Personal Trainers, Writing Books and Other Stuff People Make Big Claims About at New Years

I for one have totally and utterly checked out for 2009, I did about 8 days ago in fairness but the whole Xmas thing got in the way of me updating things blogwise. I probably wont even bother playing again until 2010 brings that familiar surge of motivation that being the first day of a new year provides.

I havent mentioned this yet, but I am now because I do not want people to think this was spurred on by a post Xmas stint of guilt, but in November I started using a personal trainer at the gym. I have regularly gone to the gym for about 10 years now, but the last three I have turned up, coasted, done the bare minimum and done very little to progress that. In fact its quite scary to remind myself that I have been working hard to MAINTAIN my current hefty frame, so god knows what would happen if I had given up completely.

My PT is a power lifter called Ian Thistlewood and lifting weights is something I have always avoided/done the bare minimum. A month with this guy and I absolutely love it, the big difference maker has been the changes he has made to my technique, which was terrible before. Now I feel stronger, fitter and although I haven’t changed weight much my body shape is changing noticeably (Or at least the missus has been kind enough to pretend it has) and the biggest motivator is that I am already paid up for another bunch of sessions so I am locked into it. I even went as far as going to the gym during Xmas at my girlfriends parents town (The mighty Kings Lynn) - although running a marathon wouldn’t have changed the mince pie injection I have put my body through this last week.

The other big news which is very exciting (for me) in 2010 is I am working on a book. Jared Tendler (Referred to here as the sports psychology guy) is bringing out the book version of the groundbreaking mental game coaching he provides and I am helping him out with it. I will be very quick to point out that the content is NOT from my poker brain, it is 100% from the mind of Jared, who is a counselling therapist who works with poker players and athletes, I am just going to be helping edit it, doing a lot of the housekeeping work, marketing and helping to provide a poker players voice (Jared doesn’t play poker but he has been working with them for years). Jareds content is rock solid, as is his programme which many high stakes regulars swear by and I am really lucky to be on the ground floor with it all.

There are many many poker psychology books out there, but as far as I know Jared is the first person to write one who is actually a psychology professional and his work is from years of working with poker players and sports professionals. The book is based on genuine concepts in psychology and from field experience from a professional, rather than just observations from experienced players. Its nothing to do with metagame, sould reading, outhinking players, its not about putting people on tilt and its not about any of that 'visualise the ball going in the back of the net' crap that a lot of people associate with sports psychology. The book is all about getting to the route of all the things that stop you playing your very best all the time, about how to increase the number of tables you play, how long you can play, changing your attitude to things like money, winning, losing and how to teach yourself to be a much better learner and studier of the game. I can only draw on my own personal experiences with the guy and say that in just a few months he has cured a crippling risk aversion I developed, helped my increase from 4 tables to 12 and I am playing better overall to boot, turned what was set to be a huge losing year into a (small) winning year and changed my attitude to studying poker away from the table.

I'm obviously not (yet) the best example of his work, someone like Dusty Schmidt who has won $1 million each year the three years he has been working with him, but the changes he has made to my game and my life (I wouldn’t be going to a personal trainer if it wasn’t for him) have been massive. We hope to have the book out by May and I am taking a break from a few things to put my all into it. I wont be stopping playing or Pokernews in the interim, but I will be taking a break from magazine work for a while and also sleeping less to get this book looking great. If anyone wants to know any more about Jareds services then by all means drop me a line.

A lot of people who read the blog have asked me a couple of times about the G Casino in Sheffield, well I went to the VIP launch night earlier this month and have come back with mixed feelings. First of all, the 'VIP' night was a bit lol because we walked in to see an old lady eating the pastry off sausage rolls and put the meat back on the buffet, which felt almost like being at the playboy mansion. That said, the venue looks good and the card room is big. Unfortunately the tourneys are self deal, which I think is pretty awful for a G Casino, but I have been assured this is just a temp measure. I will probably play the cash games there this week and festivals, but I doubt I will be a reg for the time being.

Plans for 2010? Well the book is the big one, hopefully that will be out in May and then I will be going to Vegas with the missus in June/July for her birthday and to promote the book (And play poker and watch the World Cup). Nothing has changed with Pokernews and I am planning for that to be bigger and better next year. I also am looking forward to being a judge at the European Poker Awards in Feb and hopefully do a decent enough job for that to be an annual gig. Playing wise, no major goals, I have a financial goal (Not telling) and I am tempted to say I want to make it onto a sharkscope leader board in 2010. Not that many live events I consider a 'must attend' however I will almost certainly play the European Deepstacks, the DTD leg of the UKIPT and all the Sheffield based GUKPTs - thats probably about it really.

Other than that I plan on getting a weight lifting goal set up from my personal trainer and plan on teaching the dog the trick where you balance a biscuit on his nose.

Poker Awards, G Casino and Teaching My Momma Poker

Probably should have updated this weeks ago but sometimes when your job involves your writing thousands of words a month you can’t be bothered, but here goes:

Teaching My Momma Poker
My mother, who reads this blog (hi mumsy), has all of sudden (about 6 years after I did) took an interest in playing poker. Only the play money tables right now but I have been giving here some pointers. We have begun on the play money SNGs rather than the cash tables, because at least there is a smidgen of a chance of people folding in those things. It’s been quite fun, kind of reminded me of what it was like to start off in online poker and also reminded me of some of the important fundamentals of the game. She has a habit off getting very good very quick at new hobbies, so watch my joy and insanse jealousy when she starts winning more than I do (Which should probably take her about 7 weeks at the moment).

Sheffield G Casino
A few people asked me about updating when I know more about this so here it is. The new G Casino opens on December 9th at Queens Road (Which is awesome news for me as its about a mile and a half away). The venue looks pretty impressive and it will have a 100 seater poker room – thank god, no offence Napoleons but Sheffield really needs a good poker venue and we might just have it now. There is also a very good chance that a GUKPT Summer Series will take place there and this for me will be a clear the schedule festival, can’t wait. I am taking the missus to the VIP Launch Party next month (Not very thinly veiled brag there) to see what its all about.

After years of being a low volume nit, I have finally stepped into the magical world of cascading tables online. I have gone from struggling with six tables to being pretty comfortable with twelves almost overnight. Not bragging or anything as most of my peers probably have been doing it for ages, that would be a bit like bragging about being on facebook in 2009, but there you go, rakeback FTW.

European Poker Awards
Quite exciting news (for me) now. Earlier this year I approached the organisers of the annual European Poker Awards and suggested a new category – Online Player of the Year. Most of their awards were heavily (almost exclusively in fact) weighted towards live tournament poker, which obviously is not the be all and end all of poker, and with online play in fact perhaps being the bread and butter of the poker industry now, I think it needs to be included in the awards. I put together a pretty detailed brief of how easy it would be to pick out the big online successes (OPR, Sharkscope, HighstakesDB, 2+2, P5s etc etc) of the year.

Not only did they go for it and online player of the year will now be part of the awards, they have asked me to be on the panel of judges. Which means an all expenses paid trip to Paris in February to attend the event (Only bugger is it clashes with the first UKIPT event in Manchester but this is way to big an honour to even worry about a big tournament I would most likely bust out of on day 1 in anyway.). Obviously I would prefer to be one of the guys winning a gong but this is the next best thing. It falls on Valentines weekend too, so I am taking the missus to Paris on Valentines day – couldn’t have worked out better really.

Min Cash Monkey Off My Back

Its typical, whenever I actually go out and do things of interest, I don't update the blog. I was really bored to tears by poker during the WSOPE and as soon as it was over, I loved the game again. Its really ungrateful I suppose, having the cream of the poker world on your doorstep (almost) and not loving every moment of it.

But I have been having a decent time at the tables since and couldn't wait for the IPO in Dublin last weekend. What an event that was, with 1440 players and more than a third of the field coming from overseas, I would have expected chaos, but it was actually one of the most well organised events I have aver attended and lots of fun to boot.

During the main event I was a 'bounty' and had to wear a Sunderland T-shirt, which gave people a ticket into a freeroll on boylepoker. I ran like god during the first two levels and even bust another bounty myself, but after that I got my ass handed to me a bit and reraised off a lot of pots. I hung in there and was eliminated close to the end of the night (I didn't realise also at the time, but was also very near the money). The hand was slightly exaggerated on the Boyles blog, saying I 'couldnt fold AK in a three way pot' but what actually happened was that it was me and Mick McCloskey (he had JJ) in a very big pot and a third guy had gone all in but he only had about 5bbs and was just making the pot more juicy.

