2010 In Review

Anyone who reads this blog or knows me will probably understand that I cannot wait to get shut of 2010 as soon as humanly possible. My Dad passed away just two months ago and, with it being so close to Xmas, there has been a huge sense of ‘just get Christmas out of the way’ amongst the family.

I won’t spend too long musing over what it’s like to lose a parent, because almost all of us are going to go through it twice in our lives, but rest assured its awful. Even though I was bigger than him, fitter than him and probably earned more money than him, still at the age of 31 I always felt ‘looked after’ or protected by Dad. Now that’s gone you all of a sudden do feel thrust into adulthood and on your own. I guess the one positive that has come from it all as it has made me reevaluate certain things in life and been a very maturing, character building experience – I’m trying to be a bit more like the great friend and provider Dad was every day.

Meeting Jared Tendler & Dusty Schmidt in person, finally

But I cannot honestly say that 2010 was a totally horrendous year, far from it, in fact it was shaping up to be one of the best years ever until 2 months ago. Work has gone really well, PokerNews is going from strength to strength and I predict big things for the company in 2011. The book is also (nearly) finished and how that is received in 2011 is something I am really looking forward to.

Poker playing itself went well and interesting. It was a nice winning year, but I probably played 20% or less of the volume than the previous year. This all goes back to my last blog post where I detail that working with performance coach Jared Tendler has actually freed me from needing to play poker every day, so I only play for fun now. Live Poker went particularly well, I only think I played 8 live tournaments in 2010 and managed to turn that into 4 final tables (Two IPO side events, the British Masters Poker Tour Leeds and a UKIPT side event), the highest finish being a 3rd place. I’d be a fool to claim I didn’t run perhaps quite a bit above expectation, but I think the fact I only play rarely for fun now has made me pretty fearless at the tables when I do.

British Masters Leeds Final Table, it was on telly, well web telly

Me with the Online Player of the Year award at the European Poker Awards, I didn't win it, I introduced it to the awards

I got the opportunity to do some really interesting things and travel some great places in 2010. I was a judge at the European Poker Awards in Paris which was one of my career highlights so far, especially getting to look like a big shot in front of the Missus in Paris on Valentines weekend. In London I worked with the guys at Matchroom Sport on the PartyPoker Big Game V show and at the same time finally met Jared in person, which was awesome, especially after he got stuck here an extra week due to Volcanic ash. I also got a rare chance to interview a Heavyweight title contender and the fight in Manchester……shame it turned out to be Audley Harrison and the worst fight in British Boxing history (I still have to admit he was a really nice guy though). I had a fun a profitable time in Ireland for the IPO, I got to meet the PokerNews crew in Lithuania and best of all discovered Portoroz in Slovenia.

Portorose in Slovenia with the missus and chums

The latter was so special that I proposed to Gina, my girlfriend, there and she said yes. In fact that was probably the best day of my life, so I guess looking back 2010 was the year I had the best and worst day of my life – in that respect it was probably a big chapter in the film or book of my life if nothing else.

So was it really my worst year ever?

Yes. My Dad was a bloody fantastic guy and the world is a much worse place now he is no longer in it. Getting past the New Year’s Eve countdown and reigning in 2011 is not going to all of a sudden make everything better, but I cannot wait to get it done nonetheless. Thankfully there were plenty of positives in 2010 and plenty to look forward to in 2011, so it’s not all doom and gloom but hurry up 2010, you can finish now.

My Dad and my Dog, the two best blokes in the world

Book Nearly Done, Glad I'm Not a Pro Player, Merry Xmas

Well The Mental Game of Poker is nearly done, we are having a ‘cram week’ the first week of January to tie up the loose ends. Its took slightly longer than the original plan of April this year to finish it off, but in fairness Jared and I both maintained full time jobs instead of lightening the load for a short while, so in the respect and given that it’s a pretty involved book, it’s probably a success timing wise.

Spending 12 months essentially shadowing a sports psychologist who works with poker players has been amazing. I think most players would jump at the chance to do this, I certainly did, because the positive impact on one’s game was a shoe in. It was for me, Jared has cured me of several crippling poker leaks for which I am very grateful. But the biggest thing he has done for me was a huge surprise, he has freed me from poker.

I was the sort of player who couldn’t put poker down, I had to play most days, not for mega sick sessions, an hour a day was fine, but I had to play. Right now I have played one serious session in about 4 months and I couldn’t be happier about it. Poker will be there tomorrow and working with Jared has helped me go off in different directions. I think it’s helped my job at PokerNews which I am really loving right now and I am also reading a shit load.

Thankfully I still love the game, the industry and the people. I haven’t completely fell out of love with poker, merely having a hiatus from playing. The one thing this whole experience has opened my eyes to is how much I would hate to be a professional poker player now, the games are so much tougher and I fear for a lot of guys the wrong end of 30 who might have nowhere good to turn if poker went south for them.

The one thing I think ALL pro poker players should actively have is other interests and other ways to make money. The game is so vulnerable in a regulatory sense and a good player can become a bad player so quickly if they don’t work on their game, the game could leave a lot of people in the wilderness. Thankfully poker does open lots of doors and most of the people who make a crust from it are usually very intelligent.

Anyway, enough doom and gloom. I am off to the annual Christmas Eve jolly with the lads, I am not looking forward to Christmas Day at all as anyone who follows the blog will understand this year, but the Christmas Eve Bomber is always my favourite part of the festive period.

Grief & Audley

I was dreading the funeral, as it got closer I would have done anything to magically have woken up the day after, but now it’s happened it was actually a kind of nice day. Obviously it was a tough day, not something I plan on going through again, but it was also a great celebration of his life.

The funeral was pretty much a full house, as was our home afterwards. This made a difference, it was nice that so many people were there because of my Dad, rather than necessarily showing their support to us, because it affirmed to me what I’ve always thought of the guy, which is that he was just a really nice fun bloke to be around who will be sorely missed. Not only did a lot of his friends turn up, a lot of mine did too, again not because they were showing their support to me (which was nice) but because my Dad really was just one of the guys when my friends were around and everyone loved the youth club that was the Carter family home when I was a teenager.

