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"I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy..."

                        The Calm Before The Storm.... a day that will be always be remembered in infamy. Oh no, sorry, that's Pearl Harbour. What Saturday 28th May 2005 WILL be remembered for is dangerously undercooked burgers, tardy pizza deliveries and stacks and towers of chips you couldn't even see over. Yes, Saturday 28th May 2005 was the World Series of 7-2offsuit, the only deep-stack poker highlight in Acton's extensive calendar of cultural events, a 3 table, 21-runner poker extravaganza with our biggest buy-in to date. A whopping thirty quid! That'll get you a 2-up 2-down end-of-terrace in Barrow in Furness that will!

Our World Series may not be as prestigious or as financially rewarding as the event being staged at The Rio, and we might not be able to draw in the pros and the corporate sponsorship like our friends in Vegas, but you can be sure of one thing - they won't have pallet-loads of sausage rolls on the go like we do in Acton. Or Tizer, come to that. An all-day poker FEAST, for anyone actually competing in the WSOP (that would be just Des, then) it was supposed to act as a little warm-up, and for the rest of us it was just going to be another long old day of poker action where the rest of us would donate our money to you with a ca change!

Saturday morning was bright, sunny and warm but windier than a sack full of bumholes, so my plans to run a fourth table in the garden went out of the window (cards would have quite literally been 'in the air!). As it happened it didn't matter because not everyone showed up (Ash, Aj and Nick - where were you guys? Most important day of the poker calendar!? Send money)!  Registration was supposed to be from 09:30am and play was due to start at 10:00am. On the day, however, I got calls from virtually everyone (and their aunts, uncles, nephews et cetera) to say they had been up all night drinking and were running late/throwing up et cetera. Excuses, excuses - pah. We didn't get started in the end until 10:30am. 

It was a £30 buy-in, with a quite scandalous £3 mandatory fee going towards the seemingly unlimited soft drinks and unhealthy snacks on offer by Yours Truly. For their £30 buyin each player would start with 10,000 in chips, blinds would commence at a leisurely 25/50 and rounds were going to be a luxuriant (is that a real word?) 30 minutes long, so this was going to be a long old day of poker for those of us who could survive. The structure I had decided on was almost identical to that being used in the World Series of Poker this year, but with the addition of a 75/150 level (because I know better than those clods at the WSOP, obviously) and would likely prove to better suit the tighter, more solid players in the group than the hyper-aggressive goofballs who just liked to gamble it up with bottom pair shitty kicker, so clearly I was going to be at a major and immediate disadvantage at my table. I'd just have to make the best of it. Only 21 of the promised 24 runners made it in time for the kick-off, so we drew for tables and this is where we all ended up:

Table 1 - Rich M, Jay, Asif, Zameer, Dave F, Mike M, Terry
Table 2 - Andy T, Bal, Mark Y, Woody, Dave P, Louise, Mark O
Table 3 - Rich S, Dave B, Dave W, Cathy, Dom, John M, Matt

Other than having Woody on my right I was pretty happy with my table. I was certainly glad not to be on Table 3 - that looked like being a pretty tough seat! The plan was to merge to 2 tables of 9 when we lost our first 3 players, and the final table would be made up of the last 10.

The first few rounds saw a fair bit of what can only be described as - erm - 'loose' play. I think a lot of players were all too happy to come in cheaply with any two cards to see a flop when they had 200xBB behind them and SPFR and re-raises just weren't getting as much respect as usual. A few players subsequently hit the flop with marginal holdings and then overplayed their hands with only the threat of a big stack behind them and perhaps reliance on the fact that their opponents were likely less inclined to get involved in coin-flip decisions for all their chips this early in the tournament. This was especially true on what became affectionately known as 'The Maniacs Table', where 'All In' was clearly the phrase that pays. Our first loss of the day was (I think) Zameer P, with Dave F following shortly after as Mike M began to build what would soon become an impressive chiplead on Table 1.

As is my wont I will now bore you with details of a few of the hands that I remember with any clarity, or those that I have been informed of by players who were paying attention while I was nodding off. If you just want the results scroll aaaaall the way down to the bottom there.

