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PartyPoker World Open IV

by 'Mad Marty' Wilson |  Published: Jul 01, 2008

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What I know about cricket, you could write on a grain of rice and there would still be room for my name and address. I live in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and when they told me Min Patel was in the celebrity heat of the PartyPoker.com World Open IV, I had absolutely no idea who he was, but I was going to find out, and find out quickly. I met Min on the night before his heat, when we played the game that's sweeping the nation, "Win With Wilson." He won a Manchester United scarf and a pair of Greg Raymer-style sunglasses. Min took to Win With Wilson instantly. Either this was beginner's luck or he was one of those special guys who's just good at everything. I tended to think it was just beginner's luck, but then I was proven quite wrong.

The next morning, at 3 Mills Studios in London, I must have witnessed the toughest celebrity heat ever played in the history of televised poker tournaments. Jimmy White was a Ladbrokes Poker Million champion, Maude Mulder a PartyPoker Dutch Open champion, Kara Scott was the reigning PartyPoker Sports Star Challenge champion, and Mike La Vell and Brendan Block could stand toe-to-toe with any celebrity poker player on the planet. But it was an ex-cricketer named Min Patel who knocked them for six and then bowled them all out for a duck. Min was absolutely relentless. His positional play was outstanding -- probably the best I've ever seen at this standard. We are going to hear a lot more about this guy.

The first heat of the World Open's main draw was an extremely tough one, with the very lively and likeable Dave Gregory, Andy Ward, Craig Burgess, Luke Patten, and one of Bridgnorth's finest young players in "Bof" Lytras, who had won his seat in a £40 satellite run by Spivver in the Black Horse public house. And then, of course, there was an ex-cricketer called Min Patel. This would be Min's biggest test yet amongst the big boys. On paper, he should have been knocked out first. But, he played like he'd been a pro player for 20 years, and maybe he has been. Min was stopped short only by a guy named Andy Ward, who absolutely devoured the table. I'd never heard of Andy Ward before, but he's a really exciting young player with a massive future. This guy never utters a word except to say, "I'm all in." He's like a statue at the table. Mark my words; this is a man for the future.

Shock and Awe
We had a few surprises and a few scares at the World Open IV. Dale Hoy is one to mention. Dale has played in this format five or six times before, and he's grown from a boy to a man at the table, dominating his heat. Two other players I must mention are Simon Craig and Dixie Dean. Simon Craig won his turbo heat, getting to the semis through the back door. It just goes to prove that hope is a good thing, and I hope that Simon Craig has plenty more game left in him, as he made the money for the first time.

And, of course, there was Dixie Dean, who made the final table in only his second televised tournament. But the talking point has got to be the one and only Marty Smith, the boy from Belfast. He's not quite as big as George Best or Norman Whiteside yet, but he played the greatest heads-up battle ever witnessed against Neil "In-Form" Channing. This should have been a two-hour televised tutorial. It was unbelievable. First of all, Channing led, and then Marty got the chip lead. Then, Channing took it back. And then, Marty got it back and finished Channing off. He never lost a chip that he shouldn't have. He looked after those chips like they were his children and he was the good shepherd.

Channing was outstanding, but in my mind, Marty Smith has got to be the best player in Europe at the moment. He was undoubtedly as close to perfection as the Garden of Eden itself, or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon -- or Manchester United's front line. We saw something special at the final table of the World Open IV, and fair play to the boy from Belfast.

For the third year, I'll be running the World Series of Poker lounge for Ladbrokes in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in the heart of Las Vegas. I cannot tell you how happy I am to be doing so. At the beginning of every calendar year, the first thing I look for is the dates for the WSOP, and hope that I will be hosting along with my friend Spivver. Hope to see you all there.

Mad Marty Wilson is a professional gambler and poker consultant for Matchroom Sport.