Blog posts

Bless me Father for I have blogged

It's been a few weeks since the last blog, mainly because I've been playing almost exclusively online, and online doesn't tend to throw up too much that's bloggable. I did get out of the house once to play an Irish Open satellite in the Burlington which at least was a successful foray. Two tables meant only 1 ticket and €1300 for second, and I ended up chopping headsup with Daragh Davey.

Daragh was my roommate for a few days at the JP Masters festival. After a slow start that saw the main event draw less than 100 runners (and probably pound for pound the highest quality field ever in Ireland) things picked up day by day as the Norwegian invaders arrived for their own Norwegian poker championships. The Vikings may have toned down their rape and pillage traditions these days, but they certainly like to drink and gamble. By the time I left, the nightly turbos were getting more runners than the main event had got, and there were dozens of cash tables filled with deep pocketed Norwegians looking to get their gamble on.

My own main event was a pretty miserable affair where I basically withered from starting to a stump on day 1, and when I sent my 10 big blinds into the middle early on day 2 supported by a bad suited ace, I ran into a marginally better ace in the hands of Mully85. No suckout or chop and my stack became part of his as he mounted another live assault that brought him all the way to the final table. Well done to him and the other Irish final tableists, Tom "the Bomb" Finneran, Alan Truick and especially eventual winner Knuckles. I did some live stream commentary with Iain (who had featured me as you've never seen him before on his UKI poker show) on the final table which was enjoyable as ever, despite some technical problems.

Highlight of my JP Masters campaign was a win in the 300 side event. This was sweet as it's been a while since I actually won a live event. Things didn't exactly go my way early on when I lost half my stack in a funny hand, but I hung in there with a short stack for most of the final table and got lucky when needed. Both Lappin and Young Master Davey were in attendance too. A bit of history between them earlier in the tournament made for an interesting dynamic on the final table. Lappin tends to be the most unpredictable player at the table and was again on this occasion, and was unlucky to be crippled by Young Master Davey in a standard racing spot on the bubble. I then crippled YMD in another racing spot where I had 26 outs by the river, and ended up headsup with English pro Mark Segal. 6:1 down in chips, I decided my best chance was to try to gradually chip rather than flip my way back into it, which led to a very long headsup war of attrition. I'd hauled myself back to near parity when I again got lucky when I needed to. As the blinds mounted leaving less room for smallball and widening the range of hands we were both willing to get it in pre with, we did get it in and my ace 5 was in bad shape against Mark's eights. The queen high flop threw up a couple of low cards giving me a gutshot that only a deuce could fill, but no more bother to me: out popped one on the river. That left Mark chronically short and I sealed the deal a few hands later with ace ten against a raggy ten.

My roomie won the unlimited rebuy side event the following night, fairly demolishing the final table, and we both made the final table of the last event I played out there. I was ninth on this occasion while he ended up fifth for his third cash of the series. Hopefully we'll maintain this level of hit rate at the next series where we're rooming together (the WSOP).

On Wednesday morning I headed to Lisbon with Lappin for the EMOP here. One of the biggest problems when combining live with online tends to be sleeping patterns which generally need to be switched around as online poker has a more evening/nocturnal schedule. We both got about 2 hours sleep yesterday, and after wandering round Cascais for a while, we ran into Kevin Spillane and Gary Clarke in a Beefeater pub. Kev got his hustle on and we found ourselves on the wrong side of a pool score. Once he realised we'd been hustled, Lappin started talking and called onthe Jedi mind tricks he uses to such good effect at the poker table, and before anyone was too sure what had happened we'd somehow clawed back to claim victory and the confused lads were giving rather than receiving hard currency.

We walked back to the hotel to get my passport to go to the casino, but instead fell asleep. When we woke a few hours later Lappin demanded an executive decision as to whether to get up for a few hours or try to sleep on. I ruled for the latter, and drifted back to sleep to the sound of Lappin whining how this could never work, we'd wake up at 3 AM, and then be rightly knackered by the time we had to play Day 1A at 4 PM. It's now 10 AM and he is still sleeping like a baby in a onesie, so though he'd never admit it, it looks like he was wrong.

345 scratch cards

If you run a poker event with a €345 buyin and attract almost a thousand players from all over the world, is that success? I'd certainly have assumed so, but apparently many disagree if you made some lofty predictions about getting 4000 runners. It's an expectations game I suppose.

The oddly named Super poker event in Citywest was essentially a souped up turbo. There's definitely a place for this sort of event on the calendar and I do like a good turbo myself. It's a bit like the IPO, but in a much nicer hotel, and without the bonus of a thousand or so drunks wandering round the place, some of them representing Boyles slurring "Well, aren't we all having great craic altogether" in your face every few minutes.

I never really got going and busted in time for a nice leisurely dinner at Lemongrass in the company of Nick Abou Risk and his friend Gary, the Drumlish lads (Smidge and Jaymo), Mick Mccloskey, Daragh Davey and David Lappin. Between the eight of us us we had ten starting stacks collectively. However, late regger Nick had nine of those. Nick's just turned full time pro so best of luck to him.

I did get a bit of a run in a side event, and could have done well if I didn't keep getting all in pre with kings against smaller pairs or Axs. A lady who shall remain nameless once told me she was so fed up of getting her kings cracked that she'd started open folding them. I can't see myself going down that road though, but it's certainly an interesting line.

David and I did the livestream commentary on the final table, ably produced by Iain Cheyne as ever. My friend and constant heckler Alan Mclean (father of tourney organiser Stephen) had a great run all the way to the final table and was unlucky not to go farther. Chatting to him at one of the breaks on the final table, he told me a story that made me laugh. His wife Patricia is also a very good player: in fact many (myself included) would rate her a better player than Alan. Numbered among these apparently is their daughter, who tried to buy a share in Patricia in the event and wasn't too happy being fobbed off into buying a percentage of her old man instead. However, as soon as she realised her grudging percentage was amounting to something, she was on the phone constantly to find out how much she was getting now.

