Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark

I spent three and a half weeks travelling around these Nordic countries last month and thought I’d try and keep this blog a little more updated putting out a few random musings and tips while they’re still fresher in my mind instead of leaving it 6+months and trying to plow out a ridiculous amount of words down the line like I had previously!

My route was..

Helsinki -> Turku -> Aland Islands -> Stockholm -> Bergen -> Odda -> Copenhagen -> Oslo -> Svalbard, spending 2/2/2/5/1/2/3/4/3 nights in each place.

Part of me wanted to take it slower and spend more time outside of the capital cities, maybe get a better feel of just one or two countries, but, like a lot of things for me outside of travel too, the urge to get a little taste of everything came out strongest.

I arrived in Helsinki late on a Sunday afternoon. I think if you’re going to spend two days in Helsinki Sunday and Monday might be the worst two you could pick, lots of restaurants are closed on Sundays meaning the remaining ones are also harder to get into while on a Monday a lot of museums and other sites of interest are closed. Neither of those things are going to make or break my time there though, there’s no shortage of good museums across the rest of the Nordic countries and i’m not the kind of person who can appreciate going to them every other day the whole trip. I enjoyed ambling around the harbour, running around the south coast of the city and the ferry trip to fortress on the island of Suomenlinna is well worth doing. I tried to replicate some past photos of me sticking out the end of a cannon but I was struggling to get my feet in and the Asian guy I asked to take a photo was beginning to look impatient so I had to settle for this..

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From there I got a 2-3 hour bus to Turku. Despite being told by a Russian girl working for red cross how terrible of a place this was to live as well as her bemusement why anyone would ever visit here, I think its a nice place to spend some time before going to the Aland islands or setting off on the epic 250km bike trip around the archipelago next to it. There’s a well preserved castle, aesthetic churches, a long stretch of river full of boat bars which can make for a good bar crawl or place to watch a sunset, there’s some cool bars within the city that have been converted from a bank, school, pharmacy and public toilet too! I think the school was the most impressive one and tried my first shot of salmiakki there, a salty liquorice shot. It was gross. I tried some salmiakki ice cream too. It was even worse.

After that I got an early ~6 hour ferry with Tallink Silja to Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland Islands. The ride on the way is very impressive passing different islands the entire journey and making buying the cheapest €15 ticket, to sit on the comfy sofas on the top deck as opposed to your own cabin, a great deal. Mariehamn had a nice relaxed, older feel to it compared to the other mainland cities I visited with some of the colourful older style buildings i’d associated with Scandinavia. With so many islands connected together it seemed the perfect place for a bike ride and I took something very close to this route and back. https://gyazo.com/47bce7c4cba47a8ab3acb7801c9d5de8 

The whole ride was very scenic, had plenty of cycle paths and wasn’t too hilly, limited places to stop for food/drinks but a couple of good ones particularly http://smakbyn.ax/en/. I’d have liked to make it around to lumparland and a full circuit but couldn’t find any clear indication of ferry times from Vardo and was running low on time. At around 90km total is was comfortably the furthest I’d ridden but I enjoyed it a lot and can see myself doing some longer ones in future.

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I’d read there was a casino on the island and even though I have an ever growing dislike for them I got curious and thought i’d take a look. It was tiny and in fact not even strictly classified as a casino, the max bet was somewhere between 10-20USD and the blackjack rules were probably the worst I’ve seen, if you and the dealer got the same total between 17-19, the dealer won instead of a push, I haven’t checked out wizard of odds to see how bigger dog this makes you but I imagine its far worse than any change in price of blackjack or lack of doubling down opportunities.

Next I got a ~7 hour ferry to Stockholm, the top deck was only a few benches on the Viking ship this time and it was a while before any further surrounding islands so I paid in coins for the 11 euro upgrade to a cabin to give my chafed, sunburnt body a rest.

I hadn’t appreciated how many separate islands Stockholm was spread over before arriving and the difference between each one as well as the water and views between them really adds a lot to its appeal for me. Along with Amsterdam and now also Copenhagen, one of my favourite cities to just wander around. I went to the Saturday bar crawl, it wasn’t one of the better ones I’d been on, the bars they chose to go to were empty and it seemed like they just chose the place that gave them the best deal instead of a fun place to go to. The last stop was a club in a metro station which was different and decent but I wouldn’t recommend the crawl too much to others.

The Offspring were playing in a theme park on Djurgaden while I was there and so I spent the day acting like a teenager again! The rides were pretty good and on Eclipse you could see right over Stockholm, I didn’t feel like risking taking my phone out for a picture this time round unfortunately.  The minimum cost of entry to the concert was shockingly cheap at £8.50(£17 if you arrive later on), there can’t be many places in the world you can see a concert for the same price as 1.5 beers!

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After that I flew to Bergen, Norway. I booked most ‘internal’ flights last minute, this one 3 hours before it took off, and they mostly cost £60-90. The city has a very pretty old town in Bryggen, impressive views in nearby Fjorfjellet and apparently some decent nightlife making it a decent city break in its own right but I was using it more as base to find a fjord tour and my way to Trolltunga.

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There’s a ton of different options for tours from Bergen, I think booking a few days in advance is smart if there’s something specific you want as some of them fill up fast, particularly tours including the longer boat journeys straight out of Bergen. I got my second choice and did the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour. The tour started with ~1/3 of the same train journey to Oslo before switching up to Flam and heading back to Bergen via bus+train. The Fjords were as impressive as i’d expect but the train journeys were much more than that, the quickly changing landscapes between lakes, rivers, waterfalls, lush fields and mountains were more enjoyable than the Fjord itself for me, I think the full Bergen-Oslo train could be worth adjusting your trip to accommodate, although at the same time, every bus, train and boat journey in the country was that impressive its seems hard to go wrong. Catching shots between the moving train and trees popping out of nowhere makes it hard to do it justice but here’s a couple.

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I decided to make it a full 15 hour day of travelling and take the last bus that day to Odda, the most common town to hike Trolltunga from. The hike is challenging and pretty long at around 11km each way but the total elevation gain isn’t too much and mostly at the beginning, so I think its more doable for people than it might first appear. The views along the way are very good but once you reach the top and it completely opens up the hike will certainly feel worth it! The queue to get a picture on the tongue at the top was very long however and I gave up trying to find someone to take one for me after the first couple of people were unwilling and settled for a picture on the baby tongue instead.

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The next day I decided to head to Copenhagen and stayed at http://www.copenhagendowntown.com/ . The hostel is well run and equipped, rooms were decent and it had a very lively bar with as reasonable prices as you could expect, would definitely recommend it even if there seems to be lots of good options in this city. I wasn’t sure if I’d make it here on this trip but i’m glad I did as it turned out to probably be my favourite city. I’m not usually the most snap-happy person but it seemed like every time I turned my head I wanted to take a photo. One place you definitely shouldn’t take photos is the island of ‘free-spirited’ Christiana right next to downtown Copenhagen. The whole history/ongoings of the place is pretty amazing to me, the idea the police can do very little to control what goes on here and apparently would face pressure from certain people from all the Nordic countries in trying to do so just baffles me. I was almost nervous in heading there at first but seeing how many tourists where already there made me feel like it had to be safe and I enjoyed passing through the narrow graffiti filled streets a lot. I also managed to catch the lucky Liverpool victory against Bournemouth here and was happily surprised how many Danish people showed up in Liverpool shirts with plenty of love for Daniel Agger. 

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From there I flew to Oslo. The city had less appeal to me than the others, it came across more modern, business-like and less unique from other European cities in my short time there. One place I went to that is certainly unique was the Astrup Fearnley art museum. It would be an understatement to say theres a lot left to interpretation in this art and there’s also quite a morbid theme surrounding a lot of it. As someone with a very limited knowledge and appreciation of art this made it difficult, even if still interesting, looking and listening through most of it and some other people’s interpretations. In Damien Hirst’s work it was very hard for me to not just see a bunch of dead animals. If you saw a banana skin on the floor in a museum, would you think it was disgusting? A health hazard? Art? More interesting than the shoes in front of a mirror to the left? Less impressive than the genitalia smiley face to the right? Strange place, strange field.

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I stayed at Anker hostel in Oslo, it was cheap and well located but not anything special or really that social but I got luckier with people I met here and there was a good bar crawl leaving from the hostel one night that went to some more fun bars than in Stockholm. I caught some of the Man U v Newcastle match here at bohemen. I’d be surprised if there’s a better place to watch a match in Oslo and even though the game was 0-0 it was interesting to me just how into the game the locals where, everyone very much was desperate to see Man U win or lose, no-one sitting on the fence like i’d expect most people to be outside of England.

After that I headed to my final stop Longyearbyen, Svalbard. I came to the most Northern part of Europe with some faint hopes of seeing a polar bear and wanted to catch the last of this season’s midnight sun. This is certainly a place you want to make plans in advance as a lot of the activities and flights will fill up, I’d have liked to stay a little longer but when looking at flights back out on the 24th my only options to anywhere were the 26th or 30th. After talking with a couple of residents here, it seemed like only the longer excursions had any real chance of catching a bear at this late stage in the summer and so instead of one of the boat trips I spent an afternoon being dragged around by some dogs and a full day kayaking+hiking to Hjortfellet. I did a good job of fucking this photo up by missing the 1309km to the North Pole opposite sydpolen :/

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With it being the end of over 4 months of sun there was very little snow near Longyearbyen and so instead of a dog-sledding tour on snow it was on a buggy with wheels, partly on road and partly on grass. It was still enjoyable but I couldn’t help but think it would be a lot better on snow. It was a funny contrast with the dogs going from super loud and restless whenever the buggy stopped to instantly silent and happy once they started moving. It was easy to drive the ‘dog team’ although when manoeuvring around a corner on a hill, I still nearly managed to tip the buggy over with the Father/Daughter in front in it! The trip to Hjortfellet started with a 30min kayak across the bay overlooking some glaciers in the far distance and then a climb to the 950m summit. The climb was fairly difficult, more so than Trolltunga, with a lot of scrambling on steep parts and loose rocks along the way.  Pretty sure the dogs were not all black when they started 🙂

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The whole first two days I was there the sky was completely covered by clouds and the level of light just stayed constant the whole time. It still felt cool it being light the whole day but it wasn’t quite the midnight sun I hoped to see. The Sun was due to set for the first time on my last night at 5 past midnight and it cleared up nicely. It still didn’t get close to dark with the sun just about hiding under the horizon, for less than 2 hours but it was a nice ending to my trip.

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I’m now in Tokyo and will be spending most of the next 6 weeks seeing what Japan has to offer.. time for me to catch a train to Fuji!

Matt.

There’s more to life than poker – no but really this time..

It’s been a long poker filled 12 months, despite still spreading my time between a lot of cool places, poker has been fixed as the number one priority and never really left the forefront of my mind even on the few short breaks i’ve had. Having decided poker should be prioritised this way, its made me justify more unhealthy options, not putting much thought or reading many articles about things I was interested in before and saying no to spending time with friends more often than I’d like. I’m not at all unhappy with the decision or the results that have come from it but it has made me really look forward to spending time not thinking about poker and seeing and learning some new things. Unless some golden opportunity comes up, I intend spending very little time on poker until the next WSOP and just travelling everywhere I want to go for a while.

