Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

It's been an amazing year for me really.

Back at the start of 2005 I was winning minor amounts online but was profitable, averaging around $18,000 a year (for 2004). At this time I'd just started working on some poker websites and was making reasonable money combining my regular self employed job, poker playing and poker websites. Certainly enough to be comfortable.

In April I played my first European ranking event in Lithuania. By some fluke of nature I won it. Pocketing €6,000 give or take a few cents. This started my B&M tournament addiction. I then played in Blackpool and cashed (£600) and Brighton and cashed again (£3,200). At this time I agreed to manage UK Poker News which was to launch later in the year.

During the summer The Sterling Cartel was formed and gained sponsorship from London Poker Club. Despite us being pretty much unknown they put up the money for a number of events and we feel we represented them fairly. The sponsorship ended and we quickly signed for Poker Heaven, a UK poker room. UK Poker News launched at almost the same time. Jetting off to foreign lands and managing UK PN meant I was pretty busy, so I paused the trading of my old self employed job.

Poker Heaven's poker room is on the same network as London Poker, I knew how poor the players were here in general and fancied I could make regular returns. It proved to be the case when I ran $300 up to $3000. I blew most of it in a fit of red mist but have since played there exclusively and I'm now showing good profits.

My online record keeping is poor these days. I think my profits for 2005 online are around $25,000. They are certainly over $22,000. Split the difference, $23,500 ;-) - I'm very happy with this, it is an improvement on 2004 and I feel without interuption I could play online for a living now. Offline tournaments have returned around £8,000 or roughly $14,000. That gives me around $38,000 for the year. Tax free income on top of my regular salary and ongoing concerns.

I feel lucky to be in this position. I work for myself and earn healthy money from playing a game I love. I don't feel "well off", I have high outgoings and expensive tastes, but I'm comfortable. (Not trying to brag) I sleep at night, I drive a large car, live in a large house and I'm pretty happy with my lot. There are people far worse off than me and it's at this time of the year I give thanks for what I have.

For 2006 I have some goals:

To incorporate a poker based business and get it off the ground. Our idea is sound and proven but financial restrictions could make it a slow burner to start with.

To win another Euro ranking event. The win in April was the best I'd felt this year, it is truly something else to take 1st place, have the poker room applaud you and shake your hand and collect a wad of cash. The money is great but respect from players who actually understand the game, and not just quote written bile and re-discuss events about as likely as Elvis walking on the moon, is surely the holy grail of every sportsman.

To earn $50,000 playing online. My time is restricted but I've moved up to levels of 2/4 through to 4/8 NL now. The prizes are bigger (so are the beats) so I think I should trouble this figure, at the very least, in 2006.

I'm not interested in the WSOP and WPT and EPT titles. Of course, I'd take them if I could but it's unlikely I'll play in those events and I'm certainly not good enough to compete that high yet, maybe 2007? :-)

So, that's it for 2005 from me. I'm doing the family things for the next few days, I'll be online but playing very little. I hope everyone reading this has a great Christmas and New Year.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Here, take my money, please

I was racing around yesterday, trying to get home to play a $10,000 freeroll. I got here with 15 mins to spare and was knocked out within an hour. D'oh!

Still hungry for action I went into the 2/4 NL on Poker Heaven with all guns blazing. It was a very tight table, I stole $130 early before dropping back a touch. I then showed a K high bluff for a $200 pot and all hell broke loose. My opponent stated "NH" and called me down with Ace high on the next two pots, he went from $500 stack rock to $160 stack wreck in three hands.

I was too aggressive, truth be told, and got lucky for one $100 pot. The rest was down to non-believers, keen to give me their money. All because I made one outrageous bluff and showed it. The big one came when I held K,5 hearts in the BB. It was raised x4 UTG and called around to me, I would of called any two cards here for value.

Flop: K,3,6. Two hearts. Great flop for me but could also be a danger flop if AK is out and I miss my 5 or heart. UTG bets 1/4 the pot, very weak. One caller followed by me.

Turn: J spade. I know I'm behind at this stage. UTG checks and the other guy bets the pot. I should fold, I know I should fold but the pot is getting big now. I'm certain the bet is stinking of AK. I call it, UTG folds.

River: A, heart. HELLO!! Guy bets half the pot, I should of moved all-in here. If he had AK he would of been very strong to lay it down. I simply doubled it, he called and mucked. Had I moved all-in and he called it would of been a $1500 pot. Instead it was around $550. Satisfying as it put me on $1027 for the evening, a $600+ profit. It was worth racing home afterall!

I'm 29 today and I really don't like it. I feel this is my last year of youth, that when I'm 30 I can't really be considered young any more. The next 12 months is going to be hectic. I have huge business plans that will, fingers crossed, leave me retired in the next ten years. I have an idea involving poker that has already worked well once. The next time we'll be moving things up a notch and investing for a bigger return.

