I have played in 2 previous incarnations of the English Poker Open. If memory serves me correctly they were both $5k events, one at Dusk Till Dawn and the other at the Palm Beach and I think both were $1m GTD. Not that the guarantee matters when you don’t trouble the scorers but still I ran quite deep in both and they were certainly both well run and well structured.
These events were notable mainly because of the amount of discounted seats/packages that were available. The tournament sponsors (a large online affiliate group) had obviously run lots of promotions for their online grinders, many of whom looked to cash in their prizes rather than play an event much above their normal bankroll. Whether it’s a nod towards the current state of the poker economy or just the marketing cost that these promotions swallowed up but this year it was a very different event. Gone was the headline $1m guarantee and whilst there were a handful of online qualifiers any discounted seats were few and far between. This didn’t make it a bad event but it did turn a great value event (from a player’s point of view) into a smaller one with a much tougher field
“The London Poker Festival” was a grouping together of otherwise unrelated poker events that all took place in London over the last few weeks. Several European travelling pros made the trip and this was the highest of the buyins during the period. It was a good stop-over for people travelling on to the WSOPE, San Remo and beyond. Around 150 players meant the £250k guarantee was just about exceeded.
Whosever idea it was to hold the party the night before Day 1A was either an optimist or a downright fool. Almost, you might say, as foolish as the person who chooses to play Day 1A…. Despite the ever deserving Genting Poker somehow missing out at the British Poker Awards ceremony which preceded the party, soon any recollection of Sam Trickett’s groundhog day acceptance speeches were long gone as the reality of a boat full of poker people and a free bar began to kick in. I don’t remember too much but I do recall being dragged to have a portrait done by the caricaturist that was making his way around the boat.
“Get the eyebrows! Make sure you get the eyebrows!” cried fellow geniuses in observational comedy Gary Oakes and Andy Booth, clearly concerned that the guy employed to create cartoon drawings which comically exaggerate a person’s features may miss the two giant black caterpillars staring down at him. Fortunately they were on hand to make sure he didn’t. You can judge the result for yourself here, although not without me putting up the one of the 2 comic geniuses for comparison
For most of Day 1 I was sat at the feature table. Chances are this means this table isn’t the softest in the room and although it was fun sharing the table with 2 bracelet holders, a November Niner and last year’s champion, it wasn’t the best table to build up a good day 1 stack.
I did make some hands before I decided that a solid player raising his 1st pot from early position was a good spot to start unloading some early barrels. From a starting stack of 25k I hovered around 25-30k for the 1st ¾ of the day.
There was a bit of controversy surrounding the feature table. Hole cards were shown on a 30 minute delay which adds a different dynamic to play when everyone is constantly checking their phone for updates from their mates watching at home. In general I’m fine with this although it was a mistake not making players sign a waiver form as this allowed certain people to refuse to show their cards to the camera
As can be seen from the above photo I was sat next to my good friend James Akenhead throughout the day. This lead to some fun pots – one in particular which caused some amusement. A player opened from early position. His sizing compared to other hands he had played lead me to believe he wasn’t that strong. I was on the button and with 86dd it looked like a perfect squeeze spot. James called the raise before it got to me but I stuck to the plan. Scott Shelley in the big blind then dwelt for a while before folding Jacks. The original raiser folded and James reluctantly folded but not before saying “you do realise I’ll find out what you’ve got in 30 minutes”.
James was receiving some updates from his best friend Terry. Having lived with James for a couple of years I know Terry well and also have his number. As soon as James got up from the table I text Terry “Tell him I had aces FFS”
I told the rest of the table what I’d done as I’d already admitted to Scott who was keen to know what I had that he was in good shape with his jacks. When James returned to the table, armed with his new “information” he started commenting what a great lay down Scott made and how obvious it was that I only played aces etc etc. By the end of it all no one was really sure who was levelling who but it was all very amusing and the look on James’ face when I asked him how he thought Terry found out before the 30 minute had passed for the internet delay was priceless!
Towards the end of the day I picked up QQ playing around 30bb. James opened in early position and I decided to just call trying to induce a squeeze from a table which had been very active and who wouldn’t necessarily respect either James’ open or my call for a strong hand. The squeeze came in the form of a 3bet from reigning champion Fabian Quoss. James folded (shock) and so I had a fairly easy jam. Right? Something about it didn’t feel right. Yes Fabian was one of the players more likely to squeeze but he was in the small blind in this hand and whilst I can’t remember the exact sizing I know I didn’t like it. I dwelt for quite a while but ultimately I was unable to let go even though deep down it I didn’t like it. Fabian showed Kings and a blank board would see me to a disappointing day 1 exit.
Indeed it would have but that’s forgetting about how close I was sitting to James Akenhead. A whole day of rubbing shoulders with Lewisham’s number 1 golden child can really have an impact. Out popped a queen on the turn and I doubled to 50k. The only question now was - could I maintain my seat draw long enough for a deep run?
To be continued….