VentureAce - Professional Poker Player

Midlands Masters

Having watched the World Series of Poker the night before, I was inspired by Norman Chad’s remarks about Greg 'Fossilman' Raymer being in the worse run of form prior to winning the main event in 2004. The past month was the first time I’ve been down in 2 years and that statement was the catalyst for my desire to play in the Midlands Masters Poker tournament at Grosvenor Casino in Walsall.

Preparation for tournaments is usually my biggest weakness, so I went to bed earlier than usual at 4 am. I must have been tired as I slept for 12 hours. Commence the manic rush as I had to get to Walsall from Bristol before 6 pm, which was the scheduled start time. I showered, slapped on some gel (Bugsy Malone style), gathered all the documents and bombed up the M5 motorway. Miraculously I didn’t get pulled over by the police and arrived at the Grosvenor Walsall Casino at 5.30pm. Quick registration and enter the casino.

From the outside I felt that the Walsall Grosvenor is more bingo hall than casino, but once I got through the doors it’s very modern with a great layout. I didn’t bring any cash with me so needed to withdraw some from my new card, “Ah ****, what’s my PIN?” Quick phone call resolved that problem but nothing comes easy as I could only withdraw 1500, the Midlands Masters tournament buy-in was 1500+25. I jogged over to the cinema to try the cash machine there... "Invalid card", absolute nightmare. Anyway, long story short, a guy kindly gave me 30 in exchange for 2%.

I was allotted seat 7 on table 3. I recognised one face and one voice, Bombus was sat in seat 5 and Dave Barnes was sat in seat 2, I knew him from the Paris Open of Poker where he was rail birding his son, all other players were unknown. My concerns over whether the Midlands Masters main event would be sold out were unfounded as only 110 players entered the tournament, creating a prize pool of 165,000 and 66,000 for the winner. The tournament structure was excellent also, Double Chance (1 add-on) with T7,500 starting chips and an hour clock, room to make some moves. Blinds started at 25/50, which led to some friendly family pots for the first few orbits. My first raise came from the big blind, 5 limpers beforehand, I made it T300 with 9T of hearts and received 3 calls. The flop produced AA6, I took down the pot with a T600 bet, a great confidence boost. I picked AK in the small blind next round, after it was folded around and raised to T150, the large guy on my left called but folded to my T250 bet on a ten high flop. The first 2 hours were pretty uneventful at the table, I finished up T1000 without having to show down any cards.

Returning from the 15 minute break, I now have T16,000 thanks to the double chance add-on. Blinds went up to 100/200. I raised under the gun with pocket tens only to be re-raised by the button to T1600, he had a Nottingham accent and made an ugly attempted bluff with 47 of Clubs earlier. Physically he didn’t give anything away but I called the bet hoping to spike a ten and stack him. The flop came Q75, I checked to the man in position, in retrospect I should have lead out with a donkey bet to see where I was at. He duly bet T2100, I pondered for a few minutes and then folded as I had no reads and didn’t fancy calling a pot sized bet on the turn.

A few rounds later I picked up 99 in early position, I limped in respect of Bombus’ limp from under the gun. Five players to the flop including the two blinds. The flop came AT6 rainbow, the action was checked around. The turn brought a second diamond, the queen to match the ten. I checked to the chip leader, who bet T1000, it was folded back around. There was something in his actions that I instinctively put him on a flush draw, I perhaps should have raised at this point but wanted to keep the pot small in case my initial instincts were incorrect, flat called. The river brought the 3 of hearts, I checked hoping for a free check, not so, the old man in seat 9 over bet T4000. Dilemma!?! He either had King Jack for the nuts or was on a stone cold bluff. Thankfully I made two reads on him, the first was that when he made the bet, he threw the chips towards my direction, a clear sign of aggression. The second read was that he was frozen, in a hunch back position, a bluffing tell which I’ve used in the past. I verbally declared call after a minute or so and waited for him to show, “You win.” He said. That’s nice! Now show the cards, 35 of diamonds he reluctantly flipped over. I more than happily showed my 9‘s. Half the table is in disbelief at the call, especially Bombus who was theatrically shouting “What is going on? What is going on here?”. It does wonders when someone tells you that you made a great call.

For the next hour, I dominated the table, this was helped by Dave Barnes’ departure to another table, he was the only other person not playing ABC poker. I didn’t have to show any cards but accumulated heaps of chips by defending my big blind and being hyper-aggressive on the button, either stealing blinds or coming over the top of weak raises with moderately strong hands. The man from Nottingham said that I was starting on him now, which brought a (sadistic) smile to my face. I finished the second break with around T35,000.

The blinds increased to 400/800, a player who had basically blinded himself down to about T8000 limped under the gun, Bombus peeked at his cards and went all-in, I squeezed my cards and found AQ, deliberated on his holdings and then discounted the possibility of under the gun having AA-QQ and flat called T7200. I believed I was beating Bombus and had enough chips to survive any mishaps. The showdown was heads up and he flipped over 77, stronger than I thought but still a coin flip. An Ace hit the flop and an unnecessary Queen on river showed him the exit.

