After two years tripping over to London, running deep but no cash to show for my efforts, I was reluctant to go back and play again. But this year's UK Deaf Poker Series III being held in a reputable casino with dealers somehow sounded stress-free and so by March the flight was booked and my name was on the players list...
May was a very bad month pokerwise, more down than up, couldn't get my cards to hold up against the countless villains I challenged across the felt. To be fair I didn't play as much as I usually do - couldn't afford to - my son was making his confirmation so I saved my money (and energy!) for that instead. Leaving each game without so much as a cent to show for my efforts was disheartening to say the least. I was getting very disillusioned with the game. Time to take a break, one that is long overdue to be honest. But with the London trip already booked I decided to reserve the 'break' til after this game...
Susie was unable to fly over due to a chest infection, and only other Irish player Mark McLaughlin was flying over on the morning of the main event and planning to catch the first flight back early the next morning. My flight over was booked for Friday afternoon til Sunday night, as I had planned to make the most of the weekend. Sergio Sanchez Gil (the Deaf player who won the Madrid European Deaf Poker Championship) kindly offered to meet up with me and be my room mate for the weekend. Now, I know what you are all thinking but no... it was very platonic, sorry no scandal here for you!
On arrival in a hot and humid London, I was horrified to discover Sergio had booked into an overpriced kip of a place and even paid for his share upfront. No amount of arguing with the desk clerk was going to get him his refund so we decided to stay that night and move elsewhere next day. Setting off walking to the pre-event meet up game in the Kensington Close Hotel about 1km away, we checked several places en route hoping to get a room for the next night but they were booked out.
The Kensington game was a local poker circuit game that a number of London Deaf players frequent, the £20+2 buy-in self-dealt game of a higher standard than your local pub game - lots of tight players. With 4 deaf players on my table I was able to play much looser and aggressive than I normally did - great way to fool the players into thinking this was my style too! All good preparation for the game the next day! Was out before the end of the 4th level... settled into the uber-soft cash game and left £60 up for the night - my buy-in covered for the next day.
Walking back to our 'Kip' we came across a vintage car sales room, while admiring the cars, a party was going on in a nearby house a young white girl came running out ran around the corner pulled down her hot pants and wee'ed in front of us... her boyfriend, this tall strapping black guy followed her out and started snogging her as she finished her business, pulled up her hot pants, picked her up and carried her back into the house! We were just standing there mouths all agape... I've really seen it all now(!) Popping into the local Tesco to get a cold drink and a midnight snack, the night was really humid, I was amazed that we could still buy alcohol at 1am... the amount of people drinking among the rose bushes in this affluent area was something else.
Next day, Sergio took ages getting ready, those who know me well will know how long I usually take to get ready... but Sergio is something else! He was a whole HOUR! Deciding to bring our bags straight to the International and worry about the accommodation later, we took three tubes (had our route planned but didn't realise a certain connecting tube station was closed for repairs!) it took us longer than expected to get to Old Street where the International Club was located. The game was starting at 12 noon, we got there barely 5 minutes before the game started. The buy-in was low £50+5 for 5,000 with the option to pay £5 for 2,000 more. I brought the additional 2k reluctantly - this extra fee was another reg as far as I was concerned. £50+£10 game for 7,000 chips and 20 minute blinds for a high ranking game was not the best value in my opinion. But not buying the chips could put me at a serious disadvantage too.
Greeting some familiar faces, I discussed these issues with one of the UK Deaf Poker Series organisers. He confessed that it was the International who defined the stack/blinds as they had their own regular game on and expected our game to be well finished by this time. Fair enough.
I bumped into fellow Irish player, Mark McLaughlin, he looked wrecked! He had been travelling all night, bus up from Wexford to Dublin Airport, forgot to print out his flight ticket so Ryanair fined him €40, the train from Stansted to the city cost more than he expected... the poor guy hadn't a penny left and the lack of sleep was starting to affect him. He had no money left to buy food never mind the extra 2k chips. I had a membership card from the International manager John (its who you know that counts!) with complimentary points for free food/drink worth £20, I offered to share this with Mark.