Going back to where I left off my last blog post in Amsterdam and October.. I enjoyed living in the city itself a lot even if I didn’t explore or experience it as much as I might were it not for the amount of time put into poker. It feels so much less of a concrete jungle than most major cities and nicer to walk around, both those things helped largely by the canals. The people give off a more relaxed and approachable feel compared to other places too, just had to get used to the bikes flying out from all directions! Poker started off really well for me in October but one of the bigger downswings I’ve had came in November and bothered me more than I expected it too. One thing with the apartment was that it had one big main room including the lounge, kitchen and area where we played. I normally like that in a house but not being separated from the room I play poker in as well as sharing it with other people playing meant I never really felt away from the action or properly switched off from poker. I think that, along with putting in as many hours playing/studying as I did left me feeling burnt out and with poker becoming a bigger part of my life at that time, affected me more. I think the swings I’ve had compared to other high-stake/nosebleed players are very mild having no downswing more than 300BB/15 buy-ins in big bet, even with that along with a better understanding of variance than most, I think its important for other players to be aware how easily poker can but self doubt into you from a small run of results and I imagine every player will have times like that no matter how much success you’ve had in the past. Things finished off better in December and I finished my stay there with a relatively small profit.

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– People give me slack for how slow I play poker.. perhaps deservedly so sometimes but they should see how slow I play chess when i’m high 🙂

After leaving Amsterdam and coming into 2015, I wasn’t quite sure where to place my main focus online between HU or practising mostly ring games online with more of an eye on the live cash games in Vegas come the summer. Unfortunately there looked very little action higher than 400/800 coming up online and it began to feel like live poker might be the best opportunity for a big score this year. With me enjoying Melbourne plenty in the past and friends being there I found it easy to justify taking a break online and getting some hours in live. I played 3 tournaments and did pretty poorly in all of them, I think I won 2 pots in 6 hours in the main event. The cash games on the other hand I ran much better, in the previous years I couldn’t even get into the mix game but this year it never filled to more than 4 players, despite not getting in much practise for the live full ring limit games, it did mean i got to play HU and had some good results there. When the mix game wasn’t running I played a decent bit of PLO, the games were still good especially early on the series but got worse as it went on, largely because of any weaker players being s̶w̶a̶l̶l̶o̶w̶e̶d̶ ̶u̶p̶ ̶ invited to private games within the casino. The politics within these games even existing as well how different players are chosen to get in the game doesn’t sit right with me and it’s a shame that such private games seem to be becoming more prevalent.

Between February and April my volume playing was a little lower and I became more interested in working on HU games again. I’d had good results over this period, mostly at 100/200 and 4/800 but a day spent playing these games with a decent but not huge winrate became a lot less satisfying to me than a day spent studying and feeling like I was improving. As I’d mentioned in my last post, I wanted to put everything into poker over this 12 month period to see how good I could be and hoped to play the biggest games feeling like I was getting my money in good. This meant grinding it out at stakes I’ve played for the last 5 years just wasn’t very motivating to me even if there’s still plenty of money to be made. Towards the end of April and through most of May the action picked up and games ran at 1/2k most days including me arranging to play Phil Ivey at HORSE HU a decent amount. After hearing everyone in the poker world continually refer to him as the best all round player since I started playing 11+ years ago(and as far as I can see rightly so for the most part) it was the most fun challenge and player I could face towards the end of this period and felt good to put some of my work studying into the highest stakes HORSE available. As our match went on I discovered more and more of the most successful online players of recent times had crossbooked taking my side, which was nice to hear even if it made me feel a little more pressure in the beginning. With me taking an extended break now and the standard of online poker evolving so quickly there’s a chance I don’t battle as high again, but, I am happy with the level I reached and if I don’t, I will look back on this match fondly.

Just before arriving in Vegas, I did this interview with Nutblocker, not in love with the title but i guess it’s attention grabbing, also to warn you, some answers will be a little repetitive with my prior rambling!

http://nutblocker.com/poker-player-snapshot-matthew-mustafabet-ashton-ive-had-a-lot-of-low-6-figure-swings-in-a-day/

And so to Vegas, I came in intending to play less than 5 tournaments and focus most of my energy on the cash games. With this in mind I decided to stay at Vdara instead of sharing a house, the convenience of being a 5min walk to Aria poker room and 10min to Bellagio and being able to quickly jump in and out of games seemed too valuable as fun as sharing a house with friends had been in the past. While not cheap, the rooms are very good and I would recommend staying there to other players focusing mostly on cash games in those casinos. Coming in, besides some HU, I had little experience in NL 2-7 single draw and very little in Badugi, badeucey and other games you only find being played live. The day I arrived I heard badeucey was in the main Bobby’s room mix and so I thought i’d have my work cut out justifying playing in the game. For the rest of the summer though the mix stayed pretty consistent at 1/2k and as the same 10 game mix as played in the WSOP tournaments, only substituting A-5 razz for 2-7 razz sometimes and a 33-40bb cap combined with an unorthodox ante in the big bet games. I played a couple of warm up sessions lower than 100/200 and then jumped in. After playing the first session I really didn’t feel like playing lower again and thankfully got off to a good start but with me feeling like I needed to improve a lot in Badugi and NL 2-7, I tried to play every other day and study those games in between. This lead to me putting in less hours in total than i’d have liked, maybe 100-120 in total. I felt like I had a decent edge overall in the games, larger than I would in typical 6 handed 400/800 games online but never a huge edge.

One evening I couldn’t get into the bobby’s room game and decided to play my first tournament which was the 10K NL 2-7 single draw, I thought it would at least be good practise even if moving my focus in a direction I didn’t wish to. An hour after late registering I was back out the Rio doors and feeling good about my decision not to play too many tournaments and waited until the 50K to return. I felt sick the few days leading into this tournament and on Day 1 and Day 3 in particular found it really hard to concentrate and don’t think I played all that well for most of the tournament, possibly also not helped by me not playing 2 days in a row until this point. On Day 4 we were closing on the bubble which is enough to pick me up regardless how much energy I have, I came into the day 2nd of 17 in chips and was looking to be aggressive to put myself in a position as a big stack for the bubble. This bubble, seemingly more than any other I’ve played, gets people to play extremely tight and do some ridiculous things and there’s a ton of chips to be gained for those with big stacks. Unfortunately I went backwards for the first two levels and found myself short and reminded myself just how unsure I am about correct bubble strategy when short, I think I played too many hands and should have done a few more passive things preflop/3rd street but managed to stick around and eventually busted for a min-cash.

After this tournament, I really didn’t feel like playing cash games, or anything too serious for a couple of days, something about going deep in a tournament really makes me find it hard to get an appetite back to play cash. I decided to play the 1.5K dealers choice event next, the day prior to this a couple of random brief escalating conversations with Brandon Shack-Harris led to him wearing a black bear suit and me agreeing to wear a Polar bear one for the event..

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The event was great fun even with all the persistent unbearable jokes throughout the day. I busted early on day 2.

I also played the 10k HORSE and dealers choice being chipleader at different points in both as far as Day 2 but neither of them materialised to me finishing anywhere close to the money. I had good tables in the Main event and above average stack for most of the tournament until a questionable bustout hand on day 2.. A new player had just come to the table seeming to be very excitable and happy to be involved, he asked Jesse Sylvia, also at our table, for a photo in the middle of a hand which was pretty funny if inappropriate at the time. At 500/1k blinds, he raised 3 positions before the BTN to 2200 covering all of us, the BTN(70k chips), a $1 satellite qualifier called, I(90k) called 63s from the BB. flop came 335r, I check, he bets 2700 into 8k, BTN calls, I CR to 8800, he makes it 23700, BTN folds, I call. Turn is offsuit T, i check he puts me all-in (~64k into ~58k) and I call. I think its very possible this is a large mistake and there’s plenty of players I could fold this against but his whole persona arriving at the table gave me a lot of doubt and between A3s and 55 and only 4 combo’s of hands its not that easy for him to have it. He had 55. Maybe 7th time lucky to cash the main event next year 🙂

All in all for the trip I’d roughly broken even in tournaments myself, made a little on swaps and pieces of other people and had good results in the cash games for a decent sized win on the trip.

Up until April, i’d have said my year was going fine but I wasn’t entirely satisfied, but now after getting to play some of the biggest games online and live the last few months and feeling confident I was a winning player in all of them, naturally helped by having good results in them, I am satisfied and feel happy about taking a long break from poker now. At this point i’m content with what I’ve achieved in poker and if I don’t play the highest stakes again or make any noise elsewhere I won’t be disappointed or have any regrets looking back. I’ll certainly be playing plenty more in future, i’ll just likely approach it a little differently, less time spent on poker overall, studying less and choosing the more enjoyable option a little more often than the one I think improves me the most as a player.

Outside of poker, I spent some time in February and March catching up with friends across the UK, Seville and skiing in Andorra. I was impressed with Seville and it was a lot cheaper than I expected, my stomach and consequently my friends flat were less impressed the with excessive amounts of orange wine and blue cheese that seemed like a good idea one night. Would definitely recommend it as a good value city break. Having an Ice cream in february was pretty sweet too!

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Arinsal was where I stayed in Andorra, its a very small town and the surrounding resorts are largely made for beginners and the well attended ski schools, with me only having 8 days previous experience and shocking technique this wasn’t such a bad thing. I felt like things were getting smoother and more consistent for me by the end of the week. However, with my ski’s going all over the place, the gopro vids do suggest otherwise! I’d been given a Rudolph onesie for Christmas and had promised to wear it an unusual location so down the slopes of Pal it came!

https://www.dropbox.com/s/46yga0580lu0l2u/New%20Project%204.mov?dl=0

On the health and fitness side of things. . . At the beginning of February I decided to take lifting more seriously, I’ve had such little consistency over the last 4 years I hadn’t really gotten much stronger. Having the home gym set up nicely and not having any long breaks away over the following 3 months meant there shouldn’t be any excuse for not keeping up a routine well. I began spending more time looking for good nutrition and training material to learn from online from seemingly well regarded people, the person I got the most from was Layne Norton and his twitter account, videos and podcasts, his general tone and podcast can be a little bit ‘rant-y’ and repetitive but the content was always very educational and motivational for me and the more scientific evidence based approach is something I prefer to follow even if so little is actually proven in nutrition and training.

I’d very much gotten it into my head that the less carbs in your diet the better regardless of anything else and even though I’ve never had any problems with being overweight or any mental anxiety from it i’d still attribute guilt to eating certain foods or go into binge mode once i’d eaten one or two things i’d considered bad for me. I think my diet has been pretty well rounded in terms of getting in an adequate range of nutrients for a few years now and the impression I now have is that as long as this doesn’t change the quantity of my calorie intake is far more important that quality of those calories in terms of my weight fluctuations and fitness progress. The overall message I’ve got is that all the things like macro-nutrient balance, timing of meals/workout, insulin spikes etc many people are stressing over can do very little to outweigh having an appropriate calorie deficit or surplus. Moving forward with these ideas has made me a lot happier about what i’m doing with my diet and i’m enjoying my meals a lot more, not ruling out any foods and just eating anything I feel like as long as the portions are reasonable, I’ve also increased carbs a lot as before I was only eating 20-30% and liking the balance within meals.

My goal over the 14 week period leading up to Vegas was to increase my strength as much I could while minimising increases in body fat. I started off tracking everything I ate on the myfitnesspal app, it was a lot less time consuming than I expected and the database of different products and foods they have is very impressive and covers virtually everything I’d eat. After comparing the change in my weight while doing my normal routine, I estimated a maintenance calorie intake of 3000/day and aimed for 300 calorie surplus each day for the next 13 weeks. Aside from the week skiing and a couple of days were I got distracted from playing a 8+ hour HU match and just couldn’t stomach 2000+ calories at the end of the day, I kept up the calorie surplus throughout erring on the side of having too much if anything. At the beginning I was at 81kg/180lbs and by the end reached 86kg/190lbs, i’d put a couple of pounds of that down to creatine and my body fat stayed pretty close to 13% throughout so I was happy with the increase in muscle mass. My 1RM in Deadlift has gone from 130kg to 160kg, Squat from 100kg to a conservative 120kg and Bench from 87.5kg to 105kg. I think a good amount of those increases are down to improvement in technique possibly more so than increase in strength compared to bodyweight and i’m sure any rate of improvement would have slowed down from there.

