Saturday, February 25, 2006

Close but no cigar!

Tonight I resumed my quest for a world series place and unfortunately fell just short finishing 7 places behind that so important seat.

Once again I was reminded of how cruel this game can be.
After making a solid start and eliminating two players, I was feeling confident.

The first piece of bad luck came when holding AK hearts. I called a reraise and saw a K63 flop two hearts. I checked the flop for the guy to go all in and quickly got my chips in. I was up against QQ. No guesses for what the turn card was. Yes a queen! No heart followed.

I fought my way back to make it to the final table and with just eight people left, I was dealt Tens on the button. I tried to make it look like a steal and went all in. Small blind called me instantly. He turned over 55. This was fantastic, a double up plus antes would put me right in the thick of things.
Flop J94. No worries, just no 5. Turn is a 7. No 5 and I am right back in. Here comes the river! Two cards left in the pack out of 44, that will knock me out. I am more than a 95% favourite. Its a five, I am out!

The previously quiet table sees the following comments, ouch, vul, omg! Oh my god indeed! I leave the table, this is ridculous, how can I play this game when that happens. I vow never to play again - same time next week then!

Vegas is getting closer!

Be luckier than me

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Start of something?

My run of six 15k tournaments without cashing is over. Okay I only came 25th tonight taking home £75, but I feel my game is starting to happen again.

This game is a bit of a rollercoaster, you win for a couple of weeks and then lose for a few. Mostly it is about confidence, when you are on a high you play better, until a point when you get too confident and you start to lose again!.

Tonight I was playing well and going nicely, staying in the top ten for the 2nd and 3rd hour of the tournament. After losing a nice pot with JJ against AT, I was left with 11k in chips with the blinds up at 600 & 1200.

Dealt KQhearts I decided to raise to 4800 and had one caller. When the flop was Ah,9h,6d in was time to put the rest of my chips. When I was called I figured it would be with a big hand. But even if he had an ace, I still would not be too far off 50/50 to win. To my amazement it was 78off. I was a huge favourite with two cards to come, I started to see where I was going to be on the leaderboard. Before I got time to do it, the turn card came down a 5! For the fourth consecutive tournament, I had been a big favourite and lost to straight on the turn or river!

I have the feeling that my game is about to take off again and hope to record some nice payouts in the next few days. (Hopefully the World series seat on Saturday!)

Thanks to those people supporting me tonight! Mac your first big tournament win is coming!

Be lucky

Monday, February 20, 2006

Thunder & Lightning - Very Very Frightening

This weekend did not go according to plan as luck deserted me at crucial moments.

My first attempt at a world series seat was a major disappointment as I finished 18 places short of the seat I so desire. My Ace Jack was looking fantastic with AJ7 flop and when I got an all-in reraise by someone holding Ace Seven, I was rubbing my hands. That is until the turn card showed another seven! When I ran into pocket cowboys twenty minutes later, it was all over.

The 40k was looking more promising, 3 hours in, I had steadily built up to 13k in chips.
When we got down to 46 players, I had 8k in chips with AK in the big blind. Everyone folded around to the small blind, who went all in with his 16k. This was my moment, I called and he showed Q8 off. This would put me right back in it. Flop 679, Turn 10. Ouch!

The discovery of the weekend for me was a new format of single table tournaments, Thunder tournaments. These are the same as regular STT's but with only six hands per level. For a player who only plays with Aces, these are a potential nightmare. However curiousity got the better of me and I started to play one. First hand saw two players all in preflop, 44 & JT, this was crazy stuff. However 3 games later and 3 wins, I was starting to change my view!

I played 16 games in all (in about 2 1/2 hours!) winning 9 and coming second in 4. Whilst I am not sure these are the future for me, they certainly helped me fund my Multi tournaments in an otherwise unspectactular month.

One of the key skills in poker is being able to change your game depending on your position in the tournament, your ratio of chips to blinds and how tight/loose your table is.