For some strange reason, a French woman begged me in broken English for my Sunderland top. Footy shirts bring out BO worse than any other garment and I had spent 10 hours under a hot light wearing this thing, why the hell she would want it I don't (and would rather not) know, but I let her have it anyway.

I managed a min-cash in a side event the next day, which was a massive monkey off my back as I havent cashed in a ranking live event in nearly two years. Admitted I haven't played much live poker in that time, especially this year, but it still was good to finally get a cash, even though it was a tiny one. I also get a pretty little Ireland flag on my Hendon Mob database (When it gets updated), which as we all know, is more important than actual money. I now need a USA flag and perhaps, just perhaps, an actual respectful sum of money too....no sod it, a USA flag please.

Probably going to try out the new 20Twenty weekend at DTD on Saturday, then going to see Eddie Izzard at the Arena on Sunday (Got a feeling he wont be funny any more). To people who follow this blog, the new G Casino will be replcaing the old grosvenor casino on Queens road, which is awesome for me because it means I can actually walk there (Plus its an easy walk into town and the train station for people outside sheffield). No idea when it opens, but soon apparantley.

Here is a pic of my dog to end the blog post:

Sports Pyschology Guy Part 2

Had a lot of interest from people about Jared Tendler the sports pyschologist, unfortunately with the WSOPE on I havent had time to go into depth about it on this blog, other than the articles I am writing for Pokernews (Parts one and two here). Once the WSOPE is over I plan on talking a lot about it, but until then here are the cliffnotes.

Had a really bad run over the last 12 months, so much so I haven't played that much this year or ventured out live. Genuinely considered stopping playing for good a few times and even went to that cold dark place of pondering whether poker was rigged or not. As a direct result, I started playing really timid and cagey, almost pre-empting bad luck and trying to get away with losing the minimum when I was holding monsters. I also was really lazy with working on my game away from the table.

Rather than all of a sudden giving me a new found confidence or ability, Jared has been working on making me understand why I do the negative things I do at the table, as well as giving me the tools to teach myself how to rectify them. A lot of my tilt issues it would appear are actually a direct result of being a poker journalist. I recall me old mucker Kevin Stevens once asking if being a poker journo has hindered my game at all and I said no, now I say yes. Years of interviewing players who bink a massive tournament had left me with a 'when is it gonna be my turn' mentality, and I reacted to the bad luck by surmising it was unfair, and it should be my time soon. Rather than actually working harder away from the table, I was just biding my time until I magically got lucky and won a big tournament. Also, because I am quite well known in UK poker circles, I was putting unrealistic pressure on myself to do well because I felt I had something to prove. What actually happened as a result was that I avoided situations where I was putting myself at risk, situations where I felt like I was being exposed as not as good a player as I actually wanted to be, and it actually took the gamble away from my game.

To get myself out of this rut, its all been about small incremental changes each and every session, rather than some big single gesture that would turn me into Phil Ivey. Jared has shown me how to effectively pick out which hands need further study, how to make small goals for each and every session as well as larger goals for the rest of my poker tenure.

Is it working? Yes. Naturally at first it went really well, by placebo to a great extent, but I had a really bad session a few weeks ago where I went on insane monkey tilt, probably worse than I have all year. That was actually a real blessing in disguise, because as bad as I played, I still played better than I had in the same spot a few months ago. Even though I was running awful, I was taking necessary calculated risks that I wouldn't have a few months ago. Since then I have been pretty fearless at the tables, and when I get outdrawn I barely react to it (I still do a little bit, but I don't throw the toys out the pram any more). What's more I am taking the time after every session to study key hands and seek out further learning.

Has he made me a better player? Not directly no, he doesnt even really play poker himself so the technical aspect is down to me. What he has done is about 95% cured me of a crippling risk aversion and victim mentality I have had for the last year. He has also shown me how to seek out and develop my learning of the game on my own. In a lot of ways I feel like I am starting from scratch again with poker (I havent gone busto btw lol) but I also feel like I am building towards something for the first time in a long time.

Drop me a line if you are interested in working with Jared, his website is HERE

Tony Blair Lookalikes

Went to the English Poker Open party last night in Nottingham, it was fun enough. The 'entertainment' for the night was a Tony Blair lookalike. Thats just what you need for a room full of poker players who probably venture out rarely and know very little about the real world, half of them not even from the UK - someone impersonating a former prime minister. The poor bloke died on his arse worse than any stand up I have ever seen, and I used to work in a comedy club.

It did get us wondering about the life and income of a celebrity impersonator. Colchester Kev and I agreed that he probably got at least a grand for the appearance, probably two grand. This was after all an event that (otherwise) pulled out all the stops and was put on for a lot of people with money. Whats more, it reminded me of hearing about what the rate the guy who played Blakey from on the buses charged for one hour back in 1997 - £5000. Now obviously Blakey was the real Blakey, but still, nice work if you can get it.

Edit: Found out - a neat grand for two hours. A David Brent lookalike gets about £1300 for the same time and a Borat lookalike gets £1700.

Probably serves me right for taking the mickey out of him, but on the way home I broke down about 8 miles from my house in Chesterfield. Thankfully plenty of my fellow motorists saw the opportunity to beep me and call me a wanker while I was stood in a laybay waiting for the AA. The clutch went on my car, which normally would be really gutting but I had a real sense of gratitude about the whole thing, as daft as that is. Because I was lucky I broke down near my house, on a hard shoulder, the AA guy came really quickly, I have never had any problems in nearly four years with this particular car and I live about 10 doors down from a clutch specialists. All in all, it could have been much worse. I was more gutted that my naughty little dog tore up his new cushion that cost £20 when I got back than this, which will probably cost me £300 minimum.

We'll wait and see what the garage says I suppose, I am hoping to get down to DTD again at least once while the EPO is on, so lets see if I am still optimistic when I get my quote.

Sports Psychology Guy

Anyone who has seen my feature on Pokernews will know that I have been working with a sports psychology expert lately. He is actually a very well respected figure in online poker,Jared Tendler, who is a Stoxpoker coach. We are working on a few worky things together and he is giving me a taste of his program, I must say its been an amazing experience so far. The article is here and its actually a few weeks behind and we are deep into the program. He wont make you a better player, but he will give you the tools to always play your best and learn to become a better player. When I met him my biggest issue was that I have had this victim mentality after year where I thought I ran worse than anyone in the world. A few weeks on and I dont feel like that (as much) any more and although I ran quite bad, I have realised that I am not as good a player as I thought I was and wasnt as unlucky as I thought either.

It sounds awful, to admit you are not as good a player as you thought, but it actually feels liberating. The world seemed small and progressing as a player seemed impossible a month or two ago, because I was so poorly equipped to handle the massive downswing I went on. Now it feels like I have something to work towards and I am processing information and learning at a much faster rate than I thought possible. The other day I had a sweat session with someone and probably had the most complex mathematical discussion I have ever had, and it all went in, whereas normally I would just agree and look for a spot to change the subject.

I'm not crushing or anything, in fact this is only just a winning year for me (Partially because I haven't played much at all, barely played live either) but what I am learning is basically, how to learn. Making small incremental changes each and every session and documenting everything, it makes a massive difference and with the exception of one particularly awful session, I havent tilted at all (Tilting for me, btw, is playing passive and defensive).

Whats more, I have been able to apply what he has been teaching me in my day to day life. I have become much better at managing my time overall, I have been really consistent with going to the gym and have even started to review my spending habits, which were getting out of control.

I know sports psychology seems a bit wishy washy to some, and many turn their noses up at in in poker circles, but its all really solid, commonsense stuff, small useful, incremental changes that all add up. I'm going to go on about it a whole lot more on this blog, but dont want to go ahead of myself on the pokernews articles I am writing.

