My Poker Million Experience

    • rhinoneil
      rhinoneil
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      Joined: 16.04.2008 Posts: 1,159
      I first found POKER in March 2004. I, like a lot of people it seems, watched Late Night Poker one night and was immediately hooked.
      As it happened a friend had received a CD with Ladbrokes Poker software on it so I loaded it up and opened an account.
      I tried play money for a while then deposited $100 and started playing micro no limit ring games.
      I didnt even look at the tournamnets tab for the first 6 months, then in the build up to the Poker Million Final 2004 which was being televised on Sky Sports, I noticed that Ladbrokes was running a series of freeroll qualifiers to the following years event.
      This seemed worth a shot. So I entered one of the daily freerolls having never played a stt or mtt before. Amazingly, not really understanding what I was doing, after 6 hours of play I managed to finish in the top 3 out of several thousand entries, to qualify for the final.
      On the Sunday, a few hundred of us sat down to the final dreaming of a place in the 2005 televised stages of the Poker Million.
      There was only one main prize plus an additional 2 or 3 places paid a cash prize.
      I remember one significant hand after about 2 hours play when my stack had shrivelled to the all in or fold stage. In the big blind with 77, there is a middle position raiser so all my chips go in and the raiser flips AA. Turn card was the 7 I needed and I doubled up.
      From that point I didnt look back, hitting everything, getting paid off with the best hand and crucially no bad beats.
      After about 4-5 hours we are down to 3. I am chip leader, closely followed by a player with a similar stack then another with about a tenth of our stacks.
      I managed to take out the other big stack with another big hand and the last player then said he was happy with the cash for 2nd place ( about $2000 ) and sat out while I blinded him away.
      What a high!! I couldnt sleep of course. I poured myself a beer and celebrated winning a $17,000 seat into what was going to be the biggest poker tournament in Europe. And I was the very first person with a seat.
      A couple of weeks later, in the 2004 final, Donacha O'Dea and Dave Devilfish Ulliot are heads up with roughly even chips. Devilfish is dealt QQ in the big blind and slowplays it. The only problem is that Donacha has limped in with AA! In the end all the chips go in and Donacha walks away with the first prize which then was about $100,000. Donacha joins me as 2nd qualifier for the 2005 finals.
      The only problem then was that I had to wait for over a year before I got to play at Sky Studios.
      More to follow....
  • 48 replies
    • SoyCD
      SoyCD
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      Joined: 20.02.2008 Posts: 6,356
      Great read!

      I want more :)
    • Zeffke
      Zeffke
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      Joined: 17.04.2007 Posts: 1,123
      Originally posted by SoyCD
      Great read!

      I want more :)

