purported, than it might have given us a more convincing final chapter. I had the feeling as though I was watching someone at a debate who was desperately trying to scrape for something to say, and threw together some things hoping that the aggregate of these things would somehow resemble an actual argument or point.

The first three episodes did not have this problem. There was a clear narrative which the non-mathematical brain could clearly appreciate and follow. The developments were for the most part logical. I appreciate that a lot of study produces results which can not neccesarily be forecasted or appreciated on the outset, but we should at least be left with some idea of what the fundamental issues in mathematics actually are. The audience, including myself, need to hear some sort of justification for these mathematical forays into the unknown.

I watched the series two months ago and a lot of the detail has since been lost on me. Thus, what I recall here is the general impression the series left on me. It may be that some of the things I think the series did not address were indeed addressed.

In all, however, I feel Du Sautoy did a fairly good job in tackling what is an immensely problematic (literally) subject.


Last night there was a First Time Voter's Question Time. Great, you think. Nice to see the BBC commited to spreading the word of democracy amongst the young, amongst whom turnout for elections is notoriously low and, apparently, getting worse.

All very fair and noble.

So let's slap it on to BBC3. Yeeeah that's right. Sure, it's bloody important, but not important enough to show on BBC1 or BBC2.

Oh, and let's show it at the same time as the England versus Egypt football match, cause no young people are going to want to watch that. Um....

I too watched the football instead of the First Time Voters' Question Time, and I'm actually bloody interested in the general election.

Strange, I've never really thought of myself as a 'young person' before.

anyway, here's a link for it

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Hand History - Part 3

Am at that classic too tired to do anything too demanding, but not yet tired enough to go to bed stage. So, what a perfect opportunity to continue with my poker saga.

Where did I leave off (said in the style of an old man in an armchair wearing a dressing gown, smoking a pipe authoritatvely) oh yes.

September, 2006. Having cemented my reputation as a professional gambler amongst my school friends (or not) I was now ready to take up the challenge of a proper group of players. Not that I knew any in Brighton.

I had, however, done some research for my upcoming stint at the University of Warwick. I browsed the SUnion pages excitedly. Of course, I had been hoping there was a poker society. And there was. It even had it's own forum. I found out when their first game was and went along.

It was on Monday 2nd October. I turned up to what would later become the all-too-familiar room of flying bad beats, S0.10. Or was it S0.11? I can never entirely remember. All I know was that it had a larger corner window which overlooked the library quad. Often the PokerSoc smokers would walk through the windows (they were very, very long windows) and assuage their cigarette lust. This was back in the days when smoking was extremely legal, although a minority activity nonetheless.

The buy in was £10. The game was No Limit Hold'em. My first feeling on arrival was a sort of florrid confusion. I didn't know who to talk to and who was in charge. I was aware, however, from my embryonic forum browses, that the guy to look out for was PokerMum, who I later found out to be Dave Lu. I naturally looked up to the famous gamblers. There was a whole cast of charecters whose talent and demeanour I greatly admired, particularly Tommo and Flash.

I mulled around in the usual manner that a nervous, thin, tired student might. I did not introduce myself to anyone. I was busy getting used to the environment. However, as they laid out the poker felts in preperation I made a joke that they might borrow my shirt (which was green and made from a thick material) if they ran out of felts. I began talking to someone. I can not remember precisely who, but I think it was JD. He asked how long I had been playing. Knowing that a key part of poker is concealing information from your opponents, I said smugly "I don't want to give anything away." I realise now just how much of a novice this must have made me looked, but at the time it seemed completly natural.

Everyone seemed to know eachother, or be part of a group. I soon deduced that I was the only first-year there. After all, the event had not been publicised (as the socieities fair had yet to occur) and the only way anyone would know about this tournament would be from checking the website.

The buy in was £10. Sure, it was above my 'comfort zone', but this was a special day, a sort of inauguration. I would have gladly spent £20.

I was dealt a table, and went to take my seat, which overlooked the large windows. It being October, it was already fully dark outside by the time the first cards were dealt at around 7 o'clock. We each had 3,000 chips and the tables were eight handed, with perhaps around six tables running. The chip values were as follows: 25 for white, 100 for blue, 500 for red and 1000 for green, a chip formula which I (and they) have stuck to ever since.