Finally, this made me lol

GUKPT Sheffield & Industry Musings

Found out yesterday that Sheffield is getting a G Casino and also, it is being considered for a stop on next year’s Grosvenor UK Poker Tour. It doesn’t get much better than that for me really, Sheffield really needs a proper poker venue, no offence to Napoleons (I by that I mean I am about to offend it) but its bloody awful, feels like a working men’s club. You can have a 40 runner tournament at Naps and by the time you get to three tables everyone is talking about chopping, I nearly got chased out of there with burning sticks and pitch forks once for refusing to do a saver deal.

A plush new G casino, presumably near the M1, will be fantastic and a GUKPT here next year will be the easiest weeks work for me of the year. My guess, for anyone who knows Sheffield, is that it will be somewhere near the Cineworld/Don Valley Stadium/Meadowhall are rather than the city centre. Its on the tramlines, its near loads of other entertainments, its near Rotherham and its near the M1 – seems ideal. I heard someone say it will be in Totley, which is a really odd place as its a quiet residential area which isn’t that easy to get too. Both are a five minute drive for me so I don’t really care.

Speaking of work, it’s about to get a whole lot busier. Starting at the English Poker Open in just over a week, then onto the WSOPE and the EPT. This should be my biggest month of the year as a journalist, with the poker world on my doorstep (Well it’s a two hour train ride followed by 4 stops on the tube, but in world terms) and I am planning on working my ass off. Since we got the dog, my workrate has plummeted and my expenditure has skyrocketed, but this is a good chance to get back on track.

Main reason that my workrate has plummeted has been a combination of lazyness, breaking myself in for my new role at Pokernews and also the dog taking up my time. Thankfully he is starting to become a really well behaved little mutt that respects me when I am working, so that is less of an issue. Another reason, perhaps, is that I am really seeing the poker media industry decline at the moment, recession and all that. Not the overall poker industry, that’s still thriving, but magazines and websites are feeling the pinch.

Thankfully for me, Pokernews seem to be one of the few places that’s getting bigger (At least that’s my impression, I am not sure about the high up inner workings of the place) but lots of other places are really struggling. It seems it takes longer to get paid for work (Pokernews pay me usually within a week, so discount them), it’s the nature of the job but sometimes magazines can be 6 months before they pay you. The original incarnation of WPT magazine is no more (The one you see in the shops these days is a new publisher), Flush magazine have gone under and it won’t surprise me to see another few bite the dust before times get better. A year ago I used to be inundated with work offers from random sources that I had to knock back because I didn’t have the time, that doesn’t happen much anymore and I feel very lucky that I have a regular income from one of the more solid players in the industry.

Is it worse than what other industries are facing in the recession? Probably not. There are also plenty of silver linings on the clouds at the moment. If and when the US market is allowed to open its doors to the rest of the online poker world, thats fantastic news for all. Magazines will see advertising revenues boost, affiliate websites will see more CPAs/MGRs, smaller poker rooms will see traffic increase, bigger poker rooms will see more new yank players signing up and we could well have another mini-boom. I think (and have written) that PKR would become huge in that scenario, because I think the yanks would go crazy for its 3D graphics and being able to call people a loser via emoticon over the interweb.

Anyhoo, I digress, here is a pic of me and the missus battling the evil empire aboard a rebel spaceship:


So over the weekend I turned 30 after many years of denying it would ever happen. I’m sure everyone goes through some sort of attempt to better themselves when they turn 30 and I was no different. As soon as I rid myself of the hangover I found myself in the gym before 7am in the morning followed immediately by going out and purchasing a new wardrobe (Of clothes, not an actual wardrobe). This was certainly in part in an attempt to make myself feel and look younger, but also to get myself out of my current fashion faux pas.

You see I have had all manner of styles thus far in my three decades, when I was a teenager I had long hair and the grunge look, at college I had a rather embarrassing Oasis mop that on reflection looked like a ‘hair helmet’, in my early twenties I was actually pretty well turned out during my ‘clubbing’ years, but unfortunately the poker years (25+) have seen my decline into the look of ‘darts player’. Working from home not only piled on a few pounds for me, it also saw me give up on my appearance a bit and alas, free poker hoodies and t-shirts have occupied a lot of hanger space on my side of the wardrobe (Getting accidently sent 500 Winamax t-shirts earlier this year didn’t help either).

But no more, I now want to look a bit like someone you would actually want to meet/do business with/not cross the street when you see me coming. I have even started shaving every day rather than letting it grow through the week and having one big shave when I next scheduled to meet people.

I am actually quite content being 30, I have been telling people I am 30 for a while now, which is a good way of easing into it. I migrated from Radio 1 to Absolute Radio earlier this year, which I think demonstrates how I have lost touch with da yoof, and I never looked back. Much happier to listen to mid 90s rock than have to listen to some idiots butcher an old classic by putting a rapper in the middle of it (Have you seen that head, shoulder, knees and toes song?) – Christ I’m old.

So does being 30 mean I am taking stock of my life, suddenly wanting to do something outrageous and question everything I am doing right now? Not quite, but a few things are changing. I love my job, it really is the best job in the world, but I am going to try my hand at branching out a little. I really want to get into the marketing/PR (I forget which is which) side of things, I think that would be ideal for me and I assume there is more money in it. Almost always I look at press releases and promotions and think about how I would have done them differently, plus somehow just about everyone I know in poker has come to me asking for advice/contacts of a marketing nature so maybe I have been around the industry long enough to give it a go. Pokernews is still the priority, especially with the WSOPE round the corner, but watch this space on that one.

There are also some pretty huge changes to what I am doing as a player but I will have to leave you in suspense over that one (Not that exciting, just cant quite reveal just yet)

I shall leave you with my two fave youtube clips of the moment

What James Akenhead Could Do For UK Poker


This is taken from a feature on UK Pokernews

I personally don't know James Akenhead, but I do know a few of his HitSquad buddies and if he is anything like them he must be a decent chap. Generally speaking I hate it when anybody who isn't me guarantees themselves at least 1 million dollars with the prospect of many many more, but when I switched on my PC on Thursday morning to look at the Pokernews Live Updates from the Main Event, I instantly did a double fist pump in celebration when I saw Akenhead's name on the November Nine list (Followed by a 'nice' when I saw he would be joined by Phil Ivey).

Why was I so pleased at the news that someone I don't know has reached the promise land of poker?

Because this could be one of the best things to happen to poker in the UK in years.

Whatever you think about the concept of the WSOP Final Table delay, there is no doubt that it is the best thing since sliced bread for the nine players who are being forced to wait for 4 months. The endorsement deals alone are worth millions and I wager a few players will make more money away from the table than they do come November when the cards are in the air. Akenhead, who all but looks like he will be a fully fledged Full Tilt Poker Pro by the time the final comes around will almost certainly be set for life no matter where he comes on the day.

The Hit Squad (The plucky young group of players he belongs to which include Sunny & Charles Chattha, Praz Bansi and Karl Mahrenholz) are one of the most successful and likeable bunch of lads out there. With bracelets, GUKPT titles and more final tables than you can shake a stick at between them, they are very likely to become big household names and will be great ambassadors for the game. I'm expecting to see more sponsorship deals being signed, as well as the Hendon Mob being given a run for their money in the top UK poker group stakes.

But what we really want to see is UK poker getting recognition in the mainstream press and now could be the time. This was the best year ever for the UK at the WSOP with JP Kelly, John Kabbaj and Roland De Wolfe all winning bracelets (The latter of course taking down the poker triple crown in the process) and now with one of our own at the final table of the big one, now is a great time for the national press, the BBC, Sky Sports, Richard & Judy and more mainstream outlets getting behind poker in a big way.

Akenhead himself seems an ideal candidate to widen the appeal of poker to the masses. A young intelligent guy, he seems wise beyond his years with a level head on his shoulders. He was already being tipped for great things by his peers and those that have played with him consider him to be something of a genius 'Stu Unger' type of player.

It sucks that he goes back to Vegas with the short stack, but this might actually really help the UK public get behind him. Its well documented that the British love an underdog (in fact, the less likely they are to win the better usually) – not to compare Akenhead with Eddie the Eagle Edwards because he is just a few double ups from being a real contender for the title, but the odds stacked against him will really endear him to a lot of casual spectators in the UK. nine

It helps too that Phil Ivey, the Tiger Woods of poker, is sat at the same table, making the task seem even more impossible for James. This also guarantees that anyone with even a passing interest in poker worldwide will be watching this final table, which means that Akenhead will be watched on the most view poker final table in history.