It’s probably premature to spout advice about dealing with grief given I’m less than three weeks into it myself, but I think I am handling things well and this is what I’ve learnt about it so far:

Talk about them – I know people who think the best thing to do is avoid the subject but talking about Dad regularly, good things and bad, has really helped me get my head round whats been going on. It feels like you are keeping the memory more alive.

Go through every stage of the grieving process – I actually thought I would try and avoid things like seeing his body, arranging the funeral etc, but again doing these things have helped, they’ve been unpleasant, but they have helped me come to terms with things.

Do – I’ve been working, which has been a great distraction. I’ve been doing my best to sort out his estate and run errands for mum, which has helped me feel like I am being useful. I went out on Saturday and I’ve been going to the gym. It doesn’t numb the pain completely, but it does get you out of the limbo of sitting around doing nothing.

A long way to go yet, perhaps the worst is yet to come, but the whole thing has made me realise how lucky I am to have what I still have in life – great job, great fiancée, great family, great friends, great dog.

On to cheerier stuff and I went to Haye vs Harrison over the weekend and what a joke that was. I did actually enjoy myself because I was with some good mates and we had a laugh, in fact we had a real laugh on the way back at just how bad it was and the chants of 'Your shit and you know you are' will always make me giggle.

It was such a shame because the atmosphere in the MEN was amazing. The crowd were going nuts when Frank Bruno & Lennox Lewis got in the ring together and it really felt like a special night was brewing.

Then Audley came out to a weak ass Phil Collins tune and I knew the writing was on the wall. Don’t get me wrong, I never expected a great fight, I was going for a laugh with my mates more than anything, but it was even worse than I could have feared. I’ve actually seen a pretty interesting video which suggests the fight may have been a fix, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Booing Audley in real life was so much fun, Dad would have been proud. I can only imagine the chat for his table on Full Tilt will be gold. 

Things at PokerNews are going great and I am getting involved in some pretty exciting stuff right now, more of that to follow I guess. 

Finally this made me lol 


Well I was kinda hoping the next blog I wrote would be a quick chirp about making two final tables at the IPO in Dublin or the really fun time I had with the PokerNews team in Lithuania last week. Unfortunately real life has got in the way.

My dear old Dad, Brian, died suddenly over the weekend. He was 72 years old but you would never have thought it, he was one of the youngest healthiest guys we have ever met. He’d only been to the doctors once in his life and when we was in the Army never had a sick day. So it was a huge shock to us all when he just died in his chair on Saturday night (Reportedly his last words were slagging off Wagner on X-Factor which I am sure he would have seen the funny side of).

I’m 31 so Dad was a little bit of an ‘older dad’ than the other kids in my class, he was 40 when I was born, so in the last few years I had been a tiny bit anxious about him getting older, not that he gave me any real reason to. My worst fear in life was him dying and I had played it out in my head, I must say it was pretty much exactly how I expected it. I was at a party when Mum rang me and rather than getting upset I just was full of adrenaline and had to get out of there, get to Mum, tell my sister and just generally ‘do’ stuff.

It didn’t hit me until the next day, when my truly amazing Fiancée Gina who had raced all the way from a party in Norfolk to be with me, took me out for a coffee and it just hit me like a ton of bricks.

Dad always said to me that his ideal way to go out would be to be hit by a truck, an instant death he would not even know about, that’s what he got. He didn’t suffer any indignity which I know he would have hated and it is a real comfort to me, because I have seen what it’s like for people who have long painful deaths and it is not pretty.

The messages of support have really helped and in particular, seeing how popular he was and listening to funny stories about him really help. I know 5 or 6 people who considered him like a second father to them and also, ALL of my friends are devastated because he really was one of the lads with all my mates, he really was young at heart, he was the Dad that all my friends could be themselves around and tell rude jokes to.

He was a really welcoming host and would often ‘haze’ my mates who made the mistake of falling asleep when we would stay up late for boxing matches by putting salt in their mouth and watching them wake up grimacing. Watching my Dad put salt in the mouth of my friend Hobson was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, because unlike everyone else he did it too, Hobson didn’t wake up and just gurned in his sleep for the next hour.  

I’m really going to miss him whenever there is a funny show on TV, a good boxing match has been announced, something funny happens with my dog or when something goes wrong with my car. Those are all moments where I always instantly reach for my mobile phone to have a natter with him. Dad was a funny, laid back bloke who liked a laugh, liked his boxing, loved his cars, loved dogs (Often we think much more than people) and loved his family. He always made sure we wanted for nothing, taught me not to worry about the big things in life and also how to appreciate the small things in life.

As devastated as I am, it’s really nice to talk about him, write about him and laugh at all the funny things he did. He has already passed on his love of dogs, sense of humour and (force fed me) his love of boxing – if I can emulate him in any other way beyond that then I will be a very happy man. 

Audley Harrison Interview

As someone who has grown up watching boxing , I jumped at the chance a couple of years ago to interview Gus Hansen & Theo Jorgensen for their boxing prop bet – I figured that’s as far as I would get in boxing journalism (And it was a godawful joke of a fight). Thankfully poker has that universal appeal that brings people from all walks of life together and it would afford me the chance to go one better – to actually interview a proper boxer ahead of one of the biggest world title fights this country has ever seen.

If you would have told me 6 months ago that this opportunity would come via Audley Harrison, I would have laughed at you. Partially because the idea of him fighting for a legitimate world title would have shocked me as that is not the way his career seemed to be heading, but also because I’ve never been his biggest fan. My generation of boxers who got me into the sport include Benn, Collins, Eubank, Tyson, Lewis, Holyfield, Barrera, Morales, De La Hoya, Jones, Bruno then later Calzaghe and Hatton – and my all time favourite when he was at his peak Prince Naseem. With the exception of his last couple of fights, Harrison has been dull to watch and doesn’t even come close to these guys in terms of excitement.