Of the 94/95 players confirmed, only 83 had turned up with 80 players opting in for the extra 2k chips.
On my first table - I was in seat 8, Mark was to my immediate right, he started open raising, re-raising and getting his bets called by middle pairs/high aces he stunk as low as 2.5k before realising he needed to change his tactics. Chips were as easy to win as to lose, I fell as low at 3.3k at one point but worked my stack back up top 10.9k at the first break.
Had AA twice, won with one and lost with the other. Raised one hand got two callers both folded to my post flop bet, in the losing hand: Mark raised to 3xBB, I re-raised to 9xBB, button flat called me and Mark mucked face-up accidentally showing his cards AQo. Flop comes ten high with two spades, I c-bet and button insta-called, the spade on the turn brought a flush board that we both checked. K on river, I threw out a small bet thinking he'd fold but no, button flat called to show KK.... meh!
Folded 88 in one hand to one player (Ahmed) re-raising my 900 raise in the 150/300 level to 3k from BB position with 40% of his stack - it was his first raise, I had him pegged as a nit so I folded face up thinking AA-1010 or AK. He showed KQo - nice move sir. Later discovered this was Ahmed 4th poker game(!) Nice playing for a novice! He later cashed in an impressive 7th place...
Moving to my 2nd table I hit trips 3 times in a row getting paid off each time to bring my stack up to 47k.
One interesting hand against Henry McDougall (IDP's Deepstack Classic winner 2008): Blinds were 1k/500; I raised 2500 from MP with 22, action folded to Henry who was shortstacked in BB, he flattened. Flop came A45 two suits, Henry insta-bet 2,000 as the flop appeared, I didn't think he had an ace here - I felt if he did he would have re-raised me rather than called pre-flop. I put him on 67s/78s or J9-KQs draw all within his range; suspecting this may be a draw/probe bet I opted to call him and re-evaluate on the turn. As the Q appeared Henry insta-bet out 3,000 without a pause. This had me confused, if he hit the queen, the Henry I knew would have have check-raised here, still putting him on a draw plus the value was too good not to call - 3,000 for a 12,500 pot... I had a 26k+ stack and Henry had 6k approx behind when a lovely 2 appeared on the river! I re-raised Henry's 3k river bet to see him panic slightly before calling with a badly represented AQ - the last hand I would have put him on.
Moving to a third table shortly before the next break, we were now down to two tables and I was 2nd chipleader with 47k behind Sylvain Dwek on 60k approx (the average stack at this point was 32k) the raising blinds were crucifying the short stacks. I doubled up by decimating a couple of shorties before taking down a lovely 40k+ pot with AJs; I raised from the button, BB insta called; flop came K89 with two spades. BB checked, I bet, he re-raised before insta-calling my shove with JTo(!) K on turn and J on the river brought my stack up to 102k and before we knew it we were on the final table!
Asking for a 15 minute break as we had no dinner break and playing from 12 noon til 5:30pm without a proper food break just 2/3 10 minute breaks was a killer. I appealed to the TD but he apologised that they needed our game to be over before their 7pm tournament started, the best he was giving us was 7 minutes. I ordered food and had to eat it as I played the final table which I hate.
The picture above shows the final table partipicants...
Seat 1. 102,000 (Julianne Gillen)
Seat 2. 31,000 (Kabwe Kabosha)
Seat 3, 10,000 (Sylvain Dwek)
Seat 4. 73,000 (Stephen Draper)
Seat 5. 40,000 (Ben Simpson)
Seat 6. 90,000 (Mark McLaughlin)
Seat 7. 15,000 (Cliffod Lane)
Seat 8. 99,000 (Joseph Devine)
Seat 9. 42,000 (Ahmed Mudawi)
Seat 10. 75,000 (Damon Delaney)
Talking to Mark, I learnt that Sylvian had a very loose image and was starting to leak chips raising/re-raising with a very wide range, he had just doubled Mark up in the last hand leaving himself barely 10k by overplaying his A rag on a AQJ board with Mark holding KTs.