These Thunder tournaments are certainly helpful in forcing you to play more hands and get more experience of hands that you rarely play with.

The week ahead for me is focused around the world series qualifier on Saturday, but in the meantime I have not made the money in my last 5 attempts at the 15k and not added to my bankroll in February. These are areas I intend to address over the next week.

Be lucky!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Poker vs Women - The Valentines Debate

February has been a fairly quiet month for me, with work and family commitments, I have not played as much as I would ideally like. That said I have managed to book my seat in the $600k tournament on April 2nd, win a few single table tournaments and highlight of the month so far, win a seat in the LOQ (Land-based Online Qualifier) final for this Saturday. I am very keen to book my seat for the World Series in July as soon as possible and winning this would do the job.

As it is Valentines week, I thought I would look at the similiarities between a winning poker strategy and a successful relationship. As I believe that the strategies for success are very similiar.

It intrigued me how many people would be playing in the £15k on Tuesday night. Usually there are around 300 people playing, this Tuesday there was 225. A 25% reduction.
Does that mean then that 75% people prefer poker to the opposite sex!

From these stats it would appear that winning at poker is easier or dare I say more enjoyable than trying to maintain a good relationship! It may be that the baby boom in poker has started and that most of the people playing online don't worry about these things as they are under 16 anyway!

The intriguing thing for me is whether there is a winning strategy for both poker that can also be applied to maintaining a healthy relationship.

Lets have a look.
Neglect. If you neglect your poker, your game suffers, you don't enjoy it and ultimately someone else ends up enjoying the benefits.
If you neglect your partner, your relationship suffers, you don't enjoy it and ultimately someone else ends up enjoying the benefits.

Playing Away. I am a loyal Littlewoods player, however a got offered a free roll from another site, which I played in, when I went back to Littlewoods my cards were awful for a week. I won't make that mistake again.

I am a married man, I can only imagine that is I was offered a free roll from another, things would be awful for more than a week.

Understanding. Sometimes in poker you can not understand why things are going wrong and no matter how much you ask the computer you don't get an answer.

Sometimes in a realtionship you can not understand why things are going wrong and no matter how much you ask your partner you don't get an answer.

Beer Goggles. Don't play drunk! suddendly Queen seven offsuit becomes pocket aces and you think you are on a winner. At the end of the game you realise it was just Queen Seven.

Need I make a comparison!!

Over reliance. Spend too much time with your computer, you lose your mates
Spend too much time with your partner, you lose your mates.

Bragging Rights - Both areas offer serious potential in this category.

Knowing when to end your relationship. You might have pocket aces, but sometimes they have to be discarded if things don't go right. Ultimately you can get very hurt.

Hot Stuff - At poker when your hot your hot, you win and keep on winning. When your cold, my god your awful
When you meet a lovely girl, everyone wants a piece of you. When you don't, nobody is interested!

Changing Tactics - Your poker game can get stale, you need to sometimes do things different, try playing different ways, playing from different postions.
In a relationship you need to keep you romance alive, doing things differently, again using different positions!

Menage a troi - Can this ever be a bad thing! How about introducing your partner to poker. There is something incredibly sexy about watching your two loves interact. All I can say is that when you want to join in - be careful who you give your attention too.

Overall being successful at poker and in a relationship boil down to patience, knowing when to make a move, knowing when you are beat and reading the signals that are being put out.

However there is always the unknown factor. Whether its poker or with women, you can approach something that is clearly out of your league - like 83 off suit or a beautiful woman and sometimes you just get lucky!

Be lucky

Saturday, February 11, 2006

New Year, High Hopes

It was boxing day and I was driving back home to play in a football match.

I got a text message from Scott (party animal and Mr Marketing at Littlewoods).
It finished off saying ' I am expecting big things from you this year'

The next day I sat down at computer for my first game for about 7 days.
I started by playing in a £11 STT qualifier for the £15k. I was happy to say I won that after my QQ (yes I won with QQ) beat AK.