During Vegas I planned to lean out and try and start some light running training again incase I decide to run a marathon in the near future. I did a pretty good job at this for the first few weeks but a solid blowout in the final week left me coming home 6lbs lighter and a similar bodyfat level.

Coming back to the present… I’m flying to Helsinki tomorrow to start a 3-4 week trip around Finland,Sweden,Norway and possibly Denmark. I have a rough idea of where I want to go but i’m going to be more slow-paced and very flexible with my travelling this time round, so i’ll probably just go with the flow and make a bunch of last minute decisions. Following this I intend spending 1-2 months in Japan and maybe a few other places in Asia I haven’t been yet. Africa and some more of S America is currently on the cards next year, certainly olympics in Rio. With me travelling this much, keeping up with running with a view to marathon training is a much more realistic goal than any other lifting or fitness one, if it comes along well I may plan to run a couple next year.

Good luck to everyone on Pokerstars in the coming year without me!

Matt.

There’s more to life than poker..

.. Just not for me recently! Finally picked up the motivation to end this hiatus from blogging, been a busy summer across Vancouver, Atlantic City, NYC, Vegas, Brazil and then back to the UK helping my parents move into the new home and after having my highest volume month online since black friday am ready for the next step.

I’ve now arrived in Amsterdam, has been my favourite European city to visit in the past and looking forward to living here for the 2/3 months until Christmas, the focus will be heavily on working online this time round though as opposed to the fun and frolicking of previous visits.

Winding back to April and my summer starting in Vancouver, it was a different feel being there this time in North Vancouver, the house me and my friends rented off of Airbnb for the month was part of quiet neighbourhood with more of a family feel around compared to downtown. It was a nice surrounding to be playing SCOOP in although a little inconvenient for routine things like gym/supermarket, hard to find that perfect balance between a relaxed setting but still everything you’d like near by.

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I played a lot of tournaments during SCOOP and not so many cash games, I made 2 final tables in the medium buy-in Badugi and the High buy-in Stud hi-lo for a small profit in tournaments but got slapped about pretty consistently in the few cash games I played for a relatively small losing month online.

As soon as SCOOP was done I headed off to Atlantic City for the WSOP National Championship tournament. I didn’t really know what to expect of the place until speaking to a few friends who managed to put my expectations of the place very low! For me it reminded me of an American version of Blackpool, potentially fun, a little bit trashy and not difficult to find a fight if you’re looking for one. I did quite enjoy strolling down the boardwalk and being close enough to go for a run down the beach each morning.

The tournament started off well for me, getting dealt bigger pairs than other people multiple times usually works out well. For the first couple of hours it felt like people were playing fairly well at my table but then as the day went on a bit I began to feel justified in making the trip over and it did feel like a good value tournament for all the pro’s who bought straight in as opposed to the qualifiers freerolling. I took a good stack into day 2 and after a swingy day and running very well at the untelevised final table went in to the final 6 as chipleader.

The final table was set to be outdoors for the first time since 1997 I was told, I wasn’t sure how well it would work out, potential slip-ups over the wind and weather, the extra strong glaring camera lights into our eyes and any passers by being able to come within 5 feet could have come in to play but it turned out great and I really enjoyed it. The table draw wasn’t all that favourable for me with pro’s to my left and making it a little harder to use my chiplead, I was happy with my play for the most part, could have been more aggressive in spots but felt pretty far out of line as it was. A bad call against Dominic with K7 and not running so hot in the large pots I played stopped me getting a second bracelet. Thankfully i did run hotter with the decision to make a deal 3 handed. It seemed very unlikely to me that I would ever make a deal at a final table because I generally like my chances playing heads up as well as the trust factor being so important. Dominik and Athanasios came across genuine to me and were both playing well so I was happy to make an exception this time and we were playing stakes almost equivalent to $1k/$2k if it were a cash game at that point, i’d still be very surprised if I ever make another one.

I was really looking forward to seeing the broadcast and especially what Norman Chad would pick up on to take the piss out of me during the show. He didn’t disappoint 🙂 no shortage of jabs at my tshirt, speed of my play and I knew as i was doing it he was going to catch me out at my poor attempt of tying the scarf! I like how it was pieced together a with a different emphasis to the sky poker cash game and the different interview bits put together, I thought they might try to portray me as being some kind of extreme animal lover putting the tshirt and temporary switch to being vegan together as well as asking me a ton of questions about those things in the prior interview but instead they went with the dumb comparison of climbing mountains to winning poker tournaments, one of the type of interview questions that makes me just open my mouth and see what spews out. A fun experience and i’ll look forward to watching it again in future and probably find it just as hilarious.

Following the tournament and after generously getting a ride from runner-up Athanasios I stopped by NYC for a couple of days to visit for the first time. I got a really good feel about the place just wandering around Manhattan for hours and really like all the people i’ve met from there, could see myself living there for some period of time in future especially if online poker ever fully returned there(we can dream). The night before my flight out to Vegas I spoke with a friend who had a piece of Jesse Martins team in the $25k fantasy draft and I decided to take a tiny piece too for a little fun sweat. The wifi went out at my hostel and I was desperate to follow the action and ended up having to go to a McDonalds nearby to get in on their wifi and felt obliged to get some food from there for the first time in almost a year despite eating way too much food earlier that evening(#PrivilegedProblems i know). My first impressions of our team were good but retrospectively, I think it ended up being more focused on ability of players than number of events they were playing and we never really got in contention. I was always going to go for an inflated price myself in the draft after last years results and with me not playing a full schedule this time round. I told my team to not bid more than 12 points for me and it rose up to the high 30’s somewhere.

And so then it was back to Vegas for the 5th WSOP in a row. After AC I felt like i was pretty much freerolling the summer and after last year obv have good vibes while playing at the Rio. At the same time I almost felt like things were supposed to even themselves out and me run bad this year and that was ultimately how it turned out. I’d intended playing some more cash games while i was there but I find myself playing poorly when i try to mix them with tournaments and once i was in a tournament routine I didn’t feel like changing it. My intentions next year are to just play the 50k and the main event and focus on cash games for the duration.

The rungood hadn’t left the house I was staying at though! My housemates fared much better than me thankfully with limbo dancing extraordinaire Stuart Rutter going deep in the main event, Andrew Rennhack winning a bracelet and Brandon Shack-Harris having a summer as ridiculous as me last year and as I type this going back into Player of the Year lead in Australia, hopefully can go one better than me and hang on to it.

In the middle of the WSOP I took a break from poker to go to the World Cup in Brazil. I’d always liked the idea of a break somewhere in the middle of the WSOP with it getting a little draining over the 7 week period in the past but I’d always just stayed virtually the whole way through previously. I think it did benefit me but it wasn’t exactly a relaxing break this time drinking beer and caipirinhas all day every day and having 7 flights in 9 days but i did feel a little fresher about poker coming back in time to play the 50k.

The games were great, Costa Rica’s first shock of the tournament beating Uruguay 3-1 was a good start to the trip, there were tons of Uruguayans in my hostel and the stadium in Fortaleza but they still weren’t as loud as the Brazilians cheering against them!

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After that I was off to Salvador to see Germany vs Portugal and got just as many goals in that game, not good for betting accounts after taking under 2.5 but good to watch. Portugal looked poor that day and Germany as strong as they continued to be for the rest of the tournament. The atmosphere walking to the stadium was the best of the 3 matches i went to with huge crowds of Germans chanting away and a full stadium during the match too.

An hour or two before I needed to head off to the airport from Salvador to Manaus was the Brazil vs Mexico game which was being shown on a big screen in the middle of the old town right next to my hostel. I saw the crowds building up before the game and thankfully made the decision to empty my pockets into the lockers instead of trying to take some photos while I was out. The crowds kept growing and certainly would not have been a fun place to be for claustrophobic people with plenty of people coming from the favelas and pushing their way into place, things became more still once the game started and everyone settled in to watching the game. I decided to play it safe with my flight and leave at half time expecting traffic out of the city to be rough. As soon as the half time whistle went all the pick-pocketers switched back on for their prime opportunity and as I tried to manoeuvre my way back to the hostel I felt several hopeful hands worming their way into my pockets. I tried to walk casually on continually saying ‘nada’ but they kept trying and I eventually resorted to just pulling my pockets out to give them a clue. Once i got back to the hostel there seemed the even greater task of carrying my backpack and belongings through the crowds in an attempt to find a taxi. It was the one time I felt unsafe on the trip but got guided through by someone from the hostel and it worked out ok and helped me extend my PB of over 2 years without losing/breaking a phone.

After that it was to Manaus, deep in the Amazon although you wouldn’t have guessed it if you just landed in the middle of the city, much more developed than I expected. The game I went to see there was Cameroon vs Croatia which also had 4 goals in a very one sided game, with the free caipirinhas in the hostel I peaked way too soon and don’t remember the game all that well and had to be woken up once or twice during the game by the lovely 70 year old Brazilian lady i was sat next to and had been attempting to talk to in my mediocre Spanish to her Portuguese. The next day I decided to take a break from watching every game and did a day tour into the Amazon and to the meeting of the waters at Rio Negro with this company http://amazonecoadventures.com/
I’d definitely recommend it to anyone, was a great full day and unlike my last tour into the amazon I came away uninfected!

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After that it was back for the remainder of the WSOP. I ending up cashing in 1 of my 13 tournaments and that was a min cash in the 1500 O8. I did make my best run in a main event getting to day 3 with a big stack but was pretty angry at myself for putting in a ton of chips bad in a spot I should have known better and giving the majority of my chips to Konstantin Puchkov, the same guy who busted me last year. Blinds were 1k/2k the SB was dead and I raised UTG with 5c4c which is certainly unnecessary in itself but felt ok at the table i was at. The flop went 5 way and came 2d3c7c I bet around 10k into 22k with a 230k stack, Puchkov called (180k effective) and it folded back around to the BB who went all-in for around 55k. I think BB’s range is pretty heavy in (bigger) FD’s and with the price I was getting I think i’m making a tiny bit of money when the pot goes heads up but when Puchkov has a set i’m getting a ton of money in bad and I think i’m priced to go all-in if I call the first shove. I think calling or shoving are losing plays in a cash game but with me having a good stack in the main event at a decent table it was a horrendous shove. Results… Puchkov had 33, BB had KcTc, I busted less than an orbit later in a cooler with 25bb and that was that.

After busting I moved my flight to get back home asap and move into the new house I’d got for my parents to live in and me to visit. Its been an ongoing gradual process to complete the move from the old house but by the beginning of August had got things set up nicely for me to work on poker and keep in shape. With no gym anywhere nearby and surrounded by narrow unpaved country roads I don’t fancy running down, I turned the garage into a bit of a home gym with an equipped half power rack and treadmill and enjoyed the flexibility of being able to work out at any time and wearing as little or many clothes as i please! I also bought a kettleblock which is an adjustable kettlebell which seemed like a good efficient idea but once I received it I realised it went up to 40lbs and not 40kg and is a bit wider than a standard kettlebell which the inside of my thighs have now experienced so it has become more of an ornament and a poor not-so-cheap investment. Consistency has been an issue for me improving physically the last 3 years and the same thing happened over the next 2 months with a fitness binge in the beginning to make up for the Vegas weight gains but dropping off once I was satisfied with improvements and had got a little obsessive with online poker again.