I don't think I ever went above my starting stack and only won one or two pots. Two years later someone recognised me as the guy who knocked them out during that particular tournament. I do vaguely remember knocking someone out, but it can't have been for a very large pot. For some reason 'Ace Jack' rings a bell. I mean the hand; I am not suggesting his name was Ace Jack, although that would be a bloody good name.

You see how I remember some things a lot better than others. It probably reflects more on what I was paying attention to at the time rather than how my memory works. For I lived through the whole thing as a visual-sensual experience. I wasn't thinking about strategy ot socialising. How can I remember the hands I was dealt and pots I was involved in if I wasn't even sure what was happening at the time!

Eventually I got knocked out, probably around 30th out of the 50 or so players. Again, I forget how the elimination occured.

Of course I was hooked, and came back next week, where I did rather better. It was a publicsed event, the beginning of term freeroll. During my first table, we had one instance where there were five eights in the deck. After three 20 minute levels we were offered the option of buying a top-up. I was short stacked and, not wanting to leave, decided to buy the £5 top-up - I didn't want to leave as I was enjoying myself. Sure, this was MINUS E.V., but I have learnt that even if everything can be measured in numbers, that doesn't mean it should.

I survived long enough to be eliminated in 14th place. I was knocked out by Dave Lu, my KQ spades versus his AT spades. He held up and took me down. I got £5 for my efforts; 16 places were paid. When I got back to my accomodation at Rootes and told them how I had done everyone was like wow. I felt like I was bringing home the bacon or something, and put on a show of false modesty.

My kitchenmates knew about my poker playing habits, partly because it had been my main method of socialising in the early days. Even on my first night at Warwick I had the chips out, and taught a certain young lady how to pay Texas Hold'em. This would come to haunt me in second year, as you shall see.

In the first few weeks we often played casual games in either D or E kitchen. I would bring the chips, set out the ground rules, and deal the cards. There was usually a weird sort of macho tension in our games, not because we were playing for high stakes (for the most part we did not place any stake at all) but because many of the people I played with were egotistical prats. Still, for the most part I got along with them fairly well, and was privy to quite a few free cans of lager and cider. Poker gave us all an excuse to socialise beyond our normal 'friendship groups'.

There is an irony to this, though, as over the course of the next few weeks the friendship groups were themselves defined by how seriously people took their poker. Some of our kitchen, especially the women, resented us using the kitchen table to play cards, or frowned with motherly angst at the fact that we seemed to be doing nothing else, nothing productive or interesting.

In the November period, my most common form of Poker was playing Heads Up against Housey. They were quick games with shallow stacks, but it was clearly who the decisive winner was: him. We probably had around thirty games over the course of the term, all for free, and he probably won about twenty of them. He, along with Ryan from E Kitchen, were the only two people who were familiar with poker before Warwick.

Mike, however, who lived next door, had a background in chess, and through his psychology coursemate Alex learnt about poker. Johnny too had had some experience in Westwood games.

On the 22nd of November, something great happened. A spontaneous gathering of great players in 3rd Floor D Kitchen Rootes occured. A £1 rebuy was held... and it was good. Then another was held... and it was even better.

That very evening I set up a facebook group for it. Three years later there are over 2,000 wall posts and tons of results. It was all rather straightforward really. We played tournaments and the winners were allocated a number of points corresponding to the number of pounds they won, a beautifully simply ranking system. Obviously it favoured those who played more games than those who did not, and so was not a pure measure of 'skill'. But it did measure a sort of 'commitment', and most of us partook in almost every game anyway.

The series lasted the next two and a half weeks till term was over.

The results were as follows:

SERIES THE FIRST (Nov-Dec '06, 2½ weeks)
1st - The Conjurer, 151
2nd - Blind Dragon, 102
3rd - Straighting Flush Meadow, 61
4th - River Goblin, 58
5th - Dave P, 25
6th - Ryan M, 11

I am the one in third place - that was my poker nickname at the time. Though it may not look like it now, it contains elements of my current name (Royal Fish) into which it later evolved.

Our biggest game was a £10 Freezeout, to which Dave P brought his laptop-based blinds timer and a video camera, with which he filmed some of the more exciting moments. To the nonplayer and player alike, this probably seems like the height of collective geekiness. But we enjoyed it. I didn't cash in the £10 Freezeout, by the way. Out of the five of us, two were paid - £35 for 1st and £15 for second, out biggest game to date. The Conjurer won that one, though, along with most of the other games.