The presence of both Ivey and Akenhead at the table will certainly help the 'skill vs luck' debate that poker is always linked with. Phil Ivey is regarded by almost everybody in the poker community as the greatest player of all time, and here he is with two bracelets and the main event final table to boast in 2009 alone. Akenhead was at the top of just about every UK players top 5 list to do big things at this series, especially after coming so close to a bracelet last year, and here we were all vindicated when he made the final table of the biggest event in poker.

UK poker really needs a shot in the arm right now, especially after the issues Dusk Till Dawn are facing and the ludicrous live poker revenue tax that all legal poker venues in UK are subject to. If James Akenhead can catapult himself into the public eye and become the poster boy of UK poker, it might just be start of a second poker boom in the UK that will benefit all of us.

Even if he busts out on the very first hand, James Akenhead should be monumentally proud of what he has achieved at the World Series this year and we might all owe him a pint if he can do anything to get poker out there to the masses in the UK. We have thoroughly enjoyed following him the main event here at UK Pokernews and are even more excited to see what the next 4 months will bring for James and the rest of the HitSquad.

Now just imagine if he actually went and won it............


I’ve always shied away from the title ‘Poker Journalist’ for lots of reasons. First off, I think of the word ‘journo’ that always to me signified the image if the ‘gutter press’. Second, a bit of poker snobbery here, but most poker journalists I know got into the game through journalism not the other way round, and I always had to make a point that I am a player first and foremost and the journalism side of things just kind of happened through my love of the game. Finally, although a lot of what I write is of interesting and entertaining subject matter to poker players – it’s hard to call it journalism – its more nicey nicey, tournament reports, marketing, strategy, jokey poker quips or otherwise very easy reading.

But I did write a piece the other day that made me feel a bit like a proper journalist. Not so much the feature itself which was pieced together from several sources over the net, but what went before it. I had seen on several forums concerns that a tournament called the UK Poker Championships was a complete scam. I rang them up ready to give them a Roger Cook style earbashing but they never answered their phone, I did the same by email but a week later no reply. I was a bit nervy putting this on Pokernews, simply because if they are in the latter group of people I suggested of a naive bunch of amateurs, I could be really pissing on their bonfire by accusing them of shenanigans on the biggest poker news website in the world, but a week on and no reply I think they have had adequate time to respond.

This is the item here. Basically it’s a £100 tournament that claims to have a £100,000 first prize despite very little other information being on offer and one of the shadiest websites I have seen. Imo I think it could well be a scam.

Here are the main concerns:

First of all, the numbers simply don't make sense. The website claims £100,000 first prize for a 750 runner £100 buy-in event, with another nine players getting paid. Where is the £25,000 overlay coming from and also, where is the money for the rest of the winning players? It doesn't specify whether rebuys are part of the event or not. The website doesn't use the word 'guarantee' at all with regards to the prize pool.

Secondly, only ten players from a possible 750 make the money, this smacks of inexperience of the industry as few players would ever turn up for such a top heavy payout structure.

Numbers are dropping for live events round the country and APAT, the GUKPT and the Brighton Rendezvous are all holding big festivals that clash with the event (APAT have almost 450 players guaranteed for their event)– where are these 750 players coming from?

There is no mention of the starting chip stack or structure online. When you go to the rules section it merely presents a very basic texas hold'em rules guide, rather than which set of tournament rules the event subscribes to.

The City of Manchester Stadium have confirmed that the event has provisionally reserved but nothing concrete has been signed yet. This event would also most likely clash with a Manchester City home game, which could cause a problem down the line.

The sponsors of the event are US telephone provider AT&T - how did this come around? Normally an online poker room would be the natural choice of sponsor, not a USA based phone company. Surely someone such as at&t would opt to sponsor someone such as the World Series of Poker rather than a debut £100 event in Manchester? The banner for at&t does not include a hyperlink to the at&t website, which is again odd.

You have to pay for the event with a credit/debit card after one of their representatives calls you. You have to register an interest online and then await a phone call, rather than being able to ring them directly to register. A number of people have been contacted by the call centre (And when they are the phone number is blocked) and been told that over 1000 people have registered an interest, yet the call staff have rang several players multiple times to request payment for the event from them.

One source said they were told that Circus Poker would be holding an online feeder with a live final at Manchester235. Stanley's Casino (Circus Poker) have confirmed they know nothing about this and Manchester235 is a Caesars Casino, it seems very unlikely that they would work in conjunction together.

Not much in the way of marketing has been done other than flyers outside casinos. No websites or magazines have been promoting the event, nor has any representatives appeared on the forums to promote or defend the tour.

The website is very basic, contains no tournament structure information and does not include any terms & conditions. The listed phone number does not appear to work when called.

So hopefully the organisers won’t come and find me and take my kneecaps from me. Their silence speaks volumes and I doubt we will hear from them again.

SPUKT, Pokernews and SNGs

Bah! I'm sick of starting blog posts with the line 'long time no post'.

First off, had a cracking time in Nottingham for the SPUKT grand final. Sky Poker were as hospitable as ever, good bunch they are. Thankfully I got more than one hand in this time, actually making it till late in the evening. I got my stack up to 22,000 which sadly is about the biggest I have had a chip stack in a year, it comes to something when your girlfriend doesn't believe you when you call and say you are still in the comp at 9pm.

Lots of players went expecting it to be a walk in the park, that they could just stampede over the sky poker players, I said to everyone from the start they were wrong. Big respect to Neil Blatchly for staking 14 players into the event, I would have done the same if I had a spare £2400 lying around, but this was not shooting fish in a barrel. Yes we saw some bad plays, overplaying of one pair hands etc but all the sky lot took it really seriously.

Still they must have been bad if I nearly made it to day 2.

One fortunate hand did come up early on in the day, a young player who I am pretty certain was playing one of his first live games was making a point of betting every street when checked to irrespective of the information in front of him. I decided way before the hand in question I was going to slow play any top pair or better hand against him, and soon after flopped bottom two pair, with 8-9 on a K89 rainbow board.

Check-call, check-call and by the river we now have a nasty looking K89JT board with three hearts and I’m stuck with the problem of not being able to bet this board, because I will never get called by a hand I beat (Though I could make an argument for turning my hand into a bluff, I really didn’t want to bluff at all in this event) so I check. He reaches for the biggest pile of chips, relative to the pot, I’ve ever seen. It looked like about 4,000 for a 1200 pot. There is no way I can call this, even though it’s blatantly obvious he has nothing.

Luckily for me, in an attempt I am sure to make his hand look big, he places the chips over the line one at a time, chequers style. The dealer tells him he has made a string bet and only the first chip counts, a tiny 100 chip, and I snap call like a wuss, relieved that I get away with a showdown when I know inside I should probably have tried to get a ruling that would have maximised the times I am ahead. I was, he had nothing, but I never would have called him even though I knew I was good

Pokernews is going well. I'm getting a lot more original content on the site one way or another. I, in particular, was very pleased that James Atkin agreed to do a column. He is a really nice kid who I think endeared a lot of people to him when he missed out on a blue belt in the BlackBelt grading and has done well since. Really good writer too and his 'crazy high volume challenges' are exactly what we want on UK Pokernews.

Loads of interviews lately too, I'm trying for two a week at least even though I hate doing them, I am turning them more into a 'quick chat' for that very reason. We had the SPUKT winner Robbie O'Brien who seems a really sensible lad for a 19 year old with an extra 17k in his skyrocket. We also had Jude Ainsworth who is winning everything at the moment.

I interviewed Ian Frazer this morning and was really surprised what a nice humble bloke he was. I think he probably has one of those table images, such is his style of play and the format he plays, I assumed he was a bit of a git but nothing could be further from the truth. Neil Channing will also be on the site tomorrow, he can talk for England that bloke, but thankfully its entertaining enough, even though my ice cream melted while he was rabbiting on.

What else? Well I didnt expect to see this

SNGs are going pretty crap after a great start to the month. Having gone over the hh its very clear whats been going wrong. I have run really really bad heads up, which means I have something like 50 2nd places and 13 firsts for the month (In 6 max games). Now obviously getting the 2nd places is waaaaay better than bubbling, but its a bit frustrating getting outdrawn heads up so often because the difference between 1st and 2nd is worth a few grand to me, I would have been up a couple of grand this last two weeks, instead Im down a few hundred.