8pm 315 players.
12.44am 1 player me. My first ever win

Dear Clinton,
Thank you for participating in the tournament "£15K TUESDAY 1582226", on Dec 28 2005 12:44AM GMT.
Congratulations! You placed 1st and won 4016.25 GBP!

Two things stood out for me in this game. One of the sites top players slickqwik was watching and when it was down to 7 people, he quoted odds on who would win. I was about 4th/5th at the time and he made me second favourite behind s shooter who was in 2nd/3rd. I was well happy with this and would happily settle for 2nd as I had a couple of 3rds and 4ths, but nothing better.
Players slowly went out and when s shooter knocked out the 2nd place guy. I was left heads up, as slickqwik had predicted - knowing who you are playing against gives you an edge.
He had 560k, I had 70k. 9 hands later it was all over. I had won!

The other realisation was that 'it ain't over till its over'

I hardly played again for a few days, with new year and preparing for work again.
December ended up a record month +£3.5k

On the 3rd January, I started my new job as Marketing Controller within Jordans Cereals. I thought this might be the end of my poker playing. So that night I was determined to have a game. I also wanted to defend my title from the previous Tuesday.

8pm 254 players
12.44am (again) 1 player - my 2nd win. £4,200.

I defended my title. Olaf was the runner up on this occasion.
This meant more to me than the first one as it proved it was no fluke. My game was really coming together.
This was the ideal start to the year. January finished at +£5k.

With work I have had a lot less time to play, but I am determined to keep improving at this game.

The qualifiers for the World Series are starting and that is my next aim.
February has started well enough and I have already qualified for the $600k in April.

8 months since starting I have won 2 holidays (Las Vegas & St.Kitts) as well as over £16k through online poker tournaments.

I hope that this year, poker will bring me more success.

As we are up to the present day, I will let you follow my progress from now on in.

Good Luck to you all

Winter Blues

Coming back from St.Kitts was tough.

I really struggled to adjust back to on-line play.
My game had totally disappeared.
I went back to basics, re-read my Harrington's books and tried every way I knew how to get my game back together.
Christmas came and I was on schedule to have my first losing month since I started.
I was starting work again in January, I would have a lot less time to play.

It was all going horribly wrong.

Poker in the Sun


10 days in the sun, which a few games of poker thrown in for fun.
Again it was with Littlewoods and all the gang were back, it felt like a family reunion. Dave Colclough, John Kabbaj and Tony Cascarino were new additions to the team and they all added to the whole experience.

This time I was not the lone qualifier like I was in Vegas, there were many others. This made the event even more special. Hi to Steve the butcher at this point, really great to meet you.

Linen shirts, cricket hats and an all inclusive package. Bruce and Scott thank you. I have never been anywhere and had a minus room bill at the end of the holiday!

The main event was mixed for me. I had started well enough, moving from 6k starting chips up to 10k.
Then it was the curse of the big pocket pair. Twice I had KK and twice hit a third King on the flop. First time I lost to a flush on the river, the next time a straight.

I recovered to see one of the funniest moments in my short poker career. There were five minutes left before the evening dinner break (6hours of play). The guy on my left 'Clothey' started building a wall with his chips when it was his turn to act. He started with one colour chip all the way across the table, then the next colour, then the next colour. Five minutes later he built his masterpiece and proceeded to fold! So So Funny!

I lasted until the last few hands of that day, I had AK suited against John Kabbaj who held pocket sevens. To this day I have never won a coin flip in a live event.

Whilst I was there I made the Littlewoods team final which was another great experience. My team was Dave Colclough, Tony Cascarino and Robert Price 'Animal' and myself. I had high hopes indeed of winning some money! Unfortunately both Dave and Tony went out early in their STT. I came third in my event when my K6 was beaten by K4 - (my luck will come!). We came 5th of 9.

One of the things that made my holiday, was one of the very successful online players 'Riphja' asked for a picture with me, because I was one of the best players on the site! Fame at last!

