Monday, 10 November 2008

Things Could Have Been Worse

So, as I had planned yesterday; I attended the Pub Poker event, and although it was hardly organised or played in any such way that the World Series should be worried, it was certainly a cut above many home games I have attended. After arriving early, just before six, the signs did not look good. The pub was full of a mixture of elderly people who appeared to be stragglers from the Sunday lunch trade; and a couple of tables of student types who were making an early start on what has become a traditional student night in York city centre now. (Talk about starting the week as you mean to go on !)

After settling down on a bar stool with a very pleasant pint of “Roosters Yankee” (insert your own Dave Wilkie joke here, saves me a job) I got chatting to the amiable young chap behind the bar. It emerged that although the poker is advertised as starting at 7pm, it is actually nearer 8 by the time it gets going. After being used to more strict schedules of the casino and DUPS, I was already preparing myself for a shambolic farce, so to get chilled out and more into the mood for a more casual game, I knocked back a few more pints and perused a couple of well thumbed Sunday red tops while I waited for something to happen.

I kept my head down while one or two scruffy individuals made their way in, quite possibly for the poker. I raised a wry smile to myself as one of them requested a glass of water (insert another joke about D.W. here) which confirmed to me that they were here to take part in the evening’s festivities. Shortly after 7pm, a slightly flustered fellow clutching a cycle helmet, a rucksack and a cash tin, burst in; whom it appeared was the chair, cum secretary, cum treasurer of the poker club. Although I felt slightly inclined to help him when I heard the all too familiar sound of scraping chairs and tables being rearranged, I instead followed the examples of Iain Boxer et al, and skulked with my head down at the bar and ordered another drink !

Eventually, time came to get registered, and after the buzz of about nine or ten regulars, I went forward and paid my fiver, plus a token £2 administration fee which is apparently a one off payment, although there was no receipt of this, nor an expiry date; but I guess I can cope with £2 ! As it originally appeared, this was a one man show, and the guy, whose name incidentally was “Trev” (short for Trevor, most likely, how unfortunate !) was assuming the role of Tournament Director, as well as doing everything else. I did offer to help out (mumbling something about DUPS, which he really wasn’t at all interested in; but wasn’t in the slightest bit rude) but Trev assured me he could manage.

The table draw was made, and the twenty one players were all seated by 8.15pm around 3 tables. Surprisingly, the pub had a laptop, and the programme “Tournament Director”, which I hadn’t expected. I don’t know why I hadn’t expected it; but it was reassuring to see. Other plus points from the point of view of equipment was that the tables were all covered with a decent felt / baize, the chips were of good quality and there were adequate dealer buttons. Unfortunately though, there were no rulings regarding the placing of drinks on the tables (and given we were using ordinary pub tables, simply covered with baize there were no cup holders). Although I didn’t see any drinks being spilt, they could quite easily have been; and several times the cards were trailed through damp patches where drinks had stood. Which leads me onto the cards themselves; which were thoroughly hopeless. There were a couple of decks of cheap plastic cards which were probably the ones which had been supplied with the chipsets, many of which were marked and creased. The third deck was a set of Waddington’s playing cards, which probably cost something like 79p and were completely ruined after the first five hands. Although Trev had plenty of decks of these cards, they made for a detrimental aspect on the game. I won’t go on about the merits of KEM or Copag cards here; but for anyone organising a live game of poker, no matter how large or small the tournament is; good playing cards for all of the tables are a must !

So onto the tournament itself then. How did I do ? Well; let’s say I scooped for the first time in a while; but I was the first loser ! Yes I finished second, netting me £30. The prize structure was strange, I couldn’t see that any particular weighting was given; the top 5 paying out £50; £30; £10; £7.50; £7.50. With a blind structure to rival the worst ever seen at Abertay was also enjoyed with 50/100 to start, then doubling each time, from a starting stack of 5k. Inevitably, there was also a mix of players ranging from poor to very poor. I saw one guy call a massive pre flop bet in the second level with King-7 diamonds against pocket Queens. The continuation bet on the raggy flop from our man with the ladies wouldn’t drive the fish out; and of course the inevitable happened and he hit his backdoor flush. Suffice to say, they both ended up all in and that was that. Two incredibly torrid plays from what I could see. Of course there was the inevitable “I only called before the flop because they were suited and I thought I might get a flush !” What a simpleton. There was also a lack of proper etiquette; with the old Texan tavern quotes of “I’ll see your 500 and I’ll raise you another 1600” etc etc. I had already anticipated this and kept quiet about it; knowing although this was wrong, there is little point in educating people who don’t want to learn how to play the game properly, but just recreate scenes from Rounders ! However, I was less easy going with n00bs who were under raising, which happened a number of times. I quite enjoy teaching and helping people when it comes to poker, but only if they too show a willing to learn, and after the sixth time it happened I felt ready to implode, so I went outside for a breath of fresh air …

I played my hands hard and fast; selected them carefully and made a few disciplined folds, perhaps at times erring on the verge of caution. The four times I ended up in a race on the final table, I won three times with JJ holding up against AKo; (sorry mate I’ve got) 99 holding up against K10; and AKo flopping a king against 66. My pocket 5’s were not strong enough to take out the short stacks Q7 suited (oh dear, Dom) but he was a casualty in the next hand to get us down to the cash placings.

It all went pretty quick from then on; four became three a couple of hands in after a former neighbour of mine, Colin Garnham wound up crippling himself when he couldn’t lay down his 9 high straight against two flushes, despite there being four hearts on the board. His big blind saw him all in for the following hand, and although he didn’t look in bad shape with a suited queen; my 8-9clubs from the small blind was good on a board of 2c, 5s, Js, 8d, Ac. The third placed man fell about six hands later in an all in with my heads up opponent with his KJo proving to be the big underdog it was to AJo.

Although I have improved my heads up play, it’s still the weakest part of my game I feel. My opponent was ultra aggressive, and whilst we came into heads up reasonably equal in terms of chips, I found myself folding the first three hands. After he raised into me yet again, a combination of beer and the necessity to make a stand saw me push the rest of my stack in with Q9 offsuit. His instant call made me feel I was beaten fair and square, but was happy to see I had live cards, and to be called by “Sergeant Lobster” (K3) made me wonder if I had played a little more aggressively in the first hand or two of the heads up it may have been a different story. Of course, his K3 held up (the 3 appeared on the river) and the guy celebrated like he had just won the World Series Main Event. Personally, I was happy to have broken my duck of not cashing in a live event for longer than I would care to remember.

So to sum up. Pub Poker. I felt that the night had a lot of potential, but potential which, I’m afraid to say will not be fulfilled due to a lack of ambition from the organiser. A few tweaks here and there, such as a few decks of quality playing cards and a good set of concise house rules would speak volumes. But it is not just up to Trev, who it was clear to see was doing his best to run an event for little more than a couple of complementary beers. If more of the punters took the time to read up on the game, then it would benefit not only themselves, but their fellow players and the game itself. Will I be back ? I don’t see why not. A fiver is nothing for an evenings game, and being fairly soft, could be an earner for a few beers. Mind you, once I had deducted my entrance fees, a dozen drinks, a bag of chips and a taxi, I had still spent about £15 more than I had won !

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