But he does interest me as a poker player, he has had two massive scores in Vegas and kept it quiet – that takes a lot for a celebrity poker player. This month I got a press release saying that Lock Stock star (Is it still fair to call him that? It was nearly 15 years ago) Nick Moran nearly made day 2 of the Ladbrokes Irish Festival. If failing to survive the first third of a tournament is headline worthy then for Audley to have kept this quiet must have been a miracle.

Of course he isn’t keeping it quiet anymore and striking while the iron is at its hottest, just before the biggest fight of his life and one of the biggest in British boxing for a while (I wish we could have had Hatton vs Khan a year or so ago, that would have been much better). I must say, he was a really nice guy and he also knew a lot about poker – much more than 99% of celebrity poker players.

But as you can imagine, never having been the most popular boxers in the UK, this has been met with a bit of bemusement from the poker forums – as it probably would have been from me had I not interviewed him personally. Lots of people do not seem to see the connect, it amazes me how shrewd poker players can be and how willing they are to exploit a fool with money at the tables – yet they are outraged when a celebrity gets the nod over a pro, they don’t see the value and say its unfair – when has poker, business or life ever been fair?

Poker sponsorship is all about bringing new blood to the tables, and for me there are only a handful of pro players that do that. Its only players like Ivey, Daniel, Hellmuth, Doyle, Tony G, Liv Boeree, Gus etc that can bring that sort of value to a poker room – they bring something else, a character, a hook, a gimmick, a WWE persona. This is why players from regions where poker is less popular also have value, because they are famous, relatively, in their own country, compared to places like the UK where they have hundreds of rivals. It amazes me that so many players who are ‘just good’ at poker and are decent ambassadors get deals at all.  

Take someone like Jake Cody, he is a really nice guy, great ambassador for the game and obviously tremendously good at poker – but how many players is he going to get playing on a poker room? I hate to say it but if I was starting a poker room I would much sooner have Anne Widdicombe represent my online room right now than Jake Cody, and that is a horrible truth to admit.

Whether they love him, or hate him, whether he wins or loses, Audley Harrison is going to get a lot more people checking out Full Tilt Poker than a half the Red Pros combined. I really think that PokerStars are going to offer Haye bags of cash to wear their logo on the night in retaliation.

Oh well, enough of all that, I’m off to Dublin this weekend for the IPO. It was a cracking event last year so more of the same this time round hopefully. 

Portorose, Slovenia - Future Poker Mecca imo

So I went on holiday the other week, my old mucker Mike Lacey told me about Portorose in Slovenia and said it was ‘Monte Carlo’ without the price tag and a great place to take the missus. He has been running some events over there and fell in love with the place, and now we have too. I’d never heard of it before last month, but its now my favourite place in Europe and we are already planning the next one.

It’s an easy thing to say in hindsight, but as soon as we arrived in Portorose I knew I loved the place. The weather was great, the views were amazing and perhaps most of all it felt very safe. I always feel a little vulnerable whenever I go to a new (non English speaking) country but not here. Usually within the first hour I have seen either a potential mugger or a drunk Brit pissing in the street, but there were none to be seen. With a population of only 4000 crime is nearly non existent in this tourist town which is one of the more hospitable places I’ve been to.

We landed at Trieste in Italy but it’s a 30 minute drive into Slovenia from there. Portorose is 5 minutes away from Croatia and an hour away from Venice. But we didn’t go very far because the small town we were staying in was lovely. Slovenians are like very relaxed Italians and everything was done at a ridiculously slow pace all week.

Poker players really get looked after as well, during off peak times in Portorose the casino is responsible for the majority of the tourism and as a result, gamblers are held in high regard. Poker players get a brilliant rate on most of the main hotels (including one of the only 6 star hotels in the world), if we needed a ride somewhere we could just get the casino shuttle car to take us there and we were sent to some of the best resteraunts where we were really well looked after. Aleksander, the casino host, came with us for one meal and the whole resteraunt seemed to stop to accommodate us because we were with him – it was like a scene from GoodFellas (the fancy resteraunt part, not the stabbing people with pens parts).  

Just about every view put in front of us would be one I would categorise as a ‘good place to propose’ – so much so that I put it to the test. We had had such a lovely time and it really was so peaceful and romantic that I asked my long time girlfriend Gina if she would marry me at the top of a medieval wall in the small town of Piran (Nicknamed ‘Little Venice’ because it inspired the architecture you now see in the Italian City) – obviously she said yes otherwise this wouldn’t be going in the blog.

I have been very lucky that poker has taken me all over the world to some exciting places, but unfortunately rarely somewhere I could take Gina. Not because she wouldn’t enjoy the place itself, but because she would be bored out of her mind while I spent 16 hour days inside the casino for the entire trip. This is not the case with Portorose, quite the opposite; I would say it is perhaps the best destination in Europe to bring your girlfriend while you play poker, safe in the knowledge that it’s relaxing, classy, warm, safe and beautiful (And not financially crippling) so your partner can enjoy herself while you are away. Gina is already begging me to play in the future festivals being run there and for the first time I will be very comfortable buggering off for an entire weekend in the casino and leaving her to her own devices.

I haven’t even got to the best bit yet – Italians! Slovenia is a popular tourist destination with Italians and every time a major festival is on in the Casino Portorose the Italians outnumber the locals 20-1. I’d probably go anywhere to play if Italians were there (Or French) and until recently this was the only place where Italians could go for live poker.

As you can see, I am a bit of a convert. What I thought would be a one off trip has led to me getting engaged and we are already planning our next excursion early next year (And possibly even having the wedding there). Nobody is paying me to say these nice things, I just really think I have stumbled upon one of the next big things in poker and I want to get in on it from the ground floor.