Well done to Stephen for another successful addition to the domestic calendar. It's not an easy business climate at the moment and not everyone appreciates a good live turbo as much as I do. When I asked one young pro if he was going to play it, his pithy reply was "I'd rather buy 345 scratch cards".

In Fitz it starts

In June 2007, I walked into the Fitzwilliam card club to play live poker for the first time in my life. When I gave my name, Denise looked suspiciously at me and my brother and said "Brothers?". When I asked if it was obvious, she said "It's the hair". Fair comment, as both of us were sporting the wild bushy O'Kearney hair that is a struggle to tame.

My brother had been playing a few years already. I'd been playing less than a month, and apart from a few online freerolls, nearly all my experience was Limit cash. The main thing I remember is that people seemed particularly unfriendly, at least by contrast with the running world I was still active in where people went out of their way to be welcoming to newcomers. That was certainly not the case here, where any sign of nervousness or inexperience was pounced on. I remember being rebuked by a dealer for a string bet, and other players for acting too slowly.

My brother was an accomplished player who was almost making a living from the game. He was almost making a living from a few other things too, so between everything it added up to making a living. To stop me scarpering off into the night as soon as I busted, he swapped 10% with me, making it clear it was a minus Ev act of charity in his case. He had yet to learn just how well his older brother would run. 9 hours later he was still loitering as his 10% was now headsup with one of the great characters of the Fitz, Colette "Smurph". Smurph described me on her blog at the time as a "nervous newcomer" (which I clearly was) that she felt she could read easily. That didn't stop her getting it in drawing to runner runner (and getting there). My brother was disappointed to see his equity disappear in this manner, but I was pretty thrilled with a second place finish in my first outing.

Over the next 6 months I was back in the Fitz two or three nights a week. I learned the live game there. It set me up for a breakout year in 2008 when I would be crowned European Deepstack champion, make a number of other final tables in Ireland and have two deep runs in GUKPTs.

When I go into the Fitz these days once a month for their End of Month game, I still see Denise behind the desk. Several of the dealers and other staff remain the same. But very few of the regulars in whose company I learned to play remain. They've been replaced by new faces. It's a sad truth that in poker most players are losing players, and most losing players reach a point beyond which they are unwilling or unable to go on losing.

One of the few regulars that does remain is the legend that is Bob Battersby. Bob is one of those people it's possible to both love and hate at the same time. Talking to him is generally a surreal experience akin to dealing with a bot online. He asks you something, you respond, he misunderstands, you repeat, he goes off at a tangent based on one word in your sentence you said or at least he thinks you did, you respond again in confusion, and he generally ends the conversation pointing out you have no idea what you're talking about. Which of course you haven't, so you have to concede you've lost an argument you didn't even know you were having, and still have no idea what it was about. Despite this, and the fact that every time I see him he gives no indication of any memory of ever having seen or spoken to me before, I do enjoy running into Bob. I also enjoyed knocking him out on the second last table. Bob takes these things in his stride without rancour better than most of the other OAP regulars in there. As I came down the stairs bringing my chips to the final table, Bob caught my eye and said "Thanks for knocking me out.....again!" Sensing my shock at this rare acknowledgement that he even knew who I was, he pressed home his advantage. "I never see the brother with you any more. Does he not play?"

I don't think anyone else in the Fitz even remembers that I have a brother who used to play, but somehow the most seemingly forgetful man in the place does.

UKIPT Galway: another victory for the grinders

"Yeah but what's his biggest score?"

In poker, there's an eternal philosophical battle between two camps divided by their reaction to this question. On one side you have what I call the bink merchants, who judge a player purely by his biggest score or scores. On the other, the grinders, who prefer to measure success over statistically meaningful sample sizes of thousands of tournaments rather than the lucky strike.

After the recent IPPF which ended with two proper young online grinders facing each other and agreeing to chop, I wrote in my blog "The last few years have seen the online kids rise to dominate the international stage, and the next couple will see the same thing happen here in my opinion". UKIPT Galway continued that trend: winner Emmett Mullin is a proper online grinder who despite having a biggest P5's score of just over $20k has notched up lifetime online winnings (as tracked by PocketFives) of over $1 million.

Props also to defending champ Nick Abou Risk who mounted a Raymeresque defence of his crown all the way to the final table, and one of the most promising newcomers on the Irish scene John "jwillo" Willoughby who also final tabled. Nick's friend Max Silver also added a high roller crown to his main event crown.

My own UKIPT campaign ended rather miserably with an exact bubble in a side event. After seeing my stack almost disappear near the bubble when I shoved into aces, I'd recovered somewhat on the exact bubble only to lose a flip (queens v ace king). I then more or less replicated my live week on the Sunday grind online, building a few stacks only to see them combust near the bubble and ended up doing another couple of grand.

No point whining or moaning though: after 6 weeks mainly devoted to live poker, it's time to redress the balance and get back to clicking buttons for a living.

As I hung around Monday waiting for my train, I railed the final table for a short while. The one hand of note I witnessed saw Mully get two outered on the river after calling a check raise on the flop, betting the turn (and getting called), and checking behind on the river. I had to chuckle to myself when a cheer went up from the other player's rail as the pot was pushed towards their man, clearly unconcerned about the fact that at every point in the hand when chips went in, he was far behind, and then when he finally did hit a 20/1 shot on the river, not another chip went in. Mully took this temporary reverse without histrionics or even reaction and got on with the job of winning the war: as you'd expect from a man who has played millions of hands online and understands that poker is a game of luck in the short term, but skill in the long term.

