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Monday 4th July 2005

After a good day on the online tournaments (another $150 up by the end of the day) I headed into town for a tournament against actual people that I could see and in some cases smell at London's swanky Century club. I have played here before, but never done very well, but armed with my new poker knowledge and confidence I felt I had a good chance. It's a £30 buy in, but the winner stand to get around £1500 and there are lesser prizes for placing, so I was hoping to really add to my bank roll.
A lot of actors play at this tournament and so I was up against people like that blonde bloke off of Hustle and Dexter Fletcher from off of the Cadbury's chocolate advert. Lovely Graham Linnehan, co-creator of Father Ted is also a big player and the ubiquitous Grub Smith was also tagging along, surrounded by his harem of rats.
Up to dinner I played very well with the little that I was given, only going into about four or five hands and winning them all. I was accruing a nice pile of chips and the respect of the rest of the table, with the added bonus of making them think I was a very tight player who only went in when I had a great hand.
After dinner my focus completely left me and I started making stupid mistakes. Most of these were luckily not whilst I was playing, but I was nominally in charge of my table and I kept miscalling things and failing to notice split pots and so on. The guy next to me assumed he had been knocked out and we were saying goodbye to him, when the woman who had "beaten" him pointed out that because the cards on the table were all high and they both had an ace, they in fact got to share the prize despite her having a 9 to his 4 as the other card. She wished she hadn't been so honest. I was to come to wish that too.
Bolstered by this Lazarus-style return he suddenly came alive as a player, going all in on the next two hands and accruing an impressive stack.
I had sat tight for almost an hour after dinner, not getting any cards, but hanging on to over 5000 chips. Then I got a AQ, a not brilliant, but not bad hand. My friend on the left raised things by a 1000. He had been doing this a lot and we hadn't been seeing his cards, so I decided I should call him, as I had enough to take a beat of this magnitude.
The flop was AK5, not bad for me as it gave me the high pair, but alarm bells were ringing and something told me that he had AK, which would certainly explain his raise. My instinct was that he had the AK at this point, just from some otherwise imperceptible change of heat in the room. I would need two queens to come down as the final two cards to win if that was the case.
This should have been confirmed when he raised my modest bet, but I was somehow blinded by my pair of aces and trying to convince myself against my better judgement and all evidence that he was bluffing. I came in.
The next card was a queen. I had two pairs now, but so I believed did he. I bet some more and he decided to take me all in. I was now chasing the money I had already spent, which is against every rule of poker, but was acting on auto-pilot, even though I was now fairly certain he had me beat. I called him, leaving myself with about 500 chips. We turned our cards. The others cooed at my AQ, impressed, but I already knew what was coming and he turned over AK. Why had I stayed in? Why had I ruined two hours of hard work with thirty seconds of stupidity?
I had one chance. One of the two remaining queens might come up on the river and win it for me. Of course it didn't happen and I went out in a fit of pique in the next hand.
I had been well on course for a good result and yet had allowed myself to be blinkered by my own cards. None of this would have been annoying if I hadn't known from the flop onwards that he had AK. I should have got out, accepted the 1000 was gone and not got drawn in by the siren pair of aces that seemed to my stupid brain to be too good not to play.
It was a good lesson. It's tempting to not let a good hand go because you feel it should be a winner, but to be a good poker player you have to detach yourself from these feelings and be prepared to let go. Suddenly I was the table idiot and the guy who was about to walk twenty minutes before was now full of cocky swagger and more importantly incredibly rich in chips and with an excellent chance of winning.
I got on the tube a bit annoyed and flustered, but by the time I was home felt quite good as I had learnt something important and at least apart from that one hand played really well. It would also give me something to write about in the book and also in Warming Up. Which is good because I know a lot of people find the poker Warming Ups boring and impenetrable (they are right about this - they are both these things), but the more people complain and become annoyed, the more I will write about poker. Don't push me, you can see I have no emotional control. I will go all in even if it harms me.
I know it is unfair of me to write about something you might not enjoy every now and again in this free service, but I am perverse and sometimes think that maybe I can use the time writing this to do something that will prove useful for me in the long run. Selfish I know.
Only kidding, I love you all really. I just didn't do anything else today. Sorry.

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