I was awake alarmingly early at 7am. Cris was also awake by around 9, so we decided we might as well make breakfast after all, even though we were both still quite tired, and had thought we would probably skip it. In fairness, it was an excellent breakfast – everything cooked to perfection, served on a nice hot plate.
We got our stuff together (there may have been a bit of morning nookie after all), and were ready to face the next day of poker by around midday. The plan was to try to make a nearby train to save money on another taxi fare. Unsurprisingly, in this place in the middle of nowhere, and on a Sunday, there were not too many trains. We asked about it at reception, but here we got delayed, as first of all, I was told I hadn’t yet paid for the room – I was certain I had done, and I was asked to show the receipt, which at first I couldn’t find – and was then told that I had only booked for one, when again, I was certain the booking had been for both of us. It turned out that they may actually have been right about this second part – it had seemed good for the price for the two of us with breakfast – but I managed to still escape paying extra.
What was more annoying though was that all this extra delay meant it was going to be more difficult to get to the train station on time. We set off on foot, but we quickly realised, walking along a main road, that this was not going to be a very good option, and quite likely, we weren’t going to get there on time. We headed back to the hotel, deciding that if we were going to get another taxi, we might as well after all get a taxi straight to the casino.
The other issue was that at some stage in the morning, Cris realised that she’d lost her phone, and the most likely place was in the taxi the night before. We rang the firm again, and they didn’t seem to be able to find our booking from the night before, which seemed a bit fishy. I was reluctant to book with them again if they were going to mess us around. However, back at the hotel, I saw sense, rang them again, a taxi was booked, and in the meantime, they said they’d make enquiries about the phone.
The wait for the taxi seemed like an age, the weather hadn’t turned out so nice, and I didn’t feel that comfortable back at the hotel (we waited outside) with the issue of whether we still owed them money hanging in the air. Nothing was going right really. This trip really was turning out quite expensive, and we were both counting every penny we had – I was due some money on Monday, but was a bit strapped right then, and Cris had left herself short after putting a lot of her week’s wages into her online poker account! It wasn’t like we were relying on her to still do well in the Nottingham Cup, but it certainly would help – the only thing was, with her being short stacked in the tournament, this was really not looking likely!
No matter, once the taxi finally arrived, and we were on our way, we felt more relaxed. In fairness, despite being cheap, this firm had some very nice, new cars.
We got to the casino with a good 10 minutes or so spare before the start of Day 2, so we could relax and have a fag, and not feel too stressed. There is a private card room in the Dusk Till Dawn called the Sam Trickett room, after the UK’s most successful poker player, which has large black wooden boards to mask the windows. I joked to the security man outside the room that they were big blinds, and we all had a little chuckle, which again, eased nerves.
Crissy took her seat in the tournament. With the players from the 3 different starting levels now pooled together – I think there had been over 300 entries in total – there were now around 80 or so players left, and it was shortly announced that 47 would cash, and that the min cash would be £555. This in itself represented a really good return, and justification for the trip, especially as Cris hadn’t actually paid to enter! It was just a matter of whether she could cling on, and make her way through with a short stack.
She had asked Gareth if he and his mate would like to do some kind of deal whereby if one of them made it, they would let each of the other two have something like £50 or £100, but he wasn’t buying it – fair enough – he may have seen that, to be honest, it was unlikely any of them would make it anyway. Well, at least she knew that it all rested on her alone to make some money.
I got her a coke, which was just slightly more than I had in change (cokes are free only to players at the tables, from what I could make out), which meant me breaking into a note, and what this meant was that I was actually now so short that I was not even going to have quite enough to put down at a cash table if I was going to play some poker myself! Well, no bother I thought – at least it meant I had plenty of money to carry on buying drinks, and food, and I could just do other stuff.
As usual, I popped over regularly to see how she was getting on. I went over one time to see her raking in what looked like a huge pot, and this surely meant that Cris was actually going to have a pretty good chance of making the money after all! The screens with the tournament info showed that the numbers of players remaining was slowly dropping, and suddenly things were looking good.
Sadly, Gareth went out. He had pocket nines, which he couldn’t put down, and sadly faced an opponent with pocket 10s which obviously held up. He was a bit disappointed, and reflected how he could have played the hand slightly differently – folding would even have been an option for him if he’d wanted to hold out for a min cash – but he then went on to play in another side event that was running. His mate James was still in though, so it was down to him and Christina.
I had a drink, and played a bit on pokerstars. I didn’t do very well though. I lost $25 in one hand in a cash game which had a max buy-in of $25, so that was a bit silly of me. In fact, I went on to lose pretty much all of the $50 or so I had in my account, so really not a successful spell for me, but I suppose I had the knowledge that this amount would seem like small potatoes if Crissy did well today.