I eventually lost the $50 I had on Party, but started playing in VC after coming 3rd in a Student Freeroll for around $11. I played with this VC money for a while, mostly playing very low stakes STTs (e.g. $0.10 turbos). It was during my time on VC that I learnt the basics of effective play - stay tight, but ramp up the aggression when you need to. I was beginning to make the connections neccessary to be a non-losing player, if not a marginailly profitable one.

I hadn't neglected PokerSoc either. On the contrary, I probably went almost every week, and then to Top Banana (the £1 a-night union event) afterwards. But I never cashed or made any real headway. The last and most expensive tournament I played was a £20 freezeout with 30 minute blinds. I believe I called off rather too much of my stack with a dodgy two pair against a straight. It was one of those I know I'm probably beat but I can't be bothered to fold scenarios. The budding reader will be glad to know, however, that these days I fold when I know I'm beat.

So I went back home that December with a good deal of poker knowledge behind me, although I was almost definitely losing in terms of money. I played a little online over the holidays, mainly on VC. I did play on Party a little, though, including a $6 Fixed Limit MTT (which I entered by accident, assuming it was No Limit) and an 'England verus Austraila' freeroll on Boxing Day, which I managed to cash in for somewhere less than a dollar.

Yeah, I spent all this time just describing one term. And I could have said a lot more than I did too. But this is merely a warm up for what can only be called The Year of Rack, the time during where poker really did become a massive slice in what was the cake of my life, smaller only than sleep, work and eating. Especially when I was at uni. Theay year was 2007.


Hey stalkers.

Had a fun few days. On my return I was sometimes asked 'how it was', to which my usual, tired reply was 'pretty good. will write a blog post about it.

Well, here it is.

Woke up at 6.45am on Friday, and two hours later I boarded a train to London with my father. Our destination: Kensington Olympia, for the Who Do You Think You Are - Live event, where we were to man the stall for Deceased Online, with a team of around eight others.

We arrived at 10am, and as I did not hold a staff pass but, rather, a standard ticket, I had to walk all the way to the back of a several-hundred yard queue along the frontside of the building. I was surprised and encouraged to see such a high turnout. It seems that the anecdote I heard about genealogy being the second most searhed-up thing on the internet was no joke, and that curiousity about ancestry and heritage is, and always has been, considerable. 

Indeed, the number of resources for finding out about ones ancestry are increasing every day, and Olympia was filled with all manner of stalls. There were some video displays, workshops, and even a one-hour talk about DNA in one of the side parts of the venue. Most of the people were in their fourties or fifties and, as you might expect at a genealogy conference, basically everyone was English. After all, Parish records from the 1890s would not be much use to the man whose ancestors were from, say, Spain or Bangladesh. That said, there were some stalls catering for earlier-twentieth century groups, such as Anglo-Itialians, Anglo-Germans, Anglo-Jewish and even Anglo-Huguenots.

Some stalls were larger than others. One of the largest genealogy companies, Ancestry, had their own speaking area with around a hundred chairs for the audience. I heard Tony Robinson (of Blackadder fame) give a talk about the various companies.

I spent most of the time walking around. Though I was there to represent DOL, there was no shortage of staff, despite the business. My father reminded me, however, that the expo would get even busier in the afternoon, and especially busy on Saturday, where the 15,000 tickets had been sold out.

After having a 20cm pizza from the Pizza Express fast-food outlet connected to the Olympia hall on one side and to the street (to serve the public) on the other, I was told I was no longer needed, and headed off into the night sky.
Or should I say afternoon sky. It was only 1.30pm. I had a good hard look at this, which was on an advertising board over looking the passageway between Olypmia and the train station. I then walked about for a bit, stopping in a West Kensington pub for a large coke. At around 3.30pm I met David. Walked to his flat in Hammersmith and watched some TV (including Deal or No Deal, which I had not seen for years... I am glad to say it has not got any worse). Then at 5pm we went all the way to Camden Town to Josés flat.

Marco was there already, staying with Jose. Later arrived Ben, then Aidan. We sat down to a game of poker. We were using Josés loose change for chips, playing £0.01/£0.02 with £1 stacks. All completely casual, and we didn't stake any money on the game, despite using coins for chips. Around eight o'clock we left and took the tube to Liverpool St. wherefrom we walked to Brick Lane looking for a curry house. We were spoilt for choice, but eventually settled on one which had offered us two free rounds of drinks and 30% off the final bill.

