I received a call from Barny Boatman a few weeks ago informing me about upcoming European Nations Cup event in Cyprus & kindly asking me if I would be interested in joining his team. How exciting!!
It meant swapping rainy London for sunny Paphos for a weekend in order to play poker against some of the best poker players in the world.
I was really honoured and proud to be a part of Team UK & couldn’t wait to contribute to its success (hopefully:)
Now just a little intro into what the European Nations Cup is all about.
It is a yearly event being hosted by the International Federation of Poker (IFP) with an intention to promote poker as a skill game and a mind sport. In order to achieve the most accurate results, IFP uses the unique format of Match Poker:
– 6 players per table play 4 sessions in total (66 hands each session)
– Every player on each table receives an identical order of cards (dealt electronically to players’ smartphones and the tables’ community devices)
– Every new hand is being started with 10,000 chips
– Scoring is based on the aggregate chips won/lost by team on each hand. 14points being the max and 1 point being the min.
There were 14 teams from different countries participating in the European Nations Cup 2013 & competing for the first place trophy as well as the top 6 spots, which guaranteed a place in the final (Nations World Cup) in November.
I had a good feeling for the Team UK – which was led by Captain Barny Boatman and included Neil Channing, Ross Boatman, Karl Mahrenholz, Ben Roberts, Jerome Bradpiece & me – not only because we had some of the most experienced & successful poker players in the UK, but because we had a good mix of players with different poker skills useful for the Match Poker format as well as possessing the right mindset and attitude towards teamwork.
All of us got on really well and were prepared to support each other & work our hearts out to make sure the team UK succeeded.
Hands down I was the least experienced player in my team and having not played in this kind of event before, I was very eager not to let anyone down. Once I found out I was playing a 6max 200bb deep game, I started practising online & improving my game by watching 6 handed cash game training videos online.
I felt they gave me a useful refresher into deep stack poker; more hand range knowledge and betting sizes players tend to incorporate into their game & treated it as a good warm up going into the Cyprus event.
After a 4.5 hour flight we have finally landed in Paphos & after checking in the beautiful Annabelle Hotel & grabbing a quick bite we were happily heading back to our rooms for some rest.
Friday was a glorious day and we took this opportunity to go for a wander by the seafront & try some local delicacies.
Ross & Jerome have decided it was a mixed seafood platter time! Cyprians seem to be extremely generous with food portions; After ordering our octopus, calamari & fish of the day combo we have also received breads, dips, olives and something pickled we couldn’t identify but what ever it was tasted great:)
We were making the most of the food & sun before heading back to the hotel for the opening ceremony, where everybody had an opportunity to try out the new technology (smartphones) to be used for the next day’s play and to officially meet the rest of the participating teams as well as check out the trophies.
Patriotism was running high even before the event was about to begin; some players were carrying their mini country flags around, the others were wearing clothing with national embroidery/branding or simply sticking to their own groups plotting the winning strategies even on an organised night out!
I think some of them were taking this too seriously- the action was yet to begin!
This did not apply to the UK team. After listening to a few of welcoming speeches by the event organisers & guests as well as fitting in even more tasty Cyprian food, our team enjoyed a fun evening by the pool taking some lessons from Jesse May how to win at Chinese Poker :) They’d be plenty of time to get focused and serious the next day!
Teams competing – Day 1
I started day 1, session 1 on table 6 & seat 5.
I had a Danish guy – Frederik Brink in seat 1, who was playing good aggressive poker and whom I ended up playing majority of my hands against.
Seat 2 was an Irish player Michael Graydon – who eventually won the best player of the tournament title, seat 3 was an Estonian player who was pretty quiet and only played a handful of hands in the first two sessions, seat 4 was a Spanish player who was probably the most aggressive player on the table and opened every second pot. I was in seat 5 & seat 6 was taken by a Lithuanian lady.
Because of pretty active table dynamics I ended up playing more hands than initially planned and when I did, I tried incorporating not only the most obvious starting hands but a few holdings I would usually muck in a typical MTT.
My reasoning behind this was that it was very likely that majority of the players on the other tables are going to fold those untraditional starting hands immediately, or at least in the earlier sessions/stages of the game and thereby not make any points for the team, where I was going to try and go for the max scoring.
4 hours in and team UK was leading the way with top points. I was thrilled to bits!! After finding out the initial results, all of us gathered together to have a mini break & team lunch. We went over some of the hands played and tried to collate more information on the specific players & teams whilst trying to figure out their approach to the format.
Team standings at the end of Day 1
After another few hours of playing we managed to finish the day 1 in third spot, which was only 7 points behind the Irish team & half point behind France. We were really chuffed with the outcome & a night out for the team enjoying Cyprian cuisine was in order!
