Tales From The Felt: Luton
Stuart "Easy Pickings" Rutter has joined UK Poker News to convey first-hand the ups and downs of tournament poker which he plays in between his other main commitment - being a student in Germany! Stuart is 22 years old and hails from Birmingham. After only one year of playing poker, Stuart found himself thrust into the poker limelight in Europe when he qualified for a seat at the Monte Carlo Millions in 2005 after a successful campaign at the 32Red Poker internet tables. He then took 4th place in the Helsinki Freezeout Main Event in December. Take a look back at our recent 2-part interview with Stuart for more about those adventures, playing the likes of Phil Ivey and Juha Helppi. We join Stuart on his adventures at the start of a new year, 2006!
It is the end of January and the Grosvenor Grand Challenge has brought the best players in the country to Luton; and I decided to pop along too.
On the Friday evening, I played in my first ever Shootout event, a structure where just one winner from each table progresses to the final table. There was no room for hanging around, and I tried to play an aggressive game. I was caught eventually, as my all-in move with ace-seven of hearts was called by a pair of eights, a really tough call. However, brilliance isn't always rewarded in poker, and foolishness not punished, and a flop of three hearts doubled me up.
In such an event, the heads up is a real pressure situation, and we went in even stacked. Almost straight away, I had a really tough decision. An ace high flop was a disaster for my pocket kings, and my opponent immediately moved all in. However, I felt this was not an easy fold as my opponent was such an aggressive player, and there was every chance he was bluffing. So I thought, and thought, and for the first time ever had the clock called on me. Even then, I spent three further minutes agonising over my decision, and had to be counted down from ten seconds by the card room manager! I eventually threw my cards away on the count of three, noticing that we were practically the last table left in play! A few minutes later, I had the fortune to not only see two aces in the hole, but have my opponent move all in before the flop, and his QJ failed to improve.
Not long later, I picked up the bullets again, in the early stages of the final table. However, my opponent made it apparent that the flop of 874 had made him a big hand; I got away, but not without a big dent in my stack. Yucel "Mad Turk" Eminoglu is a great character, and lived up to his name by being the big aggressor at the table. I stood up to him with an AQ in the hole, but knew things were grim when I was called immediately. His AK held up, and I was out in fifth.
The £1,000 Main Event was the eagerly awaited finale, and a real feeling of excitement filled the casino long before the 8pm start. The start of the tournament always steadies the nerves, and I once again found myself on the same table as Michael Greco, best known to most as Beppe from Eastenders. However, he is becoming a fearsome player, and will no doubt soon be known as the poker player who used to be an actor. On this occasion, only a string of unlucky hits brought about his downfall. On a flop of AKJ, the ace and king spades, I held Q7 of spades for the top draw. The hand was checked to the button, whose bet of 200 was called by Michael. I raised to 600 to try to end the hand there, and was called only by Michael.
A beautiful two of spades hit next, and I felt fairly sure that he had the misfortune to be holding a non-nut flush. Here, I made my mistake. I bet just 700 into a pot of 2,200, planning a bigger bet on the end. A quick look back at my cards, pretending that I am drawing with one spade, is customary for me here! A disastrous river, however, brought a fourth spade, and my plan fell on its face. I knew Mr Greco was good enough now to devalue his ten high flush, and I could only collect a small bet at the end.
And the obvious lesson? Where you believe that you have such a great situation, it can't be right to slow-play. Michael had called bets twice on the flop hoping to make his hand, so he's unlikely to throw it away once he has made it. Even the best players will find it difficult to escape once they have committed their chips with a raise, and this is exactly your aim: get enough chips in so that your opponent is committed to his hand for the whole ride.
In the closing stages at Luton, I watched as Peter "The Power" from Walsall saw a great flop of AQQ after he called a raise from the big blind with Q 10. He did exactly the right thing by betting out, and heavily so. Should the raiser have the hand you want him to have, a big ace, it is very difficult for him to pass. Indeed, the raiser went all in with his ace king; part of his reasoning must have been that players just don't bet out so heavily when they flop trips. Imagine the other situation where a lesser player would check, hoping to call or check raise. This gives a suspicious player a good opportunity to get away from his hand.
But poker's a tricky game, isn't it? Playing on Ladbrokes recently, I bet heavily into a paired board of JJ9, hoping my pair of tens was good. Once my opponent called such a big bet, it seemed fairly inevitable that he had a jack. His hand had actually missed completely, but what he did have was position, and was able to bluff me out of the hand. They don't call me Easy Pickings for nothing!
Back to Luton, my exit was sealed on the first day as I moved in with 99 and was called and beaten by AK.
Soon after Luton, I made the journey to Brighton, for the Rendezvous Casino's "January Sales." Despite freezing temperatures, the seaside town was a fitting venue for a poker tournament, and the casino itself beautiful. My team-mates, the Brummie Bandits, had come down as well, but I was on my own for the Main Event, as the others prefer the lucrative side action.
When we arrive, the place is buzzing, and to my horror, the faces around the bar are like a "Who's who?" of British poker. Dave Colclough, Iwan Jones and finishers two and three from Monte Carlo, Paul Jackson and Marc Goodwin, have all made the trip.
More like the "Who's he?" of poker, I'm drawn at table one, in the attractive upstairs card room. As I look across to table two, I feel sympathy for one of the friendly local players, who has found himself at the table of death. Dave Colclough, Simon "Aces" Trumper, and Xuyen Pham make up the star-studded table. The Main Event is a double chance freezeout, but players have the option to take their second stack at the start. Everyone else at the table takes the conservative option, but a player like me doesn't often get an opportunity to be chip leader, so I accept.
I make a shaky start, playing too tightly, but a trademark reckless move on the button with 95 offsuit creates some action. A rainbow flop of 10 5 3 looks good for me, but my bet of 400 is check raised to 1,200 by the big blind. Two pair looks unlikely on this flop, so I take the opportunity to represent an overpair, and up the stakes to 2,800. The big blind has a terrifyingly long think, but eventually takes mercy and says "I guess my ten is no good then," and mucks his cards. The key to a successful bluff is making your man make a decision for more chips than you yourself risk; the player is risking not just the extra 1,600, but all the chips in front of him if I do have the hand I'm betting, and it is this implied threat that makes the call tough.
On table two, Dave Colclough is a surprise early casualty, as all the chips go in on a board of J32, with two spades. His queens are up against King Jack of spades, one of the rare situations in Hold'em where the hand in front is not a favourite, and a spade on the river puts out the big gun.
I'm moved across the room, and find myself sitting next to Paul Parker, one of the friendliest and funniest players you'll meet at a poker table. To borrow his catchphrase, it's "Happy Days," as I have some luck and increase my 8k starting stack to 20k. In this situation, I always hope to chip away at small and medium size pots, and build a stack. What I did not want was all my chips going in against the biggest stack on the table:
I pick up two kings, and decide to slowplay against a raise from the big stack; he's a good, tight player, and I know he will throw away anything weaker than my hand if I up the ante. The rainbow 467 flop looks favourable, and I check raise, but not big enough to drive him away. I go all in on a safe looking ten, but I've given him odds to call with his suited ace five, a straight draw and an overcard. So, the gut wrenching situation comes where one card will make the difference between a 42k stack and an early exit. Sure enough, the dealer rivers a 3, and I'm left to curse myself for not ending the hand earlier than I did. My only consolation is the stream of good players leaving so early on the first day, as Marc Goodwin and Paul Parker soon bust out.
Here's hoping that, at the Midlands Medley at the end of this month, home advantage counts for something!
Until next time!
Ed note: Join Stuart at 32 Red Poker for an instant, no catches $10 bonus.