Blog | UK Student Poker Championships

Me (r) counting out a bet, as former Kent University Poker President Harry Hazelwood (l) looks on

So it’s been a long time since I wrote a blog. Mainly because I’ve been revising for my final exams at University, something which meant I missed working at the EPT Grand Final which sucked! Last month however, I got to play in my first UK Student Poker Championships, and this is a trip report of sorts. Long-term fans of Backdoor Quads might remember a series of posts (here, here and here) from the 2015 UKSPC, an event I unfortunately wasn’t able to play.UKSPC 2

This year was different. After finishing my last lectures of term, I travelled to the Ricoh Arena, Coventry and the Grosvenor Casino there with my good friend Alec in time to play Day 1c of the Main Event. At this point I want to explain a bit more about the Main. At £36 it wasn’t exactly going to be a huge tournament, but each player had the chance to re-enter twice on each of the three day 1s. Luckily enough I had managed to win two seats in satellites, so I was essentially freerolling my first two bullets.

The start of Bullet #1

Now bearing in mind the only Day 1 I’d ever played before this was a soul-crushing Malta Cup experience in which I failed to win a hand, I was nervous as I sat down. It didn’t help that second hand in I check-called two streets, and bluff-check-raised the river with bottom pair. Despite my opponent reading me for a set, he called with second-bottom pair. I then called it off with AQo against TT and bricked every draw on the turn to cripple myself and bust soon thereafter. The tactic of fancy play was not paying off. Never mind! That’s what second bullets are for, right?

Wrong. Again it was a case of running bad, and the knowledge that I had another bullet afterwards that just meant I didn’t play my best. I had come with the intention to fire three times if need be, and…well here I was. After a short wait, I was seated in the show-bar section of the Grosvenor Casino and quietly sat pondering whether I could limp into day 2. Through a combination of flopping several sets and extracting as much value as possible without showdown, I got there, and I finished the day on the feature table, bagging up 33.6k; good enough for 16.8bb on day two.

Lifetime goal complete: Make it on the livestream!

After a quick discussion of strategy over breakfast with my good friend Alec (58,600), we played a short cash session before taking our seats for day 2. With 16bb I wasn’t looking to do much except get it in. Patience was key (obviously), and the other short stacks at the table were keeping things going with shoves and reshoves galore. I didn’t see a picture card for the first level and half, but just like London buses, when I got one I got two: pocket kings. I three-bet jammed and was called by nines and held.

A short while later our table broke, and again I was falling short. A few questionable shoves got through from a tentative bunch of students approaching the money bubble. I shoved small to big with QT and was called by AQ and spiked a ten. A very short while later I three-bet jammed Aces into Kings and held to take myself over 200k; a stack size which I could coast to the bubble with. And I did so. Of the 965 entrants, 84 were paid. Including me, and five other Kent students (Shout out to Alec, Tim, Robin and Philip!)

That’s me! And they spelt my name right!

Alec and Tim bust in the same hand shortly after the bubble broke, and I got moved to a different table. First to act with 89s on the button I shoved into two guys with similar stack sizes, only for the big blind to wake up with AK. Thankfully two nines on the flop meant I doubled up and again I had some breathing space.

With 25 left I was moved to a table next to Philip from Kent, a delightfully colourful character who is an absolute joy to know. What I didn’t want to do, was get into pots with him. I can’t remember the exact details of the hand I played against him; it wasn’t a big on, but I won it, and even more breathing space was acquired. Then Robin bust from the feature table (GG WP), and I was moved to his exact seat on the feature table.

I had played for a short while at the end of Day 1c, and was excited about spending some time on there so I could look back at the footage. At this stage I had just over 427,000 in chips. The blinds were 8,000/16,000/1,000 and I looked down at AJo. The player UTG+3 made a standard 2x open and action folded to me. I moved all-in. The original raiser called with AKs, and held (despite the flop and turn being all clubs). As I stood up from the feature table, and made my way to the cage, I wasn’t unhappy with my play at all.

As I watched back my bustout hand, I was reminded of a quote from everyone’s favourite poker film Rounders: “The trick to no limit is to put a man to a decision for all his chips.” That’s what I decided to do. There are arguments for all the other options I didn’t take in this hand, that is clear. Call and see a flop. Three-bet and see the response. Fold and just be a massive nit. Moving all-in seemed the right move to me at that time, and this blog posts is perhaps me justifying it to myself so that I can move on from it. To go deep in tournaments, you have to win a few flips. It just so happened here that he had me dominated.

I finished 22nd of 964 for £175. For good measure, 21st paid £205! And 20th place was Philip. Kent had gone from three players with 25 left, to zero at 20 left. GG boys!

22nd for £175. GG WP

The UKSPC was such a fun event to play, and I am already looking forward to next year. The banter amongst student poker players is incomparable. The atmosphere amongst the tables as a player was genuinely incredible. What other tournaments do you have players limping blind in the first level, all the way round to the big blind! There are certainly many ways it can be improved, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Grosvenor are going to do in order to make it happen. The event didn’t quite meet the 1,000 figure for entrants, but it was well up from 801 last year, so there is a bright future! Here’s to 2017!