25/50 - With one Early Position limper Woody bumps it up to 200 from the Button. I'm in the SB and - well lah-de-dah - find KK. I play back at Woody for 500. We lose the limper but Woody calls and the flop comes King-high, giving me top set - bingo, bango, bongo! Woody's played with me long enough to know that I'll bet the flop regardless or not whether I've hit, so I make it 500 and hope and pray for a little action. In retrospect perhaps I should have just checked and allowed him to catch up. It wasn't to be, and Woody folds. I guess he was just 'at-it' - shameful behaviour :o)

Still at 25/50 - Rich S makes the first 72os play of the day! Rich bumps it up from EP (quite right too) and gets two callers (ooer). The flop is rags, but with a 7 on board Rich makes a pot-sized bet. One caller (eep). The turn brings an Ace. Another PSB from Rich (representing the Ace) brings a fold (yay) and Rich gets to flip over his Beer Hand to the adulation and awe of the table, simultaneously ripping his solid table image to shreds in the process. The first folder showed 88 and the second 75s - I owe you a T-shirt, Rich :o)

Another rotation, still at 25/50 with two players limping I decide to just complete from the BB with AKs. Errr....I'm still not sure about this play, but it felt right at the time - is this an automatic raise for most people in this spot? Opinions (and waistlines) varied widely over lunch. Anyhoo, I suck, so there it is. The flop comes QJ9. Bet of 200 from Louise and I and the limper both flat call. The Turn is a rag, and this time everyone checks. I'm thinking Louise probably has a Jack or a Queen with a crappy kicker and the limper too, unless they're on a draw, so I'm planning to bet the River (assuming it's not an eight). The River, however, is a beautiful ten, giving me the nut Broadway straight. As I figure no-one can put be on AK here I decide to bet half the pot, 375, hoping someone sees this as a weak bet from the idiot end of the straight and re-pops me (IIRC Woody might have picked up on this, although he wasn't in the hand - clearly we've been playing each other too long), but I only get the one caller, Louise. Ah well, chips are chips are chips.

50/100 - Woody makes it 300 to go from the SB. In the BB I find Aces (zip-a-dee-doo-dah, I'm loving these big cards in the blinds!) and play back at him for 700 total. He calls very quickly this time. The board is rags. Woody checks, I lead out for 1000 and he again calls disturbingly quickly. The Turn produces a Jack and goes check-check. River is another rag and I bet 2000 on the end. Woody looks me up and mucks when he sees the Aces. He didn't show but I'm guessing he had an overpair too, so running into Aces in the BB was an unlucky break for him considering he was in the SB (just quizzed Woody on the 'phone and it was either Queens or AJ - he cannae remember). I'm up over 14K at this stage but am fully aware I've been catching some great hands - in fact my great grandma could play the cards I'm getting, and she's been dead for 20 years. I resolve to hunker down and play solid poker and try not do anything daft.

So of course the next one I do just that. Blinds are at 75/150 and I limp from EP with 88. Mark (Chewie) makes it 300 to go from MP, the blinds fold and I flat call. The flop (IIRC) is 3-3-J. I lead out for 300, he calls. The Turn is a rag and goes check, check. The River is another rag. With the exception of the Jack my eights are an overpair to the board, I've more or less convinced myself he has Ace-paint, and bet 750 on the end (I think for most sane humans a check is the proper play here). Is anyone surprised to hear Mark then re-raised me to 2K total? Hmmm. I don't see him raising with a small PP and tripping up here, nor do I see him with a 3 in hand, so he must either have an overpair or have hit the Jack on the flop (AJ?), but if either of those are the case he's played this a little strangely IMO. I make the crying call and everything suddenly makes sense - pocket Jacks - he flopped the Boat! Gah. Goodbye, Mr Chips! Nice hand, Mark. To coin a phrase from Ricardoon - 'piss wank'! Woody points out "I didn't lose all those chips to you just so you could give them to him!" Too bloody right - I played that hand like a moron. Shortly after this we lose another all-inner at The Maniacs Table and Chewie (and my chips) are moved to balance things out. He was soon to find out what it was like to be at the 'action' table!

At 100/200 (end of the second hour of play) we lose another player (I think it was John M at Table 3) and are now down to 18 so we merge to two tables of 9. IIRC Cathy D, Dave B and Dom join us on table 2 and Rich S, Dave W and Matt are shipped over to Table 1, may God have mercy on their souls. Woody was down to about 2.5K at this stage, and I think it's worth mentioning just how well he played to stay in contention after we merged to two tables.