Mully is one of the Omagh crew spear-headed by Steve "allinstevie" Devlin which features several top class online grinders and a great guy: when I switched from playing stts to mtts online he popped up a few times on the rail on some of my early Stars final tables to give me some advice on the regs which I greatly appreciated. So I was really thrilled to see him win. He's had a few deep runs and crossbars live before so it was great to see him get his just rewards this time. He has the talent and the dedication for this to be the first of many, but the great thing about being a grinder is that even if it doesn't happen, he'll still keep ticking along online on the way to his next million in lifetime winnings. In response to my tweet celebrating his victory, Mully replied, in his usual self deprecating manner, "thanks a million Dara, pretty unbelievable tbh, this ones for all us grinders out there".

Dick from Nottingham

Most of last week was devoted to the European Deepstack. I played the main event and a few side events, and kept running into aces, except in one of the side events where I had the aces. Sadly, they were no match for KTo on that occasion, the only time the aces didn't hold.

I had a spell on the feature table late on day 1A. I'd gone for dinner with Jason Tompkins (who had just won the High Roller - well done lad!) and his lovely girlfriend Joy, Daragh Davey, Nick Newport and David Lappin. I'd stated my intention if I did find myself in the last hour with a 20K stack to get it in a lot lighter than I normally would in the hopes of either doubling up or busting (so I could re-enter 1B). There was general agreement that this was the soundest strategy in a deepstack event where you think you have a fairly big edge over the field: any loss in equity taking sub optimal gambles being compensated by gained equity from giving yourself a second full run at amassing a stack. In the event, my shoves all got through (I had a very good image at the table), which at least saw me move from under 20k to over 30k.

After busting the main event and the turbo side on Saurday, I played a few online games in the room. I late regged for the nightly Night on Stars on French Stars and ended up winning it for just over 10K, so once again it was a case of online to the rescue. The French at my table in the side the following day had heard of my win and were suitably impressed. Humble as ever, I pointed out that I'd actually won this tourney three times in the past few weeks, even though I've only played it about half a dozen times. One of French commented wrily: "You must like French fish". The win moves ne to my highest ever P5 rankings just outside the top 200 in the world. It would be cool to break into the top 100 this year (but I probably need to play a lot less live and more online to get there).

This blog is being written just after busting the main event at UKIPT Galway. After a ropey start I got up to 35k near the end of the day, comfortably above average. I then lost with tens versus jto when I called a 15 bb shove, and kjs v Aj when I'd opened and was priced in to call the reshove. AJ is this week's bogey hand: I was crippled today when I shoved qjs into it, and busted the 6 max side with it versus king 7.

The UKIPT itself seems to go from strength to strength with the number of runners way up this year despite the increased buyin. On Thursday Quentin (one of the Stars managers in the UK) invited the serial online qualifiers out to dinner and was interested to hear our thoughts on what appealed to us about the online sats and what improvements could be made. I think there's quite a widespread view of Stars as an arrogant market leader, so it's always good to see that they are willing to listen and maybe learn.

 I don't normally sell my action in live events any more but my German friend Max Heinzelmann asked if he could buy a "lucky 1%". Max won EPT Player of the Year last year for his achievement of getting headsup in back to back EPTs (Berlin and San Remo) so I figure his lucky 1% could be very lucky indeed. Unfortunately it wasn't to be though.

I still have a few sweats with horses in the main so hopefully one of them binks or else  I'll just have to try to win another online tournament to get out.

At the Deepstack, David Lappin pointed to a tall young guy and simply said "Dick from Nottingham". Finding myself standing beside him later as we filed out to a break, I asked "How are you getting on Dick?" The reaction to this polite enquiry was somewhat unexpected. Mainly because his name wasn't Dick. Turns out Lappin meant dick from Nottingham.

Madrid and Prague

It seems that every year I start with my main New Year's resolution being *more online, less live". This year's good intentions haven't amounted to any more than previous attempts, with practically all of January being devoted primarily to live poker. And February's not looking much better.

I targeted the first leg of the Spanish Estrellas tour primarily as an easy supply of tournament dollars. The online sats are particularly soft so after multiple binks I was effectively better than freerolling in the tournament itself. Just as well, as despite a late rush on day 1 that saw me up in the top 10 in chips, it went south faster than a Ryanair flight to Madrid on day 2. Still, Madrid's not an unpleasant place to find yourself having to pass a few days in January, so with Mrs. Doke in tow for once, I diverged from my normal routine of playing side events and just chilled for a few days. Mrs. Doke is a very gifted linguist who is fluent in four languages and can get by in several others, but sadly Spanish isn't one of them. It was striking to watch how fast someone like her can learn though: by the end of the trip she was gabbing away in Espanol.

My travelling companion to EMOP Prague was the less linguistically accomplished Daragh "Mongoose" Davey, fresh from a number of recent online triumphs. With a very strong travelling Irish contingent that included Connie O'Sullivan, Kieran Walsh, Jason Arthur, Richie Lawlor, Daragh Davey, brother Noel and Duncan Keane, Damien Collins, Rebecca McAdam and her boyfriend Niall, Francis "Wally" McCormack, Kevin Spillane, Gary Clarke, and Mick Rossiter, there were sound reasons to be optimistic that at least one of us would make the final table. In the event, we got two on, my Irish Eyes teammate Connie O'Sullivan, and Kevin Spillane. Connie, one of the most popular figures in Irish poker, played brilliant disciplined poker with a short stack for most of the tournament and was unlucky not to go further than 8th. Kevin, who went deep last year in EMOP Lisbon, also got unlucky on the final table after making a brilliant call with sixes on a 98x flop against two overcards. Unfortunately, one of the overcards hit the river, but it was a great performance by the very likeable Kevin to finish fourth.