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I’d very much set my sights on making a trip to Japan and potentially more countries in Asia I hadn’t visited yet for the rest of 2014 but seeing the 1.5/3k 8 game running regularly on Full Tilt and speaking with a couple of friends sparked a motivation to just focus on poker instead. I know whenever I stop playing poker full time, if I look back without ever feeling like I worked my hardest for a full year or so to see how good I could potentially be, it would pain me wondering and only being able to speculate what could have beem and with the state of the games and regulations now it feels as though time is running shorter and this is the best time to really work at it.

For poker the location of the new house was well suited to me with it being such a relaxed setting surrounded by sheep and rolling hills with surprisingly reliable internet and the only distractions being our cats bringing live shrews and voles into the house. I think this (along with doing a good job of coolering people in PLO) led to my biggest winning month online since black friday as well as a 4th place finish in the 10k 8game WCOOP to round out the month nicely.

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While motivation and confidence is high, i’ll be looking to keep up the volume for the rest of the year and hoping some of the biggest mixed games on Full Tilt start running more often again to see if i can have any joy in those games.

Now being in Amsterdam i’ll be living with a couple of smart players and while there couldn’t be many more tempting distractions in this city it should be a good atmosphere and setup to continue improving. Naturally being poker players, we left finalising a place to the last minute and 3BR places aren’t the easiest to find in cities at short notice but we got pretty lucky finding a newly renovated place and besides noise carrying through the apartment its an ideal place for us.

I wasn’t intending playing any live poker for the rest of the year but have now become aware of a series here in Amsterdam towards the end of november and with a decent main event prizepool in previous years could become tempting with it being on my doorstep come the time.

Matt.

Melbourne, Veganism.. Onto Vancouver.. time for poker to take over!

It’s been over a year now since my first blog post, I had intended keeping up one per month but the last few months have been a little less eventful than previous although that is about to change as the busiest 3 months of my year are about to come up!

I can’t think of a better place in the world to be in January than Melbourne and it has kept me coming back the last 3 years, the city is buzzing and there is tons going on, lots of sporting events and weather is generally awesome. This time upon setting foot off of the plane I walked straight into a heat wave and the first 4 days there were all above 40C!

I arrived in Melbourne feeling pretty sluggish and out of shape which was always going to be pretty hard for me to avoid following the Christmas period along with a month of travelling. I was pretty keen to get out of this and my first two weeks where in an apartment in St Kilda right next to a Crossfit gym and a Muay Thai gym. Despite enjoying the broscience videos knocking it I decided to try something new and see what the crossfit craze was about. I had concerns going in about a lack of attention to form and attempting to do workouts with complex movements against the clock but over my short experience quite the opposite was true, the trainers emphasised some points I thought I was doing right but wasn’t and I left with improvement in my squat and deadlift. I found doing the exercises around other people gave me a little extra push to work harder and not get lazy with rest periods that happens too often when I go to the gym by myself.

 

Once February had come around it was time for some more live poker with the Aussie Millions, first up was the main event. I didn’t get much going and ran into quite a few hands early, my bustout hand was at 150/300, UTG opened 700, UTG+1 call, I (11400) 3bet AKo from the HJ to 2200, folded around to UTG+1 who then made it something like 5400, I shoved and he then took over a minute to call with AA. I don’t know where my mind wandered to after I shoved but I hadn’t considered he might fold the whole time and didn’t even occur to me that it was the first live slowroll I’d been served until I’d walked away from the table and a friend asked me about it. No punishment was served for him and that was that.

 

The 8 game tournament was fun and a larger and softer field from previous years with the smaller $2.5K buyin. Things were going well and I managed to make it through to the final 7 players from 50-60 entries with the top 6 paying. For some reason they decided to finish day 1 on the bubble which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but no biggie. I came back 6th of the 7 in chips with maybe 9BB. I’ve never looked properly at ICM before playing a final table but the payout structure was unusual here, 6th got $7250 for nearly 3 buyins and the jumps after that were fairly small with the winner getting 18.8 buyins which makes for a pretty huge bubble jump and it was depressing realising how nitty I was supposed to play. ICM is a lot harder to model in limit games seeing as you’re not risking your whole stack with each bet. It is something I’d probably gain a good amount of EV looking more deeply into it but there won’t be many heavy bubbles at the WSOP and I do put some reasonable value on playing for the win and the bracelet, so I’ll probably just keep playing the same.

This time round I decided against folding any blinds in O8 that I probably should have and soon drifted into the being the short stack and ended up bubbling.

After that I played a PLO and a HORSE tournament without getting close to cashing. I tried a few times to get into the 400/800 mix game there without any success and had to settle for playing in the 25/50 PLO games while I was waiting, they were extremely good value and I think any full-time PLO grinder should very seriously consider making a trip to Aus just to play in those the whole festival.

 

A lot of my poker friends make fun of me for not putting in that many hours at the tables, this sparked a motivational bet with my friend over who could get the most VPPs over a 2 week period along with penalties of 1000VPP for each drink of alcohol and each cup of coffee. The winner got to pick any outfit the other one had to wear for the duration of a night out.

I foolishly underestimated the amount of VPPs he could get at low stakes PLO zoom compared to my higher stake HU limit games and I thought I had it locked up so even indulged in a night out capping the drink penalty at 10K VPP. I ended up getting a total of 23.2K vs his 22.8K for a heavy loss that could have been avoided!

 

This was my punishment…

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I felt pretty comfortable walking around the city in the costume and the jokes and attention that came with it, doing something outlandish or thats clearly a joke in public doesn’t embarrass me at all, not being able to do or communicate something that feel I should be able to is what does.

 

As for my online poker game in general, it was unfortunately a somewhat similar story to Vancouver, i put in more hours this time particularly over the VPP bet and the couple of weeks that followed probably averaging over 12 hours a day in playing and studying. My results were very good around the 100/200 level but not at 300/600 and above. This lead to leaving Melbourne with a nice profit but not feeling like I’m progressing quickly enough or to be confident in an edge against or any faster than the guys playing 400/800 and above regularly. I fully intend to continue working on my HU game for a while yet after WSOP but for now with that and SCOOP coming up its back to 6max and tournament mode.

 

At the end of January I decided I wanted to attempt being Vegan for some time period. I was pretty interested in it in an experimental way to see how my body felt and if I could actually do it. There’s a lot of conflicting studies and information on the different health effects so it’s hard for me to form any strong opinions but for the most part they seem positive without animal products. Eating less other creatures themselves feels right too on some ethical and environmental levels and indulging my taste buds if it has significantly reduced another animals quality of life doesn’t feel very reasonable.

My diet had been very heavy in animal products particularly dairy before, so it felt like a big jump to go straight in and so I stopped eating meat for the couple of months in Australia while continuing to eat fish and dairy. This was not difficult at all for me and the only time I was remotely tempted was reading a couple of restaurant menus. Once I arrived back in the UK just before April I stopped the fish and dairy and started being vegan. The first couple of things I found was that my pee was alarmingly green and my flatulence had a new aroma that no-one else seemed impressed by. Despite spending a good bit of time looking into my nutrient and calorific intake I still didn’t have a good feel of what the make-up of my meals and consumption should look like and over the first couple of weeks my energy levels felt lower although the other factors like jet lag from a 24 hour flight, lack of exercise and too much alcohol likely had a greater bearing on that. I wanted to keep my protein intake high and not have many grains or soy. My diet consisted largely of nuts and seeds or butters made from them as well as a pea and rice protein supplement mixed with in a range of vitamins close to most vitamin tablets. Things I had in regular but smaller quantities were chickpeas,oats, veg, (particularly sweet potato, avocado and broccoli) and a mix of beans. Over the second half of the month I got into a better routine, exercised more regularly and felt really good about my health all round.

I think trying it out will certainly help my diet in future, regardless of how many animal products it involves. I’ve discovered a few different types of food and meals that i will continue having more of, some favourites being lentil papadums, mixing dark veg. with different nut butters and mixing raw cacao with everything. One of my favourite things about the diet was never feeling bloated or that I needed to sit down and let my food settle for a while. At the same time this meant there was no quickly satisfying food for a hangover. I think this is a very positive thing for playing tournaments poker were you have short breaks and eating large meals of quickly digested foods adds more ups and downs to how your body and mind are feeling.

For May I’m going to be back eating a mix of everything to compare the difference. If it feels like the diet is healthier in some way I will continue that way although still eating less animal products than before. If there’s not much difference I can see myself going vegan long-term or at least much closer to it. One time I foresee being difficult is when travelling or being in less developed countries. I think getting a good range of nutrients is going to be a lot harder on this diet on the move or needing to go out of your way to get hold of decent produce.

 

The only gambling I did in April was following the bets from Neil Channing’s and www.bettingemporium.com/ for the Grand National and the Masters. Once again they came up trumps picking a couple of fairly longshot winners out including the winner of the National. The masters didn’t go so well and I bet biggest on Dufner to beat Furyk but still a good month after a couple of dry Aprils for me in previous years.

The rest of my April was spent seeing family and trying to find a house to get for my parents. After viewing plenty, we found one that suited them really well near the lake district and unless something disrupts things I’ll look forward to visiting them there after the WSOP. It was a good experience for me to go through the full process of buying a house without the pressure of it needed to be for me and what I wanted. Whenever the time comes where I’m ready to stay in the same place for 3 months I’ll be a lot more comfortable going ahead with it.

 

I’ve now returned to Vancouver to share a house with a few guys to enjoy SCOOP. It was hard for me to leave Liverpool with our best chance of a title since i started watching football. Being on the streets in the city after the Champions league in 2005 was one of the most memorable experiences I have and I can only imagine it will be even crazier this time around.

I’ve always enjoyed SCOOP but never played a full schedule. Like last year playing the tournaments isn’t likely to be the most astute short-term financial decision but like i said last year, I do think it will prepare me for the WSOP well and I think being in the house with everyone else playing events will be a lot fun rooting for each other.

After Vancouver I’ll be heading to the US East Coast for the first time to play in the WSOP national champs. It seems like it could be pretty good value with a ton of guys qualified in and with a bracelet up for grabs in a small field event I thought I’d make a trip out of it. After the tournament I’ll head up to New York for a few days and see if it lives up to the hype before flying to Vegas in time for the 2-7 triple draw event.

Right now I’m intending playing all the 10K+ events where you don’t get 2 cards(besides the main) and a few of the smaller ones I like the look of. It could be more or less depending how much I’m enjoying them and how good any of the cash games are, likely between 10-20 events. I’ll be missing between the 12th-22nd to go to Brazil for some of the World Cup group games, only the 10K Stud hi-lo out of the championship events will be missed along with the dealers choice event I’m a little sad to be missing.

I bought a few group games before the draw in locations I hadn’t been before and wanted to visit. I feel like I ran above average and got Uruguay vs Costa Rica, Germany vs Portugal and Cameroon vs Croatia. It would have been cool to get ticket in Rio or Sao Paulo but they were for very popular and I couldn’t get any. If I’d known the WSOP schedule beforehand and that they would bring forward the 50K I’d have probably tried harder to get some last 16 and quarter-final games and stay out longer but I’m looking forward to the tournaments and very excited with how the summer is shaping up.

Good luck to everyone in SCOOP.

Matt.

 

A few Asian adventures, Effective Altruism, Moved to Melbourne.

After being in 6 countries the last 6 weeks without playing a hand of poker, i’m ready to depart Hong Kong and settle into Melbourne life and get back in the game.

After a couple of days in Liverpool to see family and swap the suitcase for the backpack i landed in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. People certainly don’t go to Borneo to check out the urban parts of it but i grew to like the city more than i expected. I met a few expats in a bar and thought how happy all the expats you meet seem to be with their move but it quickly dawned on me just how biased that sample is going to be, you’re never ever going to meet an unhappy expat who decided to continue living there in a bar on a friday night. I still think its likely most are though.