It took me more than five years but I have finally found a way of mixing my personal life and poker life in perfect harmony and all it cost me was my freedom.

Getting back home sucked major ass though, especially as it dawned on me I had to shell out on an engagement ring plus it’s the busiest time of the UK poker year in London. I for one think there has been one or two too many things going on in London this year, it’s been overwhelming. I wish the WPT would have been a different time of year because unfortunately I think it’s been lost a bit amongst all the other stuff.

The WSOPE is always great though and I headed down to see some of the PokerNews crew and generally get in the way of everyone working while I enjoyed myself. I think the coverage has been superb and the Live Updates second to none. I can’t actually wait for it to be over because since we moved I have been rushed off my feet and I really really want a couple of months where nothing happens.

Probably shouldn’t have proposed if that’s what I wanted though. 

Audley Harrison & Stalked By BT

It’s amazing how naked one feels when you have some recent technological innovation you didn’t even use two years ago taken away from you. I moved house two weeks ago (Very nice new place, very expensive move) and amongst a catalogue of errors from furniture suppliers I also went two weeks without internet, due to a string of errors from BT.

I had a pre paid dongle which kept me going, but I had the shakes throughout because I missed….YouTube, Twitter and TheOnion. Oh, and it was stopping me working too, but mainly TheOnion.

The funniest thing about the whole affair was that once it was fixed, I log onto twitter to find that BT have found me and tweeted me to see how it went. What a unique rubdown, they don’t seem to have a decent infrastructure for resolving customer problems but they do have budget to stalk their customers on twitter.

The dog is now fine and allowed off the lead since his op, back to his normal self minus two huge swingy sacks.

This month, as soon as I hang up my journo gloves, I got a rare poker & boxing scoop in one which forced me back into the game for one more time. Eddie Hearn contacted me to say he only wanted to tell the story of how the WSOP helped create the potential Audley Harrison vs David Haye title fight and he was giving it to me because we have had some really good chats about boxing in the last year.

I must say, Audleys poker story has really conflicted me. Because I really admire the fact that he has bagged two big live MTT results but purposely stayed under the radar about it, when 99% of celebrities would shout from the rooftops and sign a deal with PokerStars for getting a min cash on the Sky Poker Tour.

However there is the other side of me who has thoroughly enjoyed booing him for the last 10 years. He has been the dullest fighter to watch I have ever seen and I am always routing for the other guy, until now, part of me wants to cheer him on because he plays poker. I also tend to go for the underdog too. The one thing I will say is that pre interview with Eddie, I still wanted to see the fight happen, it’s a decent clash of styles and a potentially big fight from a fight/British public point of view.

Anyway, welcome back the Onion

Fat Kid Successfully Avoids Ridicule By Swimming With Shirt On

The Mutts Nutts

Although I loved my time as a full time poker journalist, one thing I was looking forward to by taking this marketing role would be that I would no longer have to interview 20 year olds who have been playing for a year and managed to turn a microstakes bankroll into millions.

So one of my first assignments is going to be to interview a 20 year old who have been playing for a few years and managed to turn a microstakes bankroll into millions.

I mentioned that poker journalism and marketing are closely intertwined and this is a good example of it. One of the best ways of marketing something is to create something people would want to read anyway, which is why I have opted to do a series of interviews with successful online players that also promote some of our brands. So coming up over the next few weeks will be a series of interviews which include people like Dusty Schmidt, Bodo Sbrznesy and hopefully man of the moment URNOTINDANGER2.

Also coming up next week you can see my first crack at viral marketing, sort of. I produced a short video of me signing up to one of PokerNews’ biggest promotions, which is one where you can get a $50 bonus on PartyPoker without having to deposit. People are naturally suspicious when you are offered free money for nothing, which is why I produced the video to show it was legit. CardRunners quality it aint, and you will see me stutter, errrr, mumble, extended pause and whoops my way through the whole thing. That’s kind of the point though, idiots guide in every aspect.

Elsewhere unfortunately I had to take Charlie in to get the snip yesterday. He is such a gentle dog I didn’t want to do it ever, but the few times he has seen a dog in season he has gone nuts. This week we met a stray dog in season and he chased her out of the park and over a mile away onto a main road, running in front of several cars along the way and narrowly missing being hit. I know because I ran the whole way and was quite impressed with how I kept up with him, though I looked a horrific red faced sweaty site as I did, screaming ‘stop that dog’ all the way.

He rarely even goes more than 40 yards away from me no matter how much fun is having on our walks, so for him to run away like that and put himself in harm’s way was a real eye opener. He seems OK post-op, very whiney but up to his usual silly antics.

This is him btw:

Finally we move house (again, sigh) this weekend to a nice new bigger place, which once again is one road away from the last place. I have lived in 4 places in the last 5 years and all of them have been in the same postcode and all of them one road away from the last. At least if the dog does another runner we have a first place to look for him while he searches for his balls.

This week I am loving the Onion btw:

Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere

I'm a Marketing Tosser Now

Big changes afoot, well, big for me, to an outsider looking in I would wager it doesn’t look like a single thing has changed. I have had a big career shift away from the murky world of poker journalism and into the murky world of poker….marketing.

Huge difference right?

Not really, well, kind of. Poker media is so heavily reliant on advertising from online poker sites I would say that the journalism and the marketing sides of things are very closely intertwined. If you don't believe me, you try and write something critical of an online poker room/sponsored pro for a publication with an advertising deal with the same room. Anyway that’s a discussion for another day really.

I have been wanting to get into marketing for a while now, I always thought I could do a good job of it and in fairness I have been doing it for a while and just not getting paid for it. The last two years I have helped so many people promote their brands as ‘favours for mates’ and I often get people asking me for advice on things like advertising/sponsorship/getting editorial in magazines etc. When I say ‘mates’ I don’t just mean people down the pub I actually mean sponsored players, online poker rooms, live card rooms, TV companies and publishers (Who are also mates who happen to have those jobs).