I never got going in the main event but did at least have the consolation of cashing twice (11th in the Leaderboard final, and third in a turbo side event) to come home with more money than I left with, which is always nice. Daragh bricked everything, despite playing very well, but did have the consolation of hustling me into my first ever degen bet on a sport I know nothing about. After offering me the pick of the teams in the Superbowl, I plumped for the Patriots purely on the grounds that I seemed to recall hearing someone say they were favourites. If the pain of having to part with hard currency wasn't enough to dissuade me from relapsing into such degeneracy in the future, a very strong desire to avoid ever having to witness the Mongoose Celebration Dance which made Madonna's half time show almost palatable by comparison surely will.

This was my first ever trip rooming with Daragh, and you never really know how you're going to get on with someone in that context til you try, but from my end it was a very enjoyable experience. Daragh's good company with a sly sense of humour and a good sport. He even endured having to walk round the same sights of Prague twice to show me around on my day off (we played different day 1's so he'd already done the tourist thing the night before). Better still, and I don't want anyone to think this comment is directed at them personally (even though it is: hello Mick Mccloskey!) Daragh is a very silent and sound sleeper. Maybe a little too sound: getting him up in the mornings was something I felt might challenge a nuclear bomb. But as he pointed out himself, it's a well known fact that the mongoose likes his sleep.

Next few weeks are very busy on the live poker front with the European Deepstack championships being followed by Galway UKIPT. Galway's always great craic and will be a chance to catch up with lots of people. My good friend Keith McFadden who has been off doing other things is making a comeback for this. Keith has a great record in Galway and will be lodds on for a deep run.

Why I'm not David Bowie

I didn't play last year's IPPF so when I said to Mick Mccloskey I'd go with him to this year's version, in my mind I thought I was going to a game with 100 or so runners. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn it'd be more like 400. On the drive down, I made various business calls and found other ways to play with my new smartphone, all the time trying to drown out Mick's complaints about dereliction of navigation duties.

Day 1 went pretty well. I chipped up throughout without any major incident. My table did get progressively tougher as the evening wore on with the arrival of Colin Hammond, John Keown and Ciaran "Tag" Taggart. Otherwise, the highlight of the day was one of the great characters on the Irish poker scene Nicky Power mugging it up for the cameras to take the piss out of my Twitter parody account (choke_doke).

I was happy to bag up comfortably above average having almost doubled my starting stack. By contrast, Day 2 couldn't have gone much worse. I missed the opportunity to triple up when Jamie Flynn opened for the umpteenth time. I was about to threebet light with T7s when I noticed the guy beside me was almost wetting himself with excitement, leading me to suspect he had a hand. So I let the hand go. My read was spot on as my neighbour threebet Jamie. After Jamie peeled, they got it in with 88 and 99 on a J98 board! The board didn't pair so my T7 would have scooped.

My favoured strategy in softish live events with a good structure is to try to chip up steadily using a smallball approach, rather than making any premature big moves. However, there inevitably comes a time when you have to kick on as blinds and antes escalate. After Gavin Flynn opened to 1700 utg at 400/800 with a 100 ante, I elected to flat call with AK in the small blind. I prefer flatting in these spots out of position against a good player when the effective stack is 40 to 55 bbs, as the threebet just inflates the pot and makes it likely that if we do get it all in pre, I'm going to be flipping at best. I think the threebet also folds out most of the hands in Gav's range that I dominate, while the flatcall disguises my hand. It allows me to get away cheaply if I miss the flop, but potentially win a big pot if I hit. The big blind came along. The flop was 8 high all hearts (I had the ace of hearts). In my mind, I now have enough equity that I'm happy to get it all in, and did after the big blind potted it, Gav folded, and I check raised. I assumed I was flipping nearly always with two overs and a flush draw, but wasn't in this case. I was up against a queen high made flush and didn't get there.

I didn't really think too much about the hand until a good player at the table told me later he didn't like how I played it, preferring the 3 bet pre, and the check call on the flop. I strongly disagree though (I don't like putting in a chunk of my stack when I'm going to have to fold most turns and can add about 30% to my stack without showdown if the check raise gets through), but I ran the hand by Lappin and Rob Taylor (who both play it same as me).

I was back later for the side event. I made a strong start doubling my stack early on without any major showdowns. There was one funny hand with Ciaran Cooney. Ciaran 4xed the button to 200 over a limper, I threebet to 550 from the big blind with queens, the limper flatted, Ciaran 4 bet, and after a little deliberation I decided the fold was most prudent here. Ciaran showed 93o. He told me later he'd done it because in his very first live event a few years ago he'd 6 bet me with 23o and got me to fold, so I guess Ciaran's timing is good in that he finds me with the one hand I'd be 3 bet folding here (everything weaker gets flatted at this point, and everything stronger is not getting folded). I'm fine with the fold though, there's nothing wrong with folding the best hand from time to time (it certainly beats calling with the worst every time), and a couple of top players told me they'd make what Lappin calls a "boxy" fold in this spot.

I ruined my good start the next time I got queens. Having raised in late position and got called by both blinds, I chet when checked to on a 542 flop. Smurph called and the big blind now shoved. My instant read on him was that he wasn't strong, he seemed just to be fed up of my constant raising, so I figured he was either overplaying something marginal, or making a spazzy move assuming I couldn't have hit that flop. So I called. Smurph now reshoved and my gut was I was now beaten. However, I only needed to be good about 35% of the time to call, and convinced myself I could be up against a smaller overpair or a pair and a draw hand involving a three. However, on reflection I don't think I'm good here often enough, so not exactly my finest hour. The big blind had 94o, and Smurph a set of 4s. I never recovered from this, being forced to wait for a decent spot to shove. A7 over a couple of limps looked like one but ran into AJ behind. That ended my weekend on the playing front.

