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.

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