Thursday, 12 May 2011
So, here I am in Madrid for the EPT Grand Final and I’m proud to say that I have actually managed to go out and see a bit of the place, rather than just staring at the inside of a casino all the time.
That’s not to say I haven’t played a lot of poker. The main event was no good for me; in my final hand (still quite early on day one) I managed to get all my chips in on the flop with AA against former world champion Joe Hachem who had a flush draw. Sadly, Joe made his flush and I was out. For the rest of that afternoon, I wished I’d spent the day like this woman here:
Doesn’t that look lovely and peaceful? All perfect, green and healthy like something from an advert.
It also cheered me up to see this lovely glowing yellow shop.
But, the next day, I was rather disappointed in the heads up tournament. I beat my first opponent (an American chap called Ali who beat me in the heads up at the PCA) 2-1. I beat my second opponent, English poker wunderkind Toby Lewis, 2-0. My third opponent - this time to get into the money - was James Akenhead, who made the World Series of Poker final in 2009. No easy rides here, it seemed… and James won 2-1. I’ve played four major live heads-up tournaments in the last year, and EVERY TIME I’ve finished on that perfect bubble, 2-1 down in the money match. I definitely need to think about whether there’s something I do at that stage without knowing it; do I unconsciously tighten up in the final stretch, or gamble too much? It feels like I’m playing the same as usual, but four finishes in that exact spot is no longer feeling like a coincidence.
Further disappointment came when I happened upon a HAM MUSEUM that turned out to be a boring old butcher’s shop. Come on, I don’t speak much Spanish, but wouldn’t you have assumed this was a ham museum?
On day four of the series, I cashed in an event: the €500 ladies’ tournament. Readers of my Guardian poker column will know that I’ve come round to the idea of women-only tournaments, having been persuaded by many newer female players that they find them a fun and un-intimidating way to get into the live game. Anyway, I tried one at the PCA in January and finished fourth for about $10,000, so that was bound to make me more in favour… In this one at Madrid, I finished third (of 60 runners) for €4,100 and it was just as good fun as last time so I’m glad I played and will probably try these again.
Are you wondering why we’re so far into a post titled “holiday snaps” and I haven’t yet shown you a photo of an amusing translated menu? Ah, the staple… somehow always funny, even as we know what a terrible job we’d make of translating an English menu into any other language at all. Okay then, here’s a question. Let’s say you fancied some fried fishes. Which fried fishes would you choose from THIS lovely tapas menu? I mean, why would anybody choose the other one?
There’s a grand park near the hotel, in which I went for a healthy stroll and not-so-healthy ice cream with my old cohort Neil “Bad Beat” Channing. How beautiful are these trees? They’re even lovelier than the yellow shop.
I was also tickled by the local habit of wearing interesting costumes in town squares. I’ve seen it in other European cities; people wander about in colourful or themed outfits, and tourists pay a euro or two to have photos taken with them. I just enjoy turning a corner and seeing something quite unexpected on an otherwise ordinary street.
But then there was the goat. I found the goat TERRIFYING. I gave it a euro and it snapped its jaws at me. If I was a child, it would have given me nightmares for months.
Neil thought it was a horse. I think that’s a sign he’s been having too many bets on the racing. It definitely isn’t a horse. It’s a goat - or possibly, looking especially at its shadow, Satan. Whatever it is, it might be the most sinister thing I’ve ever seen.
But apart from the goat, Madrid is lovely.