Hey ho. Gotta go, dog is tearing up my house.

PS. Terminator Salvation - very average.

I thought he had 9-6

I was really looking forward to playing a bit of live poker last weekend, as I haven't sat at a real life poker table since Cork, having been preoccupied for 3 months with the new pooch. I went down to Nottingham for the £168 side event at the DTD Deepstack, really had to rush as I missed my turning on the M1 which had been blocked because of roadworks.

I got there just in time to be dealt my first hand, pocket sixes on the button and facing a raise of 150, which is certainly worth the chances of flopping a set, which I did on a J96 flop. All the money goes in and my opponent turns over pocket nines and I am gone before most players have even taken their seats.

The worst/funniest thing was that from a distance, Im sure he had 9-6 (sixes and nines look similar) and I apologised to him for such a cold deck, and was pretty shocked to see the pot get scooped his way.

Hopefully will have more time to play this weekend, when I am going down for the SPUKT main event, which could be the best value local tournament of the year.

Pokernews is going well, although I havent really got started with it yet, what with the WSOP taking up everyones time. Managed to get a quick interview with Julian Thew at DTD between telling him my set over set hand, as well as one with Sida Yuen of BlackBelt Poker fame.

Enjoying my SNGs again, Ive started playing the $119s on Stars now, had an amazing start to the month followed by an awful swing back down again this week, certainly need to put more volume in this month if I am going to make that Stars supernova promo worth the month I spent grinding in May.

I'm an editor I am

The first week as the editor has been a busy one, although for all intents and purposes nothing really has changed. I still do the daily news on pokernews, I still sit in front of my desk for a similar amount of time with occasional breaks to entertain the dog and so on. Besides all the additional editorial and administrative duties, I’ve found my phone has not really stopped ringing. Admittedly half those calls the people never even knew I was the editor now (most thought I was already) but it still seemed like a sign of things to come.

My aims really for UK Pokernews are essentially to attract more and more regular readers, which sounds simple but it ain’t. More hits basically will mean more revenue and of course it will also mean that we are producing something people like, easy right? I’ve literally got a hundred ideas on how to do this (and would love to hear other peoples thoughts) but my general ethos is if I can keep things very grassroots, stick to the stories, the players and the card rooms people in the UK give a toss about, then that will reap dividends. I aim to have two interviews with UK players a week, this week it is probably two of the most talked about UK players of the last week, Tony Phillips and Aisling Collins. Both good little interviews imo, Tony seems like a smart lad and in particular Aisling impressed me, I am sure there will be plenty of detractors in that she won a fast structured tournament and was a complete unknown, but from talking to her she really studied the format which not many players bother to do in the TV tournaments.

I’m also really loving ChipMeUp at the moment, its such a dudey little site it reminds me of when I found ebay for the first time. I really want to promote ChipMeUp in the UK (Anyone who heard me on Jesse Mays Poker Show on Tuesday will know that as I stumbled through explaining the transparency of the site) and have bit the bullet and made an event of my own. I stake a lot of players but never been staked myself, I usually play 100% within my bankroll so don’t see the need, but to help get CMU promoted in the UK I have 25% if myself up for grab in $15 chunks at the £168 side event at DTD this Sunday. I was desperate to get down to DTD this weekend after all the closure rumours, kinda scared me into trying to actually cash once in the place in case it did close/change hands.

WSOP prop bets. I broke even in the 40k event by backing Bonomo each way, but I am now down backing Dario Alioto (rather than my 2nd choice Jason Mercier doh) in the PLO. In truth, I would always back Alioto at a final table because he put on a card perfect performance in the WSOPE PLO when he won and I think is the new Rafi Amit. Good to see Ivey win his bracelet bet, that should cripple Las Vegas. news/daily-poker-news/2009/06/uk-wsop-event-10.htm. We had a promo on ChipMeUp which I wasn’t eligible for where some guy won 3% of his win for $9.


Haven't posted for a week or two, too busy I guess, I was also pretty ill and constipated until last night, which I dare say didn't help (Everything is flowing well again now, thanks for asking).

The big news, for me at least, is that I am now the editor for UK Pokernews. Most people probably assumed I was doing that anyway, as I was writing pretty much their entire content, but it now gives me a chance to do a lot more behind the scenes kind of stuff and promote the website a lot more. I'm still a freelancer, its not going to be my one and only writing gig, but it will take up the majority of my non playing time.

Speaking of Pokernews, I am totally addicted to ChipMeUp their new staking site. Its a very easy to use, very transparent staking website that reminds me of Ebay (sort of). I'm a bit of a fish when it comes to staking but it doesn't stop me and I cant resist sending players little $3 stakes here and there every day. I'll probably have a crack at getting staked myself into something or other, not for my own benefit but maybe as a Pokernews promo thingimebob.

Nearly there with the Pokerstars SuperNova challenge, just a few thousand points to go this week. I started the month with a huge downswing, then enjoyed an extended period of running like god and now its gone the other way again. Such is the nature of SNGs but it sucks being forced to put in the hours this week when I'd love to be taking a few days off from playing.

Blue Square and 888.com have put the first $40,000 No Limit market up for the WSOP. The odds, I think, are really generous and seem to be assuming a 300+ field. Ivey is at 33/1 which I kind of think is generous, off the top of my head I have gone for:

Jimmy Fricke - 81/1
Carlos Mortenson - 66/1
Justin Bonomo - 81/1
Sorel Mizzi - 81/1
Shaun Deeb - 101/1
Jason Mercier - 81/1
Gavin Griffin - 81/1

Will elaborate on that later, I'm now off the hopefully watch the Blades lose the richest game in football.

Stars UK Promo

Had a lovely bank holiday with the mutt, we took him up to Kings Lynn (where my missus is from) and took him on the beach, which was a joy to watch, not so much of a joy to clean his sand beard later though. He was a little angel all weekend, apart from a bout of diarrhoea at 4 in the morning on Saturday, which was a blessing in disguise as that was just the right time for me to watch Ricky Hatton get put on his arse. What a shocker that was, not the result, just the manner of it, I know concede that PacMan is the best in the world right now.

Although I started my new tenure at Stars by running like crap, I now have to stick with them because of this fantastic and frankly unfair promotion for UK players. Just 7,500 VPPs and I get another 80,000 on my way to SuperNova, if I get 18,000 in the month I will be automatically a SuperNova – not bad for one month’s play all year. I’m going the SNG route and originally my plan was to be playing the 6 max $109s this month, but this changes things slightly and I have started by 6 tabling the $40-$60 games 6 max and 9 max, gonna experiment with more tables at one time and also perhaps with the Steps games as well. I can find my niche next month when I am a SuperNova and all the yanks who cant do this promo hate me. Only 17,500 VPPs to go!

Wasted two hours of my life waiting to be a guest on the Poker Show, which never happened. I got a call from Jesse May as soon as the show ended apologising saying I was the first ever guest to get bumped from the show, which is a dubious honour but I’ll take it. The plan is for me to be on next week now as I’m watching the Champions League now instead (priorities). I also need to catch up racking up these VPPs as I have already missed 5 days in May and I am off to London on Thursday.

That blooooooody dog


That bloody dog is proving a real handful at the moment. He managed to escape our garden yesterday, he burrowed under a fence and slowly chipped at the bottom of it to get underneath it. Its not the most pleasant experience to have a stranger knock on your door holding your puppy in her arms saying she found him stood in the middle of the road. A fully reccy on the secureness of my garden is on the plate on Monday when I get back from bank holiday duties.

Off to London next week for a day to attend the BlackBelt Poker Workshop. Only as an observer, I will be interviewing a bunch of the players and seeing how things are ran down there. Usually you have to go searching for interviews with players but its nice to have about 50 of the buggers approaching me instead. It will be nice to go to London, haven't been for a long time and, as much as I love that little dog and how happy he is making me and the missus, it will nice to be away from the smell of dog for a day.

