Interview with Neil Channing – Part Two

Interview with Neil Channing – Part Two 0001

Whilst I was doing some research I saw a hand on YouTube, which I remember seeing when it was broadcast on telly...

The {A} {A} against Max Pescatori?

How did you know?

Only because I've talked about it so much!

I feel like I've just asked Negreanu about that hand on High Stakes Poker against Gus Hansen!

No, it's all right – I can't really understand how...you know, this Greekfish, he just must be an idiot!

The worst poker announcer out there?

No, he's not the worst, because Roy the Boy's doing commentary now. So he's the worst. At least Greekfish is too stupid to realise he's stupid. I mean, I don't understand, it's a cash game and I've got the guy to put all his money in with 2 outs, what am I supposed to do? Obviously if you're playing a cash game, it plays different to a tournament – that's how it works. I played it the way that you should play it for the kind of poker we were playing.

I'll tell you exactly what happened. I'm in early position and Max has limped under the gun. Now Max limping under the gun...he was playing reasonably tight and I know Max quite well, we're quite friendly. He was a bit annoyed at being there, the food wasn't very good, and it was quite cold in the studio. He turned up a few hours before and they didn't let him play for a while because nobody wanted to come off and he'd been told that there'd be some rich businessman playing and he's turned up and it's a tough-ish game.

There are some good players at the table - there are no real idiots apart from Jamie Gold, and Andrew Feldman played a bit poorly. Robert Williamson's a bit pissed, but nobody else was really going to give away their money. So Max is probably not looking to gamble too much. When he limps under the gun he could have a really big hand but he's probably just got a pocket pair. I'm not really thinking he's got {K} {K} or {Q} {Q} - he's probably just trying to flop a set.

So, I think "I'll call" because Andrew Feldman doesn't seem to understand that this is a cash game – we're playing very deep stacked relative to the blinds. He's an internet player - he's used to playing shallow blinds. He's used to just nicking little bits of money and hitting and running on people because that's what internet people do all the time. I'm looking to stack somebody and get all their money, I don't just want to nick the blinds of somebody every couple of hands, I want to get the twenty grand in front of them.

Jamie Gold's doesn't really understand, he thinks it's a tournament and he doesn't really know what to do in a cash game. So I know that if a couple of people limps, these two idiots are going to try and pick it up. Now, they both decide to limp behind, and that was not really in my plan, so now after they've done that, Robert Williamson also limped and I'm a bit screwed really. I'm thinking "this is a bit of a shame, a nice idea gone wrong." But it doesn't matter, really, all I've put in is $100 – it's $25 $50 and there's a straddle from your man, Todd Brunson. So I'm only losing $100, it's only fifty quid, I'm just going to swallow it, it doesn't matter. Okay, they're watching it on TV and I've got {A} {A}...but if I'm in an eight way pot with {A} {A} after the flop...

You're not going to lose a lot of money...

I'm not going to lose any money! I'm not going to bet the flop unless I flop an Ace. I'm just going to check pass most of the time, unless maybe I might play against Jamie Gold if he has a bluff at it and everyone else passes. I might call a couple of bets against him, but I'm not really going to lose a lot of money to anyone else and if I fold the best hand, I fold the best hand, it doesn't bother me, I don't really care at all.

So, I'm thinking all that and suddenly Todd Brunson decides to raise. I can't remember what he made it, $500 or something. Now there's a big thing with Todd Brunson here. He doesn't really want to be there. He's gone to the World Series of Poker Europe, and his sister has bumped into Eddie Hearn whilst she's standing around watching him or something and they've just got chatting. Eddie's persuaded her that they should come to play on the cash game. They've no idea where Maidstone is! That's where the studio is. He's told them it's just outside central London and they said "well, how long does it take to get there?"

When they've found out how long it takes to get there, they don't want to come, so he's told them "well, we'll get you a helicopter so you don't have to waste time getting there." Pam Brunson has never been to London before, and Hoyt Corkins is with them with his wife. They quite like the idea of going on a helicopter and having a look around London, the skyline and everything like that.