Friday, December 16, 2005

24hrs Of Poker Fun

Since returning from Finland I've been on fire, in a poker sense that is.

In the last 24 hours (over two days), I've played for roughly six hours and I'm ahead $1400. I felt determined when I logged on for the first time, determined I was going to do some damage, it's been a hell of a ride.

I've played at 2/4, 2.50/5, 3/6 and despite a blow at this level a few months back, 5/10 - all NLHE.

I have now retired for a week. Tomorrow I visit my family to collect birthday presents. I'm at a frightening age on Sunday, 29. Then I have a lot of work to get ready for next week, as I'm going away from a few days with the family.

When I get back it'll be almost Christmas and I won't have played for a full week. I'll be hungry for those Christmas fish though, new computers, poker chip sets, lots of time on their hands. I have a target of $1500 in mind before January.

Happily I've now cracked $10,000. The $200 a day challenge ends here. I'm making more than that comfortably now and will set new goals for 2006. Of course I'll waffle on about them here :-)

A little more patience in Helsinki and I would of cashed. This fact has sharpened my mind and game as B&M tournament play nearly always does.

2006 will be a big year for me, I'm positive and upbeat about my future in poker. Playing and working in poker is one of the best jobs around. I think in 2006 it will make me wealthy rather than comfortable. I'm sure that will really piss a few people off who want to see me fail.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Helsinki Freezeout (Rebuy) Festival

I think I've found my new favourite casino. Grand Casino in Helsinki is modern, clean, spacious and full of characters.

I played the €100 NLHE rebuy first. The term "maniac" doesn't do the players here justice. I picked my spots in the rebuy period and had a healthy 10,000 when the freezeout started (starting chips were 1,000) I then cracked someones Aces with a set of Deuces which he took very well. The table broke with me up to around 13,000. A new, more menacing looking table was my home, almost straight away I took out my nearest rival with TT vrs his AK. I told myself I would go for it with one coin flip. Up to around 26,000 I picked up more small pots and went into dinner leading the table and pretty high up the field on almost 30,000.

After dinner I had a rush of blood with small pocket pairs. I managed my stack badly in comparison to the blinds and rather than pick my spots I was reckless with 7,7 and 4,4 (or 5,5 I don't remember exactly). This cost me over half my chips. I then bled the rest away down to 7,500. At this stage the blinds were 700/1500. I pushed with K,Q and ran into 8,8. That was the end for me. Out in 40th from 154 starters. I was angry with myself for wasting a strong position, for wasting my stack on coin flips and for wasting 6 hours of good poker on 1 hour of rubbish. The blinds made this a crapshoot but even so, I had the chips to start thinking about a cash finish.

Next day was the €200 PLO. The guy opposite me bought in 10 (TEN!) times, he eventually knocked me out after I saw an open ended straight draw and top pair, I was low stacked at the time. I enjoyed the PLO more than I thought. The players were friendly and very chatty.

I was confident going into this festival and was pretty disppointed not to have cashed in the NLHE. Clearly I need to try and remain focused for every hand, not let my advantage slip because I have moved into the lead. This is something I'm going to work on. I have got to stop being a tough opponent for 90% of the time then an idiot for 10%.

Finland was fine but cold. The hotel, SAS Radisson Plaza, was excellent. I liked the whole place, I like Lithuania and Iceland, I guess I just like north European nations! I hope we will go back in 2006, I feel my business is unfinished in Helsinki.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Almost $10k

I'm within touching distance of $10,000 now on the $200 per day challenge. With a day before Helsinki remaining I'm hopeful I can pick up a couple of hundred more to reach this milestone.

My Spanish friend was online again today. Sadly, he was playing at a poor time for me, just before I had to collect my son and right through dinner. I managed to get 15 minutes in with him whilst he had $150 left. He had stepped down from $2/$4 NL to $1/$2 NL. He shipped around $30 to me but then released the rest to another player. He then left and logged off the network. I was $50 up so left it there. No point in playing when the dead money has gone.

Tomorrow I'm going to be hugely busy. As I won't be in the UK until Wednesday afternoon from Sunday, I need to arrange work for those days. I've already done a good proportion of it. I noticed my car is absolutely filthy too. The damn farmers around here trawl half their fields on to the roads, caking them in mud. Quite frankly it's very dangerous as it's very slippery but it makes a mess of your car too. So a car wash tomorrow afternoon, assuming it's not raining, is in order.

Then an early night. I've been forunate to get a lift from Tony into Heathrow via his father. But it's still a 2 hour journey to his house. That means a 6am start on Sunday.... at least the roads will be quiet!