I hung round on day 3 as a couple of my friends were still in and going well. Unfortunately it went pear shaped fairly quickly for both Daragh Davey and Padraig "Smudge" O'Neill so it was time to get clane out of dodge, or to dodge out of Clane, and back home for a Sunday grind. I had a bad one, but had the consolation of ending my night railing Daragh and Lappin deep in some majors. Lappin, playing his first major in ages, romped into the last 100 of the Milly like the classic thoroughbred he is, and just as we were both getting excited about the 200k plus up top, unfortunately ran tens into kings with 67 left. Great show by the talented Mr Lappin though, who has also made me the subject of his latest entertaining blog which explains among other things why I'm not David Bowie. He assures me the entry became his most read ever within 24 hours.

Daragh Davey, who bunked on the couch in the suite myself and Mick shared and got a lift back from Clane with us demonstrated his true grit within a few hours. Shaking off the disappointment of playing brilliantly for 3 days to just double his money, he ended headsup in the Ipoker 200K, and was unlucky not to win when his AT was outdrawn by KQ. I'm on record as an admirer of "other" Daragh, and my admiration is based at least as much on his temperament, discipline and attitude as it is on his poker skills (which are considerable). In a world where people often confuse flamboyance with talent, and arrogance with accomplishment, Daragh prefers to just get on with the business quietly and with class. I'm pretty sure this is the first of many big results.

Well done to Danny Maxwell for his great blogging and photographs this weekend (including those that adorn this blog). Danny's blogging for IPB of Irish live events really adds to the occasion. I also ran into Breifne at the weekend, promoting his new venture, The basic idea is to have a ranking list for live and online events. Irish Eyes are running a number of qualifying events at quarter past eight 5 nights a week. I've been hitting these up when I can with spectacularly unsuccessful results (I've yet to cash!).

This blog is being typed up on the plane to Madrid, where later today I play 1a of Estrellas. Then next week I'm off to Prague (with Daragh Davey) for EMOP (and the live final for last year's leaderboard). With the deepstack following that and then Galway UKIPT, it's going to be a very busy month on the live front, making it harder to keep ticking away online. I rose to an all time high on the PocketFives rankings list after my recent rush of results (in the top 300 hundred in the world, and number 3 in Ireland, although I slipped down to number 4 at the weekend as Jude tore up Stars to move back ahead of me). With more and more top class Irish online players emerging, it gets harder and harder to stay near the top iof the Irish list. When I broke into the top 10, I wasn't even in the top 1000 worldwide: now you need to be around 500 or so worldwide to make top 10 in Ireland.

Finally, speaking of top class online players, a big well done to two of the Dungarvan gang, Mark O'Connor and Gavin Flynn, for chopping the main event in Clane. Both lads are part of the Dungarvan group of players that seem to feed off each other's success, and you'll be hearing a lot more of these lads in future. I heard that two of Ireland's "live pros" were taking the piss out of what they called internet players on their table on day one. While it used to be the case that many online players struggled to transition to live, I think it was noteworthy that when the dust cleared at the weekend, it was two young online players who had risen to the top. The last few years have seen the online kids rise to dominate the international stage, and the next couple will see the same thing happen here in my opinion.

Having viewed my latest career change with a mixture of shock and disdain initially, my daughter Fiona seems to be coming round to the view that there may be something to this poker lark. When she was home for Christmas, she asked me to give her a crash course so she could play with her housemates.  It took only 15 minutes or so as she's a very quick learner (it's clear that whatever talent for the game I possess she has inherited). She's still a novice though, and I got the following amusing text from her this weekend:

"If you're playing holdem and you accidentally say straight instead of flush before you show your hand, do you lose the pot because of it? Or is it just a stupid rule the lads just made up?"

As I texted back to her that they'd made it up, I regretted that we never had that Daddy-daughter talk where I explain that lads are sneaky. Limerick lads especially.

Jesus W(e)PT

I went in to my first WPT confident about how I was playing and optimistic I could get a result. Maybe I should aim to go into tourneys pessimistic and jittery, because I managed to butcher my first hand of note. After three betting a German who seemed to be playing very aggro with aces and getting flatted, I then got check called on a JT7 board with two clubs and a low diamond. A low diamond on turn made the board even more draw heavy so instead of checking behind for pot control like I normally would this early, I fired again. That's actually ok I think given the drawy nature of the board but once he raised I should have just gone away. Instead I called to see what he did on the river. All the draws missed so when he fired for about a third of pot I levelled myself into thinking it might be a cheap stab with a missed draw or a blocker with a hand like kings. It wasn't: just top set. So my 30k starting stack was now 20k.

Not to be too results based but it probably made no difference as no matter how many chips I had I think I was always destined to be felted when I got set over setted later on. That left me with 10 bbs and there was no recovery. I shipped in with AKs, got called in two spots, then Dermot Blaine squeezed button for almost half his stack. The first flatter now went away, but the second one, Bodog sponsored pro Tatiana flatted again. The board ran out 7 high with no further betting and when Dermot announced ace high I was suddenly optimistic I might be chopping or even winning, but Tatiana somehow had kings.

