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.
Copyright © Barry Carter Poker