My main role will be for the entire PokerNews network and will be primarily coming up with new ways of pushing their exclusive promos. This is not difficult, in that we have bigger and better promos than anyone else (See, I’m doing it already). Ironically the first thing I do after casting off a career as a writer is a shit load of writing. I would never stop writing altogether, I love it, but from now on anything non marketing-y I write will be out of pure enjoyment. Hopefully It will mean I update this blog more often now I won’t feel as knackered from writing 4000 words a day. 

The great thing about this opportunity is I will learn so much from such a big company like PokerNews, which is great for the book I am writing with Jared Tendler (Yep, that’s still happening, nearly done, I promise). Always very nice to have more than one thing going on at a time.

As for my baby, the UK Pokernews site, not sure what the plan is. I love it very much and it certainly won’t disappear, I am still updating it at the moment but that won’t be forever, your guess is as good as mine but it will continue without me.

Some other stuff I will be getting up to will be playing freerolls. No I’m not busto, it’s just that as part of my job will be to push our freerolls I want to understand them from a player perspective. I have already qualified for a 10k and a 5k freeroll on Winner Poker and it will be interesting to see how quickly I get bored. It’s sad, but I cant envisage enjoying playing that low.

Normally by now I would get excited about the footy season started tomorrow but unfortunately Wednesday have been relegated and the World Cup was so bad in every way, not just for England, that I kind of detest football players. No doubt the Owls will have a solid win tomorrow lulling me into a false sense of hope for the season.

De-constructing the Year of the Brits

Taken from UK Pokernews

In 2009 three UK Players won World Series of Poker Bracelets and one made the final table of the main event. At the time we considered it a massive success and coined it the ‘Year of the Brit’, suggesting that this feat was an isolated incident in the history of the WSOP. 12 months on and we are calling 2010 the ‘Year of the Brit’ too, because the success of our boys in Vegas this summer has almost overwritten what we achieved in 2009 as well as proving any doubters wrong that British success was any sort of one off.
This year UK players snagged an amazing five World Series of Poker Bracelets in Vegas. Praz Bansi won his second bracelet by taking down Event Number #5: $1,500 No Limit for $515,501. Popular Blondepoker shareholder James Dempsey took down Event Number # 9: $1500 Pot Limit Hold'em a few days later for $197,470 and high stakes star Richard Ashby won #21: $1,500 Seven Card Stud for $140,467. GUKPT Grand Final Champ Mike Ellis made it four winning Event #30: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em for $581,851 and prolific tournament pro Steve Jelinek finished things off winning Event #41: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or Better for $245,871.
Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
On top of the bracelets there were a stream of final table appearances and deep finishes. Richard Ashby and James Dempsey both followed up their bracelet wins with 2nd place finishes, Neil Channing, Michael Greco, Paul Kerr, Kevin Howe, the Devilfish, Julian Gardner and Paul Foltyn all made finals, Stuart Rutter managed two final tables and Sam Trickett boasted two final tables and four more cashes making him the biggest cash winner of the year with $693,387. Our best main event finisher was Redmond Lee who finished 21st for $317,161. In total there were five bracelets, three second places, 20 final tables, 275 cashes and $8,679,918 in winnings for UK players this year in Vegas (Including 13 scores worth over $100,000).
Not only was this the best year ever for the UK it was also the most successful bracelet haul ever seen by a non US nation, which unfortunately was matched by Canada almost as soon as it happened, but the honour still unlikely to be repeated any time soon. In fact the year of the Brit is by no means isolated to the WSOP, it’s been a great year thus far worldwide for UK players. Jake Cody took down EPT Deauville, James Mitchell won the Irish Open and Liv Boeree stunned the world winning EPT San Remo.

So what does one put this major achievement down to?


We may as well get this one out of the way. It would be unrealistic not to acknowledge the role variance may have played in bagging all those bracelets and final tables, because we sure as hell would be blaming it if it were the other way round. Yes the Brits could just have run hot but thankfully the structures are getting so deep these days that variance is arguably playing less of a part than a few years ago and we are seeing more and more ‘names’ taking down gold in the last few years.


The UK circuit is booming, but it is also in a way very small. Everybody knows each other, everybody has played against each other and outside of trying to take each others chips, there is a real culture of support in the UK. Poker is fundamentally a solitary game but there are so many communities in the UK scene that are nurturing and supporting UK talent.
Whether its forums like Blondepoker and the Hendon Mob, community tours like the Sky Poker Tour and APAT, staking sites like BadBeat and BlackBelt Poker or just likeminded bands of brothers like the Hit Squad and theShrewdies – poker players in the UK come together and help each other. It’s much easier to learn the game with likeminded friends and that was evident with the support shown for UK players on the rails and the forums this year in Vegas.

Well Structured UK Tournaments

A few years ago you would have to be a high roller to enjoy a deep structured event, with everything else falling into the £5 rebuy crapshoot category. These days events with well-structured 10,000 stack events are becoming the standard for a very low price. APAT, the Coral British Masters Poker Tour, theGrosvenor UK Poker Tour, the Pokerstars UK & Ireland Poker Tour and the Dusk Till Dawn Monthly £300 Deepstack all host regular championship style structured events for between £75 and £1,000, with a huge host of other one off events doing the same. All of which means that the Brits don’t show up to Vegas any more with no clue on how to handle a deep stack.

A Relaxed Stance on Gambling

People don’t really talk about this that much but you only have to look at other nations to see how valuable it is. In the UK we have a relaxed attitude towards gambling overall, we don’t have to pay tax on winnings, poker is advertised and broadcast on terrestrial television and the stigma associated with it is getting smaller all the time. Contrast this with just about every other country who either tax the game heavily, monopolise online poker or even try and ban the game altogether and you realise how lucky we are as players. It’s very easy and appealing to be a professional poker player in the UK, which has no doubt helped flourishing poker players make their mark on the world stage.