I was back day for the IPC. Last year I got a number of monkeys off my back like never having cashed in an EPT main event or a WSOP, so 2012 would be a good year to start cashing in the biggest events on the Irish calendar (never having cashed in an IPC, IO or IWF). My tournament started slowly as I struggled with card death and having Nik Persaud to my left. Things picked up when Padraig Parkinson arrived. Parky was clearly enjoying the festivities too much to be overly fussed about the poker, and having bluffed off half his stack to Nik first hand, did likewise with the other half to me next hand. That got me through to day 2, although a period of card death near the bubble meant I drifted back from being well above average after I made a hero call v Marc McDonnell that prompted some banter on Twitter. This whole business of people tweeting at the table makes things interesting (it also means people at home can follow the banter and get hand and chip updates). When I came back on day 2, Jason was sat directly behind me but I learned of his exit via Twitter!

I flipped well on day 2 to get right into the mix, then lost a big one with kings v ace jack all in pre that would really have put me right in the hunt. That left me in 20 bbs mode again and after finding aces I played them in a way designed to try to extract maximum value and a full double up. It didn't really work out on this occasion as my opponent hit a set on the turn, so it was another second final table exit. Good at least to get the year going with a live cash, although to be honest between my own buyins and those of my stable it barely made a dent on my losses for the weekend.

I was home in time for a Sunday grind and thankfully that went well enough to more than wipe out the live poker losses, as I got a second on French Stars. I followed it with a win a few days later in their main nightly which I bought into late. I was intending to have a night off and had gone into town for dinner with an old friend, then caught a movie with Lappin, and some more food with Lappin, Mongoose and Triona, but when I got home the itch was there so I late regged just in time. Pretty glad I did as I ended up binking for for €8300. So as ever, online rule, live drools.

Right before the WPT I had a long interesting chat with Andy Black. He'd been reading up on ultrarunning so was 20 questions, and was telling me about a one week retreat he was just back from which was invigorating. By the end of my few days in Citywest I was feeling (and looking: there's a rather horrible photo on IPB courtesy of Danny) anything but invigorated. My ongoing health problems are probably something I need to start paying more attention to and factoring in when scheduling. I had been thinking of doing the full WSOP this year but unless the health issue has completely cleared by then (which is possible but unlikely) I might need to look at a 2 to 3 week raiding visit instead. I'm also going to have to maybe look at curtailing my domestic schedule too rather than simply playing everything on the calendar.

Tomorrow I'm appearing with Breifne on his Dublin City FM Sunday sports show On The Ball. Think I'm scheduled for arpound 4.30. Breifne is currently launching a rankings site for Irish poker and there's a nightly €33 freezeout on Irish Eyes that I play most nights that counts for points. Irish Eyes Poker have also put a bounty on my head on the night I do play (whoever knocks me out gets entry to a freeroll for the monthly 100K game on Irish Eyes worth €200) so hopefully I'll see you there at some point. Also, I recently did an interview for PocketFives on the occasion of my second triple crown

What's another year?

OK, here goes with the review of the year that was, 2011.

My year got off to a quiet start, with January being one of only two months in the year where I didn't get a Hendon mob entry. I did play my first ever EMOP, where I got slowrolled by a granny, and ate sushi with Jason Tompkins and his girlfriend, who was attended on by her own lesbian fan club.

Saw me notch up my first official (Hendon mob) cash of the year. Nothing to get too excited about, a min cash in the Nottingham UKIPT, although coupled with the cash in the Galway leg it did see me high up the UKIPT leaderboard and thinking maybe I should play all the legs chasing the points (I eventually gave up after failing to cash in Cork). Highlight online was being told by an English Stars grinder that Stephen "allinstevie" Devlin had told him I was a crazy LAG, "the craziest man in Ireland". High praise indeed.

Another UKIPT (Manchester), another cash, but not in the main event. I final tabled the £300 side event but failed to last an orbit on a table with 4 Irish players. Online, I had my deepest ever run in a Stars major, chipleading the Sunday warmup for hours before ultimately bubbling the final table.

A big month for me live, as I notched up three Hendon mob cashes in a week, and four in the month. It started with a 4th place finish in Malaga (Estrellas). From Malaga, I headed straight to Berlin for my only EPT main event of the year, and got the monkey of never having cashed in an EPT main event off my back. Having clung on without much of a stack for days (earning me the label of "Grinder of the Tournament" on the official blogs) and then finally got one together with about 70 left, it was a disappointing finish to what looked like being a run all the way to the final table at least. I did make a final table in Berlin, in a turbo side event. I also final tabled (and chopped) another turbo towards the end of the month, at the Irish Open. April also saw me parting company with Bruce poker as my official sponsors. It was an amicable split and Bruce will always have a special place in my heart as the first site to sponsor me.

Got off to a ropey start when I turned up at the wrong hotel for the JP Masters. Once I showed at the right hotel, things went a bit better, as I final tabled the main event for the second time in my relatively short career. After busting in 7th, I jumped into yet another turbo, primarily attracted by the kick of having two Hendon mob entries for the same day. Alas, it was not to be, as even though I won the turbo (or more precisely chopped it with my good friend Breifne Earley), Hendon records entries under the date the tournament starts rather than finishes. Highlight of the month though was my appointment as Irish Eyes Team captain. A couple of other sites had expressed some interest after I left Bruce but after speaking to Steven there was always going to be only one winner, as the Team captain role was much more appealing than the traditional "sponsored pro".