The next day i headed to Mount Kinabalu at 7am to begin a somewhat hungover climb up the 4095m peak. There is an option to do the climb in a single day but I’m glad i didn’t, even fancying myself as a decent climber i’d have been as stiff as an excited proboscis monkey the rest of the week. So i went with the 2D1N affair, you start the climb around 1800m, climb to the hut at 3200m the first day and then wake up very early in the morning to climb to the summit for sunrise. I enjoyed starting the climb surrounded in thick Jungle and then seeing it gradually reduce into just rock towards the end of the climb. Starting the second days climb in complete darkness but for a starry night sky above was pretty sweet and after a little scramble and use of ropes i got to the summit just before sunrise. I still haven’t figured out how to take any decent gopro pictures in bad lighting so this is the best i got..

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On the way down you can either descend the same way down or do the ‘Via Ferrata’ which is scaling down an almost vertical rock face being harnessed to and balancing yourself gripping a cable or using carefully placed iron rungs. Even after watching a video i hadn’t quite got my head around exactly how it would work out but once i’d got comfortable with the equipment it wasn’t actually that daunting or difficult. The views from 3700m down the mountain face were awesome and i would recommend it to anyone who does the climb.

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After the mountain i headed to Sepilok to see the orangutans. The sanctuary there seems very well run and respectful to the animals, taking in orphaned or unhealthy ones and caring for them until they can head back into the Jungle which they can do of their own accord once they’re ready to hunt for themselves. I really enjoyed seeing them swing around as well as some of their human tendencies.

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Next i did a river cruise down the Kinabatangan river. I was lucky enough to see a group of elephants as well as many types of monkeys, crocs, monitor lizards, orangutans and unusual birds in the wild. As great as it is to get to see all the animals it’s still a little sad some of them have been pushed there out of the deeper jungle due to humans forestry and oil plantations. Part of the package i did here included a night jungle trek. This was where i met my least favourite animal on the island.. the leech. When i was 13 we watched the film ‘Stand by me’ in school and there was one scene where the kids go through a swamp full of leeches, one of them gets one stuck to his balls and faints. I couldn’t get the thought of a leech sucking the blood out of you down there from my head for the rest of the lesson and for the only time in my life so far i also fainted! Those around me thought i was just taking the piss rein-acting the scene but this was not the case! So upon hearing the jungle had leeches everywhere i was a little less excited at the prospect of this trek. After the trek was done i undressed my several layers of clothing and found one sucking away at my hip. Thankfully i didn’t lose it or faint this time and after a perhaps slightly excessive amount of mosquito spray being squirted towards it it dropped off. I got another one stuck to my top on the following days jungle trek, wouldn’t say i dealt with it in a calm and collected manner but they’re a little less horrifying to me than before. My favourite moment of the cruise was seeing one macaque getting a little too arrogant trying to swing for a distance branch, missing it and belly-flopping into the river!

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I then left the third biggest island in the world and headed to Bali which can’t be too far behind. I stayed in the Seminyak area, didn’t especially enjoy the south of island, very noticeable difference between the people there from the Malays in Sabah, more of the aggressive selling type behaviour i’d got accustomed to elsewhere in SE Asia. The amount of anti-gay ‘joke’ souvenirs around Kuta was shocking to me, seemed the most common items in each store were bracelets and tshirts saying ‘jim is gay’ ‘bob sucks dick’ unfortunately I guess someone must be buying them. I did enjoy visiting Ubud even if only for a few hours, had a really nice relaxed, slow paced feel to the place, would like to spend some more time there. The one thing i would definitely recommend doing in Bali is simply getting your own driver for the day and basically making up your own tour. Most things are cheap there but transport especially. For 600kIRP/£30 you can have a guy drive you round dropping you on and off at any sight of interest for 10 hours which can take you almost anywhere on the whole island.

After that i headed to Gili Trawangan, a lovely tiny island to the east of Bali. I stayed at Gili Backpackers hostel there which i would definitely recommend to travellers looking for a good time but don’t expect to sleep too much.. it’s not the quietest place and there is a mosque very close blasting out some form of ritual around 5am every day! After a couple of messy nights losing my footwear both times and waking up on the beach i decided to do a freediving course. I think it’s a lot less immediately rewarding than scuba because you don’t get to see anywhere near as much but i’d done scuba a couple of times before and liked the idea of learning the techniques and being able to do it without equipment. I don’t know if it’s my short attention span or maybe me being pretty terrible at taking in verbal instructions but i tend to learn techniques slower than most in the beginning but build well on them once they’ve sunk in. The first day i struggled to get anywhere but then could put it all together on the second day to pass the course and feel like i could comfortably go much deeper than the 12m that time. I like the relaxing your mind and ‘respond don’t react’ aspects to controlling the urge to breathe, i think they’re useful mental aspects to develop and can relate to poker well too.

That was the final destination of my backpacking trip and i headed back home to Liverpool for Christmas and New Year and enjoyed plenty of family time. After the inevitable overindulgence i headed to Dubai to visit a friend and see maybe the most developing, consumerist side of Asia. Everywhere i went seemed to be either high rise or being developed but i did like it more than i expected, my knowledge of the area is pretty limited and i feel like there’s some deeper points to it but as far as i can see it seems hard to knock the richest people of the city and country building it into a more sustainable place for everyone else there to live. I enjoyed some of the urban views and architecture but spent more time enjoying myself drinking and an unbelievable friday brunch.

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After that i headed to Hong Kong, i intended getting to Melbourne asap after Dubai but after looking at flight options i could get there direct for £2K, with one stop slightly delayed in 16 hours for £1K or stop in HK for 2 nights for £450 getting premium economy overnight flights with Cathay Pacific so it felt rude not to stop by and check it out. Some people complain about red eye flights but i’m lucky enough/conditioned enough to sleep well on them and having two of those splitting the journey was actually a bonus to me. I spent most of my time just walking around the city and taking in the somewhat overwhelming urbanity and upscale asianness. The views from ‘The peak’ and Victoria peak were fantastic and i doubt anywhere urban right now could surpass it. I spent most of the rest of my time enjoying the food, i said to myself i’d refuse to try anything that wasn’t asian and i did a good job until i found a Belgian beer bar with a very impressive collection and i caved in. I enjoyed a little too much amazing chinese food in this city and there’s plenty more that would draw me back.

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Back in November I met up with a group of people interested/involved in Effective Altruism to talk about their subject and hear their thoughts. I’ve been in a very comfortable position to and wanted to give more to charity for a long time but the combination of me being uncertain and uncomfortable where the money was going and the feeling i should give to the best, most important cause was enough to stop me putting forward any real action. I went in with an open but cautious mind not really knowing what to expect and not ready to form any strong opinions. It was really refreshing talking to the people who went and nobody felt remotely preachy or simply regurgitating stuff they’d read online. All ideas and arguments were put forward in a logical and rational manner accepting plenty of uncertainty about the best ways to improve certain situations in the world.

I think that the majority of people donate to charity for their own gratification and to feel like they are ‘doing their bit’ in some way and while i don’t think there’s any problem at all with that i think it leads to them putting very little thought into the charity they are giving to, the personal satisfaction isn’t really altered by the impact their donation is actually making. In the past when i looked at a charity my main concern was simply what % of my donation was going towards someones salary as opposed to the cause/ones in need and when i did i just left happy feeling like i’d done enough of a good deed. Now i appreciate the impact the cause is actually having is the most important point.

Over time as human methods get smarter and technology advances many areas change from more of an art form to more of a science. You don’t need to be an expert to see how things in the financial or sports world, that once relied more on someones ‘nouse’ or accepted ideas have moved on over time to rely more on data and modelling to get more precise answers and training methods. The same is true of poker, the players who spent more time thinking about situations even if mathematically using a more creative approach where the ones who excelled most in the past. They made the most of the very limited resources there was back then to improve their games. Poker tools and knowledge has now evolved to the point were if you’re not making use of data and more developed theory with a more scientific approach you’re going to get left behind.

It makes sense to me that this is also the direction charity should go, there is valuable information and data that should be used to evaluate what is likely to have the greatest benefit to the world we live in. I think most people who are founding or promoting their charities and pushing there ideas are doing so more out of passion than thinking about what is actually going to improve the most lives or do the most good. As much as i think the world needs those people and they are doing more to make the world a better place than virtually everyone else their drive could maybe be placed in a slightly different direction. Of course it as long way off being a purely scientific case that actually has right or wrong answers and no single person should be a judge of everything the world needs but some causes and charities are far more pressing, important and efficient than others and using all the knowledge available feels like the best approach to me. The most popular sites amongst the group seemed to be givewell.org and givingwhatwecan.org. Another one is www.animalcharityevaluators.org/. One idea in the meeting i found really interesting was considering the importance of helping animals vs humans. I liked the question.. If some more advanced species came from space and took a look at was going on on Earth would they be more disapproving with the living conditions and happenings to humans or animals? It was on my mind a little more travelling through the Asian countries being surrounded by wildlife and knowing they are generally not treated as well over there. At the same time most animals and species do have to fend for their own survival and when the humans are in poverty and they have the chance to hunt down animals for large monetary gains to give themselves a much better life i don’t think anyone who’s not in that position can be sure they wouldn’t do the same. Possibly helping humans first could even be the quickest solution to that one example. There are other examples were animals are mistreated that feel much less justifiable and i think it’s a tough question and contentious topic.

There is plenty of detailed information and reasoning given on the sites for those interested. My knowledge on the subject is still very limited and my opinions will get stronger over time but this feels like the best approach for me to move forward with for the time being.

I’ll be in Melbourne until sometime in March primarily to be based to focus on poker online and enjoy the Melbourne summer with other friends here. I will also be playing a few events in the upcoming Aussie Millions, likely the main event and any of the 2500 non holdem ones. Here are a couple of links to some more recently released episodes from sky poker and interviews i’ve done, one golden comment on the youtube channel there.. someone finally figured out how i cheat!!

:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=domHqB1KUl4&list=PLa_C_j63NimjYU70kUStNOBvEOPuLJbET

http://calvinayre.com/2014/01/03/poker/matt-ashton-annual-review-ld-audio-interview/

http://calvinayre.com/2014/01/10/poker/will-omaha-poker-lose-its-popularity-in-2014

Time to get back to work! Hope everyone has a great 2014.

Matt.

Tough Mudder, WSOPE, Goodbye Vancouver, Back to the Backpack!

Been a little while and i’m beginning to write this on my 9 hour flight back to the UK so this could be a lengthy witter!

After my last blog post i headed across the border for Tough Mudder in Seattle. I very much enjoy a lengthy endurance challenge for the sake of it so this was exactly my kind of thing and i’d never timed it right to do it in England, so when a couple of friends told me they were doing it, i snap-called. I bought a GoPro a few days before to capture my pain in the process…

There’s no individual obstacle or task that would stop people completing the course(at least as a team) but the culmination of the 12 mile run and multiple obstacles make it worthy of its name. The arctic enema was probably my least favourite, gave me some idea of how well your body can act in survival mode, as i wasn’t consciously moving any part of my body but my muscles moved damn fast to get me out of there! I managed to rip a callous in the middle of my palm on the monkey bars which made for an uncomfortable couple of obstacles but i made it across the finish line and the beer + 3 protein bars they handed out barely touched the sides at the finish line. Speaking of protein bars, Quest bars have pretty much been the main part of my diet the last month. Choc brownie, 25 seconds in the microwave, amazing guilt free dessert.

