The Grosvenor Cup of Online Poker ran between Sunday December 1 through to December 8 on the Grosvenor Poker platform. There would be twenty two events over the eight days, with a variety of different buy-in levels. Along with cash prizes of course, points were also allocated for a leader board that took into account players’ standings over the week. The player who topped the leader board at the end of the week would win the coveted GUKPT Passport, worth £12000, which gave free entry to all the GUKPT events in 2020 (which usually have a buy-in of around £500-£1000), plus expenses. A prize not to be sniffed at, and therefore a big incentive to play throughout the week.
I got off to a very good start by cashing in third place in the very first event of the schedule. This gave me a little over £700 and vital league points. Whenever I win a good amount of money online, I always withdraw a large proportion of it to my bank account as a reminder that I’m actually playing for money, which could be spent on other things other than just playing poker! I withdrew around £450, leaving around £300 in my account.
I don’t recall doing anything special in Day 2 of the GCOOP, but after Day 2, they published the first leader board on the GCOOP page (a page I would be frequently looking up over the next few days), and after the first four events, I’d accumulated enough points to be ranked in 9th (my 3rd place finish being the main reason, of course), which I was pretty happy about.
When I’d first seen about the GCOOP, I hadn’t necessarily decided to take it so seriously and play in the majority of events. The heads-up tournaments took my eye, but other than that, I wasn’t certain which ones I’d play. After doing so well in the first tournament and being well placed in the leader board from the start, I of course made the decision I might as well go for it, and I was hence committed every night for the next few nights.
The Grosvenor Poker software is not available on phones or tablets (I’m sure they’d attract far more customers if it was), so for the next few nights I was mostly holed up in my study, playing on my PC, choosing different mixes on YouTube to listen to in the background. I selected a Madchester mix one night for example, a Led Zeppelin mix another, a Public Enemy mix once, an Orb/Orbital mix another time. I was mostly getting up quite late, pottering about in the afternoon, having a meal, then settling down for the poker in the evening, usually with a couple of drinks. It was almost like work, but a mostly enjoyable kind. I did not see many friends for most of the week, although I was in touch with my friend and fellow poker player Christina, who was in London for the week, with updates of how I was doing.
So we were into Day 3 of the GCOOP, and this meant two 6-max tournaments. I think I was out fairly early in the £11 one, but in the £30 tournament, I was again fairing quite well. I was on the same table as one of the Grosvenor sponsored players, Andy Hill, and I picked up a set against his over pair, and won quite a good amount of chips off him in that hand. Up to this stage, the Grosvenor sponsored players were not doing particularly well! I was up amongst the chip leaders, about midway through the tournament when I was involved in a hand which, for me, was my hand of the week.
This is how it happened. I was in a hand with about four players holding 5/6 suited (clubs). The flop came 5/6/8 with the 8 of clubs. This was obviously a good flop for me. I put in a smallish bet which was meant to be a bit trappy. Of course the only drawback with putting in trappy kind of bets is that you can quite often get raised, and that was exactly what the player to my left did. He put in quite a big raise in fact, the other players folded, and it was back to me. Obviously, he could have a better two pair, he could have flopped the straight, or he might have a set. I elected to just call.
The turn came the Ace of clubs. I now had a flush draw to go with my two pair, but if my opponent had Ace/8, which was quite likely, I was now way behind. I elected to check. My opponent now went all in for about 50k. I had about 60k behind which at that stage was a pretty healthy stack. It was really quite a difficult decision, but finally, I made the call. My opponent showed 7/3 of clubs. This meant he had an up-and-down straight draw, and a better flush draw, but at least I was ahead, thankfully. To my massive relief, the river was a brick, and I won the hand, putting my up to about 150k, with I think the chip lead at that stage.
Well, I managed to make the money again and was into the Top 8. With eight left, I think I was in about 5th or 6th. As it was a 6-max tournament, at this stage there were two tables of just four. I was in the big blind with A/K. I think it was folded around to the small blind who put in a biggish raise. I was slightly unsure what to do, but eventually elected to go all in. My opponent made quite a quick call and showed A/Q. Sadly, a queen came on the flop and I was out in 8th for around £230. Spoiler alert: As it happens, the guy who had the A/Q was the eventual winner of the GCOOP. How things might have been different if he had not got lucky in that hand!