The Best Rails in Poker

It’s quite sad that most Americans think, and report accordingly, that any Britain who has had a drink and is cheering someone is a football hooligan. The American poker press did not know what to make of the rowdy rails in Vegas, completely bemused by the drinking, singing and chanting, but everyone back home loved hearing about them. The most notable rails had to be for James Dempsey who won one bracelet and came 2nd for another. Singing songs such as ‘Hes a Doctor’, ‘Pot Limits Coming Home’ and ‘Saammy Give Us a Wave’ (To Sam Farha) they also had a few railers thrown out.
Of course the question is, does that sort of support actually help a poker player? You can see how it would in an athletic pursuit where might give a sportsman an extra 5 minutes of energy, but in a game where concentration is key surely it would be a distraction? It’s hard to say, but either way, the rails were the icing on the cake for this fantastic year.
James Dempsey
James Dempsey
It was a real shame that this year, just like it was last year, hardly any of the mainstream British press caught onto this fantastic achievement by Brits abroad. Obviously the World Cup would get in the way of any other sporting news but after such a dismal performance by England in South Africa you would think that the media would be keen to latch onto any arena where the Brits are excelling. I’m not expecting the Sun or the BBC to all of a sudden show an interest, but maybe someone like Sky Sports who have always had their fingers in the poker pie, it would have been nice for some sort of acknowledgement on Sky Sports News or even just their website.
But the attention from the British poker media is only going to get bigger, with lots of expectation going into the World Series of Poker Europe, EPT London and WPT London in September. Expect the front covers of all the magazines to be adorned with the bracelet winners and no doubt all the big winners will be nominated for British Poker Awards later on this year. Now let’s see if we can bag a couple at the WSOPE and leapfrog Canada at the same time.

GUKPT Summer Series Final Table (Which was also the only table lol)

Generally speaking I am not a massive fan of deals or chops, usually if I am in the position to make a deal I'm pretty happy with what I have achieved already and what I would get for busting out next (Tournament poker really is a novelty for me more than anything). Last weekend I did miss out on a good deal, but what proceeded it reminded me why I don’t like doing them much.

It was the first big event at the G Casino in Sheffield, the £220 GUKPT Summer Series. I say big event, it should have been, but only 9 people turned up. Normally that would be an instant un-reg, but with a GUKPT Champion of Champions seat on offer in added value it actually made the event more enticing. A seat in one of the most prestigious UK tournaments of the year for no extra cost and all you need to do is win a sit and go.

So prior to the event starting 7 out of the 9 of us had agreed that we should take the prize money back, pay the £20 reg fees and play what would have been the best value £20 satellite to the Champions event. When you consider we got a free meal on top of the juice and this would have been an amazing coup.

Unfortunately two young lads didn’t want to deal, they came here to play and they seemed decent players, so as gutted as I was for missing out I had to respect their decision. It seemed that about 3 guys at the table had no respect for that decision and spent half the game berating them for refusing the deal.

I don’t know if its just a Sheffield thing, but this is why I hate local poker. There really seems to be a ridic culture of trying to sort a deal prematurely at Sheffield casinos. I have literally played in a tournament where two people busted and someone tried to arrange a saver, just about every local results listing I see involves a silly amount of savers and I remember once thinking I was going to get chased out of a venue for refusing a saver on the bubble.

I bust out pretty quickly, but for some reason rather than being disappointed I kind of felt good that I had sniffed out a good value game. Oh well, technically I made a GUKPT final table even if it was also the first and only table. 

Hopefully the upcoming Summer Series will be a low turn out (I am horrified to think such a thing because I love the GUKPT and I really should support poker in Sheffield, but I am also a bumhunter and like easy money).

Over at UK Pokernews we have had a makeover and its looking pretty snazzy if I don’t mind saying so. Lots of fancy cool boxes, video stuff and twittery stuff. I am also about to suggest a little prop bet with my CEO that I can get 1000 facebook fan members to our Facebook Page by the end of August, so join it if you haven't already. 

Blatch Scam and British Masters Final

What a crazy couple of weeks it has been poker wise, an upper followed by a real downer. 

British Masters Final Table
I really should chirp more about these things after having such a baron period in live poker last year, but I made my second live final table in a row last weekend. After the UKIPT side event I went to Leeds for the British Masters Poker Tour main event. It was a tale of two weekends, everything that happened to me on the table turned to gold and everything I did away from it turned to shit.

I have never driven to Leeds before but I know how bad it is in the City centre to drive around. This was proven to me when I arrived 1 hour early and Sat Nav telling me I was 3 minutes away. 1 hour later I had had enough of getting sent the wrong way for the final 3 minutes and decided to park my car and get a taxi the rest of the way (Turns out I pretty much drove past the place 6 times anyway). I also had to pay a taxi driver to let me follow him to my hotel at the end of the night, I was that tilted with the combination of the Leeds one way system and a suspect Sat Nav.

I didn’t sleep a wink at the hotel, I’m a bad sleeper at the best of times and the combination of 10 hours play and two hours watching England draw with the Yanks was enough to ensure I wouldn’t relax at all in the hotel. I was rough as a dog the next day and pretty ill (Reckon I ate something dodgy) but then I discovered the joys of Lucozade Alert Plus, a little concentrated burst of caffeine in a bottle. Wow, I have drunk redbull before and once took Pro Plus when I was doing exams, but this was the most effective energy drink I have ever had. Not only was I not tired anymore, I reckon I could have run home from Leeds. 7 hours it lasted, which was long enough for me to play and drive home. I probably wont have one again, I cant imagine they are good for you.

I also had toothache, my phone broke, I forgot to pack half the things I needed and a bunch of other FML moments throughout the weekend.

