This Train Don’t Stop

I’ve just spent a whole weekend in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I barely moved out of the casino!

Edinburgh is one of the best places on earth to visit, amazing scenery, great nightlife, loads to do, but I was there on business! The inside of the cardroom at the Grosvenor Maybury Casino was as far as I got.

Numbers for day 1a of GUKPT Edinburgh had been good, but as we got the train up from Newcastle, one of the prettiest train journeys you could ever make, there was still some worry about overlay.

Worry no more though, the people of Edinburgh and beyond had responded magnificently, making sure Grosvenor keep on bringing the UK’s oldest and best poker tour to Scotland’s capital, with 227 runners in total, smashing the £100k guarantee for the £500 Main Event.

I say Edinburgh and beyond because on day 1b I sat with an Aussie who lives in London, a guy from Iceland and a young lad on a poker trip from Stockholm in Sweden, as well as plenty of friendly locals!

The visitors were there with half an eye on going out and seeing the beautiful city if and when they bust, and the locals were intent on helping them on their way, but I stood somewhere in the middle, happy to go and see more of Edinburgh, but satisfied I’ve been there, seen it, done it, and I’d rather have a serious tilt at winning the £32k first prize.

I finished day 1 with a below average 37k – still 37 big blinds for day 2, but it could have been so much better.

I’d got up to 80k when I tangled with the Aussie for the second time.

The first time I really should have sent him sightseeing when I just called his preflop raise with pocket kings, hoping for, and getting, a squeeze behind from the aggressive Makka Hussain.

The Aussie made it 900 at 200/400, I called with the KK, Makka made it 2800, Aussie called and I sprung the trap, making it 10,800.

Makka quickly passed but the man from Down Under had got himself in a bit of a no-win situation, with only about 12k total he couldn’t really pass just in case I had AK.

He basically called all in with his pocket jacks and found the jack high board to save him.

I’d made a good job of rebuilding, winning a big race with 77 v Makka’s AK in a pot that was probably too big to gamble at that stage, but influenced by a guy limping in and calling raises every hand.

The big pot that changed the course of my tournament happened when I raised under the gun on the Aussie’s big blind with 88.

The guy playing every hand called and Aussie made it up. For the first time in the day I flopped a set on AK8, but they were all diamonds, so while I know I’m not dominated by a bigger set as I’d probably have heard about it preflop, I wasn’t loving the diamonds.

I bet 2500 on the flop, and after the other guy folded, the Aussie made it 8k out of his 45k stack. I moved all in, which on reflection I’m not sure is the best play that deep – I think I prefer calling in position – and he snapped me off with the nuts, Q9dd. No pair up and I was back down in chips, a position I maintained til the day’s end.

Somehow, even though I was below average, I was chip leader at my table at the start of day 2, starting on the feature table (which you can watch again of course on the GUKPT YouTube channel).

I knocked out a couple of short stacks, including Katie Swift when my tens beat her nines, to move over 50k, and we were off and running.

I was sat with Makka, always a tough opponent, on my left again, but as our table broke, although we went to the same table, I at least had position on him, with me three to his right.

We played a big pot where I played pocket kings fairly trickily four ways on a 788 flop, getting two streets of value off what I presume was a turned top pair, but just as I got around 80k, I lost a big flip for about 100k against Dean Lyall and I was back down in amongst the also rans again!

Day 2 was a bit of a grind after that, but with such a great structure, and people setting fire to stacks all around me, I knew I could be patient and work the small stack, an area of my game I’ve really worked on and that has already been beneficial.

As the bubble approached I made sure I kept my stack in the 10-15bb range by nicking the odd blind here and there, and while I think I probably played badly in a couple of tricky hands, getting dealt medium pairs in the blinds against big stack raises one or two off the money, they were much better mistakes to make than making bad shoves.

I was lucky enough not to run into any big hands while I was in shove mode and picked up the blinds and antes enough to let some other guy feel the pain I got in London.

Now I hadn’t extended my record of bubbling more GUKPTs than anyone else, it was time to work on the record of more final tables than anyone else. And since I’d never cashed and not made the final, it should be plain sailing right?

Well it seemed that way when I won a race, 3bet shoving AT from the big blind against the button’s 88 and making broadway, but as soon as they’d come, they’d gone again, next hand finding it passed to me on the small blind with 88 and running into the big blind’s KK.

With 6bb left it was time to get a move on, and winning another race, 55 v AJ, was a good start.

I’d got up to 120k at 3k/6k when the tournament director announced we’d be playing five more hands and day 2 was done.

I folded the first three, but in the fourth I was in the big blind.

A guy with about 150k opened to 13k in mid position and both big stacks on the table called in position. The small blind passed and I flicked in the extra 7k with my 78 of hearts.

The flop fell a beautiful looking QT3 all hearts, giving me a pretty nicely disguised flush. I checked, the preflop raiser checked and the first of the big stacks, as he’d done quite a bit in building his stack, took a stab at the pot, betting 20k. The other big stack called 20k and the action was on me.

I had just over 100k back and my only move, given that I was out of position with a pot sized bet left, was to move all-in.

I thought I might look like I was drawing with the ace of hearts and might get a call from a top pair type hand, but I was quite happy to take it down there and then, with 200k now in the middle.

However, the preflop raiser, having checked the flop, quickly called the 105k out of his 150k stack, looking super strong. The other two passed and I thought I must have run into a monster.

He flipped the ace of hearts….was I dead, up against the nuts?

No, he had a black 10 with it?! It was a pretty ropey call in my opinion. In his shoes, as the preflop raiser, I would have continued on this flop and probably called it off having bet a significant percentage of the 150k stack on the flop with the nut flush draw.

He’d obviously decided, with the two big stacks behind him in position, he’d prefer to let one of them take a stab and check raise all in with his pair and draw, but given the action had gone bet, call, raise all-in for 70% of his stack, he really should have reappraised things and come to the conclusion that I either had a set or a flush and he was drawing thin.

Having been called though, I was big favourite now to win a 300k+ pot and make the final day in what would have been second or third position in chips.

The turn was a brick, all I had to do was avoid a heart on the river, and given I had two, there was three on the board and my opponent had one, only seven remained. However, as seems to happen all too frequently in these tournament defining spots, the killer heart fell on the river and I was out.

Another crossbar, given I’d bubbled the final table at GPS Sheffield in my previous comp. And for the first time ever, I’d cashed but not made the final of a GUKPT.

But sometime you have to remember it’s only a game.

Last week we got the sad news that after his long fight with cancer, getting on for three years after he was given three months to live, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, Derek Kavanagh, died peacefully at home.

One of the most positive things about playing poker is the different characters you meet, some who go on to become lifelong friends that you know you would never have met if both of you didn’t play cards.

Kav was one of them, a guy I shared a table with, then a pint with, then a few pints with, then so much more as we became close pals.

He taught me so much about handling adversity, taking things on the chin and still charging forwards, being positive, looking on the bright side and looking forward to righting wrongs, I’m very grateful to have known Kav.

For a lot of us, the next meet up will be at Kav’s funeral, which is actually termed a celebration of his life.

It will be a sad occasion, but also a celebration of a fine man’s legacy.

If Kav can battle terminal cancer without ever asking ‘why me?’ then I think I can take a badbeat or two without moaning too much. Kav often used to say ‘this train don’t stop’ and while he eventually succumbed to cancer, he was an inspirational man.

Next up poker-wise it’s Walsall, and I have good memories of running good there, onwards and upwards, carrying with me the spirit of Kav.