With 10 players on the final table and 9 places paid a deal was agreed to take £7 off all places to pay 10th. As action folded back to me on the button in the first hand - two shorties in SB (Kabwe) & BB (Sylvian) blinds were now 3k/6k; I knew Sylvian will call with any two, but Kabwe was nitty enough to fold and wait for another spot - it would be 50-50 against me getting Sylvian out in a HU. I raised with J6s, Kabwe jumped out of the way as Sylvian insta-threw in his stack and turned over As2s, but the flop came a sick QJ6xx and a disappointed Sylvian walked away in disgust.
I dispatched Ahmed in 7th (A3 into his KQ) then Stephen Draper in 6th similar sick fashion. Before I exited Stephen I was tilting a little as Mark kept consistently playing into me; e.g. finding A10s in MP I raised to 30k (blinds now 4k/8k) Mark called from BB, flop came 896, giving me a gutshot plus flush draw. Mark bet out 30k which had me thinking - reraise or call. I opted to call, Q on turn gave me extra outs. But Mark's 50k bet had me thinking very hard, was he playing the same hand or a AQ/AK. I flat called but missed the river which was checked down Mark showed K9o for a pair and a huge pot. Urgh!
Back down to 105k, I found J10s on button and opted to shove as SB (Stephen) and BB (Ben Simpson) were nits and I had them both covered, knew they would not call unless then had AA/KK/QQ/AK etc. As Stephen tanked then asked for a count - I was praying he would fold but no... after 3/4 minutes thinking he called and Ben insta-folded. Stephen tabled AKs, but the board ran out Q9xx8 and it was all over for poor Stephen! Sorry mate xxx
Damon went next in 4th place, he shoved with barely 6BBs holding KQ from SB into my BB I saw A3 and called.
When we were down to 3 handed - Mark kept shoving all-in into my raises/BB, I folded twice but on the 3rd time discovering A7o and after tanking for a bit I ignored my heart telling me to fold and followed my head in calling his 150k leaving myself less than 90k only to see his 33, no suck out for me this time and Mark was now chipleader leaving me as the shortest stack to Marks' 300k and Ben with just over 100k approx.
The Blinds were now 6k/12k, Mark mini-raised me again from SB - I had K9 in BB and decided to race these and shoved back at him only to see him call with AQ. The board came xxxAQ and I was gone in 3rd place.
Barely one hand later - it was over, Ben flat called and Mark checked to see 68T flop. Mark bet the flop and turn (3) which Ben flat called. Ben bet out on the river (7) Mark shoved to put him all in and Ben insta-called to show 87 for two pair which was no good against Mark's 9To to crown him the new UK Deaf Poker Series III Champion! A very worthy winner too! Well played Mark!
The standard seemed better this year compared to last year. Some impressive play by some players - still a lot of check-calling and poor bets sizes still but the raises were getting through and that's a huge improvement. The structure could be improved more: 5k stack is too low for a high ranking tournament; 20 minute blinds doesn't allow enough decent play and was a killer for some players. The loss of couple key levels (especially 75/150) was felt; so was the lack of a decent dinner break.
Once the game was out of the way, I sorted out our accommodation for the night with the help of Freddie (another manager in the International) Sergio was cleaning up on the cash table, I joined him for a few rounds before we headed off in the torrential rain. By the time we got to Earls Court, we were too late to get the room so we headed back to Kings Cross and found a decent enough B&B instead for £25 each which served an alright breakfast too.
After seeing Sergio off on the train to Gatwick, I spent the afternoon catching up with a friend in South London, we talked so much I nearly missed my flight home! Getting to Heathrow with 15 minutes to spare, dashing to the automatic check-in point to print my boarding pass I learnt that my flight was delayed by a further 30 mins - oh thank God for small mercies!!!!
So... will I be taking a break from Poker? Hmmmm lets wait n see... I may be on a roll here!