Postcard From The Bahamas
Wednesday, 7 January 2009
Atlantis, Paradise Island, is incredible. I’m not saying it’s over-sized or artificial, but it makes Las Vegas look like Baden.
I love it, obviously. Huge, glitzy, full of man-made lagoons, pizza stalls everywhere, what’s not to love? If Dolly Parton were a hotel, she’d be this one. Just my cup of tea. Bear in mind, I am a person who (after about three days in Monte Carlo) starts thinking, “Hmm, I’d look good in that blue angora jumper with the rhinestone terrier’s head on it…”
The climate’s fantastic. I’ve never been anywhere like this except Vegas, and Vegas is so super-hot and so bone-dry that everyone always feels ill there. Nassau is about 75 degrees, like a perfect English summer’s day, with just enough humidity and just enough breeze. If I never wanted to go to the theatre or eat salad again, I’d live here. So I might as well put in the application now.
I’m pretty exhausted though. Day 1a of the PCA finished at 1.15am, and I had to be back in the tournament room at 9am on Day 1b (theoretically the “day off”) to perform my duties as British captain in the World Cup of Poker – which turned out to be a 15 hour day. It was just like any other World Cup, really: the British played the best, most exciting and most flairy game; Germany and Italy ended up in the final.
I really do think we fielded the best team. We had Karl Mahrenholz, Steven Devlin, Derek Morris and Lawrence Houghton. I didn’t know them all beforehand but they all turned out to be great players. I didn’t give them any advice or make any substitutions, I was happy to sit back and watch them all playing their own natural game. What the hell, you can’t tell a man to play against his instincts. I particularly enjoyed a moment in the middle stages when I thought: This is a time to steady the ship, sit back a little, let the short stacks knock themselves out, wait for strong hands and set a few careful traps. Who’s up next for Britain? Ah yes, it’s ‘All-In Stevie’.
We went into the final as chip leaders, thanks to some good results in the preliminary one-table SNGs. I won mine, which (having failed to lock up first place in any of the Premier League Poker heats) makes me think I play better with a sense of collective responsibility than I do for my own sole fate. Then again, a hand came up in the final where I raised with AJ and the American on my left reraised all in; playing alone I’d have called immediately, but I was so worried about depleting the team stack that I folded. I nearly subbed myself off the table at that point, but the next hand I made myself feel better by moving all-in with queen high. No callers, thank God.
Before the final started, I was convinced we were going to win. But I told the team: I don’t care where we finish, as long as it isn’t 5th. The money was the same for 5th, 6th and 7th – the top four spots were the real money, and 8th / 9th places would mean a proper night’s sleep - so 5th place would mean the worst ratio of invested time for money returned. We came 5th.
But I was really proud of the team, and I’m pretty certain the TV coverage will show that the Brits were the most aggressive and dangerous players at the table. Until we were knocked out.
I’ve run a little better in the main event, the $10,000 PCA itself. I think the tournament has a very good structure, and it’s particularly civilized that there’s a 15 minute break after every level. Very handy for smokers, compulsive eaters and anyone who’s pregnant. As for me: well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Today (day 2) I was sitting next to Vanessa Rousso, who went out near the bubble with spectacular bad luck. She made an incredible call on the turn, for all her chips, with only one pair, despite there being a made flush and made straight on the board. Her bravery and instincts were rewarded when her opponent showed a sheepish straight draw – and punished when he hit the river. Vanessa went blue with shock, and I can’t blame her.
But in some respects it was a relief to see her go. Inevitably, two chicks from Team Pro in adjacent seats, we had our picture taken a lot. Vanessa Rousso’s a woman who has just been photographed for the swimwear edition of Sports Illustrated. Sat next to her, I looked like Eric Morecambe. Looking at our blown-up photos in the lobby, the biggest of many physical differences occurs to me: Vanessa has American teeth. Mine are very English, ie. they look like a Suffolk graveyard. Patriotic though I am after my World Cup experience, I think I’m going to stop smiling in photos.
But I’m sure it’ll be a struggle tomorrow: day 3. There are 100 of us going back, out of 1400 starters. Currently the money stands at $15,000. I’ve got about 200k in chips, which I think is roughly average. I’m pretty happy already, to be down to the last 100 and getting a decent chunk in my third EPT cash. If I have a good day, I’ll be down to the last 32 and in serious contention for the final. If I have a bad day, I’ll be free to go swimming with dolphins. Either way I’d better write a reminder on my hand: No Smiling.