I think I wrote "write blog" on my URGENT to-do list at least three months ago. I remember writing it; it was the day after I wrote: "win some money." I really ought to get round to attacking the list.
The one good thing about not playing so much poker this year is that I've set a new record - my hourly rate is through the roof.
Last time I wrote to you I was just starting to look forward to playing a few events in London. I'm not quite sure how my cousin managed to plan his wedding on the weekend of the Vic GUKPT and the Unibet Open London, but that may well have saved me several thousand pounds. I was pretty gutted at missing the Vic. It looked like a pretty soft field for a decent prize and I was glad to see Robin win it. Chalk one up to the old-school grumpy old gits.
I was available to play all the days of the English Poker Open at The Fox Club, and I nearly needed all the time. Unfortunately I managed to have the final day off, having turned a micro-stack into a min-cash. I would use this opportunity to tell the people at The Fox that they need to get the ratio of blinds to antes right to stop people horribly nitting it up into the money, but there is little point now. All I need to tell you is that myself, Paul Jackson and Surinder all cashed despite having smallish stacks with 100 left.
The EPO was quite a tough field with a lot of decent pros in town. A lot of those players had missed the previous events, to go to Cannes for the WSOPE, so my game selection was pretty poor.
In Ireland the next week I played the IPO. I made the right choice here. A load of fun with people who were genuinely glad to be playing, enjoying something they do as a hobby, and taking victory and defeat in their stride, while wearing a smile. I didn't win this great event, but I did win about £300 in a 1/2 cash game.
I stayed in Dublin and played the legendary Fitz end of month. I made a rick here as we went to eat immediately before the tournie and on arrival we were offered a massive roast dinner - all included in the cost of entry. I also made a rick in trying to flip with Doke. I would recommend the club and the event if you are ever in Dublin. I wouldn't recommend flipping with Doke.
That weekend was the IWF. Some people wouldn't think of travelling for a one thousand Euro event, but this one is probably the best value 'small' event of the year.
I didn't win it, but I was again reminded that it is possible to play poker, while having fun at the table. I was reminded that there are topics of conversation out there apart from poker. I was reminded that it isn't totally necessarily to constantly discuss strategy between hands and that if you lose you can still have a nice day. I did and I did.
Back home I went to Bristol for the UKIPT. I quite like the Gala in Bristol. I have no idea if they'll have further UKIPTs there or if it will ever become a Grosvenor (it is one that might not be part of the Grosvenor takeover of Gala Casinos if that ever happens). I quite like Bristol too. I have a couple of friends there who I don't see enough of. In the end though I came up with the idea of commuting. I didn't fancy another night in another hotel and I discovered the train journey was pretty easy and the days ended early. I definitely like the UKIPT. You get a very good structure, a decent prizepool and a well run event.
You also get a fairly good mix of players, but obviously you do get a large number of Stars qualifiers.
My table was nice. A good variation in age and playing styles, some chatty people, everyone was friendly and they all played reasonably quickly.
I prospered and with an hour to go I had about twice the average.
A new guy joined our table. He seemed keen to pull up the hoodie, not engage in conversation and three-bet a lot, but never without a long pause to consider everything and weigh-up the exact right bet-size.
I couldn't be having this. I soon engaged him in chat and helped him to join in with the spirit of the table. He was great fun and soon twigged that this was going to be better for all of us. Job done.
We were immediately joined by another guy who was cut from the same cloth. He put his hoodie up and the headphones on. His three-bets were even more frequent and even slower. I failed to engage him and all he managed to do was to stop the recreational players from playing the way they wanted to. It became hard for them to see flops, they couldn't really limp and they got to enjoy way less hands, partly because he was slow and partly because of the constant isolation.
I couldn't do much to get him to change as he didn't seem to speak any English.
I could have a word with the third new guy though, and I might get him to understand, so after a few hands I did.
He came to the table and seemed to have the standard M.O. He was very slow and deliberate, he loved to open and if it had already been opened he would three-bet. There were long pauses to ask how much people were playing - even though their chips were clearly visible - and there were attempts to discuss strategy and talk about hands that had happened on the previous table, that showed us he had a high opinion of himself and his game.
He lost the first few pots he played and this new table consisted of people who planned to call his raises out of position and out-flop him and people who planned to four-bet his three-bets (the other two aggro kids).
After a few hands, our fella three-bets a fella who has raised under the gun. The fella in the big blind - who had been having a fun day up to now - obviously feels that he isn't getting to enjoy participating enough in the last twenty minutes or so and so he calls out of position with a suited rag-ace. He manages to turn a big draw having flopped a bit of something and he wins the pot somehow.
Our new mate now begins to berate him. He doesn't go for the traditional 'speak directly to the guy and tell him he's a moron', but instead he chooses the old 'think to yourself but express it out loud by talking to yourself". "I can't believe it, I play so good and this is what they do to me, how can people call like that with Ad-3d? How is it they always get there? Why do I never have anything when I three-bet an under-the-gun guy? I play so tight and this happens. It's so unfair."
As an older player who has been around a bit I believe it is my duty to speak up here. There are people in these UKIPTs playing their first ever live event and there are many people for whom this is their biggest ever event. We need those people as a community. If those people do not turn up we may as well all give up now. If you cannot realise that and you attempt to do anything to stop these people from having a great day and enjoying their experience then somebody should say something and they should say it in a way you will understand.
It was my turn to speak up.
I let the poor fella have it with both barrels. It's a tricky one as I really wanted this bloke to realise what he was doing wrong and he was determined to take no responsibility for his behaviour. "I never said anything, I didn't berate him, I was talking to myself." I really didn't want to say, "You shouldn't berate that nice man for playing badly in this hand as if people like him didn't turn up and call bets out of position with Ad-3d when not closing the action then there would be no games." It wasn't like the man with the Ad-3d was a total moron; he has probably played better than me and he seemed a nice guy.
In the end I did myself no favours. I got a bit rattled and before long I was bluffing off a massive chunk of chips against a player who had played really solid all day and who had two pair. I then found myself in a short-handed spot with an absent blind, where my opponent was always getting on if he found a hand. He was the foreign chap with the hoodie and the aces. In the end I called all-in with 6-3 off-suit as I had three big blinds left and it was the last hand and I couldn't face the commute the following day.
I'd like to think I sacrificed myself for the greater good of poker, but I'm not sure that I did.
If anyone hasn't made any poker resolutions and they need one, or even if they have and there is room for one more, you can have one from me.
Can we all try to think about our actions a little more and the size of our three-bets a little less? Can we all stop discussing strategy at the table? Can we all let the recreational players see the odd flop? Can we all try to use a language that all players at the table will understand and can we go a whole year without berating other players who may not be as good at poker, but are definitely better human beings than those who berate?
Neil Channing will be enjoying the bargains at the January Sales on Black Belt Poker