I think a lot of players in his shoes would have just tightened up and picked their spots and hoped to get a big hand so they could double up (and certainly the structure allowed for this sort of play), but Woody refused to sit on his hands. Instead he loosened up his game and went on the offensive, entering what seemed like every pot raising and more often than not picking up the blinds uncontested and slowly building his stack. His SPFR was a rather hefty 675, and whilst I was absolutely positive he was at it, all I was getting in this round was junk like 9-2 and 8-4 so couldn't look him up, but I think one player (Cath?) picked him off with a nice re-raise.

                                                                            Old Leather-ass himself...

Still at 100/200 we saw a real action hand take place on Table 1. Mike M (Chipleader - about 40K) raised pre-flop and was re-raised by Rich M (2nd in chips - about 25K). The flop was 5, 5, Q, with two hearts. Rich bet, Mike re-raised, Rich went All In and Mike called. Rich turned over AQ sooted (top pair, top kicker, runner runner nut flush draw) and Mike had.....5, 5 - quad fives! Ouch. Funnily enough the last two Queens in the deck didn't hit the Turn and River so we had to say goodbye to Rich, and Mike had now taken a massive chiplead, and with over 65K in front of him was clinging to nearly a fifth of the chips in play. Woody moved to Table 1 to balance things out, which would soon signal a reverse in his fortunes. I glanced over about half an hour later and he had over 25K on the table...

Still at 100/200 I manage to make quite a dent in Dom's stack on one hand (the specific details of which escape me) where I think I flopped a straight and Dom called me down all the way to the River. I think he may have thought I was playing That Hand again :o)

Same round, 100/200 Dom makes it 500 to go from MP. It's folded round to Dave B in the BB who flat calls. The flop comes Kc, Jh, 8d. Dom makes a PSB of 1000. Dave thinks for a moment before calling again. The Turn brings a Th. With 3K in the pot Dom throws out another 1000. Dave quickly calls. The River is a 4h. Dom pauses for about 5 seconds before announcing "All In" and moving his remaining 4.5K forward. Dave sits back and stares Dom down for a full minute from behind those shades. He has Dom covered but only just (if he were to call and lose he would only have T500 left).

Dom flashes Dave a cheeky 'call me if you dare' smile, and Dave reaches a decision - "I call" - and flips over....... Q-8off...he only has fourth pair......and it's good! Wow. A crestfallen Dom was bluffing all the way with Ace-high and was eliminated on this hand. Huge kudos to Dom for actually having the minerals to fire the third bullet with nothing but a bare Ace, but hats off to Dave B for that call, which for my money probably ranks as the best play of the entire tournament.

Daniel Negreanu calls A-Qos 'the 2.7 hand' because in the course of his entire poker career he has lost over 2.7 million dollars with it. I can't say I'm overly fond of them either, but with blinds at 100/200/25 the rolling ante kicks in and I begin to see quite a few, and I end up locking horns with Cathy on at least three of them, although I can only clearly remember two. In one Cathy limps from MP and I raise to 1000 from the SB with AQos. Cathy flat calls. The flop comes King high and I lead out for 1500. Cathy thinks for a while and eventually folds, showing AQ. So I show her mine - snap!

Same round, I'm in EP with AQos and limp. Cathy bumps it up from MP. My turn to flat call. The flop is A-J-x. I check. Cath makes it 1000. I re-raise to 3000, but after not a great deal of thought Cath shrugs and announces "Well, I'm all-in". Oops. Well, I guess she doesn't have Kings or Queens! I've now basically got Cathy on four likely hands - A-K, A-Q, J-J or A-J. With three of these I'm in bad shape. I wouldn't really expect Cathy to be raising pre-flop with A-J, and to be honest I just didn't see her with JJ either but A-K was looking like a very strong possibility here to have me up the creek sans paddle.

I'm not a happy bunny, and am entertaining serious visions of me exiting the tourney here. I think about it for quite a while and eventually decide to call, because (a) I'm not sure she has A-K and (b) in my mind if she doesn't have AK the most likely hand she would play back at me with is AQ because she can assume by the pre-flop play that I don't have AK. She indeed turns over AQs (phew!) - and we chop the blinds and antes. I really liked Cath's AI re-raise there - definitely put me to the test - and I make a mental note that the next time I make a jiggy re-raise against her with I'd better actually have the goods and be prepared to go to the wire... :o)

As blinds progress through 150/300 and 200/400 we lose Bal, Louise and Andy T. I forget much of the action here I'm afraid. I do manage to blind-steal a couple of times but also make a couple of really stupid plays and drop down to around 10.5K, my lowest so far. Going in to the final table I'm definitely going to be among the shortstacks, which was not in the game plan. As we blinded out the 3 no-shows there are a few extra chips in play but par is around 22K, so clearly I have some work to do.