For those who have not been to Brick Lane, it is a veritable chaos. But one worth seeing. Every restaurant had a man outside to draw customers in, making offers and generally being persistent and annoying. At first we thought it was only the lower-end restaurants (who did not have name recognition) who had to employ this strategy, but it turns out that every single place does it. It's just part of healthy, capitalist competition.

I had a chicken dopiaza and a pint of Tiger. Or was it Cobra. I get the two mixed up.

We returned home after a brief walk, and got to sleep at some time after midnight. I volunteered to sit on the floor. Sure, it's hard on the back, but better than trying to sleep on a sofa only to fall off, which, of course, is hard on the whole body.

However, not even the most comfortable, embracing bed would have made the night's sleep any longer. Several of us had set an alarm for 4 o'clock. I set a backup one for 4.30.

After a brief wash and no breakfast, we were out. Aidan was driving, José sat at the front. In the back was myself, Ben (in the middle) and David. Marco, who had never been planning to come anyway, stayed at home. We left Camden at around 5.10am, and then the long drive began.

It was about an hour till dawn began to break. All the while I was nervous about what lay ahead, as we had been promised gale force winds for our sea passage. On arriving at Dover, however, things seemed fairly calm. We had a light breakfast (a Gingsters peppered steak pie for me) and then boarded the boat. I was apprehensive about seasickness at the start of the voyage, despite never having been seasick in my life. However, I was infitinetly relieved when it turned out there was an area for standing outside. The fresh sea air makes you forget about any groginess (what an awful word) you might feel and being able to see land (often on both sides, England and France, at the same time) gives your coordination something to anchor on to, thereby minimising the disorientation of life on the wave.

Arrived at Calais. There followed a two hour drive to Lille. José, having somehow torn his trousers, set off on a quest to find some new ones. In the mean time, the rest of us toured the surrounding area. I was very happy to see a chocolatier which I had last seen in Le Touquet back in 2006 - Le Chat Bleu. I ate one of their famous chocolate golf balls, as did Ben.

After much walking we settled down for lunch at Cafe Leffe, named after the Belgian beer of which they served several varieties. As you can see from this map, the Belgian influence is not by accident. I had a beef burger which, instead of buns, had what seemed to be hash browns. I washed this weird stuff down with some forest-fruit-flavoured Leffe.

More walking continued. At around 5-something (French time) we realised that time was short and that if we wanted to go somewhere else, we should do it now.

Thus off we went, northwestwards, as the sun set. The only place we stopped in the end was a Carrefour 'hypermarket'. The others bought all manner of things...well, mainly cheese, wine and beer. I only bought some more forest-fruit-flavoured Leffe.

We had a little trouble finding Calais. There were lots of narrow roads and Flemmish placenames, but eventualy we stumbled upon the motorway home. The boat journey was calm and fairly relaxed. We all had some expensive ferry-food. As on the way there, the journey took one and a half hours. We were all pretty tired by now, having been up around sixteen hours, a full day, on minimal sleep. But Aidan, who was doing all the driving today, ensured he was alert for the last leg of the voyage.

Dover to London. It took about two hours, and involved driving through East London and under the Thames via the Blackwall tunnel. I never get to see much of East London, and so I made a special effort to keep my curious eyes open.

Back at around midnight, and after unloading the car we all went to bed. Not the same bed. In my case, the floor, where I had left the sleeping bag, pillow et al anyway. Most of us got up at 9.30am the next day to go to our various parts of the country. I was back in Brighton at around one o'clock.

Not that the adventure ended there. At Victoria station I had bought a copy of The Times, to see what had gone into the shock headline Gordon Brown on course to win election. It turned out that the Conservative Party conference was happening in Brighton while I had been away. I saw Cameron's speech live via BBC News, even though the actual thing was being given only a few miles away.

The election race really is getting tight/heating up/reaching fever pitch... whatever metaphor you wish, really. The latest poll from ComRes offers the following statistics.

Conservatives: 37%
Labour: 32%
Liberal Democrats: 19%
Others: 12%

Due to the way the electoral system works in practice, this five-percent lead basically translates to a hung parliament and a neck-and-neck race between the two sides.

Some people were suggesting Brown should call an election on Monday (yesterday) as things weren't going to get any better for him in the polls. I was secretly excited at this prospect, but realise that Brown has no intention of calling anything before the universally agreed date of May 6th. After all, he bottled it in 2007 and he'll keep bottling it again and again if he has to.