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When the GUKPT started in 2007 I was still working as the Sports Editor of TV Times in London.I used to try and get away early on Fridays, was given four weeks unpaid leave to go with my six weeks holiday, and still I couldn’t find enough time to fit in all the poker I wanted to play!
A lot of professional poker players have gone straight into that without ever having to juggle the whole work/poker balance, but as I come up to the 10th anniversary of my decision to give up work to play poker full time, it’s still not as long as I worked as a journalist before that…though it’s getting very close!
What that does give me though is an appreciation of how hard it is to juggle work and poker, and also an insight into what those working full-time can manage to play.
So it was a bit of a pleasant surprise when my Grosvenor teammate Katie Swift mentioned she’d managed to organise the staff rota at her lovely beachside cafe to be able to spend the whole week at GUKPT Leeds.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Leeds, having spent three years at uni and a further year living there while I did my post-grad in journalism. I even moved back there for a year to work on the Football Desk at the Press Association some 15 years ago.
So the opportunity to head up for the full week with Katie, play all the side events, enjoy the full GUKPT experience and spend some time in Leeds was too good to turn down.
Monday’s Mini Main was fantastically supported, with over 180 runners. Though the chips seemed to be flying round at an alarming speed in such a superbly deep stacked tournament, I just never got going and departed soon after entries closed.
To the tables
Tuesday’s £165 two-dayer had a similar feel, though far fewer runners, and having not made or been dealt any hands in the Mini Main, I ran good in this one, twice flopping straights in 3bet pots to build up a big stack.
As we got down to two tables, and with only five places paid, I decided it was time to ramp up the aggression and try and build a stack I could ride to victory. Day one was drawing to a close and I was aware that some players may be in ‘go big or go home’ mode, so I wanted the chips to take them on.
I opened under the gun with 9Tdd and was 3bet by a player who had been fairly lively. A guy in mid position had a very long think, and after he folded I was pretty sure he’d binned a couple of big cards.
I’d made it 2.5bb, my opponent made it 7bb and my 30bb was the effective stack. I figured he could be light, and would fold lots of better hands than mine, and the third guy might have mucked some of his outs, so I went for it and 4bet all-in, he dwelled for a good while but eventually made the call with AQ. Despite the third guy confirming he’d folded the same hand, I couldn’t hit anything and I went out to ace high.
One of the things that sets the GUKPT apart from other tournaments and tours is the social aspect. After all, we like to keep it fun, and sometimes a night visiting the city we’re in is the best option! I used to live right in the centre of Leeds and love the nightlife, so instead of the 8-Max tournament on Wednesday, about 10 of us headed into town to have a beer before an early (ish!) night and the Main Event on Thursday.
I decided to late reg the Main, partly to get plenty of sleep, and partly because the superb structure means even if you turn up in level 5 you’re still only playing 100/200 with a 25 ante, your 20k starting stack means you start with 100bb.
This GUKPT had a massive 308 runners, the biggest in GUKPT history outside of London, with over 60 qualifying via online. I was keen to make a deep run.
My decision didn’t look that great when I got down to 13k early on, but a lucky double up with AQ v KK set me on my way and I never looked back.
I spent a lot of time on the feature table on day 1a, and after getting up to 40k, won a defining hand when my two kings held up.
I’d been in quite a few pots, so probably didn’t get that much credit raising under the gun. Two players called in position, and after my c-bet, we got stacks in. I bet 3k on the Q78 flop, the first caller made it 10k with about the same back and the other guy moved his 11k stack all in.
With 20k back if I lost against the bigger stack it was a pretty easy call, and I managed to hold against AQ and 9T to move to 70k and allowing me to progress to 88k by bagging and tagging time.
Day 2 started sharing a table with Swifty, always a pleasure, though as she has pointed out in the past, I’ve knocked her out three or four times before, a habit she’d rather I got out of!
Of course I want to knock out every other player in every comp I play, though I’d rather Katie was the last one I knocked out if I had the choice, first and second would do just right.
Although I nicked her blind for old times’ sake the first time she’d posted it, it quickly became obvious there was a guy on the table with a lot of chips that seemed readily available!
I managed to turn a set against him to win one big pot, having already made a flush, calling his raise with 86dd in position and finding the dream 345 with two diamond flop in another hand.
While I was running good and building up my stack to 250k (probably held the chip lead), Katie got coolered, running queens into kings, and headed to the side event.
Our table broke and I soon found myself back on the live stream.
Mihai Popescu, who I remembered as a good player I’d commentated on when he ran deep at this year’s Goliath (he eventually finished 15th), open shoved for 15k and the overnight chip leader, Arthur Harvey, raised to 35k. Action passed round to me in the small blind and I found the boots! Now, what to do with aces?
I figured the Colonel probably had a really big hand he wouldn’t want to fold, so I made it 85k, and while he only called rather than shoving his whole stack in, he only had around 160k at the start of the hand so the rest quickly followed on a queen high flop.
On their backs, and the Colonel had been coolered with pocket kings. I just needed to avoid a cowboy (and a three to win the much smaller main pot against Mihai’s 33) and a turn and river of Ace, Ace to give me quads did the job nicely.
With 400k I really should have been guaranteed at least a final table, but things didn’t go well in the last couple of sessions to say the least. I’d got down under 300k, which was still loads, but maybe that played a part in what felt at the time, and turned out to be, a bad fold in a big pot that would have taken me over 500k.
