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.

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