Enghien-Les-Bains was the setting for WSOPE, a very beautiful lake and quiet town. I wasn’t looking for much to do around the place on this poker trip because with me attempting to hunt down WSOPPOY points i was playing poker all day every day. That said i think the location was a poor choice, the accommodation nearby was far too limited which almost certainly affected field sizes, rooms fairly mediocre for the price and transport for others from the city centre awkward and inconsistent. The tournaments were well run with extended late registration and schedule of events was ok, the mixed max tournaments are cool structures and NLH events are important for the masses. Having some form of mixed tournament would have been nice but in France i think its a no go with the likely field size. The buffet breakfast was very good though and Jason Mercier very accurately pointed out on twitter how hard it was not to overeat when you know its going to be your best meal of the day and my glutinous side came out raging, averaging a solid 4 plates a day and i gained a solid padding over my abs once again.

Coming into the final 8 events i had a pretty solid lead for POY(Player of the year) Daniel Negreanu was pretty much the only one who could catch me with one score in the smaller buyin events, all the November niners had a shot if they won a bracelet and then the main. The Main and the High Roller were bigger concerns because of the multipliers that come with them, Negreanu would only need a top 9 in those events as opposed to top 5 in the others. I think i was probably around a 2-1 favourite to win coming in and I min-cashed the first event to extend my lead a little. I’d ran good to build up a big stack entering the money but bluffed off my chips in a spot i certainly didn’t need to. I’m not too unhappy with my bustout, my opponent made a very good river call but certainly better spots could have been found. In terms of POY the points it meant very little, it was only final table points that would increase my chances of winning by any significance which is a reason to gamble more once i’ve cashed. I came 9th/180 in the mix max PLO event too but again only increased my lead very slightly and with Negreanu not picking up any points prior to the main event i was in good shape.

After 6 long straight days of playing a break was welcome and i took the Eurostar back to London for my friends birthday. Not so surprisingly being a poker player, my overly lax attitude to being punctual for journeys made me miss my train, i was treating it like hopping on a train on the Merseyrail as opposed to an airport to leave the country and apparently turning up 2mins before the train’s supposed to go isn’t ok. Thankfully i could get on the next one, got a little carried away with the complimentary leffes and happy hour cocktails and blacked out around 9pm, a poor performance even by my standards. I headed back to play Day 1B and out of my regging options i decided to reg. after dinner perhaps 80% recovered. This turned out to be the worst timing of the trip as after waiting 15mins for it to come around to my big blind, i busted 10mins and 6 hands later. I managed to run into a set twice, once with QJ vs 55 on JJ5 and also 77 vs 99 on J975J. Punished by the poker gods for my punctuality with 2 swift blows. 10k euros well invested!

Negreanu went deep in the main but not enough to get significant points and going into the high roller i was probably more like a 7-1 fav. to win. I enjoyed the event and playing with some of the tougher tournament players around. The field got a lot more than expected with ~80 players which did help my POY chances. Negreanu needed 8th or better to overtake me. My starting table seemed pretty good with Devilfish being the only person i knew and a couple of self professed amateurs. There was a lot of seat changing during the event which is probably a good thing to balance things out but it didn’t work out so well in my favour, one by one the weakest player at the table got moved and that set off Devilfishs bluntness.. ‘What you taking him for?’ ‘You can’t be taking that fish away as well’ ‘Him!?! You’ve got to be fucking kidding me’ I think his muffled Hull accent was only translatable to me but i couldn’t hold back the laughter. I busted with 20-30 left in a hand with Phil Ivey. I had 14BBs from the BB, he took a good look at my stack and instead of making his usual 2-2.5xBB open he 4xBB it pre, the SB folded and i had KJo in the BB. I would have been jamming over his standard open very happily but this raise screamed of a small pair or perhaps A rag that wanted to dissuade me from taking a flop with. I’m normally pretty good at taking a step back considering all my options in a poker hand but i didn’t think hard enough here. Taking a flop for 30% of your stack is generally a large mistake in NLH but if i’m confident enough his range is that polarised its a much better play to call. Against that range its pretty easy to call a wide range and just lead 2-3BB at any kind of middle semi-connected flops without him being able to do much about it and get away from certain flops too. I jammed he had 44, i lost. Results oriented.. flop was J98 could have worked out different!

Negreanu folded his way into the top 8 and then even managed to take it down. He does a hell of a lot of good for poker and absolutely deserved to win the title and everything else he gets out of it on whatever personal and professional level. Some people complained about the POY points system, i think its very reasonable and big buy-in events definitely need a good multiplier because they are so much tougher than the 1000+ player fields and i believe playing in a variety of games deserved some credit towards POY which also relates to those smaller fields. I would penalise the especially small events that get less than 100 players. The high roller final table placings getting a 2.75x multiplier for 80 players is steep, equivalent to something like a 2000 player $1500 event or 500 player $5K event. Maybe make less than 100 player fields something like a 0.5x multiplier based on the current system. Like i’ve said previously, i’ve got a long way to go before i can have any real disappointment with tournaments, coming 2nd in the player of the year race sure means you had a pretty lucky year!!

After busting the high roller i immediately booked a flight 12 hours later back to Vancouver, and as always the case after playing the long slow live tournament grind was looking forward to playing online again. I came into November pretty intent on making it the hardest working month i’ve ever put into poker. It started off positively but as soon as my mind drifted towards what to do with myself in December after leaving Vancouver my progress slowed, my daydreaming rose back up to the usual 15hours a day and i didn’t reach a position where i wanted to battle at any nosebleed stakes. I had good results at high stakes and putting in hours to grind out some money is important but it just isn’t giving me anywhere near the same satisfaction as when i’m taking on tougher players or doing some off-the-table work on my game. That said i do feel like my poker theory is as strong across all the games as its ever been and if i can put in some more HU volume my game will improve and get strong quickly.

One of the best tweets i read in the last couple of months was stating that time is your most valuable resource in life. That hit home for me and i’ve become a little obsessive about being as productive with my time as i can be, online poker is getting harder all the time and is only going to be a profitable skill for so long, could well be a lot sooner than most high stake players realise.

However… I still have the conflicting desires of wanting to travel and put in serious hours into poker, the urge to travel has the greater pull for me this month and i decided to return to Asia and enjoy the nature of Borneo probably followed with some beaches and nightlife in Indonesia. A lot of the time once i start thinking about the what i’m doing the next month i lose focus on the present and it decreases my productivity significantly, which i think is somewhat inevitable and some level of planning trips well does make them a lot better but its still something i’d like to improve on and November ended a little slowly and unhealthily after starting the month well.

So the backpack will be back on for 2-3 weeks leading up to Christmas having an explore and getting away from Cities for a little while. This will then be followed by a move to Melbourne! I do like the people there and the feel of the place in my previous two visits and am super excited to head back there. I’ve got a strong feeling there is going to be a lot more fun things going on that distract me compared to Vancouver but hopefully my appetite will be built up after taking most of December off and i’ll have some good battles in the new year.

The first episode of the sky poker cash game recently got released on pokertube..

One hand a couple of people have asked me about is the fairly epic fail of a hero call i made with Queen high. I raised preflop on the button with Q3 of spades and Rupert Elder called from the big blind. The flop came Kc8s4s, Rupert checked i bet 25 into 35 and he called. The turn came the 2c. Rupert checked, i bet 180 into 85 and he raised to 380. The river made the board Kc8s4s2c7d. He shoved all-in for ~ 600 into 845. I called.

Despite the commentary, Rupert hadn’t actually been playing quite that snug and i believe he had already check-raised me on 1 of 2 flops we’d seen. I thought it was more likely he would opt to check-raise the flop with his best value hands than check/call. I expect Rupert to read my overbet on the turn as very polarised between a strong hand or a draw.

You could make some theoretical based arguments for him virtually never raising the turn here as doing so with his value hands leaves his check-calling range very exposed on rivers with this drawy board and allows me to overbet jam for a large bet size and increase my bluffing frequency with me having a lot more AK+ hands in my range on the K842 board than his range. His range of bluffcatchers would be struggling to ever win the pot on virtually every river.

I don’t know to what if any degree Rupert would be considering this in the moment, even if he was thinking less theoretically i think people’s intuition can often come to similar conclusions. The ideas behind this made me believe he would also just call the turn a high % of the time with his value hands.

After Rupert raises my overbet his range is extremely polarised, i think the value hands could be as little as 44 and 88 maybe as far to also include K2s,K4s,K8s,84s. This is 6 or 15 combos of value hands that may choose to take this line. I thought it was much more likely he’d raise with a draw that decided they couldn’t call a bet that large but didn’t want to fold so decided to bluff. 56,57,67 with a flush draw all seemed like likely candidates, other small spade draws seemed like reasonable possibilities, this is up to 18 combinations of hands. Of course this line isn’t one i expect him to take that often with these hands but then i didn’t think he would play a set this way that often either.

I was ready to snap call a board pairing river but the 7d was a particularly bad one, i now only beat 7 combinations of the hands i mentioned. His shove size meant i needed to beat 3 bluff combos for every 7 value ones. I felt like if he paired the 7 he would likely check but it is certainly possible he decides to bluff with it. He may also bluff with A high, or just a random pair he didn’t want to call the turn with.

I think the fact i lose to that many hands that he may opt to bluff with makes it a pretty bad call, but in the moment i did think there was a good chance he would just flat call his value hands on the turn especially after the propensity of my overbetting on the later streets earlier on and i expected him to not turn a showdown value hand like A-high flush draw into a bluff very often.

I also really REALLY wanted to be right 🙂 Sometimes your just not meant to be a hero!

I like how the show’s been screened so far, from a poker perspective there’s a good volume of hands being shown and interesting ones imo to poker players, perhaps less so to the masses with less all-ins but i think the game playing as deep as it does made it a lot more interesting and fun to play and watch. Also helps that all my other questionable plays seem to have been correct against their actual hand so far!

Hope everyone enjoys the Christmas build-up and festivities!

Matt.

Vancouver, Sky Poker, on to WSOPE.

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Its been around 7 weeks since i arrived in Vancouver and i can see why its such a popular place for the American online players to move to. Everything is very comfortable about this city, the downtown area is small enough to walk everywhere and has everything you could need. Its busy but not crowded, high rise but not overbearing, great scenery, plenty of things to do, places to go out but not so much that i feel like i’m missing out by staying in clicking mouse buttons. The rental market for accommodation is pretty competitive and took a little hassle in finding a 3 bedroom place for me and the couple of friends i’m sharing with. We ended up using Poker Refugees and they helped us find a few more available places than we had searching ourselves including the pretty much ideal place we ended up moving into. There was a little miscommunication along the way which made it a less smooth transition than we’d hoped but they hooked us up with a good place and i’m happy we used them. I would recommend them if you’re struggling to find a place in Vancouver but would have a good look yourself first before using them. If i was looking for a poker house in another country with language barriers or any other difficulties i would definitely look to use them.

I talked about trying to find a good life balance in my first blog post and living out here with a couple of good friends and poker players feels like a very good step forward, my motivation and work levels are higher although i still feel like i’ve got an extra gear or two that i can hopefully reach before i leave here in December.

Earlier in September i headed a few hours south for a friends wedding in Seattle. I wasn’t blown away by the parts of the city i saw itself but i did like the laid back feel of the place and everyone i met over the few days there seemed so laid back and really friendly. On the first day we were there we headed out early to start off the bachelor/stag party at an activity centre which would have been paradise for me when i was 10 years old. I very much felt and acted like a kid again, being pretty happy with my performance in the baseball batting cages but a little less so at the laser tag/quasar where i got carried away trying to attack their base and ran face first into a pillar gaining a fairly large cut on my nose. Later on, the night escalated nicely into beers, brownies, foosball, shuffleboard, cigars, tiaras and an alcohol free strip club which i wasn’t too impressed with although it may have been for the best.

