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Let’s Play Live

November’s PKR Live poker festival at the Loose Cannon Club was a roaring success, as PKR players stepped out from behind their online avatars and came to grips with one another’s live games. Chris Lines was one of them.

A wet weekend in mid November saw London’s Loose Cannon Club host the inaugural PKR Live event—a chance for PKR’s most dedicated and devoted players to gather in the flesh and pit their wits against each other live, with an impressive prize pool up for grabs.

The generous souls at PKR arranged a few seats in the weekend’s events for members of the gambling press—including yours truly. The gold VIP wristbands we received on entry that entitled us to free drinks were warmly received, too. It’s not often in London you can enjoy yourself without worrying how badly the bar tab is going to obliterate your bank account.

Once inside, two things were immediately apparent. First, there were PKR staffers busily buzzing around everywhere—this was a very slick affair given PKR had never done this before. And second, the sheer volume of chatter was impressive given that most of these people had never met, and only knew each other by their PKR usernames. I’m sure the free drinks helped, but people seemed genuinely delighted to meet their online adversaries and put a real face to the avatars they’ve gotten to know online. The alcohol flowed freely as players got stuck into Friday night’s $60 Welcome Tournament.

I found myself name-badged by my online handle, BlindStagger, and sat on a table featuring one of PKR’s top players (PirateNation) and an absolute maniac Asian player who kept making enormous raises and re-raises so big that everybody would fold. He even made PirateNation fold queens at one point, before showing he only had ace-high. So when I got queens, I bet pretty big to see what he did. This time he just called. On a flop of A-2-2, he checked and I aggressively went all-in. But he called and so we flipped our cards. To my disgust, he had a 2 for trips. I was in a mess—a mess that only got worse with another ace on the turn, giving him the full house. I stood up, ready to leave the table, as the river card was dealt. But to my delight, the river was a third ace, giving me a better full house than his. I lived to see another hand.

However, my luck wouldn’t last. I got moved tables five times in the space of about an hour, before eventually ending up on a table with ModelMan, who I sat with on the first table of the night. He went all-in before casually turning around for a sip of his drink. When he turned back to look at the table, he was surprised to see all of my chips sat over the line next to his. “Did you call?” he said nervously. “Have you got a pair?”

Short-stacked and sensing the need to make a move, I called him with A-K. ModelMan turned over fives, making him about a 55 percent favourite. No ace or king appeared to help me, but I enjoyed the couple of hours I lasted.

PKR forum favourite ChivalrousGent went on to win the event in the early hours of the morning. Everybody then departed to enjoy what little sleep they could get before the big one on Saturday. Well, I say everybody; there was plenty of talk of late-night poker games in hotel rooms the next day.

On Saturday, I arrived to find a busy but muted bar area. Several players nursed hangovers; others said they had three hours sleep. There was even some talk of a punch-up between two (now barred) players the night before. But that didn’t dampen anybody’s spirits, nor did it affect the brilliant atmosphere of the weekend. I’m not sure the pros would advise drunkenness and late nights as ideal tournament preparation, but this weekend was about more than poker.

However, with $75,000 in the prize pool and $20,000 for the winner, I was glad of what sleep I got.

Sat on a table with another couple of lively PKR forumites, Azurecoil and Rocafella, I decided to play pretty tight and hope for good cards. This unsurprisingly gave me a table image of being a bit of a rock. At certain moments I was able to take advantage of this, but overall I just wasn’t accumulating enough chips. A decent pot that I won from a player called teown007 was one of the few times I hauled anything more than a dozen or so chips my way.

After about six hours, I was moved tables where I sat next to then chip leader dappadan777. By this point my stack was 9,500 and the average stack was 19,000. I needed a double-up. A seemingly loose Irish player went all-in when I was big blind, having done the same on the previous hand. Sitting there with A-10 and figuring he had nothing special, I decided to make the move and call. He shot me a guilty expression and flipped over 4-2 off suit! But his brazen move got lucky—despite me being a 65-percent favourite—as he caught a 2 on the turn and I didn’t catch anything. My hopes of making it into the money evaporated on a pretty bad beat, but what can you do? I just had to shake the guy’s hand and get outside for some fresh air. I came 58th out of 150. No disgrace, but making the money would have been great.

On Sunday, the final 20 came back to resume matters in the main event. They played down to a final table pretty quickly, with Ireland’s callmebabe enjoying a healthy chip lead. But one of my fellow members of the press, escalope (aka Phil Conneller from Bluff Europe), got the better of callmebabe on two key hands: first to wrestle the chip lead away from him, and then eliminate him after they clashed in an enormous pot and escalope called callmebabe’s all-in, despite only having top pair. It was a great read—callmebabe only had middle pair—and a man who looked on course for victory an hour earlier was surprisingly eliminated in fourth.

All that drama left escalope with an enormous chip lead over dappadan777 and a Swedish player called Pokey85. Dappadan777 went first as his 6s lost to escalope’s 10s. And heads-up didn’t last long either, as escalope called an all-in with the worst hand in poker (7-2 off suit). He made a runner-runner straight on the turn and river to clinch victory in a most rock ‘n’ roll manner. “I’ve always wanted to win a tournament with seven-deuce,” he said afterward.

“It was all pre-flop poker,” escalope said when summing up the final table. “I picked the right situations and I was lucky. Everyone played very well. Especially my nemesis, callmebabe.”

Meanwhile, as the final-table action unfolded, the rest of the players got stuck into a highly entertaining last-day Bounty Tournament. There was a $10,000 prize pool up for grabs as well as some highly sought-after PKR chipsets for whoever busted out the 12 PKR bounty players—including chief executive Jez San.

To my right was a livewire PKR staffer called Jabba, and to my left was a character called james666. Sitting between the two of them ranks among my most enjoyable experiences at the poker table, as the two bantered continuously while playing some of the most absurdly reckless poker you’ll see, and calling each other ‘fishtards’. At one point, james666 bet three-and-a-half times the big blind every hand regardless of what cards he had. It was nigh on impossible to play against them (unless you had a monster), but hilarious to sit back and enjoy. Eventually, once james666 imploded out of the tournament I decided to try a move on Jabba myself. It failed miserably as he turned over J-10 when I had J-9. No 9 appeared for me, and Jabba raked in another pot.

Eventually the Bounty Tournament reached heads up—and it was England v Sweden again as magicmoves and brutusnr1 battled for the trophy and winner’s cheque. With brutusnr1 ahead in chips, magicmoves managed to double up when he made quad queens. Things then tightened up for while, before magicmoves took another big pot to take the chip lead. He went on to clinch the title when brutusnr1 called an all-in and came off worst again.

It had been a superb weekend for all involved. The organisation was first-class and everybody left feeling closer to their community of online opponents than ever before. Virtual friends become actual friends, and no doubt there will be plenty of players meeting up for a game again soon.
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