Onto the actual game and day 1 was a dream for me, I ran like god. I would love to say I played well but I think a trained monkey could have got to day 2 with the cards I had. I actually went card dead a bit towards the end of day 1 which meant I went back with an average stack, and then day 2 wasn’t much better, but I cant complain because I ran so well for the first day it would seem ungrateful. The final table didn’t go particularly well, it wasn’t a fishy final but for the most part it was very straightforward, you could raise and take it most of the time, unfortunately all the times someone seemed to have a reraising hand would be when I was at it.

7th for £1,380 was fine, but I really wanted to win it and for that matter, I just didn’t want to stop playing. The banter at the final and over the 2 days was great, we had all played each other quite a lot by the time the final rolled round and there were a lot of good natured in-jokes abound. The eventual winner, Ross Johnson, was a top bloke and we had played each other from the start of day 1 and got in some funny hands together. I think he probably deserved to win it too, he had a good solid aggressive game which I think was right for that level of competition.

I certainly will play a few more legs of the British Masters Poker Tour because the structure was very good and the atmosphere was just fun. I love the other tours and events we have but sometimes you find yourself stuck at tables full of dousches taking themselves too seriously, it was nice to be playing a tournament that was a lot more relaxed while still having something meaningful to win.

Christ, what do you say about this? If you haven't seen it already, check out the car crash that is the Neil Blatchly staking thread on Blondepoker. To summarise it briefly, a very well respected and well liked member of the Blonde forum that many of us know on the circuit has been conning a bunch of us for about a year, taking a total of between £120,000 off us in a sports trading staking scams.

It really reads like a stereotypical soap opera conman storyline, on reflection we all look really naïve for ever trusting him but believe me, he was very convincing on and off the forum. The guy we thought was a 'balla' is actually someone who was broke, close to bankrupt, claiming jobseekers allowance and stealing from us to fund his lifestyle. I wont even bother going any further on the facts than that because it is such a complicated, scary, sociopathic string of twists and lies I would never do it justice, deffo worth reading the thread if you ever have the time to cycle through over 140 pages.

I don’t expect to see my money back, more than anything I do not want to deal with him any more. I was very uneasy about writing the story up on Pokernews because it was quite close to home and also, if he is in fact someone with mental issues, I would hate for the publicity to send him over the top and he harm himself. However the eyes of all the online gambling world in the UK are on this and I couldn’t ignore it as a story, I actually think it would have been irresponsible not to  post the story as a warning to others and finally he does need to be exposed for this, unlike a lot of very angry people on the forums I don’t want to see him get his head kicked in, but he does need to be made an example of either in court and/or at least a shunning from the gambling community.

One thing that has probably come of this is I will probably never stake anyone again. I never really won a great deal staking but it’s a fun sweat while it lasts and you never know one day it might culminate in a big win. But after this I am not sure how I can ever trust a poker player fully again after this. Blatch was such a shock, he would have been in my list of least likely grimmers, so it has really damaged my view on this for a long time.

Edit: Daleroxxu sums up the story quite well in his excellent Blog here. 

Oh well, sod him. On to other things, the GUKPT is coming to Sheffield, twice, next month and I am pretty excited about that, although unlikely to put up a staking thread for it now :). 

Year of the Brits Part 2

Taken from my UK Pokernews Column

Reporting on, playing on and being friends with people on the UK circuit, I must say I am quite indifferent to people winning large sums of money. I’ve got friends who have won pretty big amounts in UK events and for the most part my biggest reaction is “Good, I can bag an easy interview then”. Occasionally I will be particularly pleased for an achievement by a player on the UK circuit and now and then I will be a bit jealous, but 99 times out of 100 its just business as usual for me.
Apart from when it’s the World Series of Poker.
It is probably the fact that I am about to explode with excitement that the World Cup starts this weekend that I am reminded of this fact, but I turn into a massive fan boy during the WSOP and am genuinely delighted for every bracelet, final table and even min cash UK players manage in Vegas. I’m not alone; there is something about the WSOP that makes every player in the UK genuinely excited by the success of other UK player, in a game where for the most part we are only ever really bothered by our own fortunes.

Poker is a very solitary game and no matter how happy you are for the players you like, you’d rather it was you. That changes when it’s the WSOP, it reminds me of supporting your local football team or your National team abroad – there is a really strong “It’s us against the World” feeling amongst UK players right now, or indeed “It’s us against the Yanks”, a victory for one is a victory for all of us. UK poker has been on a high since last year’s WSOP and British players have been taking down WSOPE, EPT, Irish Opens, Sunday Millions and more since.We could not have had two better players start the frenzy off than Praz Bansi and James Dempsey. Both very talented players and very popular figures in the UK. Praz for his previous success and HitSquad connections has been a real flag bearer for UK Poker. Dempsey has an iconic status on the popular Blondepoker forum and on the UK circuit. Every UK forum is going nuts, player’s facebook walls are getting hammered and every card room back home is talking about it. The rail at Dempsey’s final table resembled the banter we will see in every pub up and down the UK this Saturday for the England vs USA match and the excitement is reaching fever pitch in Vegas.
Will it continue? I am inclined to say yes. I think realistically matching 3 bracelets will be a fantastic result but there is no reason why we can’t beat it. The United Kingdom is a fantastic place to play and more importantly develop as a poker player, we have a lot going for us which is probably why we are doing so well out in Vegas.
We have some of the best poker communities around, whether it’s Blonde, theHendon Mob, AWorldofPoker, Sky Poker, BlackBelt Poker or APAT – all of which have a strong spirit of supporting and helping their players develop.
The UK is also somewhere where players can enjoy well structured, deep stack poker without breaking the bank. Dusk Till Dawn, APAT, the British Masters Poker Tour, the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour, the Pokerstars UK & Ireland Poker Tour, PKR Live, Black Belt Poker Live, the Sky Poker Tour Final and not to mention the plethora of affordable deep stack events over in Ireland. Just about every weekend players can locate a deep stack event in the UK for £1000 or less, which is probably why we are doing well in well structured events in Vegas right now.
There are loads of other things to mention of note, the fact the age limit is 18 not 21, the fact we don’t have to pay tax on winnings, the fact we have poker on TV every week (The Matchroom Shootout tournaments no doubt helped Neil Channing and Stuart Rutter go deep in the $5000 Shootout Event) and the fact that we have G Casinos, Gala Casinos and more in every moderately sized City. All of which has really helped encouraged people to play poker in the UK.
The more I think of it, how can we not bag another bracelet at the minimum by the time the main event comes around? We are behind the times in Stud events generally but keep an eye on all the Omaha Events and the $10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em because I think we will see some serious contenders in those fields, plus the $25,000 Six Max might be one to watch.
If I had to choose between railing a UK player at a big final table and watching England play a world cup match, England would get my vote and it isn’t even close. But other than that it’s a great time to be a railbird and I apologise to my missus in advance for how little she will see me this month as between World Cup matches I will be cheering on our boys and girls in Las Vegas while watching the Pokernews Live Updates.