The day of the wedding i went off to get the suit i’d picked the day before and with less than an hour before the ceremony was due to start i began to get ready in the hostel before realising i no longer had trousers on my suit hanger.. Nor did i have the shoes i’d bought the day before! I have no idea how i could have managed to lose them or if they’d been picked up/stolen at some point but with my track record of losing things was probably my usual carelessness. I pulled together the smartest clothes i had and think i managed to not look too unreasonable. The wedding was lovely and very well organised and capped off a 4th night drinking in a row to spoil my healthy routines of the previous month.

The day after i flew back to England to see family, tie a couple of loose ends and play in the Sky Poker cash game that i believe is to be televised before the end of the year. It was my turn to have a baby screaming and kicking my chair behind me on the flight so i didn’t get any sleep on the way over and arrived feeling pretty awful. They put me up in the Hilton at Syon Park which i was impressed with, by far the nicest Hilton i’ve seen. After forgetting to take off my makeup(which covered up my cut nose very nicely) the night after the first day of recording i was about to get stuck in to my 3rd plate of food from the breakfast buffet and i decided i’d like my croissant heated and tried to put it into the revolving toaster machine. It got stuck in the middle and went up in flames and a few staff ran over frantically to help out while i took a step back looking rather foolish. After yanking the plug out and poking it with a spatula like instrument the black croissant slid out the bottom. No-one offered me the burnt pastry but they were very kind about it and said they would happily heat one up for me in future.

I think there was a good mix of people on the show with a couple of sports stars, a couple of chattier players, a businessman and then younger pros. The crew were really friendly and made it a fun and comfortable couple of days of playing and recording. There’s not many things i feel like i could be entirely comfortable doing in front of a camera but playing and talking about poker is one of them and i was happy with how it went, i played like a monkey and tried to get myself in as many interesting and awkward situations as possible and think i did a decent job of it. Very much looking forward to seeing the final production.

I came back to Vancouver a few days later and got back to playing poker online again. I’ve moved my focus back to heads up play and have had a reasonable amount of action with mixed but mostly positive results. I’ve had a few 6-8 hour HU battles recently and they’re so much more fun than the 6 max games for me, i hope they continue. I’ve also had my eye on the bigger 1500/3k games but they are still a big shot in my eyes and i don’t think i’m quite ready yet without the games being softer than they’ve looked so far. I played 3 WCOOP events in the final week without lasting too long in any of them, all i can remember from the HORSE is getting a walk in the first hand of razz with a K up, getting sucked out on in a NL holdem hand in the 10k 8game and making a poorly timed 5bet jam in the main event. The next tournaments i’ll be playing will be at the WSOPE just outside of Paris in 10 days time. I’ll be playing every event i can there, I’d really like to keep my focus online and stay in Vancouver but you can’t expect to ever get another realistic shot at winning player of the year and so i’ll try and make the most of it….

Matt.

Random tales from Vegas and Interrailing, on to Vancouver.

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I haven’t played a hand of poker since leaving Vegas over a month ago now, between seeing family, financials, a couple of weeks backpacking with friends around 6 european countries and now getting set up in Vancouver its been a very busy 5 weeks and i don’t like to play feeling at all unsettled. Whenever i’ve taken long breaks before my appetite to play poker grows and i’m almost ready to start hitting the online tables again now and am looking forward to it.

I like pretty much everything i’ve seen in Vancouver so far and am leaning towards spending the majority of the rest of 2013 here but i’ll talk more about this city and my decision to come here next time and for now write about the things that have made my chuckle over the last month or two before my selective poker-polluted memory forgets them.

A couple of days before the players championship it was Eric’s last day before leaving our house and decided to go out with a bang with ‘Eric’s fun day of fun’. After having a late american sized brunch obv including dessert we went go-karting. I went behind the wheel of a car for the first time 10 months ago and after 35 hours of lessons still managed to fail my test(going to pass all blame to the bin lorry in my way) so my driving skills aren’t the strongest. After the first race my fastest lap was a comfortable 1.8 seconds behind Chris and Eric’s and so we bet giving me a handicap of 1 second on the next race. On the second race i’d put in a faster lap than Chris and 4/10 laps in was doing a good job holding him up behind me while ignoring any blue flags but then i took a terrible line into a tight corner and Chris went straight into the back of me with his kart flipping up vertically balancing on top of me! We both got asked to leave the track which was a shame but it meant i locked up the fastest lap bet so ship it!!

Next up was the jump zone which is pretty much just a big room of trampolines. One section was laid out to play dodgeball which is a fun enough game without trampolines but this was a whole new level of awesomeness… Until some little punk who worked there who’d clearly been spending more time perfecting his dodgeball game than working launched the ball straight into my right eye as i was picking a ball up. I gave him a thumbs up as i left clutching my face. I couldn’t open my eye for 10mins and after while i never want nor expect sympathy from anyone asking Eric how my bloodshot, developing black eye looked his reply of ‘nah looks like nothing, you just look tired’ didn’t make me feel any better about it.

This meant i was sporting a nice black eye for most of the players championship, a lot of people gave me second glances but didn’t seem like they wanted to ask how i’d got it, the few that did obviously expected me to have been in a fight including David Oppenheim who asked if i was a fighter. A better answer would have been to claim i’d had some tough MMA fight or whatever because when replying ‘i got owned by a teenager at trampoline dodgeball’ he and most others simply nodded their heads and looked away as if they’d just lost a good chunk of respect for me!

The 50k was fun, i won!! It might seem strange for someone now writing a blog all about themselves but i’ve never been too comfortable openly talking about myself through my own insecurities and i wasn’t sure how well i’d deal with the many interviews but talking about poker does come easily to me and i’ve actually enjoyed every single one i’ve done. I find it funny how much the final version varies from the questions that they ask, some were like a direct transcript, one or two seemed as if they already knew what answers they’d like to write about but they’re all writers who know what they’re doing and the audience they’re trying to appeal to and i like how’ve they come across. I was pretty hungover/still drunk when i did this one but i think it asked the broadest range of questions while keeping it accurate and concise.

http://www.bluffeurope.com/PokerMagazine/Matt-Ashton-Interview_106.aspx

I had a celebratory meal with my remaining housemates at Joel Robuchon, the menu was similar to the other time i’d been but i was happy to see the inclusion of more than one course of the sixteen including meat this time. As much as i love all the seafood it’s nice to taste some blood. I was also happy to have the company of a cricket on the wall next to us, i hadn’t eaten with crickets around me since i was in Laos and it brought back fond memories. The look on the waiters face when he saw it was priceless, only a Frenchman could look so disgusted. I don’t want to question the cleanliness of the restaurant though, i’m sure the kitchen is all good and the food is incredible.

A couple of days after returning to England i splashed out some of my winnings on a nice new backpack and set of the next day to Warsaw,Poland with a few friends. The first night we were about to set off on the first bar crawl of many and i had to run to the cash machine before the whole group set off. I got directed to ‘the place with the red top’ i saw a red light over the road and quickly rushed off. In this rush i managed to cross the road on red and after jaywalking in every country i’d ever been i got stopped by a policeman for the first time. He took a good 5mins taking down my driving license details and eventually telling me that they normally fine 50PLN (£10) but he’d let me off this time. After he was done i searched for the ATM to no avail and almost crossed on another red light on the way back. After keeping the group waiting for 5mins they eventually went ahead and i came back to my mates who’d waited who then told me the ATM they were talking about was just 5 doors down from the hostel. The story spread across the group and i was known as ATM guy for the rest of the night. The night naturally got pretty heavy involving way too much vodka, eating fried maggots, doing shisha for the first time and the Aussies getting into trouble with the locals. http://okidoki.pl/wp/lang/en/ is a very good hostel for anyone visiting Warsaw and i’d recommend Poland to anyone looking for a cheap Europe city break.

The next stop was Prague and of course we went on another bar crawl, this time beginning on a boat that was extremely crowded and a little shaky. Walking along the side of the boat trying to slide past someone to get to the upper deck while carrying 4 double vodkas i got my first cigarette burn of the night from some Italian guy who naturally has to talk waving his hands around. After a little while of drifting around the river we pulled in prematurely back to the riverside, apparently the Captain had a hissy fit after some Aussies were disturbing him and he checked himself out for an early night. Afterwards we went to the popular 5-floor club and while the place had a good feel to it, it was unbelievably hot to the point were your clothes stick to you but you just can’t care about it anymore. The night was capped off with me once again trying to manoeuvre around someone while carrying a corona in each hand right next to a slightly raised dancefloor and once again i took a cigarette burn to the arm this time shocking me enough to take a step to the right onto the slippy metal part that connects the dancefloor and onto my arse i fell. As if i needed another reason to dislike smoking nevermind indoors. I did manage to keep hold of both coronas though.

The next stop was Salzburg, a very calm serene place to relax a little more after the prior binge drinking. 47km outside of salzburg is the Hohenwerfen castle set in the mountains which looked rather good on google images and i wanted to see it with my own eyes. Attempting to ride the full 94m there and back on some bikes rented from the hostel, one of which was a ‘ladies bike’ that would need to be rode by one of us, also without a puncture kit and only my waning iphone battery for directions was an ambitious task. The bikes held up well but we decided to call it a day 21km in, probably for the best after realising there was no bus to take us back if things went awry. The ride was along the river the whole way though and was still a great ride.

Then we headed to Zurich, didn’t have much of a plan of what to do there but things fell into place nicely with it being national swiss day, coming across a ferry to shorten our loop on another lengthy bike ride and then stumbling across the Lindt museum and gorging on my favourite chocolate.

After that we headed to Munich one of my favourite cities, so clean, so safe and not so suprisingly the beers were in full flow this time in steins and we were once again on another bar crawl. A few bars in and i went to order a drink for myself and a Spanish guy i’d started chatting to. He however had already got himself a drink and i was left with 2 Steins to myself and we were only supposed to be at this bar for 20mins. I used this as a reason to justify downing the full litre of beer and with that the rest of the night was history. I woke up by myself in a cocoon. Not an actual one, this one http://www.hotel-cocoon.de/ . Was actually a very nice hotel room and i was thankful for being let in considering the state i was in and at 56 euros in a central location, i would definitely stay here again.

While we were on the bar crawl in Munich we remembered we needed to book a hostel for our next stop in Amsterdam. Perhaps not the wisest move to do so at this time because we ended up booking a tiny room on a boat on one of the canals. It said not recommended for 4 people especially if you have much luggage. Despite fearing the worst and it turning out to be impossible for more than one person to move around at a time in the room it was actually a fine place to stay. Earlier in the day we’d locked our bikes up before enjoying some of what Amsterdam has to offer and afterwards had become more difficult to remember where we’d left them! For a change we went on a bar crawl and afterwards decided to attempt to find them. A couple of American girls from the bar crawl had got their bikes and somehow agreed to let me and my mate give them seaters so we could use them to find our own. I only learnt to ride a bike 18 months ago and don’t have the strongest manoeuvring skills, i shouldn’t be trying to give seaters to anyone while sober never mind being intoxicated on a bike with only a front brake. I swung from side to side of the road a few times before being sensible enough to stop and give up on the bike hunt. If we’d been on one of the narrower canal roads we’d have both gone over the edge.

After a rather spaced out final train journey we arrived in Hamburg. Reeperbahn was especially sleazy but we did enjoy a very amateurish sex show, one guy seemed to struggle under the pressure, the other quite the opposite as he spent far too much time glaring at us baring his dracula fangs. Went to a couple of cool bars later on and while the Germans have been showing they have one of the best football leagues in the world again, they have to be the best at table football/fusbol. I couldn’t believe how good they were at it, controlling every loose ball and passing along each row of players from keeper to strikers. I’d warn everyone against getting hustled by a German at table football because if they play like those guys did you’re drawing dead!

Matt.

