Well last weekend saw me head to Liverpool for the third leg of the Coral British Masters Poker Tour. So far this year I’ve really enjoyed the Coral tour. I had a nice result down Bristol and really enjoyed the Leeds leg with so many friends in the field so I was really looking forward to Leg 3 in Liverpool. Due to the Newcastle G running their annual Club Championships on the same weekend everyone who would have usually played the Liverpool leg understandably stayed in Newcastle to support the local event. I also had this event in my poker calendar this year but when the dates clashed I had to drop it from my schedule in favor of the Coral tour. Fortunately I did have a good percentage in my brother who was playing the event and he seems to be making final table after final table at the minute so naturally I still had a lot of interest in the event.
So anyway, I headed off to Liverpool on the Saturday morning by myself. I had to make a quick pit stop at Scotty Hocking’s on route to dropped off my lap top, Scotty had kindly agreed to help clean up my lap top and install HEM for me. I’d bought HEM in January this year and after I failed in my attempt to install postgres I contacted HEM support who somehow were also unable to resolve the problem. So anyway, 7 months on and I eventually decided to get my arse in gear and cue Hock-Dogg who’s IT expertise is well known amongst the NPF crew. I’m running late as per usual so I quickly drop my lap top off at Scotty’s and get back on the road. I also played the Liverpool leg last year and on the drive down I thought back to the journey down there last year.
Since the 2009 leg happened before we started the blog let me tell you a little bit about it. It was without doubt the funniest road trip I’ve ever been on on-route to a poker event. Last year I made the trip down to Liverpool with my brother, James ‘Brick on the River’ Howard and my cousin Paul ‘The Don from Gosforth’ Donaghey. It’s hard to pick a highlight of the road trip as it was a laugh from start to finish but I do remember getting stuck in standstill traffic on the M62 for about an hour. After a long wait in the static traffic on the motorway we spot a Ginsters food van about half a mile down the motorway. We ask the Gossy Don to run down the road and try to buy a few sausage rolls from him as were getting a bit peckish. Needless to say the driver didn’t oblige but watching him run down the motorway and knocking on the drivers’ window was pure comedy gold, probably one of those you had to be there moments but it was hilarious at the time. Anyway, when we all eventually got to the Liverpool Gala we ran into a few further problems. The first being that BOTR had forgot his ID and was not allowed in, the second being Dan was also not allowed in as he was still nationally barred at the time. Had played previous legs under his alias Craig Tumilty but had been rumbled in Nottingham and had seemingly got everything sorted out before the trip down – obviously not. The third being that the Gossy Don had only brought £200 with him for the £550 event. LMAO. Anyway The Don decided to try and spin up his £200 on the black jack, degen stylie. A couple of hands later and a few whoops and high fives with the dealer he walked into the card room with £600. Sweet, at least I was not playing the event by myself. If I remember correctly Dan and the Bensham Brick found a local casino and played a small stakes game before going for a few beers.
Anyway, fast forward one year and I doing the same drive but this time myself. I’d punched in the postcode for the hotel and hoped to check in and get changed before heading over to the casino. I always like to do this before an event but as I was running a little behind schedule I was concerned I wouldn’t have time this time around. Anyway, the sat nav takes me straight to the casino. FML. I must of put the casino post code in instead of the hotel. I’m definitely not going to have time to get freshened up now. Oh, hang on a minute, the hotel is next door to the casino, that close to each other they share the same entrance. Sweet, nice one Coral. I checked in, got changed and headed over to the casino in good time.
I head into the casino and grab a cup of coffee before the cards are in the air. In total 51 players registered for the Liverpool leg which on the face of things looks like a disappointing turn out, and the smallest Coral field to date but considering all the Club Championships around the country, other poker events, players still in LV and the world cup final I think it’s a pretty good turnout. I was quite happy to be part of the smaller field and hoped to capitalize on this and make my third Coral final table. There is a slight delay before we are underway which suits me fine having cut things a little fine. Anyway, I eventually take my seat and have a quick scan around the table. FML I’m out of position to the most established player at the table in Ash Hussain. Former winner of the Grosvenor champion of champions and with over $1 million in tournament earning was certainly a player to watch out for.
Anyway, I get out the blocks flying and pick up a few nice hands straight away. I win my first significant pot vs Ash Hussain with KsQs. I join a multi way raised pot from the BB and flop a FD on a paired board. After the flop is checked around I make my flush on the turn and check raise Ash who had opened the betting pre flop UTG. He calls my check raise and I VB the river but Ash lets it go. I also win a nice little pot when I opened from early with JJ. I’m called by a Scandi lad who has noticed how active I’ve been and he looked like he wanted to 3BET me in an earlier pot before letting his hand go. Anyway he had position on me and I could sense he wanted to play some poker with me. Anyway, he flats my open and I check the Ace high flop to him. He quickly fires at the flop and I make the call. We both check the turn and I again check the river to him. I’m pretty sure I’m good here and ready to pick off a river bet. He dwells for a little while before checking back. I open up my hand and he mucks face down. I also pick up QQ in the first level and 3BET an early position open. I called and lead the 9 high flop which meets no resistance and by the end of level 1 I’m up to 13,225.