This SNG downswing ain't pretty, its about 25 buy-ins now. Thank god I still haven't started on the $100+ games yet (Monday was the plan). A 25 buy-in swing at SNGs is not particularly bad (I imagine even more common at 6 max games, which I play) and if there is one saving grace, the games seem softer than what I remember. Assuming I am still playing them in the next few months, I think a nice achievable aim would be to make a (any) Sharkscope Leader Board (Back in the day I peaked at 3rd overall profit and 5th average profit in the $100-$300 6 max games leader boards) and to at least once make a Battle of the Planets and SNG Madness leader board.

I cannot believe that Ricky Hatton is 2-1 on Betfair. He is nowhere near that big an underdog, I don't even think he is an underdog, he is slightly better than evens in my opinion. I have to go to Kings Lynn with the dog and the missus this weekend, which means I cant watch it here with my old man, which is a shame because its such an interesting and potentially very exciting fight. I just think the HitMan will be too big, to strong and too fast (He isnt faster than Pacman, but he is faster than Pacman is used to) for Manny.

Interviewing Moormans Dad

Well Stars gifted my return to their tables and paying off the chargeback with a nice little downswing yesterday, ran like shit, I thought you were supposed to win on Pokerstars when you first deposit? Based on my volume I should be SuperNova within three months, which is better than standard rakeback, and I am trying to achieve at least Silverstar in two days before the month ends. Even though I have ran like crap on day one, it feels really good to be back playing at Pokerstars, although I still concur that the chargeback incident was not my fault and they were in a better position to prevent it than I was.

I made a little gag on the Blondeforum which got a mention on Monday nights poker show, thanks to Nick Wright for making sure the world knew it was me, it went something like this:

So what exactly do the BlackBelt Poker Graders have to do?

Paint Neil Channings fence and clean his cars until they get in a fight with the guys from Cobra Kai.


I have interviewed loads of famous players: Hellmuth, Antonius, Hansen, Norman Pace......

But I must say, I was rarely more looking forward to an interview than I was interviewing Moorman's Dad last night after his GUKPT win. I guess maybe there isn't much a poker player, no matter how big, can tell me I havent heard before from one of his peers but with Moorman's Dad it was really unique. He seemed a really nice bloke and he was totally honest, unlike a lot of poker players who win one thing and insist they are the new Phil Ivey, he told me he was really nervous, considered making the 4th blind level an achievement let alone winning the thing and doesn't particularly plan on playing much on the live circuit again. He also emphasised how having no expectation on him made him fearless, and that is what ultimately won it for him.

He also gave me an insight into what being the Father of a professional poker player is like and how he and his son sat down and planned out his poker career, made it an analytical structured thing, discussed bankroll management and such. I might be the first person to interview a poker player's dad and it reminds me of when I sat down with my Mother and she watched me play online, which (along with getting my name in print and my mug on TV) helped reassure a lot of concerns she understandably had with the game.

Maybe I should buy her into the Newcastle Event next month?

All in all, poker needs more stories like this. As awesome as the year of the pro was at last years WSOP (And the poker nerd in me wants another one this year), we have to remember stories like this, like Moneymaker, like Hal Lubarskey, like Brian 'WeeBrick' Clarke and all the other human interest stories are what keeps the poker economy growing.

The interview should be up on uk.pokernews.com by next Tuesday.

Golden Age of UK Poker?


Is it just me, or does it feel like we are about to start a golden age of UK poker? Moorman's Dad winning GUKPT Manchester yesterday is something of a dream story for a poker journo like myself, what a fantastic coup that was for the GUKPT. The only thing that tour is missing now is a female main event winner, they have had everything else – they've had online stars, old school pros, everymen, bracelet winners, night-watchmen and even Dave Smith.  


Then this BlackBelt poker thingy launches today, didn't go in for the grading myself although I was asked (When I say asked, I wasn't exactly begged, but Mr Channing and Snoops both suggested I go for it) but I think it's gonna either flop or change the UK poker industry for a long time. Good luck to Alex Martin, James Atkins and Nick Wright. I actually think those three have as good, if not better, chance against say Sunny Chattha, Mickey Wernick and Jerome Bradpiece, mainly because they will be sooooooo much keener and much more used to grinding at those stakes. I am sure the bigger names will be able crush the games, but struggle with the discipline aspect, playing so low, being told what to do by mentors etc. I have suggested with the folks at BoylePoker to run a book on it. I would have a few quid on Dave Penly, Alex Martin and maybe James Atkins. If anyone is going to crush it, I'd said Dave Penly would, he is both used to playing in massive games and grinding low stakes, so he would be my number one pick.


Then there was the Poker Show last night. It was awful for the first 20 minutes while they were sorting out the levels, but with a bit of practice I think it's going to be a keeper. I'm supposed to be going on this week, though I am not sure how I would fit into the BlackBelt show or Irish episode this week.


Well, I am caving in and paying the Stars chargeback. If I am going to be playing SNGs again I would be insane not to play at Stars, because nobody else has SNGs high enough, regular enough. By paying it now, at least I get $120 in reload bonus, which takes the sting off. I am gonna play 100-150 SNGs at mid stakes this week to see what my optimal number of tables are, before going back to the $110 & $215 6 max games on Stars and Tilt. I'm thinking about maybe doing a Sharkscope/Battle of the Planets prop bet in lieu of it all.

World Series of Poker 2009 Betting Markets

Some of you may recall the end of last year my very short lived poker betting blog which died a bit of a death, as I predicted it would as soon as I started it. Well, its still a big interest of mine and as the World Series is upon us, I will be doing it again, within this blog as its obviously much easier.

Nothing much to report yet, I havent seen many markets for the WSOP at all. So far Bodog have a number of markets, all novelty based like 'highest placing author' and will Robert Bellande cash in the main event. Paddy Power usually have some very good markets which I expect to see turn up soon - they had some very good group bets like the best online player last longer market and a field for the $10,000 PLO.

BoylePoker do have plenty of markets and a good one for those people that simply want to bet on the players they have heard of, which is who will win the most money during the WSOP overall. Naturally Phil Ivey is the fave at 8-1 and as usual, a complete no value bet. He is likely to be gunning for a bracelet and a bracelet only, which means he will not be cashing that often unless he wins one. Scotty Nguyen would be my pick on that one, he is one a real heater at the moment, could be about to win a WPT title and has a bet with Mike Matusow that he can win $4 million in 2 or 3 years. He is at 16/1, I personally would want better than that to be honest.

There should be some good markets turn up, the $40,000 no limit event will be really interesting to see as the field is short and all big names. Lots of people will make the mistake of betting on Phil Hellmuth and I might be looking to lay him one way or another once the odds come out. Just because he has ten bracelets in no limit, it doesnt mean shit, because he is well known to do very badly against top pros. Instead of thinking of this as a bracelet event, think of it as an episode of high stakes poker - he has no chance imo.

I spoke to Paul Spilane of BoylePoker and he said that they are interested in listening to any suggestions for potential bets people may want to make, in particular any head to head match ups between two players, of any calibre. I'm going to be doing a bit of research and suggesting a few markets myself, so by all means drop me a line if you want to see some additional markets and I will see what I can do.

The SNG stuff is going well, I've only been playing smaller games this week while I remind myself how to play them ($40-$60) and I've had a nice little run so far. I think I will ditch the cash games for a month or two and see if I can recapture my old form, maybe start playing the $100-$200 games next week. It does mean, if I want a serious run at it, I will have to cave in and pay for the chargeback I got from pokerstars even though I think it was completely unjust. Stars is the only place to play SNGs and if I go back that, I think I will set some sort of Sharkscope/Battle of the Planets prop bet to up the ante a little.

King of the Barry Carters.....almost

You ever googled yourself? I have loads of times and up until recently this blog didnt even make it into the top 20 searches, but now type 'Barry Carter' into a search engine and I am second, behind some rather unremarkable car parts website or something. I have also leapfrogged this guy, who was at the top for a long time:

So the plan is to get this blog to the top spot and keep it there. Its no fun being called Barry, one of the least sexy names one can imagine, so if I have to be called Barry Carter, lets make me the top dog.

I spoke to Jesse May today about his new poker radio show which looks fantastic. I am going on as a guest, probably this Sunday, and the guy is one of my heros, simply because he is as big a poker nerd as I am.

The dog fell in a pond today, he did not like that one bit and was screaming all the way home. Bang goes my plans of throwing sticks in the water to him then.

