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Mad Marty's Wild Card

by 'Mad Marty' Wilson |  Published: Jan 01, 2006


The UK Poker Open

Has this tournament come around already? Has it really been 12 months since we saw Matthew Stevens walk away with the top prize of $500,000? It was no small challenge for this year's contest to match its predecessor, but it did. Some of poker's biggest names lined up for one of the game's biggest prize pools, but the event belonged not to the established faces, but, instead, to the Internet qualifiers who took them on.

It all started when Tony G graciously took his defeat at the hands of Chris Schofield, who qualified for just $5. Next up, Donnecha O'Dea, a man who's sat down at final tables all over the world, was knocked out by Jason Thomas, an Internet qualifier from Wolverhampton who had never heard of Surinder Sunar.

Heat seven was a veritable who's who of poker, featuring Dave "El Blondie" Colclough, Ken Lennaard, Kouresh, Jeff Douval, and Robin Keston. The only new face was the Internet qualifier Ryan Poole, who claimed not to know who his opponents were. Perhaps if he had, he would have been more scared. Perhaps if he'd been more scared, he wouldn't have won his way through the field and taken out the ever-verbal Kouresh heads up.

Matthew Stevens arrived to defend his title, but couldn't make it past two-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Jan Sorensen. The sports personalities, who did so well last year, were represented in the semis by Teddy Sherringham, and by Barry Hearn in the final, who continued to prove that not only is he a keen promoter of the game, but he can also play to a high standard.

Professional players Liam Flood and Surinder Sunar may have thought they had an advantage when they heard that their remaining opponents were three online qualifiers and a female player, Debi Clark. Debi doubled up on the first hand, taking out Liam with A-A versus Q-Q. Two of the online lads were in their first live game, but the third turned out to be Julian Gardner, recognized the world over as one of the top tournament players, and the only person to cash out three years running in the main event at the WSOP.

The remaining female contenders fared well. Michelle Bricknell and Kerry Clarke won through to the semis. Veronique Gourdon was also taking control of her heat, before a clash with Belfast's Brian Little, who'd clearly come to gamble. Clarke may be an unfamiliar name, but she's a recognizable face on the poker scene, as she's Julian Gardner's fiancée. Her strong, aggressive style saw her send home former Irish champion Ivan Donaghy.

By the time the heats were over, the organizers must have been left wishing there was a runner-up heat, as other players who finished second included WSOP bracelet winner Johnny Morgan, Scott Gray, and Padraig Parkinson.

My personal highlight was seeing my good friend Howard Plant, a regular at TV poker tables, winning his heat after managing to lay down A-A in the very first hand. We all know that if we slow-play A-A, we have to be prepared to put it down, but how many of us can actually do it? In the same hand, Jan Sorensen had passed Q-J preflop. When the flop came Q-J-7, he too must have thought he had thrown away the winner. Both he and Howard will surely sigh a huge sigh of relief when the TV broadcast shows the pocket sevens in Ron Hubble's hand.

Then to the final, to which WSOP bracelet winner Brian Wilson went with a commanding chip lead. After a few duels, he called all in with 8-8, only to run into Ian Frazer's A-A. Ian doubled through, and maintained his lead to capture the $500,000 prize and trophy. Brian finished second with the highest percentage of hands played, while third-place finisher Achilleas Kalakis had the lowest percentage.

"Mad Marty" Wilson is a professional poker player from Wolverhampton and a poker consultant for Matchroom Sports.