Living, Breathing Poker

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Its been quite an eventful 6 weeks or so for me, i don’t think i’ve been further than a waking hour away from having at least a conversation about poker if not playing a tournament or watching a friend play. It always bothered me when someone would throw out the blanket statement towards me and tell me ‘i’m lucky to have money’ because i take things literally and it seems to downplay poker as a real skill or ignore the amount of work done to earn it, i’m pretty certain i’ve put more hours into poker than anyone does for their post-grad degrees(even you crazy dentists and medics!) and it takes a much bigger skill set than it first seems. There can be no denying however that i am extremely lucky to have found something I am passionate about to enjoy this kind of environment that also pays very well if you’re good at it and not get sick of it like the majority of professional players would. Now though i can’t really argue with the original statement because i’m going to have been running way above expectation for tournaments for at least the next few years!!!

This is the most i’ve improved as a player since the first time i came to Vegas three years ago and shared a house with a similar group of guys to this time, back then online poker was still available and i didn’t take the tournaments anywhere near as seriously. People seem to generally accept the saying ‘you can learn something from everyone you meet in this world’ but people don’t seem to apply the same idea to poker. Just because you are a better player than someone else at any particular game doesn’t mean you can’t learn from someone who plays worse. Even Phil Ivey could learn something from a complete amateur, maybe the amateur throws out a weird bet size into another professional and then he notices that the professional reacts really badly to this, Ivey would have learnt a potential play that could exploit the professional more in a later hand. A lot of people at different stages have asked me what i’ve thought of someone like Gus Hansens play online or Mizrachi’s play live this year and my answer is always that they do a couple of dumb things but they do a lot of smart stuff too. I feel like far too many players these days see a play, even perhaps a definite mistake, that errs on the side of spewy or overly aggressive from a player and instead of thinking what their thought process might be or why that might be a good play some of the time in a slightly different situation, they can’t wait to have a little bitch to their buddies in the hallway at break about how terrible this player is or even worse berate them at the table right there and then. If people changed their attitude a little bit they would improve much faster as players never mind showing some reasonable etiquette should they be the berating type.

A lot of things have fallen nicely into place for me this month, when luck comes your way you begin to believe in yourself more and when your confidence is growing your play improves and all vice versa and so things come hand-in-hand and very productive results can follow. In the first tournament i played the OE event i made straight after straight in stud hi-lo and despite making a couple of big mistakes i finished day 1 as chipleader and so my confidence boost began straight away. I eventually came 3rd in this tournament, was a little sad for maybe 15mins then went for a few beers and bowling at gold coast and after telling myself how well i ran to make a final table enough times i was happy again. Gordo was a worthy winner, i picked up on how arranges the bets in front of him(bets are not pulled into the middle in split pot games) so that it is easy to count how much you’ve put in the pot on the end, this is very useful because you know how much you should recieve from the other player, i’m certain i’ve been shortchanged by an angleshooter or two playing the 75/150 O8 cash games in the past but when a ton of chips are just dragged over its hard to quickly count and make sure the pots right and everyone wants to get on with the next hand.

The next tournament i played was the bigger buy-in stud hi-lo event. Going into the final day my housemate Eric Rodawig had a very healthy stack and I was shorter but still very much alive. It would have been awesome to have both made the final table but he ran terrible and busted in 10th place and for the first time i saw the loudest, forever-smiling, most hyper person in the Rio with a look of pure dejection on his face, I tried to say some consoling words but i knew it was a waste of time. I on the other hand had run much better and got up close to an average stack by the final table. A couple of hours in and a few friends had come to create a small rail for me which is always nice. A couple of hours later Eric and the rest of my housemates had come over and it really lifted me to see Eric back with a smile on his face being the noisiest guy in the room again, truly the king of the rail. The rest of the rail were also fantastic including a happy birthday song for me and some top notch heckling, some of them noticed how high i wear my socks despite wearing shorts and chanted about me being ready for the floods, somehow i started getting called Beebs for a while, i’m not sure how anyone can relate me to Justin Bieber but they found a way! The rail also created the UHHHHHHH NA NA NA chant which became a regular fixture at my houses final tables much to the annoyance of some other players! I ran very well 3 handed to get a huge chiplead going into heads up with Mike Matusow but unfortunately ran as bad as i’d ran good previously to bust out 2nd. Again i was pretty sad maybe for closer to 30mins but some more beers and bowling and my head was back in the reality i’d just started this series like a train.

The following night it was my Birthday, somewhere close to 10 of us went to Jaleo for some tapas but as delicious as it was, we can just never seem to order enough food to make it work for a big group, we got secret pizza straight after to make sure everyone had enough calories in them. My fellow English mixed game specialist Stu being the legend he is brought a couple of balloons with him with pegs attached to them to the meal. Of course this meant i had to wear them attached to my jeans all the way to the club XS at encore despite letting them flail behind into peoples faces from time to time. Just as we walked into Encore some excessively top-heavy slut clinically snatched the balloon away from me. No look back around to see my reaction with a smile or remorse of any kind. I was in too much shock to reclaim it, who steals a birthday balloon from someones jeans?!? Had a great time in the club, Eric doesn’t drink so he joined in the tequilas with his pineapple shots and did a great job guarding our drinks from any girl who’s sole intention was to quench her thirst. Some of us dipped our feet in the very shallow part of the pool next to us, its amazing how much more fun dancing in 3 inches of water is. This did however lead to my friend and current joint Carnivale TLB leader getting his shoes thieved and being left downgraded to some more mediocre brown shoes presumably left by the guy who took his, I also managed to lose one of my socks in the process. Somewhat inevitably the club was followed by a trip to ‘the rhino’. However once we arrived i realised i’d lost my passport somewhere along the way and we were refused entry. My friend Chris prior to this had been thrown out of the club and had gotten himself in quite the emotional drunk state and after the bouncer had knocked us back he noticed Chris with a few tears rolling down his face and asked him ‘Are you crying because you didn’t get into the Rhino’ this line will never fail to make me burst out laughing for the rest of my life.

I still wasn’t feeling great by the time the smaller buyin O8 started and i didn’t play that well and busted towards the end of day 1. The next event was the Stud high event, this has never been one of my stronger games but i think its a lot of other peoples weakest too. I busted 7th after finally not running hot at a final table. I made one bad mistake in a hand against Scott Seiver. I was left really short and defend 8d4d-3d in the bring in, i was left with 1BB and in my mind i could still fold if he made an open pair on 4th and i would presumably get the rest of my chips in otherwise. On 4th he was showing J7 and i bricked catching a 2c. To my suprise he checked to me, i couldn’t have folded if he bet so it seemed unlikely he had a pair. I had no reason to put more money and could still get away from some 5th street runouts. I caught a Th and he caught a 5 on 5th street and he bet into me putting me all-in. My immediate odds made me need something like 23%, even with ICM and the fact being a super short stack lends itself to greater EV plays in future in stud the most i could imagine needing is 30% there to make it the right play and persuming he never has a pair and hadn’t slowplayed 4th with trips or something i actually had closer to 40%. It might not seem like a big deal to not put your money in with T high on 5th street but that hand could have changed things a lot. I busted in 7th a few hands later to Freddie Ellis an elderly gent who was an absolute hero. Always make me happy when i see a guy that old busting some young kids at poker.

I bricked the next 8 tournaments, i played poorly in a couple but still carried through plenty of confidence in my game after learning from the prior deep runs, particualrly the Stud high. Next up was the Poker Players Championship. There was a lot of talk about the structure of this event as well as many others, i agree that there is probably some small improvements that could be made but i think there has been far too much complaining about the structures this year. Every year of the last 4 i’ve been to the WSOP the structures have improved and i think people need to accept that tournaments are tournaments and you’re always eventually going to get into a situation were if you run bad and lose two or three big pots in a row you’re going to bust. The main arguments seem to surround less bets early on and more play later because of it. If the 50k had started with us just playing 1500/3k limits for the whole first day, i feel like by the time we arrived around the bubble maybe instead of having a 17BB average stack we’d have had around 20-22BB. I don’t think it really creates that much more play later on unless you add in more smaller levels in between, but that means keeping smaller chip denominations in play longer and other awkwardness. But hey, the guy who luckboxes 4 final tables probably isn’t going to have any problems with the structure is he?

I won every crucial pot in this tournament. Each bluff when i was shorter worked out, if i played a 450BB pot in PLO it held up. I also ran great at the final table particularly in the O8 and PLO rounds. I’m not sure if one interviewer wanted to ask me about different hands throughout this tournament so maybe i’ll wait and see before i talk to much more about this tournament. Plus i’m tired. If you’d told me 7 years ago i’d ever voluntarily write 2000+ words about myself i’d have called bullshit.

I’m now in good shape for WSOP POY, with Negreanu sitting closest but there is still something like 120 players who could overtake me if they win the main as well as 7 events in Europe so i don’t think i’m that bigger favourite to take it down. POY is a really cool one to win because even though you need to run great you can’t really fluke it either.

My Main event was going to start today. The last 2 years i’ve played it i had a certain female distraction that was a lot more important to me than the event itself and took up a good chunk of my mental energy. Funnily this year just before the main event i became in contact again and realised i’ve become a big enough man now to forgive. With my twitter feed full of nonsense quote generators throwing out forgiveness is such a great healer and whatever else and my reaction being no fucking way for so long it now feels like all mental distraction has now been eliminated and i can happily move on. So who knows maybe i’ll actually put in a decent performance in this Main event…

Matt.

SCOOP —> WSOP

Just a quick update to round off May, i came into the Spring Championship Of Online Poker feeling good and motivated to focus on the tournaments as opposed to cash games but tournaments are tournaments, i remember reading a good analogy on another poker blog a while back comparing tournaments to clubbing, 80%+ of the time you look back afterwards and think why did i waste the last so many hours of my life and however many $ when there were plenty of more productive things i could have done but those times you’re night turns into a great one or you get to a final table feel so soooo good and keep you coming back for more.

So while Jorj95(he wrote up a good blog on his challenge, easy google find) was losing 12 pounds in weight, earning more VPPS and probably playing more hands in a month than I ever have on pokerstars as well as making a solid pre-rakeback profit, i’d put on 4 pounds, grown a solid half inch layer of facial hair and cashed once in my first 14 tournaments for a total of $45.81 out of 30k in tournament buyins.  Then this tournament came along….

http://www.pokerstarsblog.com/scoop/2013/scoop-2013-david-whooookidd-baker-gets-a-137800.html

… and tournaments were my friend once again. Normally bluffing off your chips to get knocked out leaves you feeling pretty foolish particularly when playing for a ‘title’, but i had no qualms with this one, i think with me being so short stacked he will be going all-in preflop with most hands that make better than one pair on this board runout and he would pretty hard pressed to call 3 barrels with most of his range. I thought the most likely hands i was going to get called by on the river by were KK and T7 but this is a well played hand too. I’m looking forward to watching the full replay on Pokerstars to see what everyone else was up to and what i could have done better.

This result along with running pretty well in cash games capped off a busy May nicely and i’ve arrived in Vegas feeling enthusiastic and ready to take on whatever comes my way, whether its a dry spell and i whiff every event or run good in the hunt of taking home a bracelet.

My first event of probably around 15 is going to be tomorrow in the half Stud Hi-lo half Omaha hi-lo event, these are my best two games so would be nice to get off to a flyer.

Hopefully i do more of this this year…

http://lifewithfacecards.tumblr.com/post/50689832692/when-i-think-ive-been-busted-for-my-tournament-life

And less of this…

http://lifewithfacecards.tumblr.com/post/50106646582/when-i-try-my-online-moves-in-a-live-setting

Hope everyone had a good May and good luck to those who’ve come to Vegas to put their money and emotions in the hands of the poker gods.