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EPT London Main Event

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A chronicle of my first European Poker Tour event at the Grand Connaught Rooms, London, October 2014.

The EPT London main event was a hell of an experience, almost literally. The setting and the players such events attracts, with the media, the prizepool...everything was really exciting. I was heavily motivated to perform as well as possible.

The tournament started great for me, I was winning almost every hand I got involved in, running super hot hitting board cards, getting thin value each time etc etc. This continued for hours until I suppose I was one of the top stacks. Then, I got involved in a huge spot, which in one sense was pretty 'standard' (my warped definition of 'standard'), but on the other hand pretty unnecessary. Without knowing many live players, and which players will be the toughest spots at the table, who will be the weaker spots, it was hard to know where to pass spots and allow villains to auto profit, and where to fight. Anyway, the player in question was a very good player, Morten Mortensen. For me he was the best player at the table, and somebody I should tread carefully with. In this particular hand, we got into a sick 5-bet spot where the flop came monotone, turn same suit, and therefore encouraged a sick outcome. Ultimately he won out and I lost basically a full stack. Luckily I already had grinded out to double stack so I got back to starting point.

Not more than about 5 minutes after that hand I get dealt AKo, I open the pot and get two callers. Board comes Kxx, iirc K58 two tone. I cbet and get called by a rec and another player folds. Turn barrel, villain calls. By the river I think the board looks something like K58JT, with possibly a flush out there. Basically it's pretty hard to define such a player's range, often it is pointless to try to do so. Also I've just lost a monster hand so my perceived image is that I may be a bit tilted from that, and I'm probably not going to fold very easily. I check river, villain thinks for a normal amount of time and bets a normal sizing. I tank fold. Villain euphorically shows 54. By this point the pot was really quite big, not much smaller than the previous pot I had lost. So obviously this was pretty frustrating, but I wasn't too bothered because I expect to be bluffed off the best hand there a decent amount of the time, and I didn't have any good information to suggest he was more likely to be full of shit. If anything, it was the opposite. Luckily the break is only a few minutes away and I can get outside into some fresh air and regroup.

After the break I have probably around 20k chips from 30k starting stacks, so it's still perfectly playable. After grinding away, and taking one or two pretty high aggression lines, I'm chipping back up nicely. I continue in the same manner and also win a big pot against Morten, just a standard bluff catching spot where I was lucky he missed. Then I win a decent pot against a short stack shover with QQ holding against AKo. All of a sudden by the late 8pm dinner break I'm near enough back to where I was at my high point, at 56k chips.

After enjoying chicken katsu curry with hot green tea (it's freezing and pouring with rain outside), I'm trying to switch off and relax a bit, gather thoughts and look forward to the final playing session. I come back ready to battle it out for another 2.5 hours.

In the final two sessions I'm pretty card dead, so don't actually get involved in many hands. However, two of the hands I do get involved in are pretty big.

With about an hour left in the day, I'm dealt AA for the first time. I re-raise preflop pretty small, allowing a rec at the table enough space to ship all-in. He thinks for a while and ends up calling. It's also good because he's too shallow to be able to call OOP and have any good outcome against my range. So essentially the SPR is enough that we're already all-in, and I'm pretty pumped about that. It makes the postflop play inconsequential except I have to prevent him from folding unless the board comes super wet. As it turns out, the board comes Txx rainbow, villain checks, and I bet small. The reason being, I leave a rec player enough space to think he might be able to get me fold, and it's a board where I'm not repping anything. Anyway, he's committed so he can't ever fold these spots, so if he does that's throwing away money too. He thinks for a while then calls. The turn is irrelevant and he checks, I shove for the small remainder of chips and he insta-calls with TT. I'm back down to below starting stack.

I manage to grind away and chip up slowly but surely, until I'm actually back up to around 36k chips. Still well below average stack by this point, but plenty deep in relation to the blinds. Nothing much happens, and other players are taking a lot of time in hands so the end of the day is near-approaching. In fact, our table is only going to play one more hand, and I turn over the edge of my cards to reveal QQ...

UTG minraises. He is a pretty active player, and we're playing maybe 7-handed so it's not scary. Button calls, I 3bet fairly large. I do this because it presents both players with opportunities to isolate me given my stack size, plus the pot size is large for me with their chips, blinds and antes already there, and if they both fold I'll be perfectly happy. As it turns out, UTG thinks for quite a while then calls, and surprising to me the button decides to join the ride and call too.

Flop comes Txxdd, and I lead out a decent size. UTG thinks for a short while then calls, button folds. Turn Kh. This is not a great card for me, plus UTG's flop call range is a bit scary for me. If I felt pretty good overall, the K turn certainly changed this. I've got a decent hand, but it's certainly pretty fragile here. I check, and villain also checks. I suppose the fact he checks is quite interesting, because he would maybe want to bet for value/protection with a lot of his strongest hands, and equally may take a stab with the worst stuff he gets to turn with now. So it's pretty hard to say what he's checking with.

River comes Qd. Almost everything I'm worried about on the turn is now losing to me, yet they are still very strong holdings from his perspective (sets, two pair). It is another question how many of them check turn, but IP he may want to encourage me to bluff river when he has those hands, since they are not particularly fragile against hands which they are beating on turn (e.g. JJ, my QQ). I decide that my cbet flop-check turn is not a particularly strong line that I am presenting, so it makes a lot of sense to make a pot-sized shove OTR. I could easily be trying to make his middle strength hands fold, and he may think I'm shoving hands for value which are actually losing to some of his value range (e.g. two-pair, worse set). So I expect I'm getting paid by all the hands I'm wanting value from. At the same time, I don't see the villain having much that beats me, because I discounted most AJ from his range on flop (and possibly even some preflop). Villain can have some flushes, but there are not many combos of those, especially given the preflop action, and of those hands I expect some to raise flop, so again I am not too worried there.

So I shove river pretty quickly, and the villain to my surprise snap calls and reveals AdTd. I'm out, last hand of the day before we bag up.

The first reaction was a bit of shock and being punched in the gut, and everything slows down a bit. Really, Qd is the only hand in the deck I expect to lose my stack on the river with. Most runouts I'm going to win, some I will check/fold (possibly all other diamond rivers if he bets enough, Ax), and some I will check/call. Others may go check-check. So the final hand of the day, and the final card on the deck, is the only card which is sending me home on Day One.

Unfortunately the bust is late enough that all train services are finished for the night, and instead of forking out on a big taxi fare I go and catch a night bus in the pouring rain. I feel like this is the highlight of the evening anyway.

On the way home I go over the 5-bet hand, AA hand and QQ hand in every single way, thinking of what happened and what could have been done differently. In the end I decide that I played every hand the way I wanted to (in that moment), with the AA and QQ hands just being super standard. Only the 5-bet hand on reflection and hindsight could - and perhaps should - have been averted.

Anyway, a good measure of 60% volume Glenfarclas and some Dexter on the couch with my wife and I'm feeling drained, but pretty chilled out. The next day I wake up feeling the same, but overall really happy with the whole experience. Participating in such an event, seeing every woman in sight going over to Sorel Mizzi at my table, playing pretty solid poker and feeling like one of the strongest players around, getting so much EV in one day, suffering such disappointment which grows character, it was something which if reflected on in the right way, will really be something positive I will take going into the future. Similar to before the WCOOP breakthrough, I am confident that a big breakthrough will come further down the line on the live stage, and I'm truly grateful and excited for it.

Thank you for making it this far, and sorry for boring many of you!

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