Mark Y - 14.5K
Cath - 18K
Me - 10.5K
Woody - 23K
Mike M - 29K
Rich S - 23K
Dave B - 32K
Matt - 35K
Mark O - 14.5K
Dave W - 13K 

        The final table (Dave W not pictured)

At the final table blinds kick off at 250/500 with a 50 ante. As can be evidenced above I am the table shortie with a little over my original buy-in, but Dave W, Mark Y, and Mark O are all not far behind me, all with less than 15K. Incredibly, my first three hands in a row I find AK, AQ and AK and a 2K raise takes the blinds and antes down uncontested pre-flop each time, bringing a welcome boost to my flagging stack. Then of course I go completely card dead. J-4, 9-5, 10-2 - muck, muck, muck. The game really tightens up (we're not seeing many flops) and I find it very hard to make any plays. Normally I'd start taking liberties at this stage in the game but playing shitty cards out of position was dangerous here and every time I was in good position to steal I was facing a raise and very often a re-raise by the time action came round to me, which was something of a non-starter. So I sit on my hands and watch the others tough it out.

At 400/800 we lose Dave W. EP raises pre-flop and Dave W (with about 10K behind him) re-raises. I think anyone who's been paying attention has to credit Dave with a real hand at this stage - his hands are warmer than mine! But no, LP (can't remember who) re-raises again. EP calls and Dave W calls (all-in). The flop comes rags but there is still action. Raise. Re-raise. Wow. I was fairly sure the LP player must have Aces or Kings but the winning hand was actually pocket 8s which hit trips on the flop and filled up by the River. Dave had pocket Queens so had the best hand going in but was unlucky not to go on and finish higher - he played a solid, tight game to reach the final table.

With a little under 12K and blinds at 500/1000 and a 100 ante I get my first pocket pair (another 88) and decide to make it 3000 to go from MP. Dave B (EP limper) comes back with a re-raise which would effectively set me all-in. I take a long hard look at Dave but to be honest getting a read on Blandy is nigh-on impossible, so instead I sit back and have a ponder about what sort of hands he might have to limp-reraise based on what he must think I have (I've been playing so tight lately I'm beginning to sound like a rusty gate every time I reach for chips).

In Dave's shoes I would probably have to have Aces down to Queens, or AK absolute minimum, so I assume I'm either slightly ahead or waaaay behind, but the blinds and antes make calling here a tempting proposition. At this stage of the tournament pocket eights seem like as good a hand as any to make a stand with, but my gut tells me to fold. I'm rationalizing folding by thinking I can exploit this laydown later. If I play a hand after this they must think I have a monster, right? That should be good for a couple of blind steals! I muck my cards. Dave later tells me he had Aces, but then he would say that wouldn't he?

I mention to Dave that just maybe I'm playing a little too tight. He agrees. The room agrees. A telephone salesman I've never spoken to before rings up and says he agrees too. Harumph.

Still at 500/1000 I'm down to 9K now and find the ever-pretty 9,10s. Too tight, huh? I make it 3K to go, hoping that someone will look at the size of my stack and see this as a fishy bet from a big hand trying to induce a call. I think the only person who picked up on this was Dave B, who mumbled something about "now why would you only bet 3K there?" but thankfully he decided not to look me up, and perhaps his comment induced others to fold - a little more breathing space anyway!

The 600/1200 and 800/1600 levels are largely uneventful. I steal with K10s, Q9os and A8os to stay level but other than this my cards have gone completely dead, and with the next round (1K/2K - who wrote this bloody structure?) fast approaching it really is make or break time for me. Unless I catch a monster my only move now is going to be pushing pre-flop.

