Earlier this week, Londonist editors Euan and Rob were invited to participate in the Coral European Poker media event at the Gutshot club in East London.
The game was Texas Hold ‘em, and there were about 30 players in the running. The prize was your name on a large ‘silver effect’ trophy and £500 to a charity of your choice.
Now when they said ‘media’ what they actually meant was people who work for poker magazines, poker websites and poker TV channels…so these weren’t amateurs. In fact a lot of them were recognisable as Gutshot club regulars.
But Euan and Rob are not ones to let inexperience get in the way of a free poker tournament, so off they went to try their fortunes.
See how they got on after the jump.
Let's get the excuses in early: I think I got too much sun on Sunday and I'm running a bit hot and cold and feel a little out of it.
I get my seat, settle in and hope there's not a talker at the table. Everybody seems pretty relaxed, a mixture of players and I think maybe one other guy who has played less than me. He is, of course, knocked out in the first hand by a guy who works with him... which should make for some interesting water cooler chat the next day.
My strategy is play tight, wait for a half decent hand then go in hard and see what happens. Admittedly it's not much of a strategy but I've just spent the first five minutes thinking either I'm sitting directly under an invisible heater or I'm having a stroke, so worrying about position or trying to read anyone is out.
I fold a lot.
There is some chat.
I fold some more.
I get king ten suited so I call to see a flop for the first time and I make a pair of tens. Someone goes all in and I fold. This is somewhat of a theme at my table as nobody seems interested in moderation so it's the first table to be split up when we go down to 5. I drag my sorry arse over to another table taking with me about two thirds of my original stack.
Be thankful for small mercies: I’m not sat at the same table as Euan, not that I fear Euan or anything, but our main objective today is ‘stay in longer than the other one’…plus I’ve never managed to actually last longer than Euan in any kind of ‘professional’ tournament (i.e. not our home game), so I’m glad that right now I don’t have to think about him.
My table is a mixed bag but there are some scary faces. One guy sits down and all the ‘regulars’ around the table make a groaning noise and there are mutterings of ‘oh great’ and ‘shit’…so I assume this bloke is one to watch out for.
Once we get going I realise there are two strategies on display here: ‘cautious’ (as exemplified by me) and ‘I don’t give a toss’ (exemplified by the people betting ‘all in’ before even looking at their hands).
I get KJ in the hole and make a cautious bet. Only one guy calls me and despite being behind on the flop I manage to take him on the river card…then the next hand I pick up KJ which makes me superstitious all of a sudden and I decide to muck the hand. Next hand: KJ…this is getting weird now and I’m starting to worry (‘oh woe is me look at all the face cards I’m getting’). I bin them again.
Finally I get dealt a rubbish hand and I can relax again until…next hand gives me KJ. I am seriously thinking about just getting up and leaving as I’ve obviously used up my ‘luck quota’ for the day.
Quite quickly a few players get knocked out and a quick glance at the counter shows we’re down to the last third of the players. Euan has been moved on to the table next to mine and I can see from here that’s he’s taken a couple of decent sized pots and my cautious strategy may be slightly too cautious.
This is a much livelier table with more talk and some guys intent on making sure that everyone is aware that they're not taking it seriously but are very experienced players.
Is it cold in here?
I fold some more.
Seriously, has it just dropped like 30 degrees?
Some more folding.
I keep missing other people checking and have to be prompted. I'm convinced they are signalling their check with their feet under the table. I stay in probably longer than I should with a so-so hand but I'm getting low on chips and getting an ice cold glass of water and some fresh air is pretty appealing right about now (did I mention it was
I beat a guy with a much better hand on the river. This is always the bit that amuses me as a very recreational player who occasionally plays out of his depth. On more than one occasion the experienced player has made sure that you're aware that you've done the wrong thing and only luck has gotten you through it, although if they go all in blind and win then this is courageously reckless and is to be applauded.
Two hands later I knock the same guy out after going all in on a pair of sevens before the flop. He has Kings but I make a set on the turn. Judging by his reaction this is akin to putting out a cigarette on his forehead.
There is some whooping from Rob’s table. I look over and he has a
decent stack of chips. Damn him, if he'd just go out I can bet recklessly, we can get a beer, swap bad beat stories and then I can leg it home to bed.
I fold some more.
I get Ace King and go all in against a nice guy who we'd been talking
with before the game. He has King queen and it takes me a couple of
seconds to work out that I've won, but luckily someone kindly points it
out, explaining that you need 5 cards to make a straight.
So there we go, I am officially the guy that doesn't have a clue what
he's doing and is just being lucky. Great.
I have an ok amount of chips and when the next player is out we'll
move onto the final table.
Rob is still in.
I see a flop on the big blind checking to the river where I make a flush, bet a decent amount, lose out to a full house which I wasn't even contemplating, we take a break, I bolt to the toilet, splash some water on my face then outside for fresh air.