So, where they're coming from is that this is just a nice day out, really. When they got to the game and they're playing in the game and the buy in is $10,000 and the maximum is $20,000, well Todd Brunson plays in a game normally where the blinds are $2000 $4000 – this is not an important game to him, he doesn't care. But the one thing he doesn't want to do is lose loads of money here. He doesn't really want to be here, he's only playing it because his sister quite wants to play it and she met this nice guy called Eddie who she liked, and so he's just doing her a favour turning up. There's no way he's going to lose $20,000 or $30,000 whilst he's there, so when he raised $500 from out of the straddle to play a pot out of position against six other people...

You're thinking premium hand right?

He's got to have a massive hand! Why would he put money in the pot out of position against the whole table? There's no way! If he's got a pair of eights or something he's just going to tap the table and try and flop a set and check pass if he doesn't. To me, he has to have the other two aces, or {K} {K} or {Q} {Q}.

If he has {J} {J} or {10} {10} he's just going to try and flop a set. He knows he's not really going to narrow the field because he's probably going to get a couple of callers - there's six people in this pot. He's not going to win it there and then by raising and it's not a squeeze play or anything. If he wants to make a squeeze play he's going to make it like $2000. And he's not going to make a squeeze play anyway, it's not what he's there for – he's not there to show off and look clever on TV, he doesn't care what he looks like on TV. Anybody who has a hairstyle like that obviously doesn't care what they look like on T.V.!

So he's definitely got a hand and I'm not an idiot, To me he's got {Q}{Q} or {K}{K} for certain. So I'm thinking "this is great! I'm in with {A} {A}, and there's a bloke with {K} {K} and he's got $60,000 in front of him and I've got $28k." I'm thinking "this is brilliant, I'm going to double up, fantastic!" So, it comes around to Max, he calls.

All I need to do now is just make a bet where Brunson's going to call me with his {K}{K} or {Q}{Q}, or possibly raise me but that Andrew Feldman, Jamie Gold and Robert Williamson are not going to get tempted to call. It has to be big enough that they're just not tempted to call, and they've also got the threat of Todd behind them as well. But it has to be small enough so that Todd will think that I'm not too sure about my hand, and that I'm maybe asking him a question with my bet, so that he might then possibly re-raise me again if he's got {Q}{Q} or {K}{K}.

So I just make it a very small raise and now the commentator doesn't understand at all, he said he's raising far too small, he's raised too small." Well, he doesn't know why I'm raising. He thinks I'm raising to drive people out. I'm not trying to drive people out, I want him in! I know what his hand is, I want him in. In my mind. As it happens he turned out to have {A}{K} but to me he's got {Q}{Q} or {K}{K}, so there's not flops I'm worried about. The only flops I'm worried about are a King and Queen. As long as it doesn't come {K} or {Q} I'm alright. So Todd calls and Max calls and the flop comes down {8} {9} {4} rainbow. So he checks. Well, if he had {K} {K} or {Q} {Q} he would check. He wants me to bet and he's going to check raise me.

Or maybe check call for pot control maybe?

Well, possibly, but he doesn't really want pot control, he thinks he's winning. Once he's checked and I bet he's going to call me, because there's no point raising because the only way he's going to get action is if he's beat. He's got to think I've got a big hand, I've played it like I've got a big hand...

Anyway, he checks, Max checks. Well, there's no flush there, I know Max has got a pair, but Max has got too few chips to be playing around if he's flopped a set. Max could have flopped a set, but there's not much point in me betting, if Max hits a set on the turn I'm just unlucky. He hasn't got much money left anyway, he's only got six grand or something, so if Max gets a set on the turn I'll just do six grand – it's not the end of the world.

So I checked, and it comes off a seven. So now this idiot commentator says "he's giving him the chance he's got the straight – how can he check, there's a straight out there!" Well, there isn't a straight out there! Which one of these two players does he really think has called with {10} {J}? What does he think; Todd Brunson's an idiot or something? Todd Brunson is one of the best cash players in the world. It's called around to him in the straddle and he's decided to bump it up with {10} {J}? He'd have to be a complete moron to do that, and he's supposed to be one of the best players in the world. And Max hasn't got {10} {J}. If Max has got {10} {J} he's going to semi bluff the flop – he's not going to check the flop. He's flopped his hand if it comes {8} {9} with only that money [in his stack]. He's got to move all in and try and win it then and there. There's a chance Max has got three sevens now, but if he's got that good luck to him.