On the same orbit, I was in the big blind with Ace 8 off suit. Seat 1, an old Spanish man went all-in in late position. He was crippled earlier by a bad beat, pocket Kings versus Ace King. It was a bad call considering the action went raise, call, all-in. Never the less he was left short stacked and hadn’t recovered. I called the T4800 raise, he showed King Queen off suit. The board gave him a pair of Kings and no help for me, can’t win ‘em all I guess.

I was soon back on form as a new player joined in seat 6, he had in excess of T50,000. Prior to this hand, he won a pot with two pair having limped with A7 of hearts, throwing out two unusual T800 blocking bets, unusual as his opponent seemed more than willing to add chips to the pot. He raised it up to T2500, I flat called with Ace Queen off suit on the button and the loose former chip leader in the big blind tagged along. The flop came T35 with 2 spades (I had no spades). Checked to the original raiser who bet T3500, I gathered he’d missed the flop from the force he used in splashing the chips. I called representing a set, nobody had seen me get out of line yet, so a set was plausible. He weakly checked on the blank turn, allowing my T5000 bet to take down the pot. He decided to show Ace King of hearts.

An interesting hand occurred shortly afterwards, I opened the betting to T2500 from the cut off and the button called. If you watched the World Series Of Poker with Jen Harman’s terrible QQ full house bad beat to the straight flush you be able to grasp what I’m getting at. Her opponent repeatedly sulked “How can I possibly fold this?” Mean time, I was shouting at the TV for him to shut up and stop revealing his hand. Back to Walsall, the board showed KT567, having been checked to the river. I told my opponent before the river was checked that I thought we both had the same hand, which indeed we did have. Now, if only I could have been watching myself on TV and shouting to be quiet and steal the damn pot!

Blinds went up to 600/1200 and more new players arrived at the table, the Asian man from Late Night Poker who hit memorable quad queens against Debbie Berlin (can’t remember the name) replaced the man from Nottingham in seat 3. Seat 5 was a bearded man listening to an Ipod with a mountain of blue and purple chips (1K and 5K). He didn’t enjoy me ignoring his “I’ll fold my small blind to you if I have nothing.” Can you ever trust a poker player?

He got his revenge later though, I had around T50,000 due to more aggressive positional raising. First mistake of the day; the chip leader raised to T4100, I flat called in the cut off with KT off suit, planning to take the pot away on the flop. A good flop, which came 578 with 2 diamonds, he checked and I put my plan in to action, with a T6000 bet. He thought for 30 seconds, glanced at me and then called.. Hmm only possibility I could see was Ax diamonds. A horrible turn, the Q of diamonds, he checked and I checked, giving up charade in a sense. The river was the A of Clubs. My opponent bet T6000, I gathered he’d hit the ace but didn’t have the flush. Instead of giving up the hand I made the most ridiculous bet ever, T16,000 total raise, giving him T10,000 decision to win T38,000 …stupid, stupid, stupid. I made the play because the man was very nervous and I believed I could get him to lay down a decent hand. The problem was that while I was picking up chips to make the raise I knocked over a stack of yellows, which resulted in the unsubstantial T10,000 raise, basically under pretty intense scrutiny I couldn't handle the pressure. He called with Ace King and I get caught bluffing for the first time. I spewed half of my chips on a hand which should have been mucked pre-flop. It’s amazing how one bad play can ruin hours spent sculpting a great table image, people began coming over the top of my raises, admittedly I had junk and should have tightened up to make them pay but half the table was playing to tight and I tried to capitalize on that.

Barny Boatman of the Hendon Mob joined the table, replacing seat 6 who was moved. He gave half of his chips away limping with 43 of Clubs from early position and calling the LNP Asian guy all-in with bottom pair and a gut-shot which missed. Blinds went up to 800/1600. I had around T21,000, a playable position which I could have some short stack fun with. My short stack became shorter, as Boatman limped in the small blind, no free check as I put him all-in for T8500. He called. “Caught with your fingers in the till!” mocked seat 2 as I flipped over the monstrous 42 off suit, Boatman showed A9 clubs. “2 live cards” I retorted, but to no avail as the flop came 9 high and my hand didn’t improve. Down to T13,500.

I lasted one more round, 5 minutes before the end of play. Having successfully stolen the blinds with 37 of spades on the button the hand before, there was no chance of folding A7 of Clubs one of the button. Unfortunately, seat 2 picked up Ace Queen of Diamonds in the big blind. After some BS deliberation he finally called, I genuinely loved the comments as the flop produced Queen, the banter was worth the entry fee alone.

Midlands Masters Poker Emblem

Another tournament, another self destruction. I've tried to put my finger on the main problem, which pinned an inflated ego and over confidence, the same persistent problem is killing my poker tournament results. The Psychology of Poker by Alan Schoonmaker offers no help, the book is worthless unless you enjoy reciting common sense issues. I guess there are other areas within my life that I need explore to totally remove this from my game. On a better note, the British poker scene is very weak, consisting of mostly old gamblers hoping for it to be their lucky day. I will be blitzing these tournaments in the future, intending to take home some big wins.

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2006 Midlands Masters tournaments

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