The peniultimate night was a great night for Littlewoods and especially those players who had made the Littlewoods team. First of all Tony Cascarino won the pro-am taking home $100,000. Dave (eventually came 6th) and Animal (12th) had just made the money in the main event. 3 of the 4 who represented Littlewoods had just made a wedge of money. So this has to be my night?!?!

I was playing in the $500 No limit with 150 players. I was playing well and feeling confident.
I had made it to the last three tables (27 players) thinking I was only nine from the money. At this point I find out they are only paying 9!

I was continuing to play well until my QQ (yes again) was busted by JT. I was determined to recover and make that final table. 3 tables become 2 and soon 18 became 11.
I was short stacked in the small blind, everyone else had folded. I had QJ suited (Diamonds) - I was all in.
I was immediately called by 44. This was it, I needed to win a coin flip to make the money.
The flop gave me some hope, two diamonds and a ten, the turn was a nine. Any diamond, any King, Queen, Jack or Eight. 23 cards out of the 45 remaining in the pack that would show me the money. The river was the 7 hearts. That was not one of them.

The four of us in our team won $150,000 that day. I won $0. That felt very bad!

So I don't feel really awful I have to include a story where I did win money in the Caribbean.
The last thing I expected to be doing whilst I was there was playing on-line poker. It was 32 degrees c outside! However Poker Tony asked me to play in the Labrokes $50k for him as he was busy doing hundreds of interviews. Four hours later, I had finished 18th and secured $450. I think that was missed off the Littlewoods summary of money won during the tournament! I think I will write to them.

Another amazing holiday and amazing experience. Thanks again to the Littlewoods guys, you were awesome. If anyone needs a recommendation of where to start playing poker. Look no further than the link on this page.

This has been an incredible start to my poker career - I can only hope its gets better.

Becoming a Poker Player

Between August & November it was all about playing as much as I could.
Learning about me, experimenting with styles. Learning about everyone elses game. Learning.
I read every poker book known to man. Dan Harringtons win by a mile.

I started keeping records of all my games. I was only playing tournament games, single table and multi table.
Without every winning a major tournament, I was making plenty of high finishes and making money.

August + £2k. inc 12th in £35k, three final table appearances in £10k/£15k
September + £2.4k inc 4th in the £15k
October + £2.6k inc 3rd in the £15k and 2nd in £3k
November +£1k inc 3rd in the 15k.

I never won any major tournaments aside from a couple of £10 entry MTT's and the one for Caribbean.

I was however getting a fantastic strike rate - 33% of the time I was making the money in the 15k.

It was also a time for meeting new people and making friends. There is such a close community within this game. I have to say thank you at this point, to all those people who have sat down and watched me play and given me support. It is really much appreciated. Thanks in particular goes out to Kai, Alfie, Ian, Neal, Mick, Dave and Mac, but there are a whole host of others who without them, would not make this game anywhere near as interesting.

I finished my job at the end of October, and I had a two month period to see how good I could get before I started again in January.
A broken ankle robbed me of some playing time in November, but it was not going to stop me playing in St.Kitts and thankfully it was fully recovered when I set off for the Caribbean.

Was it a fluke?

As soon as I got back from Vegas, I just knew I had to do it again.
Bruce had told me that I should try and qualify for the Caribbean Poker Classic in St.Kitts, as it would be even better than Las Vegas.

I wasn't worried about it being being better, anything that comes close would be awesome.

I needed to qualify for another event to prove to myself that the World Series was not just a fluke.
I started to play a few more games when I got back. I managed 5th place in the 10k tournament (£500) on the 5th August.
I also made a promising start in the CPC qualifiers reaching two final tables finishing 8th and 6th (7th Aug, won £312) when just 3 qualified.

My game was starting to improve quickly.
Then they introduced a Tuesday night Caribbean Qualifier on the 9th August at the cost of $200. It started at 10.45pm and it was by far the most I had ever paid to play. There were 50 players. Only place won a seat. The next morning I received this email.

