Live Poker: A day in the Shoes of a Tournament Pro
I’ve been playing poker of one form or another since I was about 12 years old and my Dad taught me how to play Seven Card Stud one rainy holiday afternoon with nothing else to do. Following that I got into the newly televised Poker After Dark and No Limit Hold’em, which gave me a burning desire to sit down and live at least a day in the shoes of a tournament pro.
This week I got to live out that fantasy when I played Day 1a of the £550 GukPT Tour event in my home town of Brighton in the UK. I play a fair amount online, and I’m a decent recreational multi-table tournament player so I was able to satellite my way into the event from a £55 Satellite that I nearly got into for £5.50, but lost out on the pure bubble.
I have tried to satellite into this particular tour more times than I can remember, and when my Dad was still alive we competed to be the first in our family to walk into one of these events as an online qualifier. My Dad died a few years ago following a long illness, but I’ve still been trying to be the first member of my family to win a seat to a UK tour, almost as a way to honour his memory. Tuesday night saw me achieve that goal when I won my seat. I celebrated and poured myself a stiff drink. Then the nerves and panic set in.
Thoughts along the lines of “What am I going to do?” “Am I good enough to play this?” “Should I sell action?” and most importantly, “How do I avoid looking like a fool at the tables?” all ran through my head. Luckily, I work in the Poker business, and have a few friends with experience of these events who are more than willing to give me advice.
The first thing I did (after letting the girlfriend know) was open up one of my Poker Skype groups and let the guys know that I’d just picked up a seat. The next words from my keyboard were: |”I’ve never played a big live event before, anyone got any advice?” and bless my friends, advice was forthcoming:
The one big thing most people apparently don’t take into consideration is how tiring playing a long multi day event can be. One of my friends, lets call him Simon, commented on his run in a recent Genting Poker Series event. He made it to Day 2 after playing Day 1b, and after finishing in the wee hours of the morning, he had to travel home, get some sleep, and then get back in time for the start of play of Day 2. To put it bluntly, he was exhausted before he even posted his first ante. Simon did have a bit of a distance to travel, which wasn’t an issue for me for this event, but Simon said he’d probably get a hotel rather than travel long distance again.
I mentioned I was going to buy into Day 1a for just this reason, as playing two big days back to back was a daunting thought for me.
Simon also suggested making sure I had drinks and food available to me as the waitress services during these events can get overwhelmed, and it can take a while to get a drink when you really need it.
We also talked about what the field was going to be like. Normally, about 30% of these fields are professional and semi-professional players on the live circuit, but with EPT Monte Carlo still running, and the £1,000,000 guaranteed UKIPT Nottingham next weekend, the number of professionals was expected to be a lot lower than usual. Which was lucky.
I also spoke to my former coach, and good friend Felipe. Flip, as he’s generally known, reminded me that the structure of this event is probably the best one I’ve ever played in, and that getting down to 25 big blinds isn’t an automatic reason to shove a marginal hand. You nearly always have time to find better cards before you get down to fumes. Flip also suggested I try and fly under the radar a little, and go in to the tournament room dressed up as a stereotypical live fish. I was already going to have to wear a patch as I’d won my seat online, so adding sunglasses and one of my collection of card protectors would probably improve my equity.
So, prepared for action, with a bottle of water and a bag of Malteasers in my backpack, dressed like an extra from Rounders, I set off to enjoy my day as a live tournament pro.
I walk into a casino I haven’t stepped into for well over a year, and discover I’ve lost my membership card. So not only am I nervous, now I need to go through an annoying process to get a new card issued before I can get to the card room. After what felt like a full on interrogation and cavity search (It was just a few quick questions and a bag search) I had my bottle of water confiscated, received my new membership card, and entered the den of iniquity that is my local casino.
I was pretty early, as the event didn’t start for the best part of an hour, so after signing in, I did something that most new players wouldn’t have a chance to.
I’ve actually worked with the GukPT Blog team and I know most of the floor people so I wandered over and said hello. Obviously I was also trying to get as much information as I could, and I suggest that other players do the same. Get to know these people as they are usually good fun, but they are massive warehouses of information that can be well worth tapping into.
You can see a video of me talking to Phil “The Tower” Heald from the Blog Team in the video below from the first break.
My plan to be an anonymous went straight out of the window as the player sat directly opposite me wasn’t a stranger. Ben and I had played in a pub league together, and he knew what I did for a living. The sunglasses went back into the bag, and the card protector never left its depths. Following the interview above, my secret was out. I was someone that the blog team knew, and was worthy to interview. I gave up any pretence of being an anonymous player and just answered the questions people were asking.
So, my cunning plans failed, but what didn’t fail was my poker. I survived the day, and I’m going into Day 2 on Saturday with 43 big blinds. I didn’t really get a big stack, or a small one, and just ground an average stack for the 9 levels.
I’d like to think I played well, and I know I levelled a few other players at the table, to my benefit. As I’m going back for Day 2, I can’t really write about the hands I played. I’m just not good enough to give my opponents that sort of edge.
I would honestly suggest to players who want to play these bigger events to give it a go. If you can’t afford to buy in directly, the satellite route is a good option, and the experience is well worth it, even if you’re not lucky enough to make it through the day.