Flight from Heathrow is at 11.30am-ish. I'm looking forward to playing in Helsinki a great deal. I feel confident TSC will return with a cash.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Biggest ever cash pot win

The title says it all. Naturally this was satisfying due to the amount I won but more so because it wasn't a quick session, far from it. I spent two hours playing a big stack, with a few others, in a short handed game of $3/$6 NLHE. This guy, from Spain, is very predictable but he is also tricky once he has a stack in front of him. For some unknown reason he had $4000 on a $600 buy-in table. Clearly he'd be running hot before I arrived. In the first two hours I managed to build up to $1002. Then the dinner gong went and I reluctantly left, thinking that'd be it for the day against my Spanish friend.

On return, he was still there. He still had $3500. Great, I'll take a double to $2,000 if I can and leave. Within 5 hands I was up to $1350 - this was going superbly, then I hit a rutt. For the next 3 hours I slid up and down between $850 and $1500. Then this hand occured.

I have $1270 in the BB and 7,7.
UTG folds
Spain raises to $27
Seat 3 folds
Seat 4 in SB folds.

Normally I wouldn't call this but this was Spanish guy, I could get paid here if I hit.

I call.
Flop: 4,Q,3
Not great. I'm likely to still be leading though.
Spain bets the pot.
I figure another low card on the turn and I'll raise him. I call

Turn: 7
A seven from heaven! Unless he has top set or some bizarre straight draw, I've got him by the balls.
He bets $122
I pause and raise to $344
He takes almost all his alloted time and re-raises me to $700
I go all-in for the rest of my stack. He calls

River: 8

No flush draws are out. He mucks and $2500+ slides over to me. Got him at last!

After over 5 hours of play against my mark, I got what I came for + $500 on top. He still had just over $2000 himself and didn't say anything. Probably because when I've tried to engage him he states "no Englis"

This was my biggest ever cash pot win. I've won much more in tournaments on and offline but for ring games this leads the way right now and has really made my week.

I'm in great form. I'm not going to push my luck though. I withdrew my entire balance last night whilst I consider my week ahead before Helsinki. I feel some tournament practice is now in order. If I cash in Finland that will really put the icing on the cake for me this year.

Friday, December 02, 2005

30% Rake Back

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Things have been progressing nicely on the playing front. $10,000 seems to be nearing. I've taken $2,800 out of Poker Heaven in the last 10 days, leaving a small bankroll in there. I had ambitions of never withdrawing, after all that's really the fastest way to step up the limits, but after the ugly start I had to November I've decided to profit take at every opportunity until the New Year.

I can't stress how bad some of the Poker Heaven players are. I've created a nice list of terrible players in a short space of time. Sadly they are not all regulars, which is only to be expected as a regular player would develop a clue at some point, but a number do play occasionally with pretty decent stacks which they're willing to cough up.

I got in touch with the Helsinki casino yesterday to try and blag a free taxi transfer to/from the airport. They were not as willing as the same chain in Vilnius, sadly. It looks like a €30-€40 fare each way. France was equally as expensive.

I'll be playing the €100 NLHE rebuy on the 12th and the €200 PLO rebuy on the 13th.

Every time I check the weather it seems to be getting colder. I expect the Finns can deal with a bit of snow unlike us here in the UK, where a few inches grinds everything to a halt. Everything has melted away now with the rain, even so, yesterday there was a little sludge around on the roads - dirt mixed with melting snow, real pretty! - and drivers were still unable to cope! On a national speed limit highway, in the middle of the morning a young lady felt she could not go beyond 30 MPH. Ok, fine, if you want to drive at 30 in a 60 zone I can live with that. Please pull over though every once in a while! We sailed passed several lay-bys which she totally ignored, meanwhile a queue stretching back to Wales has built up behind us.

I used to get annoyed by these drivers. I'm much calmer these days, now I just lean on the horn for 30 seconds or so rather than until they submit ;-)

Amazingly, feeling peckish, I went out for some chips last night and the same thing happened again. No sludge this time, it'd been raining all day! Still, it was dark and it was raining.... so best stick to 30 MPH, despite the long irrate queue of motorists behind me. Why do these people have licenses? They are a hazard, they cause impatient motorists to take chances by over taking, resulting in accidents which needn't have occured if the idiot at the front of the queue would at least get within 10 MPH of the limit.

I'm not saying people should speed everywhere. I hate it when people speed through my village. Just be aware what the speed limit is and how safe it is to travel near that limit. Rain and night fall is not an excuse to crawl along!

I overtook the idiot last night, my chips were getting cold, he or she decided to test their main beam as I went passed. I decided to test my brake lights until their main beam had been tested for long enough :-)

Road rage is alive and well and living in Leicestershire.