      #2
    • rhinoneil
      rhinoneil
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      Joined: 16.04.2008 Posts: 1,159
      So here I was, the first qualifier for the Poker Million 2005. But it was only September 2004 and the heats werent until the following August.
      I told everyone I knew, or met that I had qualified but nobody outside the poker community had a clue or gave a monkeys about what I was talking about.
      Then the local paper found out. Well when I say "found out", I mean a good friend of mine phoned and told them. A day later a photographer and a journalist from the Birmingham Evening Mail turned up and after about 100 photos and an interview they went away. The following week there was a full page spread ha ha, which of course I still have.
      Anyway the time eventually passed and I received an email with all the details. Ladbrokes booked me into the Hilton in Paddington, London for 2 nights all paid for 2 people, plus gave me another $1500 expenses. Lovely.
      A week before the heats started Ladbrokes ran 2 single table freerolls with first prize of $500, exclusively for qualifiers for the poker million. The first 12 players who applied to play got in. I replied quickly and got in ending up on a 6 seater table with amongst others Paul Actionjack Jackson - the Poker Godfather and since 2nd placed finisher in Monte Carlo millions in which he was inolved in what has been described as the best single hand of poker ever seen. For anyone who has never seen it, I urge you to look it up on youtube, I guarantee it will change the way you think about poker forever!
      Anyway, I digress. By this time I had built up my experience of stts and in particular 6 seaters in preparation for my heat. I was a rock for the first 3 levels during which time 3 players were eliminated leaving me, actionjack and one other who I cant remember. I opened up a bit using my tight image to bluff check raise AJ out of a large pot then eliminating him with my 10 10 v his A8. I won the game after a short heads up and went off to the heats in London another $500 better off.
      I took my friend who had phoned the papers as my wife couldnt make it and in honesty wasnt really interested in mixing with a bunch of poker players anyway.
      We arrived at the Hilton on the day before my heat was due to be filmed and after an afternoon of serious drinking we met Nigel Blower, head of Marketing at Ladbrokes Poker for an evening meal. Also present were the other players in my heat plus the players from another heat which was being filmed. Along for the ride were the voice of poker Jesse May, his co -commentator Roy the Boy Brindley and Jesse May's very attractive girlfriend who also happened to be the official photographer.
      The players in my heat were John Shipley, a very experienced and succesful player who happened to live 5 minutes from me, Donacha O'Dea, the defending champion, Rory Matthews, a 19 year old Scottish kid who was taking the cash scene by storm, another guy I cant remember apart from he his screen name which was EddieSpin I think and Morten Erlandsen AKA Pokergirl, one of the top cash players in the world. I had been given the list of my competitors a few weeks previously and had taken the opportunity to watch Morten playing cash online. In one 40 minute session I saw him lose $20,000 then 2 days later saw him make it all back again plus more, so I had an idea of what I was up against and how aggressive he was.
      Everyone was very friendly, in particularly Morten who had just started a poker school and was happily giving out advise.
      Needless to say in spite of us all vowing to get an early night in preparation for the heat, we were mostly still all in the bar til the early hours.
      Next installment - my heat.
    • Zeffke
      Zeffke
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      Joined: 17.04.2007 Posts: 1,123
      Such a nice read.... keep it coming plz...can't wait.... :)
    • SoyCD
      SoyCD
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      Joined: 20.02.2008 Posts: 6,356
      Thread added to favourites :)
    • finchybg
      finchybg
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      Joined: 16.12.2007 Posts: 910
      nice read :)
    • rhinoneil
      rhinoneil
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      Joined: 16.04.2008 Posts: 1,159
      Next morning, after less than ideal preparation, I was thankful that I was in the afternoon heat. I enjoyed a hearty breakfast as I watched the unfortunate morning heat participants gathering in the hotel lobby.
      My instructions were to meet in the lobby at 12.30. I was allowed to take 3 friends to the studios to watch the heat live in the green room. With promises of free drinks and food I had no difficulty in finding another 2 people to come along with the friend who was already with me in the hotel. The rules were that those people actually taking part in the heat would be taken to the studios but that guests had to make their own way there. Once they entered the green room, they would not be allowed to leave until the heat finished. All mobile phones or other forms of communication would be confiscated. This was in order to ensure that there was no possible chance of collusion. To my 3 friends the thought of being locked in a room for 5 hours with no way of anybody contacting them, a constant supply of free food and more importantly alcohol, was heaven, even if they did have to watch a poker game.
      I met my friends in the bar at 11.30 for what they described as ‘a livener’ but I just had a coke while they cracked open a bottle of wine. By now I had my poker head on and was determined to give it my best shot so thought any additional alcohol should be avoided. My heat wasn’t due to start until 3.30pm, so they decided they would go off to Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in London for lunch then arrive at the studios for about 3pm.
      I met the other players in the lobby and we were escorted to a huge limo which was to take us to Sky studios. The journey was uneventful, I was pretty nervous by now so sat quietly listening to tales of poker derring-do from Donacha and Morten. We arrived at the studios and after being searched and de-bugged we took turns to visit the make –up department, then we each filmed an interview where we had to talk about our poker backgrounds and our hopes and expectations for the heat. I also found out that the green room was in fact operating a dry bar, i.e. no alcohol. That would not go down well with my friends but as I had given in my mobile to security I had no way of letting them know.
      We waited in the green room while the morning heat, which had over-run, finished with Paddy O’Conner winning the heads up, with 66 v AJ, J on the flop but turn 6, goodnight Vienna.
      We all head down to the studio and get fitted with heart monitors. Ladbrokes and Sky seem to think that it is interesting and funny for the viewers at home to see what your heart rate can climb to when you are under pressure. When I watched the heat back, my heart rate peaked at 168 beats per minute so theoretically it should have exploded!