Dear Clinton,
Congratulations on winning your seat at the Caribbean Poker Classic with Littlewoods Poker !

Imagine all the excitement of first-class poker combined with the beauty, charm and elegance of the Caribbean, complete with endless beaches, emerald green hills and a majestic volcano.

Add a tropical rainforest and breathtaking reefs abundant with sea life and you'll have an idea of what is in store for you on the beautiful island of St. Kitts.

Your $10,000 prize package includes:-
$6,300 buy-in to the Championship Event starting on Wednesday, November 30, 2005
$1,300 for 9 nights accommodation for two at the luxurious St. Kitts Marriott Resort from November 25 to December 3 inclusive (departing December 4)
$1,400 travel allowance deposited to your poker account
$1,000 cash when you register in St. Kitts.

It wasn't a fluke. I could actually play this game!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Viva Las Vegas - The World Series 2005

Before I left for Vegas, I asked bookmakers Victor Chandler to give me odds on myself for reaching the final table. The odds were only 400-1 but I was able to bet on myself for a major sporting event. That felt good!
What was better was I then saw myself on Oddschecker, my odds had been cut from 400-1 to 250-1! LOL!

This was my first ever visit to Las Vegas. I expected it to be amazing and I wasn't wrong.
Littlewoods who were looking after me during my stay, where just absolutely fantastic.
From the moment I was picked up in a stretched limo from the airport, by the Littlewoods superstar Tony (The Athlete) Chessa. I knew it was going to be a great experience.

We were staying at the Rio Grande, where the World Series was being held, the whole place was magical.
It was not until I went down to the convention centre, that I actually realised how absolutely massive this was. I was introduced to some of the top players in the world and I knew just how out of my depth I was.

I was playing on day 2 of the main event. I sat down at my table, this was totally mental. What a way to start your live career! I was as nervous as hell!
We had an american national anthem before the event, by a female poker player, it was so terribly sung that it made me relax, I looked across at the dealer and he was laughing too!.

I was on the big blind first hand and had JToff, two limpers and me. Flop was J85, I bet and they both folded. I won my first hand, I was chip leader on my table! This was easy!
My first big moment came with QT in the big blind. The Flop came TT9. I checked, had one guy bet which I called. The turn was a Jack and gave me a straight and flush draw. I bet out, the guy raised me and I called. The river was a three. I checked he bet the pot and it was decision time, I decided to call and he turned over T3. The river gave him a full house! Damn!

My next significant hand gave me KK, again I was in the big blind. I had two limpers and decided to slow play. The flop was KK8. I had hit quad kings. There was no action on the flop, or the turn. I put a small bet in on the river, they both folded!

As the day progress I moved from table to table, playing on five different tables. Some I felt comfortable, others I felt out of my depth.
My end came in the fifth level (each level was 2 hours long) I had QQ and was down to about 4500 chips (started with 10k). I followed two limpers and a raise. I reraised and was called by the guy who had initially raised. The flop was 6 high rainbow (three different suits). I made my move and went all in. The guy called me and he turned over AJ. I was saying to myself - no ace, no ace. There wasn't an ace, but the turn was a Jack and then the river card came (after what seemed the longest pause I have ever witnessed between turn and river) it was another Jack. My heart sank.

Two lessions were learnt initially - one - playing live can be a cruel as online, - two - being knocked out of the world series was one of the lowest feelings you can ever experience.

During the time I was out there my wife Rachael and myself were looked after by Littlewoods and three of the most incredible people. Bruce Martin, Scott Richardson and Poker Tony Chessa (the best player I have ever played with). These three will be my friends for life and they are responsible for my desire to be successful in this game. I want to do this again.

I played in two other World Series whilst I was out there. At one point, I knew every single player on the table from seeing them on tv! I had Men the Master on my right and Ross Boatman on my left. I finished six off the money in the $1500 when my QQ lost to JJ with a J arriving on the river.
Queens are now my most feared hand, whenever I see them I expect my tournament to be over. 23 consecutive losses with QQ is my best record!