This made me laugh:

Blame everything on the dog


The great thing about having a new dog is you can blame him for EVERYTHING. Amongst other things, he is the reason for the blog taking a back burner, as well as poker in general, my hygiene and of course, my battle against obesity. Since we got Charlie, I have really started stuffing my fat fucking face way too much, largely because until today, we have not been able to take him for walks in the park. That changed over the weekend, we had the best two afternoons ever running with him and watching him experience the big wide world for the first time. He loved it too and he is absolutely knackered when he gets home.

I haven’t played a great deal, barely played at all this year. This month has been frustratingly break even, win a session, lose a session, rinse, repeat. My focus certainly isn’t there, that’s for sure, I am on autopilot a lot of the time and although I still love the game and literally find every facet of it fascinating, I can’t seem to translate that into my own time at the table. I need to do something different and at the moment I do not have the time for MTTs so I am playing a few SNGs, which used to be my bread and butter a couple of years ago, and I am loving it so far.

After two years of almost exclusively cash games, SNGs all of a sudden seem incredibly easy. I was always pretty good at them anyway, mainly because have always been good at bubble play (imo) and although you can’t ‘game select’ in the way you can cash games (My favourite thing about cash) there are so many players who don’t understand the bubble, even otherwise very good players seem to struggle with the concept. The bubble has always been my favourite thing about SNGs, even though SNGs are quite a crude ‘solved’ form of poker, I still get really excited on the bubble of an SNG and it still draws up unique situations that ICM doesn’t always have an answer to.

I used to play the $109 and $215 games on Stars, but that was before I multi tabled a lot and I am a little rust, so I am starting low for a few hundred games to remind myself of how to play them and see what the games are like these days. I also may have to get unbanned from Stars, which would mean paying off the $400 chargeback I still refuse to accept was my responsibility.

Writing is going fine, though not without a few glitches. If I have observed something in the last few months that I think is only going to get worse is that poker is becoming very corporate. Recently I have had to deal with agents which is a really odd addition to modern poker, one of them seemed ok but generally it’s a worrying change, how many poker players really need an agent? Especially the online players who barely leave the house. I interviewed a world famous player last month who was very happy with the interview we cut and literally at the final moment he pulled it because we didn’t give proper mention to his pokey little website that was never mentioned in the first place.

Loads of other crappy little bits and bobs like that have happened lately, can’t really mention at the moment, but if you ever bump into me ask me about a few of them, including the chap who is threatening to sue for basically $5.

Thankfully plenty of good things happen too when you are a poker writer, I interviewed Roberto Romanello last week and he cut a very good interview. I also interviewed Phil Galfond, who was nice enough. I also have become matey with a guy called Ben Wilson, another inspiring writer whom I am giving my many years (2) of wisdom too and his blog is way too good for him not to be getting paid for it.

But the best thing about life right now is the mutt, Charlie has learnt sit, paw, high five and now down and he is only 11 weeks old. He also is doing very well with toilet training and if he didn’t bite everything he sees he would probably make Lassie look like a retarded bulldog.

Meet Charlie

Wow, another long time no post. Lots of stuff going on, not had the time to write about them I guess.

Playing - finally started playing again online and its gone pretty well, still not putting in massive volume but had a pretty big winning month. Last played about 5 days ago when had a really bad session and ended it ban running aces into sets on consecutive tables. Figured that was a good time to have a break because I have really ran like god all month and wanted to end it on a high.

Killarney - I had to have a break from online play because I went to Killarney for a few days with Ladbrokes for a media shindig ahead of a very good looking festival later on this year. It was good fun, a free bar and some free poker tournaments which I managed to balls up as usual. I also had the pleasure of meeting Snooker bloke Ken Doherty (who called me a cunt, in jest, I hope, when I suggested snooker could be a part of a great new tournament I had in mind called King of Pubs which would be a pub Olympics event with darts, pool, snooker, billiards, poker, arm wrestling and ending in a drinking competition.) and that bloke from Boyzone (Not Ronan, Not the Gay One, Not the Ugly One and Not the One in Coronation Street) who was also there.

Charlie - This is the big news, we finally picked up our Mutt after weeks of waiting. I got stuck at Cork airport for a few extra hours which added to the stress of waiting. He is a lovely little fella, he started off very timid and looked depressed but he really perked up on Saturday and now he is very playful and still very placid. He is also very clever, he seems to have picked up toilet training quite quickly and generally is learning fast.

The little chuff is keeping us up at night though, but we did have a good kip last night. Unfortunately as soon as he arrived, our sodding boiler broker and wont be fixed for a few days, so we have to go round my folks for showers (Which they love, because we bring the pooch) but its making everything much harder. Right now I don't have much time to do anything as its all still very hectic, but he is a lovely little scamp and I will post much more about him when I get 2 minutes to myself.

Puppies, Freerolls and Interviews

Long time no post. Been so busy of late, hence the blog no show, but plenty of news. I moved house recently and that was a pain, but as painless as moving can get I suppose. The new place is much nicer, much cosier and has a great big garden for the dog we are getting. The big news though, from our point of view, is we finally have a dog. I'm good friends with a family that have a farm locally and their Labrador has had a little of puppies and we couldn't help but take one of the little tykes off their hands, a cute little black puppy with the working name of Toby (I wanted to call him Optimus Prime but I got blackballed on that one). We now have to wait until the end of the month before we can pick him up, which is really frustrating because we have been waiting for 2 years effectively to get a dog (My girlfriend has been waiting 25 years, she has always wanted a dog).

I feel a bit bad, because we have been round a few rescue centres, but I have already decided to sponsor a few rescue dogs to appease my guilt. I just couldn't deny my girlfriend the experience of a puppy and the family it comes from are good friends, it just made sense for us.

I'm working my ass off for Pokernews at the moment, I seem to interview two players a day at the moment. I interviewed the Devilfish, Roy Brindley, Sunny Chattha, Kevin O'Leary and (by stark contrast but lots of fun) Norman Pace. In particular I enjoyed the Brindley interview, largely because his book is amazing but also because he gave a really good interview and was a really nice guy.

I also have helped set up two very good value freeroll into the Sky Poker UK Tour Grand Final for Sky Poker and Pokernews. The SPUKT main event is £220 at Dusk Till Dawn and is a very good value, £25k guaranteed event and the Pokernews freerolls will likely have a very small player pool in them. My mate Nick Wright played in a Pokernews freeroll and there was only 5 players in it, and he won a trip to the Pokernews Cup in Australia for next to nothing. You only have to rake about £10 to be eligible and Sky Poker is a very very very soft site. Yes this is pure spam, but I get nothing for it but I really want it to be a success because its the first time I have tried to set up a promotion for Pokernews, I think this happens to be a pretty good one.

You have to set up a new account via the links above, if anyone has any questions drop me a line.

And Now for a bit of Name Dropping

Things are getting really hectic, in the good way, at the moment. Pokernews is taking up a lot of my time and on top of that, we are moving this week to our new home (Which will be the home of our new dog when he get it). I hate moving so much but we are doing it gradually which has taken the sting out of it, hopefully we will be able to get the internet up and running within a few days as its obviously my livelihood.

The writing side of things is going really well and I have been quite honoured to have been picked to follow Patrik Antonius for the duration of his durrrr challenge and interview him once a week for the next 3-6 months. I'm not the biggest fan of interviewing people but to be so close to what will probably be remembered as the biggest story of the year for online poker is a real honour and I'm so pleased to be a part of it. I spoke to him today for the first time and he seems like a nice guy, so now I am routing for him in the challenge (Don't really want to ring him up on the wrong end of a million dollar downswing.

Speaking of the multi-millionaire Scandie poker legends, I've also been speaking with Gus Hansen and Theo Jorgensen this week on the eve of their boxing match this weekend. I am an absolute boxing nut, so this really caught my eye, especially as I am hopefully going to be writing this prop bet book this year. Having seen many a amateur boxing match between two untrained fighters, this certainly wont be a classic, but both men are in good shape and taking it serious, so it will be very interesting at least.

In a sadder moment, when I was talking to Gus today he mentioned Patrik Antonius and I shamelessly said "Oh yeah, I was talking to Patrik earlier" like I knew him. What a sad twat I am, namedropping to someone I spoke to his friend.

