Last week I received a message on Facebook from PokerNews UK editor, Barry Carter, asking if I would like to go down to Britain's answer to Las Vegas, Blackpool, for the first leg of the 2010/11 Sky Poker Tour. Being the poker addict that I am, I quickly accepted and eagerly counted down the days, dreaming of winning and getting my first entry in the Hendon Mob database.
The drive from Huddersfield to Blackpool was pretty uneventful, the highlight seeing some old bird lose her hat as she thought it was a good idea to drive with the top down on her MG despite it being around minus 20 with the wind chill factor. As I approached Blackpool it rained. It always rains when I am in Blackpool.
Upon arriving at the impressive G-Casino, the first I have been in, I met Richard Prew, someone who I have spoken to online but never met in the flesh. After the usual pleasantries I had a little walk around the place and found one of the computerised heads-up tables and had a quick blast on it, though I wish I had not as it ran like Usain Bolt, as did the 75-year old man who played me. To make matters worse he tried to discuss strategy with me after telling me Phil Ivey has “some poker skills but is insanely lucky.” Yes mate, that is why he is so good!
Shortly before the 1400 start, I met the legend that is Tony “tikay” Kendall, who was in buoyant mood after winning a £50 tournament the night before. I do not know why there are always jokes about his age, he looks good for 103! Anyway, just before we were due to start I made m way to my starting table, Table 14 Seat 4, checked I had the 5,000 starting stack and got down to business.
Most of the table knew each other from the Sky Poker site and the guy to my direct left turns out to be the biggest winner on Sky Poker for the past three years, though through SNG so I was not overly worried. After folding some complete trash hands, including 93o, T6o, T5o and 85o, with the latter's flop coming 855, I finally found Jh9h and opened up the betting from middle position. Despite not playing a hand for an age I still got two callers, so three of us saw the beautiful JKJ flop! Both players checked to me, I bet and only one player called. The turn comes a nine, giving me a full house and we both check and see the seven of spades fall on the river. The check worked as villain bets 300, I make it 1,000 and he quickly folds. Nice start as I'm up to around 6,000.
The play seemed pretty loose-passive, perfect conditions if you ask me. Some old guy was open raising to six times the big blind so he became my new mark. Four of us saw a flop after I limped in on the button with ace-eight offsuit. The flop was almost perfect, reading 8h-8d-7c, and the old guy bets pot, I raise and only he calls. The turn is the 9h, old guy checks and then folds to my bet that would have seen him all in.
Heading towards the first break I picked up a ton of chips, mainly from getting someone to lay down a set of tens by representing a club flush, I had ace-king high, to finish on 14,350 and amongst the chip leaders. The good run continued after the break, first busting someone with AA vs 66 and then making a few good reads and pushing people off pots. Suddenly I was up to 21,300 and in with a real chance of going deep, suddenly I was moved to a new table.
This is where it all went downhill. After folding a few hands I decided to limp on the button after an early position limper with the great hand that is Js7s, the big blind came along and we saw a flop reading 8J4. The brick outhouse that was the big blind checks, early position guy bets 600 and I make it 2,400. Huge guy stares at me for an age before folding (telling me later he had jack-nine) and the early position player calls, before checking the arrival of a five on the turn. I ask for a count and then bet 4,300, enough to put him all-in and he instantly calls and shows 8h6d for middle pair and a gutshot! Of course the river is a seven, giving me two pair but him a straight and the 16,000 pot slides his way, leaving me with around 12,000.
The blinds, which were now pretty high, were starting to bit and after losing a couple of expensive pots I found myself one of the short stacks. After we broke for 45 minutes for a lovely chicken dinner, I decided it was time to make a move. The table shorty open-shoved from early position and I came over the top of him for 12bb with pocket fives, a 70% favourite over villain's king-two! The flop was kind to me the the turn saw him spike a king to leave me with six big blinds!
A couple of shoves got through unchallenged but when the guy from the 86 vs J7 hand limped and I found AdTd I had to shove again. He calls with ducks, the board double pairs and my ace kicker wins it. Back in business, or at least I thought. After the blinds went up again, along with the antes, I had around eight big blinds so when the action folded to me on the button and I found ace-four it was perfect for yet another shove, so that is exactly what I did. The small blind folded but the big blind, a very happy bloke who was a good laugh, commented that “YorkyPuds is all in again” before calling with ace-five. I ask the dealer for a split pot but no chance of that as it runs out 56T58 to bust me around ten spots before the money. FML!
I decided to head home rather than stand around waiting for the other 20 odd people to bust and on the drive back up the M62 I had time to reflect on the Sky Poker Tour. After initially slating the blind structure I think it has to be commended, Richard Prew managed to create a structure that was fast enough to bust out 157 players in a single day, whilst at the same time having plenty of play in it. The community spirit surrounding the entire tournament was great, like a huge home game except one with a £4,000 first prize! The Sky staff and pros were all great and although I do not play on Sky Poker I am thinking of starting to do so, especially as one of the legs of this tour stops off in my home town of Leeds. So to summarise, I had a great time, enjoyed the tournament and the banter and would recommend it to anyone wanting to get a taste for tournament poker. It was just a shame I ran badly when I needed it most.
Congratulations to Lewis Taylor (Pictured above), who took down SPT BlackPool for £4000.