      After some instructions from tournament director Liam ‘ the gentleman’ Flood and the TV director we are ready. We draw for seats and John Shipley is in seat 1, Donacha O’Dea 2, Morten Erlandsen 3, me 4, Eddie or is it Mike Spin 5, Rory Matthews 6.
      We sit down with 100, 000 in chips, blinds start at 1K, 2K and increase every 30 minutes, which in a live game is pretty fast. By now, my nerves are shot to pieces and I can actually feel myself shaking. This is my first ever live game and I am on TV playing for a first prize of $300,000 against some of the world’s top players. Only the heat winner qualifies for the semi-final so it is all or nothing.
      Shuffle up and deal. John Shipley and Donacha post the blinds. First hand I am dealt AK off suit. Morten folds and I attempt to raise to 6K. As I pick up the chips to raise my hands are shaking violently and I can’t stop them. Eddie/Mike calls the 6K, Rory passes. John Shipley gives me the mad eye stare then re-raises to 21K. I don’t know if anyone has ever seen the Shipley stare but I tell you now, it is a sight to behold. Donacha folds and it is back on me. Now here I am after waiting a year to play this game, on television, a complete amateur, getting the most evil stare not to mention a re-raise for a fifth of my stack on the first hand. How would you play it? I think maybe online all my chips would have gone in there and then. At the very least I would have re-re-raised. But I really don’t want to go out first hand and there is still one person to act after me who could have called my initial raise with a monster. So I just call. Eddie/Mike folds. The flop is Qxx and Shipley, still glaring at me for having the cheek to call his re-raise bets out 23K. What can I put him on? My brain turns to mush and I can’t think so I fold. Great! First hand and I am down to 79K.
      I decide that I need to sit tight, sort out my nerves and wait for some decent hands. A few hands later I pick up 10 10 in middle position, raise it up and take the blinds. This makes me feel a whole lot better. Gradually my nerves subside then I realise that I am giving off so many tells my cards might as well be face up. I am fidgeting, rubbing my hands together etc so I make a mental note to cut that out. These guys are professional and will spot tells a mile away.
      The game proceeds with plenty of flops being seen. Morten and Rory both like to see flops and I can see that Eddie/Mike is even more out of his depth than I am. He is the first to go, somehow managing to get all his chips in with A8 on an AAx flop only to be called by Rory with AQ.
      I can see that Rory and Morten have some history, they are going at it just like a cash game. Donacha has hardly moved a chip and when he does everyone folds.
      As the levels rise I don’t seem to be improving, in fact my chips have dwindled slightly. In the big blind I am dealt 36 diamonds. Rory, the chip leader smooth calls as does Morten and I check. Flop comes 45x, 2 diamonds. I check, Rory bets half the pot, Morten folds. Now what? Online I would re-raise but no, despite the fact I have an open ended straight draw and a flush draw, I just call. Turn is a blank, I check, Rory bets half the pot again and I call again. River blank, bollocks what now? I know that the only way I can win this pot is to bet it. I know it but doing it is another matter. I think about it so long that Liam calls the clock on me. Now I know that because I have thought about it for too long, Rory knows I have nothing. I give it up, I check, he bets, I fold. Looking at the tape after, he had nothing either, he was drawing to a jack high flush himself so any bet / raise would have taken it!
      Next key hand, Morten raises on the button and is called by Rory in the big blind. Flop is Qxx. Rory checks, Morten bets, Rory calls. Same again on the turn and I am certain Rory has the Queen, question is, does Morten? River, same again, Morten has a stab, leaving about 30K behind, Rory calls and shows the Queen, Morten has nothing.
      On the next circuit, Morten pushes a couple of times and picks up the blinds building up to around 40K. My big blind comes around and I have around 30K left. I am dealt K9 off suit. Fold round to Morten who pushes all in. I already have 6K in so I think for a minute then decide I might not get a better opportunity so I call. Cards on their backs, Morten shows QJ. We both stand up. Flop comes J high and I feel sick. But what is this? A King on the turn. Yes I am back in it. River blank, I am delirious. Morten is felted and is out next hand pushing any two with Rory calling with any two.
      Next hand of note, my small blind I have 10 J spades. Donacha who has been slowly accumulating chips and is now 2nd to Rory, raises on button. I think then move all in. Rory tanks for what seems like an hour then folds. Donacha throws his A6 away. In commentary, apparently, Roy the Boy said it was a great move but to me it was an act of desperation. Either way it got through.
      My big blind I have AA. Shipley raises, I re-raise 3x his raise putting him in an all in or fold situation. He folds. Shortly after he is out, running his JQ on a Q high flop into Donacha’s pocket Kings. We are down to 3, I have about 135K, Donacha and Rory have around 230K each. Within a couple of hands, Rory raises, Donacha re-raises, all the chips go in and Donacha takes it down. I can’t remember the hands exactly but I think Donacha had a pocket pair and Rory AK. Rory is out!
      We are heads up and Donacha out chips me 4-1. After a quick break and a handshake we continue. Blinds are now crippling 10K /20K and I know I have to double up quickly. First hand, my big blind I have Q2 off. Donacha puts me all in and I fold. Next hand I have Q3 off. I think for a minute then push all in. Donacha insta-calls and flips AJ. The board brings me no help and it’s all over.
      I am bitterly disappointed but at the same time elated that I managed to mix it with these guys and not make a fool of myself.
      I make my exit, head down and return to the green room where I receive a round of applause. My friends and I make a sharp exit as it now 9.30 pm and they are gagging for a beer, so off we go to the nearest pub.
      Next instalment, the poker million final, live party, followed by me qualifying for the 2007 televised finals.
    • rhinoneil
      rhinoneil
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      Joined: 16.04.2008 Posts: 1,159
      by the way, thanks for the feedback, much apreciated, nice to know someone is reading this. I have plenty more to come so please let me know if it is getting boring.
    • Hlynkinn
      Hlynkinn
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      Joined: 14.06.2008 Posts: 4,998
      Nice read. Can't wait for more :)
    • Atoks
      Atoks
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      Joined: 01.06.2008 Posts: 1,395
      Damn that must be amazing playing poker on such a stage ... gonna give it all I can to get there myself!
    • TribunCaesar
      TribunCaesar
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      Joined: 29.04.2007 Posts: 13,264
      Great read! If you want to, I would like to give you a stake for the battle of the donkeys, due to the effort of writing this.