Now let’s have another one please Lads.

Mini Final Table, Bookaments and WSOP Live Updates

I suck at updating this blog, particularly when I have something worthwhile to write.

Actually made a final table at Dusk Till Dawn in the UKIPT Bounty event on the Sunday, which I probably should have made more of as its been a long time since I played live and even longer since I made a final table. Came 4th in the end and shared a final with DTD owner Rob Yong, which was a pleasure. Even though he could wipe his arse with the first prize (He is a multi millionaire in case ya didn’t know) he was incredibly competitive, which is probably why he is so successful.

The book is nearing the end....I hope. This is probably why I haven’t been blogging lately, using up my daily word writing allowance on the book. I actually found myself in an interesting spot last month when I was interviewing Stuart Rutter for Pokernews. First of all, it was a fascinating interview because Stuart is a nice guy, a great player and speaks so enthusiastically about the game.

But after having spent 5 months working on a book about the psychology of poker, cowritten with the leading mental game coach in poker, I actually found myself probing Stu quite deeply about of his own mental game and doing my best Frasier impression in the process. I have learnt so much about the psychology of poker players in the last 4 months I just started probing in a way that I don’t think another journalist ever would. Asking the deeper reasons why he thinks its so important to win a tournament, how will he react if he doesn't win a bracelet this year and if he still wets the bed as an adult (Maybe not the last one) It’s not really relevant in the interview as I just stuck to writing up the usual GUKPT/WSOP gubbins, but whether Stu noticed it I don’t know because we went off on so many tangents including about 20 minutes on the mighty Owls and their League 1 prospects next season.

When I say poker psychology, just to reiterate I am not talking about how to put a player on tilt or give off false information. I’m talking about why we tilt, what motivates us, how to learn poker skill, how we handle variance, how to play in the zone consistently, how to increase the number of tables or hours you play, how to prepare before a session, how to warm down after a session etc. Jared’s material is so revolutionary (For poker) I think it will change the way a lot of players think about the mental game and I am really lucky that behind him, I probably know more than anyone else about his material. 

To give you an idea what I am talking about, most poker books will have maybe one section on the subject of Tilt, maybe a handful of pages. This book will have bigger sections each on 8 different types of tilt, plus further equally big sections on how to deal with it, cure it forever and how to use it to your advantage. The biggest problem we have is going to be condensing it enough so we don’t overload the readers with it all.

Anyway spamming over, now to spam what’s happening on Pokernews. The WSOP is underway and we have live updates a plenty all month, plus a ton of freerolls throughout (Including two freerolls to the Spanish Poker Tour). I don’t think the UK can replicate the massive year we had last year, but deffo think we can bag a bracelet in one of the more prestigious events, maybe two. 

Belated, Half Arsed and Rushed Big Game Report

Rather embarrassingly I have a really interesting and hectic time at the PartyPoker Big Game last month and don’t write a word about it. It was partially because Jared and Dusty got stranded in the UK for an extra week which put things back writing wise, followed by a really nasty week of food poisoning my end. The cliffnotes of the last few weeks were:

Meeting Jared was fantastic and we picked up exactly where we left off online. Although from different parts of the world doing different jobs, we clearly have a very similar sense of humour and general outlook on life and we had a blast. I also got to introduce Jared to Mad Marty Wilson which was one hell of a night, what was supposed to be a quick drink at 9pm went on till 4am as Marty told us his entire back catalogue of stories. We also spent the night with Robert Williamson III who was a really nice guy, exactly like he is on TV in fact.

Dusty Schmidt – spoke to him a few times before and thought he was an ok guy, but with all the haters he has on 2+2 I was still expecting a bit of a knob, I was wrong. Dusty is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and really laid back, I have no idea why he gets so much heat on the poker forums. It was also fascinating to hear him talk poker, he did a full 24 hours in the commentary booth and I feel like I learned a lot from some of our chats. Even though his time playing the Big Game was probably a huge disappointment, I think he will be one of the memorable points of the show because his commentary was brilliant. 

The funny and scary part of the week for me was opening up my Betfair account to see £354,000 sitting in front of me. One of the high stakes players at the game used my laptop to check their emails and logged into Betfair and forgot to log out. I am pleased to say I didn’t touch the money or even consider it, but it took me 20 minutes to press log out, I was hypnotised by the money.  Me and the missus are trying to buy a house right now, I could have chip dumped us a really nice one and had some change left over.

Not mentioning the name of the player because he is a sponsored pro and I don't wanna make me look like a twonk in the public eye, especially as he was kind enough to loan me £350,000. 

Finally everything is back to normal and we are in the final furlong for the book. I will be updating the blog much more now because obviously I will have something to promote very soon. Amazingly this week will be my first live pokerz of 2010 at the UKIPT at Dusk Till Dawn. I was all set to play the main event but didn’t realise it’s my 5 year anniversary this weekend, so will be playing all the sides instead.

So there you go, probably had the most interesting month work wise in a few years and I’ve said nothing about it. I’m ashamed to call myself a writer..
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