I will never forget this experience and will do everything I can to repeat in this year.

I am going to the World Series!

It took some time to sink in. I was going to play in the World Series.
We chatted amongst ourselves on the table. (you still had to play until you had a winner at this time). I looked around the table seeing where everyone was from and noticed the guy next to me 'TheDeacon' was from Cambridge, who it turns out lives 3 roads down from me! This is a worldwide game and I am practically sat next to my neighbour!

The next day was a odd one, I went to work, but all I could think was that I was going to the World Series.

I got this email through from Bruce Martin at Littlewoods.

Dear Clinton,Congratulations on winning the WSOP qualifier last night as this means you are on your way to Las Vegas to take part in the most prestigious land based event of the year.

Thats the type of email you want to receive every day!

The guys who qualified with that day were

It would very interesting to know what these guys have been doing since.

Fathers Day

Sunday 19th June 2005 - Fathers Day, the day that changed my life. I was due to visit the inlaws, but both my Kids (Joshua and Holly) were ill and ended up in bed. As it was fathers day I was given the choice of what I wanted to do. I had started playing a little bit of poker, a few single table tournaments of very low stakes and the odd multi table tournament. I had even had one attempt at the world series qualification.

It was a gorgeous day and I decided to sit in the garden with my laptop and play some poker. I started on a Littlewoods £500 freeroll in the afternoon and found my way onto the final table. (Eventually finishing 3rd and winning £50) I remember thinking I was playing quite well and fancied another attempt at the world series qualifier. I told everyone on the final table that I was going to play in the world series qualifier later and they just took the mickey!

I sat down at a $42 Ten seater single table during the freeroll. The first thing that was bizzare was that ended up sitting next to the only guy I knew that played poker - my best mate from school, who I had not spoke to for over a year. 'Sharkbait' (played on Betfair) started chatting away to me and it took me the first level to work out who he was! (He is now Dumbsmuck on Littlewoods).

I made it to the last two, my mate went out in third and I was left against 'Djslow' I had 1800 chips to his 8200 and somehow ended up winning it.

The main qualifier was just starting and I was playing two games. One a freeroll the other I world series qualifier - is there a bigger contrast!

The event lasted 5 hours and 15 mins and I was off to Vegas!
The early stages were a blur, but all of a sudden (if you can say that about four hours!) I looked at the lobby and there were just 40 left, with 10 going to Vegas. My computer suddenly flicked back to the game as it was my go, but as the scroll button on the lobby is in the same place as the all in button - I had suddenly unintentionally risked my whole tournament.

I looked up to see A6 off suit and prayed everyone would fold. Thankfully they did, I breathed again. Slowly players were eliminated and we were down to the last 11.

I was becoming short stacked. I had only 5 players on my table compared to 6 on the other one, we were playing more hands as hand to hand play had not been built into the cryptologic (The software that runs Littlewoods, Betfair, Wm Hill, Uk Betting etc) software as yet. I had realistically two hands left. It was my big blind 92off. Under the Gun raised all in and I had no choice but to fold.

The small blind gave me 99 and I knew that had to be the hand. I went all in against one player who turned over J9. There was no Jack and my nines hold up.
Meanwhile on the other table, the short stack is all in with K2, he is called with KK and the miracle had happened, I was in the World Series 2005.

Welcome to my World

Hello & Welcome to my blog. My intention is to present a very honest look, at the trials and tribulations of playing the phenomenon that has become poker.
I am not a professional player. I balance a job, a young family and running a football team!
I have however fallen in love with the game of poker and the challenges it presents.

I will aim to update this blog on a regular basis. Please feel free to comment.

I have only been playing this game for less than a year and its growth in popularity has become nothing short of spectactular.
I knew one person who played poker when I started, now I struggle to find someone who has not played!

My story to date has far surpassed any expectations that I ever had when I started.