VentureAce - Professional Poker Player

EPT Barcelona 2005

Sun, sand, hot girls and poker, the fantastic combination that is the Olympic Port in Barcelona. Life couldn’t get much better, then it did! I didn’t have to stump up the full entry fee of €4,200 thanks to qualifying in a €200 super satellite with only add-on in expenditures. The Gran Casino de Barcelona is deceptive in appearance, the exterior and top floor are very much an arcade style, with non-stop blaring lights and dinging of slot machines and those types of games. The bottom floor is much more chilled, with a very cosy bar intermingled with the poker room. The décor is completely different to that of Paris and Dublin, notably more modern and well illuminated, overall the place has a fresh atmosphere with good buzz.

You may have read in live updates about the chaotic scenes before the tournament started, think over-crowded chicken coop and you’ll have a good idea. Hundreds of players lined the lobby, simply waiting to sign in; all the queues culminated in tournament start being delayed by an hour. After one monotonous wait came another, the tournament registration queue was a similar traffic jam. I took evasive action and stealthily made my way to the front. No possibility of grabbing refreshment, the tournament was starting. I headed over to select my seat out of a black top hat. No rabbit just seat 1 on table 16. There were no players that I knew on the table, half of who were Scandinavian. After everybody had signed television disclaimers play got underway.

Players received T10, 000 starting chips, blinds started at 25/50 and were due to increase every 45 minutes. I was feeling confident, the deep stacks and fairly fast blind increases were more familiar to my usual domain of playing online. Saying that, who isn’t accustomed to playing online? Family pots galore as everybody limped in to the first couple of pots. The dynamics of the table were clear from early stage. The table was divided in extremes, very good players and terrible players. The two Finns to my left were decent players, next to them was a clueless fish, then a decent French player who I had played against twice before, the other side of the table contained no real threat with players holding out for premium hands. Seat 9 was the exception, I named him the musical monkey (Moroccan hat and cymbals) because he was bobbing his head up & down while listening to an IPod, he seemed to be playing loose aggressive pre-flop but played scared once anyone stood up to him.

Absolute hilarity after about twenty minutes of play. In a multi-way pot, seat 4 who’d already lost T2500 by playing every pot raised the square-faced Finn in seat 3 who had bet out, immediately seat 3 made a large re-raise. The board showed two queens and four, with two clubs. No hesitancy as seat 4 called leaving himself with around half the starting chips. A non-club small card on the turn, the Finn swiftly glanced at his opponents remaining chips and put him virtually all-in by betting T4500. The middle-aged man, in seat 4, looked to the heavens for assistance, a sudden case of cottonmouth as he tortured himself over something (I can’t credit him with thinking about the hand - read on). After 20 seconds he flat called, leaving himself T450 (perplexing). The river was the king of spades, the Finn plodded a T1000 yellow chip inside the betting line, and the pot now totaled over 15K. The man in seat 4 did an excellent but unintentional Phil Hellmuth impersonation, shaking his head, squeezing his lips in disbelief. More profuse head shaking and then he flips over his A8 of clubs, lifting both hands, palms facing upwards as if he had received the worst bad beat in history. He doggedly hung on for another 3 hands before calling pre-flop, flop and turn with Jack high and no apparent draws.

I had only entered a handful of pots, when I limped in the small blind with KQ off suit, the Scottish man had also limped on the button. The big blind raised from T50 up to T300, a definite steal attempt in my eyes. I called out of position, representing a moderate ace or small pocket pair. The flop came T45, I customarily checked to the man in position, he checked. An ace on the turn, I checked, and he bet T500. I went with my pre-flop read and called, doubling or trebling his bet may have been a more suitable play. My plan was to represent the ace by betting half the pot, of course I had the unforeseeable gut-shot straight draw also which potentially would yield a great reward (what a fish!!). The river was an 8. I put my plan in to action by betting T850, as soon as I placed the chips I thought to myself ‘that looks like a blocking bet’. If those where my thoughts I gathered my opponent would view it the same way, therefore he could make the same raise with a total bluff or a monster hand. Either way, he must have had one or the other as he raised to T3200. I had no clue whatsoever on his holdings, but had Homer Simpson moment where I some how rationalised calling a third of my chips with king high and no post-flop read. Thankfully I snapped out of the caveman thought process.

I was down to about T8000 but still feeling pretty confident. Blinds had increased to 50/100 and another Scandinavian joined the table replacing seat 4. The table was been dominated by the two Finns on my left, seat 2 had around T14,000 and seat 3 had well over T20,000. Through the whole level, the cards where terrible, J2, J3, T3 etc, there wasn’t a situation where I could take advantage of the weaker players due to them never entering a pot, half the table were just waiting for premium hands. The chip leading Finn in seat 3 was moved to a different table, later replaced by a young Swede. He raised in second position and was called by the French man and the musical monkey. A hint of desperation as I called T400 from the big blind with 92 spades. The flop came Q75 with 2 diamonds and the Swede bet out T1500, everyone folded and he showed pocket aces.

I limped in mid-position with AT, there were 7 involved in the hand. The flop came 774 with two clubs. Checked around to the French man on the button, he bet T500. I picked up something in his movements that lead me to believe he was on a flush draw, I called. The turn was an off suit 5, I checked and he quickly checked, now I knew he was on a flush draw. The river was a non-club 8, I checked knowing that he couldn’t bluff and was unlikely to bet if he had A6 due to the paired board. He checked and turned over his K8 clubs, shrugged his shoulders as if mimicking, “You misplayed your hand not me.” He was absolutely right, on all streets I choose the wrong option. If I would have raised pre-flop he wouldn’t have be in the hand, also even if I had got callers with a pre-flop raise I would have taken the pot down on the flop. If, if, if!!! If didn’t occur. At no stage did I put my opponent to the test with a raise, I could have stolen the pot on all 3 streets.

Somehow I managed to go down T5,600, I can't remember how but by this time the blinds had increased to 100/200. There was a change of dealer and lighting struck twice, back to back Aces! This was the first time in a live game, and I couldn't help but smirk. The first hand I raised in second position to T600 only to witness everybody fold. The very next hand I was dealt two black Aces and made the same T600 raise, it was folded around to the musical monkey in the small blind, who announced his intention to raise and then splashed T700 on to the felt. The big blind folded and musical monkey apparently flipped over his cards oblivous to fact that I was still in the hand and had already raised. I didn't see his cards

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