I’d not won many hands on this new table when I raised in early position with pocket queens. Ashley Timms, a player I’d not played with before but who I knew played a lot of tournaments, called on the button and everyone else folded.
The flop came K83 rainbow, and while king-high flops are never ideal with two queens, I fired out a c-bet, which Ashley called.
The turn was an ace, and I decided to check. I had more ace highs in my range that just hit this card, with most of his button aces being 3bets or folds, and those that aren’t being binned on the flop. For pot control I would probably check my holdings like AQ here anyway just in case I’m behind, plus it will be hard to get called on every street with worse.
When Ashley bet the turn, I felt it was a pretty easy call. He can have floated the flop with ace high, but it’s not that likely, and it certainly no longer looks like he has a king now he wants to bet the ultimate scare card. If he did have an ace, it wasn’t an auto bet, a lot of the time an ace would check behind anyway.
The king on the river was a really interesting card. If he had hit the ace on the turn, he couldn’t like the flopped top card pairing, and having already established he wouldn’t have bet the turn if he did have a king, something that was becoming less likely the more of them that hit the board, it really felt like he had something like a pair of nines or tens.
I checked again and Ashley fired out a bet of 60k, almost half his remaining stack. He looked strong but a bluff just didn’t make sense. I cut out the calling chips and thought again through the hand. He could have a king, but surely he wouldn’t bet the turn? He could have an ace but surely he would check behind on the river? So what could he have?
A couple of random suited connectors or something like that? But surely he just bins them on a flop with the draws on it?
A set made sense, if he had pocket 88 or 33, he’d have called the flop, built the pot on the turn and value bet when he filled up on the river. I have a rule that I never try and put anyone on sets, as it’s just too hard to do, but the more I thought about it the more it just made no sense to bluff this turn and river. If I knew nothing about Ashley I’d have called, but I knew he has some experience and must know this is a terrible run out to bluff. Still, who scooped the pot? Not me, so fair play for running a bluff that got through.
I spoke to him and said a set of eights is the only hand that makes sense, and he looked unmoved. If I still had 400k I think I find the sigh call, and even if I’d just got up to 300k I probably call too, which is a psychological reason that I ideally shouldn’t have come into my thinking.
As I threw my hand away I said ‘nice bluff’ and of course as we were on the feature table I later got to see he had pocket 77. Sometimes you make a bad fold, and that was one.
If I’d had a bit more table time with Ashley I think I would have found the call, as I saw him peel raises on the button time and time again, and also witnessed some messed up hand where he lost a lot of chips 3betting and peeling a tight player’s under the gun 4bet with Q4 and calling half pot on a T43 flop before folding the turn having done half his stack.
Still, I had been trying to avoid big marginal spots and I still had plenty of chips, but as often happens when you make a mistake, the beneficiary comes back to bite you!
I raised with A8dd and picked up three callers, including Ashley on the button again.
The K85 rainbow flop was okay, and with a backdoor nut flush draw, I decided to bet and if I picked up the nut flush draw, double barrel. Ashely was the only caller on the flop and the 7d on the turn looked ideal, in that it shouldn’t improve him and it gave me the nut flush draw and license to bet again.
I bet 41k on the turn, and had to call when he moved his 100k into the middle. His 87 had turned two pairs, three outering my hand with the only card that sees me continue and not win the pot. A brick river left me with 80k, 10bb coming back to 4k/8k on day 3. At least we were in the money and I could have a spin up!
Again I was on the feature table on day 3, and after passing the first 15 or so hands, I found my spot to double up, shoving AQ over John Bousfield’s AJ. He flopped a jack but I turned the straight on a J98Tx run out to get to around 100k.
I was still short stacked but I’d bought some time, and the opportunity to get right back into it soon came.
James Yeo limped under the gun, John made it 25k and I found AK with my 85k stack. I moved all in, James passed and John made the call with KJ.
I saw the jack on the flop first, but with an ace behind it, I was safe and John now only had two outs. The turn was clean but the two outer on the river saw the 200k pot head to John and me head to the rail in 19th for £1250.
It was a disappointing way to go, and of course that bad fold of the queens had come back to haunt me, but if I’d won that last pot I’d have been right back in the game with two tables left.
Despite him sending me spinning, I wanted John to go on to win, and he got unlucky himself to go out in fifth after losing a massive pot with QQ v AQ.
Local Leeds lad Leung Cheung eventually emerged victorious to secure a home victory and cap a fantastic week in the newly refurbished Grosvenor Casino Westgate.
While I’d only just about broken even over the week, coming back to Leeds, where I got my degree, and where I came to work later in my career, serves only as a reminder of how lucky I am to be able to go and enjoy the whole GUKPT week without work worries.
The powers that be at Grosvenor are currently working on the 2018 GUKPT schedule, and we made sure we took some time out during the week to find out the opinions of the other players, both recreational and professional, as to what they’d like to see and why.
We also passed on feedback and advice what we think would work from a player’s’ point of view, again both those that have work commitments and those that don’t, so hopefully that will be reflected when the 2018 schedule is revealed soon.
Next up for me will be a couple of weeks off, possibly learning not to fold queens when someone is trying to give me chips, before the traditional ending to the GUKPT year of £1k legs in Luton and Blackpool before the London Grand Final.
10 GUKPT seats are guaranteed weekly on grosvenorpoker.com, with satellites on Tuesdays and Sundays, so why not have a blast? 5 of the players at the Leeds final won their seat from these online satellites, which can offer great value. I hope to see you on the tour later this year.