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  • EPT & WSOP LONDON – The beats go on

    By Anthony Holden

    There are hands, I am sure we can all agree, that make you wonder just what it is you have done to move the poker gods to quite such punitive wrath.

    One such saw my early exit from last week’s EPT London event at the ‘Vic’, which ended last night in £1 million victory for American Michael Martin.

    We’d reached only the fourth level of Day 1b, but it felt like many more after a few hours of play excruciatingly slowed up by the drunk, garrulous Aussie in Seat One who was the only person at the table – you know the type – to think himself infinitely amusing. ‘Wow,’ yawned Thor Hansen, sitting to my left, ‘this is fun, huh?’

    Oz was raising pretty much every hand, usually with the same self-satisfied quip, and had somehow managed to advance his stack by a few grand as others played the first few levels with due textbook caution. I myself had slipped from the starting 10K to just under 9K, none too worrying, par for the course, when I looked down to see those 1-hand-in-221 beauties, pocket rockets.

    And Oz had already raised the pot, by a tad more than his usual stealer. Maybe, as the waitress brought him yet another pint, he even had a hand?

    So I re-raised him another 1500. He didn’t think long before declaring all-in. Nor did I before insta-calling.
    ‘You got aces?’ he asked, as he flipped over pocket queens.
    By way of response, I simply rolled over the evidence.
    ‘Huh,’ he grunted. ‘You’re winning, then…’

    The entire table at last sat up happily. I was going to decimate the one player they all wanted to see (and hear) the back of. Now we could start playing proper poker, and enjoying the ingenious little jousts that make these events such fun. And I would be chip leader.

    Until the flop brought – yes – a queen, one of the only two ‘outs’ among its remaining 48 cards that could see poker justice slapped in the face. With no straights or flushes available, would the turn or the river give Oz the counterpunch he deserved, by bringing me a miracle ace against the same odds?

    Nope. Exit Holden, wondering how wrong he had been living – and how right the Table Bore – for the laws of probability to be so outrageously defied. My instinct was to go out and get drunk. But not before hearing Greg Raymer’s bad beat story – now, at least, ‘Fossilman’ could go explore the British Museum – and watching Boris Becker handling himself with some style at the next table. Then I bump into Willie Tann, who can’t resist telling me that his flopped flush has just quadrupled him up against four opponents.

    Had Willie been living right and I hadn’t? There wasn’t time to ask; he had more players to go demolish. Myself, I went to demolish a steak-frites, and a few glasses of good red wine soon helped ease the pain. I had made no mistakes, after all; I had played the hand right, and he had played it recklessly; part of the point of poker is to inflict such inscrutable life-lessons upon us. Time to shut up, go home and write another book…

    After all, it was my second such bad beat in a week. No, I tell a lie; my exit from WSOP London at the Empire a few days earlier had been less cruel, if still irritatingly against the odds.

    For a while, I’d been doing okay, even getting Roland De Wolfe to call a big last bet after my pocket fours became trips on the Ace flop which was clearly his interest in the matter, then quads on the river. Roland took it well – especially when I told him he was the subject of a whole chapter in my imminent book Holden on Hold’em – then got his own back with a flush over my straight before our table was broken, and I found myself reunited with my old chum Surinder Sunar (‘Zapata’ of Big Deal).

    Behind me, Doyle Brunson was sitting next to Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson; our table was sandwiched between those of Jennifer Tilly and Phil Laak, with a noisy Devilfish to the left; Scotty Nguyen kept wandering by to see how we all were doing; Nolan Dalla and Michael Craig offered their usual genial greetings. This was like my annual trip to Vegas all sandwiched into one Sunday afternoon.

    It wasn’t long before I raised with pocket eights, got one caller, and made a set on the flop. He called my substantial turn bet, then caught his flush on the river. I was decimated, but still alive. The killer blow came when I found myself short-stacked enough to go all-in with A-J, only to be called by 10-6 to my right, before a flop of 10-6-oh-what-the…

    It was scant consolation to learn that the same day also saw the elimination of such luminaries as Allen Cunningham, Jeff Madsen, Carlos Mortensen, Antonio Esfandiari, Gus Hansen and defending champion Annette "Annette_15" Obrestad. A 22-hour final table on Wednesday-Thursday, as I was taking my beat at the Vic, saw a worthy £1 million winner emerge in John Juanda.

    So, I hear you ask, what moral do we draw from all this? At the time of writing, my top-of-the-head answer is : Offer up thanks for the generous sponsorship of, go back down a level at their sit-n-gos – and don’t even think about quitting the day job.

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    Comment from Richard Whitehouse
    Time: October 9, 2008, 4:55 pm

    Well done for being involved in the two biggest tournaments of the year on this merry isle. Consolation is in already being ahead of a million poker players!

    Pity I wasn’t there to see those of the WHT (World Hack Tour) but I’m sure they will be back after the credit crunch returns the desert sands to the Vegas streets.

    As for Aces. Next time why not slow play them and then fold on the flop when the opponent hits trips. Its a much better story and you’re still in the tournament!!

    All the best.

    Comment from Anthony Holden
    Time: October 14, 2008, 1:41 am

    Thanks, Ricardo, but I still think I played those particular Aces right, especially against that particular opponent… But, ok, I would, wouldn’t I ?
    Look forward, I hope, to tangling with you – and the formidable Dr Pauly, among others – over the TNG cyberspace baize tonight?
    atb, T

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