Monday, 6 February 2012
I felt a bit sorry for myself in Deauville this year. I can’t get to as many tournaments as most poker pros, and I never have the freedom of a full-time pro to sort of… you know… prepare. That great player Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier has (or certainly used to have) a personal trainer / assistant who both handled all his admin - the travel arrangements, the room booking, the tournament schedule - and made sure that ElkY was eating and sleeping well for the days before the events. That alone can’t explain ElkY’s astonishing series of results: the guy is a sort of genius, who came to poker from the world of computer games and brought with him a computer-fast mathematical brain and excellent game analysis. Nevertheless, it can’t hurt.
Meanwhile, I’m usually squeezing tournaments in between other commitments, finishing articles in the evenings, short on sleep and long on inadvisable snacks. Not that I’m complaining: there are other, huge psychological benefits to having another job (or several) aside from poker, in terms of security, guaranteed income and mental stimulation. But sometimes, I can’t help feeling jealous of others with nothing but poker to think about.
Deauville was a clear run. I had one Observer column to write, but the playing days were only midday til 9pm so there was time for that - and it’s a train journey away, rather than a flight, so there was no valium recovery to worry about. I felt pretty positive as I sat down on Day 1, and had a great first couple of levels, getting my 30k opening stack up to 55k by the first break. But somehow, as level 3 kicked in, I suddenly and immediately developed a serious cold. Like, a ridiculous cold. Running eyes, sudden temperature change, non-stop sneezing. Luckily, the ladies’ room was able to provide a seemingly endless supply of scratchy French loo paper: not only could I blow my nose at will, I could bring some home to sand the kitchen wall.
I laughed when I saw a photo of myself on Facebook. It was taken by Hugues Fournaise, who’s always taken lovely pictures of me at tournaments (there’s one on the columns page of this site at the moment). He’s a very flattering photographer. In Deauville, this was the kindest he could do: I’d title it Portrait Of Woman With Cold. My eyes seem to have gone smaller than currants on a snowman.
Anyway, my hot aching brain and I were out of the tournament by the end of the day. What could be the explanation for this sudden onset of illness?
This was the view out of my window the day I arrived in Deauville:
... and this was the view the next morning:
This was the view through the other window:
Still, what the hell. It was lovely to see that beautiful town in the snow. I curled up to nurse my cold in the room, with valiant Kirsty Thompson from PokerStars who braved the health risk to come round for room service and a terrible Ashton Kutcher “comedy” on the pay-per-view TV. No Strings Attached, it’s called. For the British and American market anyway. It has a different title for Europe, as we discovered with some embarrassment when the TV wouldn’t work and the maintenance man had to come and fix it.
“Zair you are”, he said when it was fixed, staring at me and Kirsty on the sofa with an enormous smile on his face. ” ‘Sex Friends’ eez all ready to go.”
Interestingly, this isn’t the most embarrassing French translation incident I’ve experienced in the last fortnight. The week before, I was in Paris for the European Poker Awards: a very generous evening given by Bruno Fitoussi of the Aviation Club de France; and hurray for Jesse May winning the Lifetime Achievement Award, both because it’s massively well deserved and because this award is named in honour of Jesse’s great friend Rob Gardner, the original producer of Late Night Poker, who died a few years ago at the terribly young age of 36. I know Rob would have loved to see Jesse win this award and I was very moved to be there and witness it.
Anyway, I arrived at the awards with Joe and Barny from The Hendon Mob, who were given seating cards for a different table to mine. Being a shy sort at parties, I asked quietly at the desk if I could move to their table rather than one with strangers.
“Ce serait très gentil”, I murmured, “parce que j’ai peur de m’assoir entre des étrangers”.
The man looked at me in horror, but quickly changed my seat. Too late, having walked down the stairs, I realised: inconnus! Not étrangers, inconnus! What I had actually said, to my kindly French host was: “I want to sit on a different table because I don’t like foreigners”. Marvellous. I’m sure I’ll be the toast of Paris for a while…
Anyway, Deauville. I made Day 2 of the High Roller event, but got knocked out when I decided that 48,000 in chips with blinds at 1,000-2,000 with a 300 ante was too few chips to pass Ad Qd after a raise, so I “four-bet-shoved” and my opponent called with AK. As well he might (although, with my table image, he might also have not.) I’m sure I’ll go again next year, and hope to be healthier. But I won’t forget how beautiful it looked in the sneau.
This is the photo I put up on Twitter, of the hotel, when I was leaving:
... and for anyone who thinks “Boy, that hotel must have been designed by a madman”: huh-uh. The whole town looks like that.
This is the view in the other direction.
That’s my kind of town planner.