After the break I have a mere 11K left, Blinds are now 1000/2000 with a 300 ante. It's folded round to me in the SB, I find KJs and decide to make a move on Woody's BB. "I invite you to race me for my tournament life" I announce and move in. Woody says "Er..OK" and flips over an Ace.....and then another Ace! Oops. Bad timing again (I've run into Aces in the BB whilst stealing from the SB in three tournaments recently. I think this one was payback for my Aces in the BB earlier in the day though)! The board gives me some hope however, providing me with a gutshot straight draw, but the Q doesn't come and I'm out in ninth. Bah humbug. I didn't even make the bubble...

Whilst I sat in on the rest of the game I must confess that the specifics of most of the key hands escape me. That would be because I was quietly STEAMING :o) Rather annoyingly I took photographs of each of the showdowns but when I looked at them I couldn't for the life of me remember which was which - they've all been uploaded to the Yahoo! group anyway so you'll just have to log on there and work it out. I'll be uploading them onto 7/2 tomorrow. Cath (who played a great tourney) is next out, followed in short order by Matt (who I'll be honest I had pencilled in for a top 3 spot) and then Mark Y on the bubble. I don't think Mark was overly disappointed at bubbling, as Matt had very generously donated a 'bubble prize' of an Atari games console, which was in all likelihood worth more than the payout for coming in 5th! So down to the money it was Woody, Mike M (the original CL), Rich S, Dave B and Mark O.  It's worth noting that three of these players had come back from chipcounts as low as 2.5K so excellent  performances by all to make the money, but particularly to Woody, Rich and Mark, who clearly know how to work a short stack. Mike M was next to fall, followed soon after by Rich S, which left just Woody, Mark O and Dave B to contest the lion's share of the prize pool.  I was dealing for the most part at this point, but three hands stick in my mind:

Woody has 27K, Mark O 82K and Dave B an impressive 104K. Blinds are (I think) 1200/2400 with a 400 ante. I think Dave B brought it in for a raise to 5K straight. Mark folded and Woody called. The flop came Ks, 9h, 9c. Dave quickly led out for a big stack of yellow - 10K. Woody hemmed and hawed....and folded, and Dave flipped over...7d, 2c. Heh. I got THAT one on camera!

We're Heads Up - just Dave B and Mark O left now, who has done a tremendous job to come back from a shortie to contend for the title. At this point Dave B has a little over 137K and Mark close to 76K and with blinds at 2K/4K and a 500 ante we get ANOTHER 72os moment, this time from Chewie bluffing into the chipleader by making it 18K to go pre-flop. Punchy stuff indeed at this stage of the tournament. Not sure if I'd have had the gumption to pull this one off myself. Dave B had a lowly 52os...

Blinds are 2.5K/5K and Mark is in the BB. Dave B completes from the BB and Mark checks. The flop comes Qs, 10s, 6d. Mark leads out for 5K. Dave re-raises to 20K. Mark thinks for a moment and then re-raises All In for his last 50K and Dave calls in a heartbeat. Mark flips over Qh, Jh for Top Pair. Dave turns over....pocket Kings! Nice trap-play. The Turn brings the 7h and Mark is left with 5 outs, but The River is the 6s and it's over. Dave B is the WSO72os 2005 Champion!

1st Dave B £236.25 (+ 7-2offsuit trophy + Friday Night Poker cap)
2nd Mark O £157.50 (Best impression of Phil Laak/The BT Tower)
3rd Woody £118.13 (Best comeback, and I don't mean "F**k you")
4th Rich S £78.75 (+ 7-2offsuit T-shirt for the 1st '7-2offing' of the day)
5th Mike M £39.38 (Stripiest shirt)
6th Mark Y (Atari games 'console-ation' prize) 
7th Matt (Tidiest chip stacks)
8th Cath (Most breakages - jk)
9th Yours Truly (Whitest legs - that reminds me, must cancel the milk)
10th Dave W (Most sat on hands - bring the cap next time!)

All in all it was a great day's poker, and I'd like to thank everyone who came for making it such a friendly and enjoyable game. I hear the cash game afterwards was a bit goofy so I'm glad I was well out of that. 'All In Blind' indeed. All these results have been entered into the 72os League Table, which means I'm probably disappearing off it to be quite frank, but that was just a matter of time on current form. Special thanks to Louise and Dave (and anyone else I missed) for all their help with the clearing up post-holocaust. Here's to May 2006, when we get to do the whole damn thing aaaall over again!

                         - "Behold the power of the Beer Hand!" -