Two hours in, and it was the first break. By this time, it was getting quite close to the bubble. Cris had close to an average stack at this stage, so she was feeling fairly comfortable. There wasn’t much I needed to say to her in my role as “coach”. She’s almost starting to get old hat in these situations! Each time I’d spoken to her in the breaks over the last couple of days, she told me about some hands she’d been involved in, and the plays she’d made, and hats off to her, it sounded like she really had been playing well, making some quite audacious check-raises with by no means supreme hands. She even bluffed all in on a A/A/9/9/Q board with 7/2, certain that her opponent had not made a full house! She’d effectively used her “woman” card here. A lot of male players – myself included – can be uncertain how to play against women – most women tend to be less experienced, and play like less experienced players, meaning you might expect them to be less likely to make more canny plays. I really don’t think it’s sexist to say this, as it is a massively male-dominated game (perhaps around 9 men to every one woman), hence men will be more experienced generally, but of course, you still cannot generalise, and Christina, in my view, is one of the more exceptional female players. Well anyway, her opponent in this hand, holding a queen (which gave him a better two pair than Christina, who was just playing the board), did fold, saying that if she had been a man, he’d have made the call. Apparently someone else then joked that if he had been a man, he should have made the call!
She rejoined the tournament, and I pottered about again. Not really all that much to do for bystanders at this place. There was football on the telly, but not a massive fixture – Newcastle against Spurs. I spoke to a guy who was watching the tournament quite keenly who told me his girlfriend was also still in the tournament. He was quite young, and seemed quite blasé about the money. It does amaze me how many young people, a lot of them students, seem to be able to be so relaxed about quite large sums of money. Then again, Christina is still young herself – something I almost forget sometimes – not much older than most students, and she also keeps a handle on things.
She was moved table, and straight away was calling an all-in with aces against an Ace-8. Her aces held up, she’d won another good-sized pot, I gave her a kiss, and went back once again to try and relax, even more confident that Cris was actually going to make the money.
The bubble was drawing ever closer. It actually came around a bit quicker than I thought, and it did not stay at the hand-for-hand stage for more than a couple of hands, I don’t think, before there were a couple of all-ins, and suddenly, there were just the 47 left, and Cris was ITM! Her reward from me this time was a beer and a Boost! I was fairly sure she could use a little extra sugar! She’d made the money, and had done really well – but she was still doing well – there was no reason now to think that she couldn’t go on to make some really serious money – the first prize was around £18,000!
James had also made it, so in fact, Gareth, who had turned down the deal, was the only one of the three not to make it! Typical, he must have been thinking, but I suppose another £50 doesn’t make too much difference when you’re playing for much larger sums, as he often does. James was next to go out though, and I think he collected the min cash of £555.
As players dropped out, obviously Christina’s potential prize gradually increased. I’d started to lose track a little of what kind of prize she was up to now. I was watching the football, albeit a little absent-mindedly. It might have been 15 minutes or so since I’d last checked on her progress. There were about 5 minutes left of the match, so I thought I might as well wait till the end of the game before going over to check again. Something was nagging me to go and check on her though – I have had this sense before, and then, what would I know it, Christina popped up in front of me! It’s always the same – just when I think I should go and check on her, there she is, and sadly, she was out.
But unlike at the Goliath and on one or two other occasions, she did not seem too unhappy, if anything, I think she looked quite pleased with herself this time. She had made a good amount of money, and had held her own very well in quite a major tournament. Definitely something to be proud of, even if the manner of her exit, as per usual, was not the most stylish! She possibly didn’t play her last but one hand as well as she might have, and then on tilt, shoved with something like 6/7 off-suit, but aside from this, she didn’t seem to mind too much, which was a relief. Cris had come 27th from a strong field of over 300, and had cashed for £820 – fair play to her – this was much more than I had ever cashed for in a tournament. We had come here hoping that she might just make a min cash, and she had done even better than that. Of course, there was mild disappointment of not winning an even more serious sum of money, but really, there was no way that amount could be sniffed at, and it was cause for celebration.
Cris ordered two G’n’Ts, we were given two Jack Daniel’s and cokes instead by mistake (!) but no matter, we enjoyed these, and we could relax at last. Cris spoke to David Curtis, the UKIPT manager, and thanked him again for the ticket. He joked about asking for his 10% cut – I don’t imagine he would have been officially allowed to accept anything, but we both certainly did feel that he deserved something. I wondered whether I should slip him a £20 note or something – maybe it would have been more for Cris to do this, but would it have been appropriate? I wasn’t quite sure. We decided we should try to think up some kind of gift for him. A really nice guy, in fairness, who was full of praise for Christina’s achievement, saying that he hoped to see her at future tournaments.
I think Cris was actually a bit worn out poker-wise now, and if we were going to head back to Cardiff that evening, we didn’t have too much more time to hang around, so we took a couple of photos, said goodbye to Gareth, and rang the taxi firm again for a taxi to the station. We were also told that the phone had turned up and the driver whose cab it had been left in was going to pick us up so everything really was working out nicely.
With a bit of time before our train, we thought we might as well get something to eat in a pub near to the station. It was a curious pub, with a river running through it! A nice bit of food and drink, and then just time to grab a couple of bottles of Cava from Sainsbury’s before leaping onto the train.
The weekend after all had turned out well, Cris let me have some of her winnings, and now we were both going to be pretty flush for the next couple of weeks. I really feel sometimes to be the luckiest man alive to be with her – just a great person to be around, with boundless energy and enthusiasm, and she really puts her all into everything she does, which increasingly, is working out well at the poker tables. What possessed me to then getting into a row with her on the journey back (which involved two or three changes, and a bus at one point) over absolutely nothing, I have absolutely no idea, but fortunately, we had made up by the time we got in to Cardiff. Well, bring on the Welsh Poker Series next weekend!