By the start of level 2 (50/100) I’ve been in like two pots every orbit and I really do have a laggy image. Not long into the start of this level I win a really big pot and find myself all in. I open from mid with Ah3h to 250 and I’m looked up by unknown villain called Steven King in the cut off. The flop is a dreamy 7h3cKh. With a pair and the NFD I look to build the pot & C-Bet 400. I’m flat called and I meaningless 4d hits the turn. I again fire out this time for 750. Villain then raises me to 2,100. I deliberate for a little before making the call. The beautiful 5h hits the river giving me the nuts and I again check to the villain. With the pot now 4,850 he fires 3,300 into the middle. I tank for a little bit before sliding my full stack over the betting line. It’s a great feeling to check raise the nuts on the river although is a risky play in terms of missing out on value. Villain asks for a count and it’s another 7,500+ more and all of his chips. With 8,150 already in the middle he has a long tank before folding 4h8h face up. I fold face down and I’m up to about 17,500. I win a few more little pots throughout the course of the level and by the end of the level I’ve almost double my starting stack as I’m sitting on 19,075.
Nearing the end of level 2 we had a late entrant join our table by the name of Alan McClean. Alan is an elderly chap and very unassuming but I knew all about him. He plays a lot of pots and has a very good poker game. With over $820,000 in tournament earning over a 14 year career he was certainly a player to watch. Anyone who doesn’t know him might look at him and think it’s a bit of a soft spot but he can mix it with the best of them and I was certainly aware of this. For some strange reason I had a feeling we would end up playing a bit pot together and turns out I was right.
Level 3 (75/150) wasn’t as active for me but my stack was heading in the right direction and without playing any key pots I end the level on 22,650. With only 50,000 needed for final table chip average I was absolutely crushing and it was just plain sailing for me to be honest. We had only lost 6 players from the 51 runners and the chip average was still only 11,300. I had however noticed that Alan was also playing a lot of pots and despite his late arrival had managed to accumulate a lot of chips without taking much to showdown. So I start level 4 (100/200) feeling very good and just playing my usual TAG game. There is a new player at the table who is sitting with a cap and shades on. He is BTN to my BB. He’s got a few chips and is quite active and has opened a lot of late position pots. Action folds around to said villain and he makes what is almost a standard BTN open to 450. I have AJo in the BB and decide to flat. I’m not a huge fan of AJo. My brother once told me you either win a small pot with it or lose a big one and I tend to agree. However, as with most things in poker it’s all situational and the call feels right. The flop is KJT and I check call villains flop and turn bets. The river goes check check and he tables KQ. I muck face down and lose my first meaningful pot of the day. Towards the end of the level I open a pot from mid position with QT and I’m looked up by the BTN. I C-Bet the Ace high flop and get called. Villain has not played many hands and it’s unlikely I’ve been floated. I get the information I need I shut down. Turn is checked and I check fold the river. I end the level on 16,825. Chip average had crept up to 13,400 and we were down to 38 players. I tried to remain optimistic despite a disappointing level. After all I was still above the chip average and had a good feel for the table.
We break for lunch before level 5 and I have a bit of a catch up with John ‘Loopy’ Littler and his missus. John’s a really nice guy who always supports the tour, I first met him at the sponsorship sit and go in Blackpool last November. John was one of the finalist as the online league winner. He often follows the Coral tour and is one of the nicest guys in the game so it was a pleasure to spend a bit of time in his company when we broke for lunch. He’s a good player as well as a sound bloke, his online record is the Coral qualifiers is top class although he’s still chasing his first big live score.
Anyway, back to the action. I sit down for level 5 (150/300) and muck the first few hands before getting involved in a huge pot with, you guessed it, Alan McClean. Alan opens from mid position to 800. Some Black Belt poker guy, who had already made one unsuccessful move on me earlier flats behind. Action passes to me in the SB. I look down at AKo and consider my options. I guess the obvious play here is a 3BET to about 2,400. I can add 1,900 to my stack pretty much uncontested most of the time. However, this was not the line I took. With 50 bigs I was still plenty deep and decided to flat call. My thinking behind this had a lot to do with the fact that Alan McClean was in the hand who was also very deep. From my observations of him he had limped called quite a bit and liked to play a lot of flops so I figured he’d look up my 3BET and although that’s not necessarily a bad thing I didn’t really want to build the pot then air ball and be forced to check fold or bet fold if he looks interested post flop. Another reason for the flat call is to disguise the strength of my hand if I connect and I can get more value from Ax Kx hands.
