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Improved and Still the Same

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: May 12, '08


How many times have you heard otherwise sensible poker players say that they much prefer playing against good players than against what they refer to nowadays as donkeys? Even I know that doesn't make any sense as a career move. But it doesn't stop me looking forward to the World Poker Tour's flagship event in the Bellagio where you can run into some horrific line-ups.

On day one this year I had the popular Freddy Deeb on my left. The good news is Freddy is very good company. The bad news is he's a complete nuisance if you're trying to gather a few chips. Freddy speaks very highly of the Aviation Club in Paris where he has spent a lot of time. He practically lived in the Marriott on the Champs Elysées at one stage and told me that he'd skipped off to Lebanon a couple of times for a few days without bothering to check out of the hotel.

He figured that the time he'd have wasted packing and unpacking to save on his hotel bill was better spent in the game in the Aviation. Lack of confidence is never a problem for Freddy. Not everybody whose spoken to me about the club over the last few years have done so with the same level of enthusiasm. And some of them had a strong case.

Right after Bellagio, I played my first tournament in the Aviation for quite a while and the place has certainly changed a lot for the better. You no longer have to breathe in pure cigar smoke and there's a whole new generation of French tournament players who love the game and who are a pleasure to play with. It's also been lavishly redecorated, which seems to me was about as necessary as giving the Mona Lisa a paint job.

Even the tournament director has improved. A few years ago, when he was a rookie, he directed a WPT event. He was called to the table I was at twice and both times the same thing happened : he listened to the evidence and confidently gave what I thought were good rulings, though I'm no expert. Both times, he confidently changed his mind after a scream up. This time, as it only took me five or six levels to do my dough I only saw him in action once. He confidently gave the wrong decision but on a further examination of the evidence confidently changed his mind to the right one. That's what I call an improvement.

Action at the Poker Nation's Cup

An Irish team was invited to take part in the annual Nation's Cup sponsored by Party Poker. This is the one event where winning is way more important than the money. But paradoxically the pressure is way greater when you're playing on your country's team rather than plonking around with your own money when nobody but you cares. There's a lot of hanging around in the green room, watching your team mates play, either hoping they do well for the team or in some cases that they do worse than you did.

This can be either very boring or a great laugh depending on what team you're part of. The Dutch really entered in the spirit of the thing and provided a lot of the entertainment. On one occasion, we got to listen to two of the Dutch guys doing an interview with a journalist who'd had a sense of humour bypass.

They both managed to keep a straight face while giving stupid answers to stupid questions. The highlight was when they described their perfect woman as being an excellent cook who lived at least a kilometre away. As an afterthought they mentioned that she'd also had to have a heart beat. The journalist just kept writing.

The man in form, Neil Channing, set up his bookmaker's stall in one corner, which was a sound commercial decision considering he was locked up for twelve hours a day with a bunch of degenerate gamblers. We'd have preferred to bet with a guy who was out of form but it was the only game in town. You can guess the rest.

Not everybody bet on their own man in each heat, except of course the Irish. Sometimes I wish I wasn't Irish. I spotted German star Andreas Kraus nipping in and betting €50 on a Dutch guy to win one of the heats. I asked him what that was all about, he just smiled and said "I want to win". He did. Germans are Germans after all.

Channing also introduced "first man out" and "next man out" markets, just in case he ran out of heats before he got the lot. These bets proved quite popular with the punters, including the England internet qualifier who bet the English captain to be first out in his heat and was very unlucky not to collect. Roland de Wolfe provided one of the biggest laughs at the end of the whole thing by thanking team USA for taking part and very sportingly suggesting that they be allowed to include Canadians players and possibly even a Mexican in their team next year if they thought that would help.

Padraig is currently involved with Jesse May in hosting Irish Pub Poker Tours for medium-sized corporate groups. For info you can contact him on Twitter @padraigpoker.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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