Finally I have some really exciting news, or at least news I find exciting, which I currently have to keep under wraps until next month. So really I didn't need to write this paragraph at all, but keep an eye out for this blog in March when I shall reveal all.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I had it coming; I have nobody to blame but myself.

Feeling smug, I changed my profile status on facebook on Monday to read something along the lines of Barry doesn’t care about the snow because he works from home , I felt at the time that I might have tempted fate somewhere. It appears that it stopped me from playing the European Deepstack Poker Championships today.

I organised my taxi to take me to the train station yesterday on Wednesday night, the woman on the phone advised I book it an hour before my train was set to set off, so I booked it for 8.15am, feeling content that I would invariably get there way too early and be bored, but secure that I was getting there no problem. So naturally I was a bit worried when my taxi driver eventually turned up at 9.00am.

Somehow he got to the station for 9.18am and I had just missed the train, amazing I got there at all because he couldn’t appear to drive at all, so in the snow I guess I am lucky I am still alive at all. The next train wasn’t till 10.11am and my flight was at 12.15pm. This was not good, I am very anally retentive in this department and I am never late for anything, in fact I am usually painfully early for things as important as a plane. I had to buy another train ticket for about £20 too.

The train arrived in Manchester Airport at 11.25 and I would love to say I sprinted, but my suitcase was way too heavy and instead adopted a quick, camp, waddle to the Aer Lingus desk, where I discovered the check in desk shut at 11.30, it was 11.31 and I was told I wasn’t getting my flight. I’d love to say I shouted at the woman, used my most manly voice to put her in her place, but instead I begged like a hungry dog until she reopened the desk.

I had to shell out £15 to get my luggage fasttracked on the plane but now I had another problem, the printer for the boarding pass suddenly stopped working. The woman had to keep changing the computer she was using and get about three of her colleagues to try and rectify the problem, all the time muttering to herself “he is going to miss this flight”. Thankfully we overheard the plane was delayed and she managed to manually produce me a boarding pass and the sprint (Sorry, camp waddle) was back on.

I haven’t been in Manchester Airport for a while and they have completely changed the way Terminal 1 is organised, so I got a bit lost but made it just in time to see the departure lounge to see the flight was still delayed “Thank god” I thought, feeling victorious I made it and relieved I can go and relax, get a coffee and calm down.

Two hours later, they announced the flight was cancelled.

They gathered us into a departure lounge (When I say us, I am also including those two twins that were on Big Brother a few years ago, I always see (vaguely) famous people at Manchester Airport, I saw Tyrone from Coronation Street, Keith Duffy from Boyzone and the thin bloke from Gavin and Stacy) and told us that Dublin Airport was closed and we had to go back into the main part of the Airport.
Everybody started smiling, joking and generally taking the news in good British and irish spirit, all of us acknowledging nothing could be done with good gentle gallows humour.

Step forward a big, fat, ginger, curly haired, bearded, chav, scouser who interrupted saying “sorry, I missed the start, what are we talking about?”

“Well sir, the flight has been cancelled....”

“Cancelled???? I need to get to Dublin, and I need to get there NOW!” he screamed louder than anyone has screamed on the show ‘Airport’

“There are some later flights, but its first come first served....”

“I’m first, I’m FUCKING FIRST”

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhh” came the assembled noise of about 20 senior citizens, as he stormed off effing and jeffing, punching the air and hurling abuse at anyone who would look at him.

I detest people like this, people who throw the dummy out, disrupt everyone elses journey and expect a customer services rep to be able to solve a weather problem hundreds of miles away. People like this are what’s wrong with the world, those that cannot see the world beyond their own nose.

So with that, it was back to the Aer Lingus desk to book in for the 10.20pm flight (It was about 2pm at this point). We all managed to get on the next flight and I was left wondering what to do for the next 8 hours. (Walking about aimlessly it would appear to be the crux of it)

During one of my many wanders around, I checked my emails on my phone to find out one of the many poker media outlets I write for might be no more. I can’t say anything more about that at the moment (It’s not a particularly big one) but it was great to hear about a nice little loss in revenue during my limbo period inside Manchester Airport.

Eventually I went and got something to eat, then found a nice hotel bar, plonked my stuff down, wired my laptop up, shelled out an obscene amount for the internet usage and started getting drunk and surfing the net. I was actually starting to relax a little, discovered that ice on the runway had temporarily closed Dublin airport, and started looking forward to the competition.

Until about 6pm when I found out that Dublin Airport was closed for the rest of the day and my flight was, once again, cancelled. I went back to the Aer Lingus desk (Say it aint so Are Lingus) and found out that I probably couldn’t get another flight till late afternoon the next day, so alas, I resigned to giving up.

I had to buy another train ticket, because the return I bought was for Monday, and I reckon I wasted about £100 on nothing yesterday, not to mention whatever I get charged for cancelling my Dublin hotel. It looks like Winamax should be able to refund me the €1600 entry fee, or exchange it for the shorthanded festival later this year, which is fine by me. It was very depressing arriving back home last night, but I would have loved to have seen the big, fat, beared, curly haired, ginger, chav, scouser when he arrived back at the Airport at 10pm last night, almost makes it all worth it.

That there Credit Crunch Thingy/Save our Snoopy

This whole credit crunch stuff is starting to become a bit of a worry. Not so much the impact on poker itself, I think it’s fair to say that a recession has not found its way to the tables yet and the numbers are booming at both the live and online felt, but in the poker media side of things. Future Publishing, the company that produced WPT Poker Magazine lost the contract with WPT and decided not to make another poker mag under a new name. This was sad for me, mainly from a sentimental point of view, because its the first place that printed one of my articles and everyone whom I have worked with there have always been great to me. WPT Poker is now with a new publisher, and reuniting me with my old mucker Jon Young, so it’s no actual loss to me as a writer.

Gala appear to have ditched they GCBPT tour and blamed the recession, which I don’t believe for one second. Every event and side event sold out and you only have to look at the numbers for GUKPT side events and the DTD £300er to know that there is a real demand for a £500 comp. I think that they must have made mistakes elsewhere (Their online cardroom for example, I was never really aware of any online sats and I think they missed a trick by not promoting them more) and I hope someone comes along and plugs that gap in the market soon.

Then my favourite forum and the place that, for me, is the single most community based forum reflective of the UK poker scene, BlondePoker, are having to size down their operation and cut their live updates/live update staff. It was a lot of things all at once, their business model wasn’t the best, the recession aint helped and they also got royally shafted by Poker Trillion for money they will never get back now that Trillion has closed.

If you are looking at live poker updates, I’d say that Pokernews is by far and wide the most accurate, slick and professional updates you can see, but if you want a bit of fun and community, the Blonde updates are head and shoulders the best. They have some of the funniest writers who know all the players and the community input is fantastic, It would be a shame to see them go. You can help Blonde out by obviously playing on their iPoker card room or by clicking on the RakeTheRake link above the next time you want to get a good rakeback deal. The commission money goes to Blonde, not me.

Perhaps most saddening of all, for me personally because they are mates, is they have had to let go of Adam ‘Snoopy’ Goulding and Chris ‘NoFlopsHomer’ Hall (It didnt stop me from adding the worst picture of Floppy I could find though lol). In particular, Snoopy has put every last breath into Blonde and is losing a significant portion of his income as a result. As soon as I found out I emailed him with some magazine/websitey/freelancey advice and some contacts, because I think poker needs Snoopy more than he needs poker, he is one of the funniest and most enthusiastic writers out there, much more than I could ever hope to be, and it would be a travesty if he had to get a real job.

In other news, I still have the 500+ Winamax t-shirts clogging up my house and nobody seems to want to take them back, I actually received another one in the post yesterday so it looks like my place is a refuge for stray Winamax t-shirts.

The book is coming on ok, I actually started the introduction, I’m a full 4000 words in, dunno if that is good or bad, no idea how long a book should actually be.

Played a home game with the lads (My non poker mates) last night, it’s been a long time since I played with them and very surprised with how much better a few of them had become. We also had burn cards for the first time, which was a nice surprise. There was 10 of us and I came 2nd for 60 quid, ship it, holla, balla!

Finally, check out this video of people that run good, my favourite is the bank robbers:
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