Was meant to be all about Vegas, but I left for Vegas on a high having become the first Irish online player to claim a PocketFives triple crown. A few weeks previously, Jono Crute had a triple crown sweat during the week he stayed in my house, and had told me of his ambition to be the first Irish player to get one. His ambition became mine too and was achieved a few weeks later. The Triple Crown is a notional award dished out to online players who win three big tournaments on three different networks in a seven day period. Having won the 30 rebuy on Ipoker on Monday and the 15k turbo on Merge on Thursday, I had to head to Carlow for the CPT final so the triple crown was looking unlikely (I'd actually decided if I didn't bink on Thursday I'd give up trying and take a few days off before Vegas instead). However, having busted in Carlow in time to get back for a Sunday grind and a last tilt at the crown, I signed up for as many 100-200 runner fields with a sufficient buyin to qualify on various sites, to give myself the best possible chance of binking the all important third win. So I ruled out all the Sunday majors as too much of a longshot. Ironically, the one "major" I did play, the Bodog 100k, was the one I ended up binking. I only ended up playing it for a couple of reasons: first there was a significant 25k overlay (I can't resist an overlay), and also I'd just busted my Stars account and couldn't get more money on so I couldn't sign up for any more Stars games. So not only did I claim the triple crown, but did so in style with my biggest online score to date, 25k.

I then headed to Vegas and my blog detailing my less than optimal manner of so doing became my most read blog entry to date. An entry with zero poker content: a lesson there perhaps. In Vegas, I got another monkey off my back, the "never having cashed in an official WSOP event" one, as I cashed in two side events.

I went into the WSOP main event on something of a high having notched up a third cash at a WSOP side event. Having pessimistically booked my flight home for before day 3, I had to change my plans and hang round for day 3 which I made with a decent stack. A few hours in though, it all came crashing down, as my aces got busted by kings. Still, good overall Vegas for me and I came back feeling good about my game. The undeniable highlight of the month was leading four Team Irish Eyes players onto the final table of EMOP Dublin. Having been crippled just before the final table, I was happy to get headsup, where I managed to get it in ahead, but didn't manage to stay ahead. Still, my second place finish represented my second biggest ever score, and it was particularly sweet to reward the faith Irish Eyes had shown in appointing me Team captain.

A relatively low key month saw me continue to tick over online, and I notched up a min cash at the Unibet Open. Having put together a stack after the bubble, I was disappointed to get coolered, but you can't win them all. You can only try to.

Another lowkey month, where I notched up a minor cash in a side event at the European Shorthanded Poker championships.

Saw me hit my second EPT of the year (London) but get there too late for the main. I did have a good trip though, final tabling the EPT country of the Year freeroll and also cashing in the 1K side event, maintaining a near perfect record of cashing in at least one event at all but one of the EPTs I've attended. October was a sad month for Irish poker though, with the death of one of its greatest characters, Sean Gregory.

Another "four Hendons in one month", starting with a minor cash at JP's mini WSOP (where I also chopped the IPB Last Longer: one of several I managed this year). I ended the month on a high, winning or chopping two events at the Fitzwilliam festival (the main event, and as part of the Old Nits team in the team event), and cashing in a third. I also won a specially organised sit n go at EMOP Riga in between.

Another lowkey month live saw me threatening to move into the chiplead near the bubble of APT Manila only to have aces dogged by kings again at a crucial point. The month and year finished on a real high online though, as I bagged ny second Pocket Fives Triple Crown. Having won a $109 freezeout on Stars on Tuesday, I followed it up with a $50 freezeout on Ipoker the following night. After busting the Fitz EOM in time to play a few night games the next night, I got headsup with the chiplead in the High Roller on Carbon, but lost a bunch of races and 40/60 to lose to Portugal's Miguel Silva. It all came good the follwing evening though, when I got down to the last three of a $100 freezeout on Party. However the other two still standing were online beasts, Joao Mathias "TDurdenWar" and Sebastian "p0cket00" Sikerski. This time I got headsup with Joao and after a ding dong headsup battle, we got it in racing and this time I won.

This upswing right at the end cemented 2011 as my best and most profitable year ever in poker. Online, I matched the year I had in 2011, but live and overall had my best year ever. I also made a bit of money on staking and other bits and bobs.

I did a lot more staking this year, and had a profitable year, thanks primarily it has to be said to my good friend Rob Taylor, who I had 10% of in the Irish Open (which he final tabled) and 25% of in the Fitz main event (which he chopped with me and 4 others). Next year's going to be even bigger for me on the staking front and I'm going out on more of a limb, so fingers crossed it works out for me.

I've always been surprised at the number of people who read this blog. I started it purely for my own benefit, and even now I see its primary purpose as providing a snapshot of where I am in poker at any given time and a sort of online chronicle or scrapbook I'll have to look back on when it's all over. It's very hard to keep a blog fresh, the typical trajectory with most blogs is after a period where every entry is basically the same they fizzle and die. I'm conscious of having to make an effort to avoid this and thankful to my many friends for being much more interesting characters than I am myself and therefore providing me with fresh fodder thanks to their antics. Special mention to Jono Crute whose truly bizarre antics and letters to poker site support staff kept ius all amused. After that "How I got to Vegas" blog proved an unexpected success in terms of attracting readers, readership of the blog actually built on that through the rest of the year. My blog has always been well read in Ireland, but this was the year that saw it build a bigger readership outside Ireland (approximately 75% of my readership is now overseas).

Other media
I'm a fairly unrepentant social network whore and anyone wishing to follow my career in excruciating detail can do so on Twitter and Facebook. This year also saw me contribute a monthly column to Player Ireland, a blog for the Star website, and a weekly "Letter from Doke" for Irish Eyes team members. I've also become a frequent contributor to Breifne Earley's Sunday afternoon sports show "On The Ball" on Dublin City FM. There have been times I've been concerned I might be overpressing and overstretching a little but hey, as my granny used to say, if something's worth doing, it's worth doing to obsessive extremes.