We had a great night out on the Island, enjoying local cuisine & delicious ice cream for dessert (yes, they were so good that even the boys couldn’t resist having a scoop or two:)!)
It was good having a proper catch up with everyone & to bond better with the team. We made plans to meet 9am the next morning in order to look at some hand histories, which were meant to be sent through to the team captains the night before.
The availability of this kind of data could have possibly given a great insight into each opponent’s play on any given table/seat and could potentially be used to UK team’s advantage.
Unfortunately, due to some technical issues the HH data did not arrive in time to be reviewed in detail & discussed in group before session 3 was due to start. Regardless, captain’s orders were to stick to the same kind of play as the day before as it had been working so far & the situation was going to be re-assessed once session 3 ended & results were out.
In addition there was some re-structuring in the team and Karl Mahrenholz was called in to take my seat, whilst I rotated into the substitution spot.
This basically meant that I was free to enjoy the morning’s sun chilling by the pool & hang around the hotel with the other substitutes, but not too far away from the poker room, in case any of my team mates needed me for smoking breaks etc
This has given me a great opportunity to do some networking & to meet some interesting people whilst testing out a few traditional Greek cold coffees – Frappe being my favourite!;)
It was lovely meeting Irish captain – Dara O’Kearney, who was gregarious & genuinely supportive of UK team all throughout. Also I managed to sneak in a passionate debate about Match Poker & it’s future with the President of IFP of Bosnia & Herzegovina – Djordje Lovric.
Before I knew it was time to head to the restaurant and meet my team for lunch. I was quick to learn that we did not have the best session and as a result slipped down to 7th place.
This was the first & the last time I noticed a tiny glimpse of worry in our captain’s demeanour.
Although not quite where we wanted to be it was not a disaster. All of the standings were pretty close in points and they could be easily changed for better after a number of hands.
There were a number of other teams who whose chances of qualifying were pretty slim and it was only to take some drastic measures for them to win.
After some thorough discussion we decided to go for a “solid poker” approach with an intention to exploit the players from the “desperate to win” countries that will be playing too loose and trying to gamble their way into the top 6.
Also, the captain has decided that Karl will stay on my table to play session 4 and I’ll be continuing my adventures in Annabelle hotel, which in my opinion was only fair given the circumstances.
I was the least experienced +the youngest:) player in the team and it only made sense strategically to have the strongest players in action going into the final round to try and pull the team up.
All of my team members are fantastic poker players with 10+ years experience in the business and between £600k -£2mill in winnings each, there is no doubt they were going to make less mistakes and be more accurate with the live reads as well as be better at applying max pressure on the weaker players than me.
It was paramount the team qualified!
Karl Mahrenholz on the feature table
As it happened, all the players from my table were being moved to the feature table upstairs for the final session. So whilst everyone was taking their seats, I was heading to the second poker room, where the feature table was being streamed live to rail Karl.
Karl played really well; he made some correct reads & has gone a couple of gutsy moves which seemed to work out just fine.
No doubt, he made some decent points for the team there. It was funny that he was getting involved with the Danish guy as much as I was in my first two sessions:)
Later I learned that the rest of the team members seemed to have had good final sessions too & the chances of the UK making it into the top 6 was looking bright again!
We were in good spirits heading for the awards ceremony & hoping for some wins and of course qualification!
I loved the ballroom; It looked stunning in white with big gold plaited chandeliers. Each team had a table for the night where drinks & lovely food were served and there was a live singer & a DJ who kept everyone entertained.
We were slightly nervous and couldn’t wait for the awards ceremony to begin… Although we didn’t know what to expect, deep down in my heart I felt that we have done enough to qualify for the finals….
The joy of winning:)
I was right!! Team UK came 4th & I couldn’t have been happier for all of us:) We worked hard, we played hard and we deserved to go through.
However, the most joyful point of the night was seeing our Captain – Barny Boatman – picking up the trophy for the best seat award (seat 3)! I was so proud of our Captain, leading us to qualification by showing us how it’s done with a winning seat. It couldn’t be a better story!
Karl & I must have done something right too as we scooped a trophy for the best player in seat 5🙂 It was such a lovely unexpected win & I have to admit it felt great!
There were only 6 seat awards in total, for the players who scored the most points in a specific seat compared to that seat on the different tables and Team UK managed to win 2 of them!
Also massive congratulations to the Irish team, who ended up winning European Nations cup 2013 & picking up a gorgeous trophy and my sincere consolations to the Lithuanian team who didn’t make it.
Well done to the International Poker Federation of Cyprus for putting on such a great & very successful event & I look forward to seeing you all in the finals next.
The location for the Nations World Cup has not been confirmed, but the gossip around is that it’s in Rio:) Bring on Brazil!!