      I am waiting for more. :P
    • thedahl
      thedahl
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      Joined: 07.04.2008 Posts: 270
      Write a book, I'd buy it. -- (and I hate books.)
    • Dippy19
      Dippy19
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      Joined: 04.12.2007 Posts: 1,347
      Originally posted by rhinoneil
      by the way, thanks for the feedback, much apreciated, nice to know someone is reading this. I have plenty more to come so please let me know if it is getting boring.
      Hell no! You're not boring! I always keep checking if you wrote more! And yeah, like thedahl said, write a book, you should be a writer, this is an amazing read :heart:
    • hyppolito
      hyppolito
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      Joined: 02.07.2008 Posts: 78
      Keep going...
    • Velak
      Velak
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      Joined: 19.04.2008 Posts: 542
      Very fun story. Looking forward to hearing more.
    • Zeffke
      Zeffke
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      Joined: 17.04.2007 Posts: 1,123
      :heart:
    • rhinoneil
      rhinoneil
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      Joined: 16.04.2008 Posts: 1,159
      Originally posted by TribunCaesar
      Great read! If you want to, I would like to give you a stake for the battle of the donkeys, due to the effort of writing this.

      I am waiting for more. :P

      Hi Tribun
      Of course I would like to take you up on your offer!
      I am hoping to write some more this evening btw
    • rhinoneil
      rhinoneil
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      Joined: 16.04.2008 Posts: 1,159
      So it was all over, I had come 2nd in my heat. It felt good that I had outlasted some great players and it had been a truly memorable experience. The staff at Ladbrokes and Sky had looked after us really well. When I finally got back to the hotel there were a few more free drinks and I received a “Ladbrokes Poker Million” T Shirt and travelling bag.