Sweet, sweet, fresh air.
It’s like an origami masterclass over here: I fold and fold and fold and fold and all I have to show for it is a very few chips in front of me. The two hands I’ve actually made a move on weren’t exceptionally strong (not as strong as, say King/Jack) and the woman to my left in the baseball cap with the posh accent bullies me out twice.
I am genuinely scared of her even though she looks like she’d blow over in a stiff breeze.
Finally Euan’s table gets down to five or six players and I’m delegated to move over and make up the numbers. I’m seated at the opposite end of the table to Euan and the first thing I notice is he looks bloody awful, although he has about three times as many chips as I do, so I decide that if he faints I will try to steal them in the ensuing chaos.
The second thing I realise is that I have the shortest stack at this table, which means I will have to make a move soon or see my chips trickle away into the blinds. This realisation seems to spark a change in my attitude and all of a sudden I begin to relax and enjoy myself.
My mood is aided by the fact that the second hand I am dealt at this table is Ace King. I go ‘all in’ and sit back with what I hope is a ‘Zen-like’ expression on my face.
My hands are shaking.
Everyone at the table folds round to me. All I get is the blinds, but it’s enough. In a fit of cockiness I flip my AK hand over for all to see. I am the king of the table and no one is pushing me around…apart from maybe that woman in the baseball cap.
Soon someone comments that we’re just waiting for one more person to go out and then we’re down to the final ten players. I am astounded. Both Euan and I may very well make it to the final table! This is unheard of.
After five minutes or so someone rises from the other table and the call goes out – we’re down to ten. Right, let’s go for a drink and ...whoa hang on Euan is still embroiled in a hand and his opponent has just gone all in on the river. Euan can match her bet but it leaves him short stacked. He does it and she flips over a full house. Euan has been slow played and looks like he needs a stiff drink…or maybe an ambulance.
The final table - Rob in centre with Green tee shirt, and Euan third from left standing.
We go back; I fold garbage till I get a pair of sixes, push in what's left of my stack and lose to a hand I don't recollect.
More water, more air, then back to watch Rob go out as soon after me as possible.
Euan goes out tenth with a pair of sixes. It’s hard luck but at least he got in the ‘final table photo’ with the cup and everything.
So now it’s down to me to represent the good name of Londonist.com...and I don’t mind admitting that I’m shitting myself. The guy opposite me is actually from Coral. I know this because he is wearing a Coral bodywarmer over a Coral tee shirt. The girl with the baseball cap is sat next to him, and two seats away from me is the girl who slow played Euan with her full house.
I have hardly any chips left.
And then a few things happen in quick succession:
Two or three players go out one after the other – they have small stacks too and are having to take the first chance they get at doubling up.
Secondly the tall guy with the glasses and the Christopher Lloyd hair goes all in and says “Well, I hope no one calls me”.
I look down and find two kings. And then I look up and rather sheepishly announce “Call.”
I knock him out and my confidence-o-meter is back on the move.
I have a respectable stack of chips in front of me for the first time since we started playing and there’s only six players left. Time to sit back and wait.
Ten minutes later I am in the last three…can you believe this? Euan certainly can’t, he’s stood at the back of the table looking at me as though I have grown another head.
It’s me, the guy from Coral and a slightly squirrelly looking bloke who’s sat directly to my left, who is very funny but obviously quite a lethal poker player.
The guy from Coral makes a big bet and I look down to find a pair of tens. If luck has given me anything today it is decent pairs in the hole just as the guy to my right makes big bet.
I call him and his face falls. “You got me a on a stone cold bluff,” he says, Sure enough, one flop later I have taken a substantial number of his chips.
For a while it goes back and forth, back and forth as we swap chips and test each other out...and then, suddently Coral and Funny-Lethal go up against each other and Funy-Lethal is standing up...I am in the final two of a poker torunament and I can hardly raise my arm to shake the guy’s hand.
What the hell do I do now?
I go all in is what I do. All in. All in. All in. There’s not much else to do at this point.
Two queens: all in. And get cracked by Ace Three and another Ace on the flop.
King Nine: all in. And come up against Ace Eight…oh.
And then…a miracle: two kings turn up on the flop and before I realise what’s happening another one turns up on the turn card. I have just won a poker tournament with quad Kings!
After I win, I have my photograph taken with the cup, with the guy from Coral, in front of the Coral logo, sat being a pile of chips and my winning hand…with the guy from Coral again…until finally Euan and I leave for the pub to figure out what the hell happened.
On my way out I pick up a Coral goody bag which contains one Coral lighter, one Coral tee shirt and one Coral key ring. It’s the sweetest damn key ring I’ve ever owned!
In case you were wondering, the £500 went to Cancer Research and the trophy stays at the Gutshot club. Although Rob is allowed to go round and polish it whenever he likes.