So fit or fold it is then and we see a 3 way flop which is A8Tcc. Nice one I think to myself. I check and Alan leads 1,100 into the 2,700 pot. Black Belt poker guy mucks and action is on me. With the draw out there and what I interpret as a weak bet from Alan there’s nothing I’m really scared of so I decide to flat call and let him fire another bullet. Maybe he has clubs but I flat call anyway and hope not to see one on the turn. I figured with any kind of big hand; a set or aces up type of hand a player of his experience would bet bigger in a multi-way to protect his hand and price out any straight or flush draws. The 6h hits the turn putting a heart draw out as well as the club draw. I again check to Alan. With 4,900 in the middle Alan again makes what I read as another weak bet and fires 2,000 into the middle. Now heads up I decide this is the time to build the pot a little as I look to get value from AQ and or any drawing hands. I check raise to 5,000. So action is now back on Alan and with 11,900 now in the middle Alan moves all in. WOW, I wasn’t expecting that. I ask for a count and it’s another 11,000 to make the call. Pretty much a pot sized shove. I count my stack and I still have over 9,000 back. It’s an interesting spot. I mean I’m not beating much now but the hand just doesn’t make sense. I mean, WTF does he have? I’ve watched as Alan has almost effortlessly chipped up without taking hardly anything to showdown and I know he’s one of a very small percentage of players in the card room capable of making this move with complete air. He also knows I’m capable of making a big fold. Could he be going crazy with a heart or club draw? Maybe. Is he spazzing out with AQ? Possibly. He can’t have a set or aces up I say to myself, maybe he has 97. It’s about the only hand that makes any sense, but would he play it that strong? Maybe. I just didn’t know. With so much uncertainty I could easily justify the pass here and forget about the hand and still be very comfortable with 30 bigs. My head was screaming fold, your beat but there was something about this hand that just didn’t add up and I was really struggling to find the fold. Maybe Alan just thought I was making a move on him and decided to use his big stack to play back at me. I had a gut feeling my hand was good, nothing really made sense. I tank long and hard and re-run the whole hand back in my head. I know most times I’m beat in this spot but just felt this was not one of them. I decide to make the hero call and call off the rest of my stack. At 150/300 were on our backs for a 100+ BB pot and also playing a pot for the tournament chip lead. Alan tables AT for aces up. FML, how does he have AT there I think to myself. Anyway, I got my read wrong, missed my king and headed out the tournament is spectacular style. I mean I went from penthouse to outhouse in one hand. Alan scoops the pot and becomes the tournament chip leader.
I head out the casino, get back to my hotel and pack up and hit the road so I could spend the Sunday with my family rather than stop over and spend the morning driving home. On the way home I thought long and hard about my exit hand. I guess in hindsight the obvious move here was the 3BET pre. I think if I’m not 3BETing pre I have to either check raise the flop so I can get away cheaper or check call 3 streets. Check raising the turn was pretty much the worst thing I could do. After I’ve check raised the turn I can still lay the hand down and be sitting on a comfortable 30 bigs once he moves in on me. My head said fold and my gut said call. Well as they say you live by the sword and die by the sword and sometimes in poker you have to be prepared to die or order to succeed. I went with my gut and I was wrong. I wasn’t the call that made me mad, it happens. That’s poker as they say. It was the way I played it that I was upset about. Playing it that was put myself in a horrible spot where I was asked the question for my tournament life. Oh well, you live and learn as they say and it certainly something I’ll be reluctant to do in future without a lock on the hand. As they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Anyway, with 51 runners there was only 6 places paid and the tournament was eventually won by Mark McCluskey when after a cagey period heads up all of the chips fly into the middle with Mark’s 99 vs John Cullen’s AhKh. Mark’s 9’s hold and it’s enough to take the money, the trophy and his place in the sponsorship play off at the end of the year.
Final tables payout listed below
1) Mark McCluskey £9,430
2) John Cullen £5,610
3) John Callaghan £4,340
4) Ron Wilkinson £3,060
5) Ky Hutchinson £2,040
6) Brian Martin £1,020
Ok guys, so that’s it from me. Next stop for me is leg 4 of the Coral British Masters Poker Tour in Nottingham on the 31st July. Daniel had a really deep run there last year going into day 2 as one of the chip leaders before playing a monster pot with Blatch running AQ into AK all in pre. Hope to see a few of you down there and don’t forget you can win you seat online for only a couple of bucks. Give it a shot, you might just win a seat and be the next Coral champion.
As always, thank you for reading and feel free to comment.