      I watched the heat a few weeks later on Sky Sports. Despite playing in one of the last heats it was actually the first one aired – no they don’t screen them in the order they are played – the mysteries of television! I actually enjoyed watching all of the heats as Ladbrokes had kept a very tight lid on which players had progressed to the semi finals. The semis themselves were interesting with, I believe, a new concept introduced where there were two semis of six people each and when they had played down to three, the chips were counted and whatever chips they had, they took to the final.

      The 6 players who made it through were Helen Chamberlain – Hells Bells – the Sky Sports presenter, Donacha O’Dea, Tony Jones, a total unknown warehouse manager, Martin Wendt, David Lerner and my personal favourite for the title, Bengt Sonnert an incredibly aggressive and dangerous player in the Gus Hansen mould. I correct my earlier blog here in that the first prize was in fact $1million, not $300,000, which was the amount that Donacha O’Dea had won in 2004.

      Some time before the final which was to be screened live on Sky Sports, Ladbrokes contacted me with a VIP invite for 2 people to the now legendary Poker Million Live Final Party. How could I refuse?

      Again I took my friend, Bill. The party was at the Hilton hotel in London, not the one we had stayed in during the heats, but another one a quarter of a mile away on the same road. The final was again at Sky Sports studios in Isleworth with each player being ferried to the hotel after they were knocked out. We arrived at lunchtime on the day of the final, checked in and hit the bars, as you do.

      The party was due to start at 6.30 with a champagne reception followed by dinner then the final shown on several big screens scattered around the room. On the dot of 6.30 we arrived at the meeting point, suited and booted. The invitations had stated that dress suits were to be worn but there were plenty of people who hadn’t bothered or had no doubt lost their suits in a bet. It turned out that all of the drinks were free and the champagne was flowing. I have to admit that after an hour of guzzling it like it was going out of fashion I was already merry, not usual for me but I blame the bubbles. Ladbrokes had set up a betting area and thousands of pounds were changing hands. I put £20 on Bengt Sonnert getting good odds as he was one of the short stacks.

      We sat down to eat then someone accidentally knocked a bottle of red wine over my brand new white shirt. Luckily I had a spare and after changing I finished the meal, along with several bottles of wine. The screens came on, I adjusted my double vision, and the final commenced.
      As far as I remember it was a good final. My betting slip was soon in the bin as Bengt crashed out first followed by my conquerer Donacha O’Dea then David Lerner. Martin Wendt was next leaving the two amateurs, Tony Jones and Helen Chamberlain. The whole room was cheering for Hells Bells but in the end Tony was victorious, lifting the trophy and $1million. Tony had qualified for $9.

      As soon as the final finished, the tables were cleared and several games of poker broke out. I ended up on a table of 13 players including myself and Bill, David ‘salmonoysta’ Poole, in my opinion one of the best tournament players at Ladbrokes who had also been in the heats, a few other professionals and assorted girlfriends and wives. We all put in £30 with top 3 getting paid. We were lucky enough to have a dealer sitting at our table so he did the business and off we went. First hand my big blind I squeeze up KK. Thank you Poker Gods. UTG raises and SB pushes all in. No way am I folding KK pre-flop in this situation so I push and so does UTG. Cards on their backs, AK for the SB, A5 for UTG. Ready for the flop, all I have to do is avoid an…, OH NO! you gotta be kidding me, flop A34, turn 2, river irrelevant. Game over after 1 hand. I stayed and watched the remainder of the game. Bill who by now had had so much poker rammed down his throat that he had learned how to play ended up heads up with salmonoysta and held a 3-1 chip advantage. He used it really well, bullying constantly until he finally triumphed at about 3am. So both the poker million and our own little game had been won by a newbie, hope for everyone. We had one last drink for the road and headed to bed. I saw Tony Jones in the lobby next morning, looking like a startled rabbit, surrounded by people and congratulated him. Sad to say I haven’t seen him win a thing since but I am sure he is not worried, sitting on a million dollars.

      Next instalment, I miss PM 2006 but am the first qualifier again for 2007.
    • Hlynkinn
      Hlynkinn
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      Joined: 14.06.2008 Posts: 4,998
      Finally some more :) :) :)

      nice read