Anyway, now Todd's checked again. Now I'm thinking "this is odd, he's checked again." If he's got {K} {K} he should have bet the turn. Maybe he's got {Q} {Q} and thinks I've definitely got {K} {K} or {A} {A} and has decided to try and flop a set to bust me. So, I'm going to have to bet, because I can't give him a free chance, meanwhile Max goes all in so I don't get a chance to do that. Now I start thinking, and this moron Greekfish thinks I'm thinking about passing! I'm deciding whether the best play is to call Max and suck Todd in, if he's got {K} {K}. I'm thinking "how is he going to play {K} {K}?" He's got to raise and then we can still get all the money in.

But I'm also thinking "yeah, but if he's got {Q} {Q} and I flat call now and he decides to call and a {Q} comes it's going to be a bit messy." And then I just thought "well, it's quite a big pot already and he hasn't really done any money yet so it's going to be pretty hard to catch him, so I think I'm just going to have to raise." And I think I did raise, I'm pretty sure – seems a long time ago now.

He obviously passed and Max had {2} {2}. So Max did all his money. So I mean, I can't really win any more money on that hand. Todd Brunson's got {A} {K}. He didn't even make a pair and I've got a little bit of money out of him. I managed to get a little bit of money out of a load of people behind me who didn't really have anything, only small money, but Jamie Gold, Andrew Feldman and Robert Williamson have all done $100.

And Max Pescatori's done his whole stack with a pair of deuces and no deuce out there. I don't really understand how I could get any more money out of it, and basically the idea of playing in a cash game is just to maximise your opportunity in each pot. You can take chances, and risk losing all your chips in a hand because you can pull up more money. It's not like a tournament; you just pull up, buy some more chips and start again.

I just don't really understand how people struggle to understand that. A lot of the people who criticise are coming from a point of view of only playing in online cash games where the money's not really that deep and this is a deep money situation – it's completely different. I found it quite insulting actually that people didn't really think that I was thinking about what I was doing – I mean obviously I make these kind of decisions every day of my life. I've already been out and played seven hours today already and this is what I do every day. Why do they think that I wouldn't understand or that I'd be scared? I mean we play for bigger money than this every day, than we did in this programme. I wasn't nervous about the money, I wasn't nervous about being on TV.

There was a guy on the Hendon Mob Forum who said my body language was very nervous, I was actually really cold! The studio was really cold and I was wearing a Poker Verdict shirt so I couldn't really wear a jacket over the top because I'm trying to advertise them. I was quite cold – my body language was of somebody that was quite hungry and cold. I certainly wasn't nervous. I was actually a bit pissed off – I was thinking, I've come to this game, the studio's freezing bloody cold, they haven't provided us with any food. I was told I was going to get to play against a load of idiots and businessmen and sports stars and stuff, and I've ended up playing against Chris Ferguson who doesn't play a hand, Robert Williamson who is drunk and being a bit annoying, although I like Robert, and Max who's a mate of mine and doesn't really want to be there anywhere. And Tony G who's got the absolute lot and has got position on me and I wasn't really looking to take him on, so there's no value at all. It wasn't until Jamie Gold and Andrew Feldman sat down that I fancied it at all really.

The other hand where I've got {A} {A} against Jamie Gold – that's even more baffling! The blinds are $25-$50, I've got {A} {A}, he's got {A} {J}, the flop comes Jack high and he puts $16k in the pot! I mean, all his money – what else am I supposed to do? I made the man put all his money in when he's drawing to 2 outs. How can you play it better than winning all his money?

I don't think many people would fold an over pair to Jamie Gold too often.

Well, I don't think they thought I should fold, they just thought it was funny I was letting him do all the betting. I mean, against Jamie Gold who's known as a bluffer why wouldn't that be the right strategy? I'm supposed to let him do all the betting because he can't help himself – and actually, top pair top kicker is the nuts anyway – of course I'm going to let him do all the betting, I don't want to lose my customer. This idea that I'm supposed to protect my hand all the time – that's tournament poker. I'm not worried about going broke or being eliminated, I'm not going to get eliminated from the game. If I lose the pot and have to pull up more money I'll pull up more money.

In Part Three of our interview, Neil discusses Poker Verdict, his record breaking number of cashes at the 2008 World Series of Poker and why 1.8-1 was about the right price for Phil Ivey to win a bracelet...

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