This year I also provided regular live stream commentary at several major events. Particular highlights included chatting with Jesse May and a personal hero of mine Dan Harrington at the Irish Open, providing commentary on the final table with another personal hero and best in the business Neil Channing, commenting with my good friend Lappin at the JP mini WSOP, and working with Rebecca and Emmet at the Irish Winter festival. I also did some commentary at the Unibet Open (with Roy Brindley).

The Dokes
Readers of my annual wrapups from other years may recall that I usually hand out awards to Best Player and Most Promising. The Dokes are even more notional than the PocketFives Triple Crown, but here goes anyway.

Player of the Year
Last year I gave this to Sean Prendeville, who crushed both live and online. This year is a little different with no one player crushing across both, so I'm splitting the award in two.

Live Player of the Year has to be Niall Smyth. Not only did he win the biggest tournament on the Irish calendar (the Open) but he followed it with another win in Killarney, and a deep run at the Winter festival where it looked like a unique treble was on. Obviously Eoghan O'Dea deserves special mention: his appearance in the November 9 was the biggest thing to happen to Irish poker in years, but it's my award to give, and reflects my belief that the true measure of greatness in poker is not the one big one, but consistency. So it has to be Niall for me. Special mention also to Dermot Blain who is phenomenally consistent, and hopefully it's only a matter of time before he wins a really big one.

Online Player of the Year has to be Big Mick G. He's topped the Irish rankings at Pocket Fives for most of the year, and broken into the top 100 in the world.

One to Watch in 2012
I'm tempted to give this to last year's recipient Jono Crute just for the sheer LOL factor of giving it to the same again more than once (Tom Kitt used to win it every year in the old Boards awards). However, Jono's had a great year online and is likely to rinse and repeat in 2012, and I don't think he'll be giving live poker much more focus than he did this year. I'm also tempted to give it to David Lappin who has become a formidable live player this year (not that he was ever bad: he did chop the first major live event he ever played, a Unibet Open) and after taking a lot of this year off to pursue other career interests has vowed to return to online with a vengeance in 2012, but giving it to someone who has already achieved as much as Lappin has seems foolish. So instead I'm going to nominate Daragh "Mongoose" Davey. The Mongoose has been knocking on the door in major events all year (and getting it slammed in his face in the form of horrible doggings late on) and is the one young player I think has all the tools to crush both online and live.

Special mention to two hotbeds of upcoming talent. Dungarvan has several top young players coming through (Mark O'Connor fted the IPO) and Drumlish is threatening to be the new Claregalway with two of the most promising young players in the country.

If 2012 is anything as good to me as 2011 was, I'll be a happy man writing another annual review blog in a year's time. Hopefully, it won't be a case of pride goes before a fall, and with a little help from my friends I'll continue to improve and adjust as needed to stay ahead of the curve, May we all: me, my friends and all my blog readers, have an awesome 2012. Gl us.

Letters from Jono

Not a lot to report since last blog since I haven't been out of the house except for my daily run followed by taking the dog for a walk as a warmdown. It's a sign of the times, or rather my age, that the dog forces me to run faster on the "walk" than I do on my actual run. The rest of the time I've been grinding away steadily, with good results. This week I've already won a $109 freezeout on Stars and a $50 freezeout on Ipoker to set up a triple crown sweat for the rest of the week. I've also shipped various satellites, won't bore you with the details here (that's what Twitter and Facebook are for).

Readers of the last blog entry will be relieved to hear that my friends Jono and Karl Henrik made it back safe and sound from the USA's most criminal city. Like a lot of young guys who makes his fortune from clicking buttons online, Jono's wealth is primarily of the "number on a screen" variety and he struggles to get his hands on actual currency. Since I possess some actual currency, I volunteered to help him out by swapping some of his online moneys for the money he'll need to fund him and his stable at the WPT. Stars seem to be slightly dubious of this young guy routinely moving around vast sums of money (obvious drug dealer), so when he transfered to yet another new person (ie., me), they sent him this email:

"Dear GAWA9,

As this transfer is very large, and you have not transferred to this player before, please confirm by email that you would like us to proceed with your request.

Please include the real name of the intended recipient in your response.

Thank you for your co-operation in this matter. We apologize if this extra security measure causes you any inconvenience.


PokerStars Security"

To which Gawa9 replied in his own inimitable manner:

Please proceed, his name is Dara O'Kearney, hes an excellent card
player, a good friend and has a hot daughter.


I say his own inimitable manner as Jono has considerable pedigree in support banter, with the following one he sent to Party a while back ranking as surely the finest piece ever by anyone anywhere:

"Hello Party Poker,

As Im sure you are aware, your server went down again today in the
middle of many tournaments. I am currently in the 20r 10k, 50 10k and
the 110 speed as well as registered for the 33t, 10r speed and 90 7k.
Obviously I expect refunds for all of these to be in my account by the
time I wake up tomorrow. Having dealt with this before its very
possible you will tell me this is a problem with my internet however I
am playing many other poker sites as well as browsing the world wide
web with no problems and all of my friends who play on your site have
the same problem so I think it's best if we dont drag this out and you
just hurry up and give me my money back.

If I were to liken your site, "Party Poker" to a party I might go to
in real life it would be a house party in which the host promises
girls and alcohol of the highest standard (great tournament schedule
and software) and the beer will be free (no rake) and the females lack
morals (soft fields). However upon arrival you discover that whilst
the alcohol and girls are amazing, they just randomly leave and your
left with frustrations of wondering what the fuck is going on and
nothing but a skanky hooker and a few cans of cheap lager.

I hope my analogy makes you see the error of your ways and maybe one
day you may even offer a quality service.

Thanks for the refunds in advance

Jonathan Crute


Doke OKearney
Doke OKearney
Country: Ireland
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