It’s 9.55pm, Sunday 12 February. The children are asleep, my wife is slumbering. The dog has stopped growling and my hangover has gone. I have the requisite peace and quiet, which is just as well, for I am about to play my first real money online tournament. I have steeled myself to concentrate and scrawled two aides memoires: ONLY PLAY THE BEST HANDS, and LOOK OUT FOR STRAIGHTS. Other players include Aces_n_8s, PokerFox, !!!AKQ!!! and Kissmyaxe. The blinds are 10/20 to start in what is a World Poker Tour £7.00 + .70p tournament. I am very, very nervous.
After an hour of intense play, I am on table 2 and ranked seventh. This is good. But can I sustain it? The remaining players are looking stronger and stronger. After a five-minute break, play resumes and I am on a table with Pokerpratt, baloo600RR, chirocat, Sandym4n, Fredtc and tickof112. The blinds rise quickly. Soon they are at 150/300. I go head-to-head with Baloo600RR. His (or her?) pair of kings beats my pair of jacks. I am eliminated in 11th place. One place away from the final table, and not in the money. Were the voices of reason right?
Those voices, in the form of guide books and such residual common sense as I possess, had been saying the same thing: do not play with real money until you are sure that you know what you’re doing. Real money means green stuff that is all too tangible, because it is yours. But the trouble is that people with addictive personality disorders, and those who enjoy the odd surge of adrenalin, are not known for their fidelity to the voices of reason. So it was that I resolved to treat the twin imposters of guide books and common sense with Kipling-esque disdain. I would ignore them.
This act of resolve was aided and abetted by the ease with which it proved possible to open a Neteller account and deposit $100 on the WPT site. I was up, running and ready to play with real cash thanks to a few mouse clicks, after a mere two month play money apprenticeship on the Pokerstars and .888.com sites. Those of a nanny state inclination might say that this is A BAD THING, but if you want to win at poker, first you have to lose. And nothing beats losing with your own money.
With this in mind, I returned for another WPT £7.00 + .70p tournament the following night. This time I made the final table. My opponents were lisasiskin, disneydumbo7, swanneck, Lorentzen, RIVERSANACE, Vantage, JPgolf and Goodfella. If I had felt nervous the previous evening, this time, as I waited for the final to begin, I was shaking like a leaf. One major benefit of online play is, of course, invisibility, so fortunately no one could behold quite the state into which I had fallen. Nor would they have seen me say to myself ‘I must try that’ when JPgolf scooped a large pot by going all-in with an unsuited A-K.
But what worked for JPgolf was my undoing. I duly threw my chips all-in pre-flop with my own unsuited A-K, but was beaten by Goodfella’s call and resulting King high diamond flush, the last diamond falling on the river. “How unlucky was that?” I screamed at the screen, but, of course, it wasn’t that unlucky, really. I should played a tighter game, and, at that stage in the evening, should only have gone all-in with a suited A-K, or pair of aces.
Miserable, and yet consoled by having at least made my first final, I watched as the remaining players battled it out. Who is lisasiskin?, I wondered, as she play a tight, unostentatious game to build a very healthy stack. Goodfella was next to fall, but JPgolf was on form. Eventually he won the £115.16 for first place, with lisasiskin taking £82.25 in second. Swanneck made £57.57 in third, Vantage £41.12 in fourth, and RIVERSANACE £32.90 in fifth, the last cash place.
After he eliminated me with his diamond flush, Goodfella typed ‘UL Law’ in the chat box. I took this as ‘unlucky, lawman11’ rather than ‘you loser.’ So Goodfella lived up to his name. But my new year’s resolution to win money playing poker still has a way to go.