Of course I checked the leader board the next day, and after the previous day’s performance, I was still in the Top 20, so still in contention. I got to know other players who, the same as me, were playing most tournaments. A player called DarthVader was an early front runner. Hong_Kong_Spewey, Dippy, Glitterbabe, raasalghul, AKQJT,StewSixx, DhaneshPatel, Islander91, HyperX were all names I was keeping an eye on, along with the Grosvenor sponsored pros. I did think it might have been worth Grosvenor recommending that they encouraged players to turn on the chat facility throughout the week, as it might have been more fun to chat to other players. As it was, I did not see any chatting going on.
Wednesday brought two Deepstack tournaments, which I do like as I prefer to have a bigger starting stack. I did ok in both of these, but did not cash, and so did not earn many leader board points, so I was drifting off the lead at this stage.
The next day I played in a £30 satellite for one of the £225 buy-in events which was later that same evening. I managed to win my ticket, and was straight into the event, a 6-max tournament, though I was starting almost an hour late, as that’s when the satellite finished.
I generally have a rule that if it’s folded to the button, the button flat calls, and I’m in the small blind, to always at least call with any two cards. On this one occasion, a little low on chips (perhaps the time not to break the rule), I decided to fold, my thinking being that most likely the big blind would raise anyway. In this instance, I had 10/2, and would have flopped a full house, so that was a little annoying.
A little later in the same tournament, I had A/K, I think in first position. Slightly low on chips, I was a little uncertain what to do, so decided eventually to just go all-in. I was called by a biggish stack who had 6/6, I did not hit, and sadly I was out. Oh well, at least I’d saved on the £225 buy-in by getting in for £30.
There were two other events that evening, including the £5 rebuy, which I ran relatively deep in, but again, I didn’t cash in either of these, so I wasn’t looking quite so good in the leader board after Day 5.
No matter, the next day meant two heads-up tournaments, which I was looking forward to as heads-up is supposed to be my speciality. I used to regularly boast to friends of my heads-up skills. Poker Stars used to ran an $11 heads-up tournament, which usually had around 150 runners, at quarter past the hour every hour, and I won that quite a few times (for some reason, they’ve stopped it now). Saying that, the only two times I’ve played in live heads-up tournaments (which are very rare), I’ve gone out in the first round!
For some reason, I was more nervous on the Friday, the night of the heads-up tournaments, than any other night. I deliberately avoided the early-starting PLO tournament, which wasn’t heads-up, to concentrate on the tournaments to come. I was in the 8pm starting £30 tournament, and got a bye in the first round, which just meant sitting around for a while. That’s the only slightly annoying thing with heads-up tournaments, there can be a bit of sitting around (the Zoom heads-up tournaments on Poker Stars get around this issue).
Finally, the first round was over, we were into the last 64, and I was drawn against Katie Swift, one of the Grosvenor sponsored players who I’d been in touch with a couple of times. I had A/J suited in my first hand, but missed completely and lost to her pocket 5s, so not the best start. I did manage to get back into the lead briefly, but generally, this game did not go at all well for me. Katie twice hit sets against me, one time when I had made two pair on the turn, so I lost quite a few chips in that hand (I did suspect I was behind, but reluctantly called quite a large bet on the river). From that point on, there was no coming back for me, and I was out effectively in the first round! Really not a good showing for me at all.
So I had to pin my hopes on the £11 heads-up tournament instead. I again had a bye in the first round. I won the game in the round of 64 quite easily (if I recall, my opponent in this game was a bit too keen on making bluffs which I was easily able to pick off). The game in the next round was a little bit more tricky, but then I picked up kings and the flop came something like K/Q/10. I made a smallish bet, suspecting this had hit part of his range, and my opponent went all in. There was a chance he had a straight of course, but of course, I was not folding top set. In fact, he just had K/7 and I was into the round of 16.
In this next round, I quite quickly took a fairly big lead. One notable hand was when I had pocket jacks on a 6/2/2 flop. His bet size on the flop indicated he had something fairly strong, and I had to hope he did not have a 2. A jack on the turn meant I had the hand pretty much locked up. My opponent led, and I elected just to call, anticipating he would also bet the river and I could raise him off that. The problem was, a third flush card came on the river which meant my opponent now slowed down. I thought there was just a chance he was actually disguising the flush, or that he had a hand strong enough to call anyway, so I made a pretty big bet on the river, but sadly, he laid down whatever he had. I rued the fact that I had not raised the turn.
Well anyway, after having a starting stack of around 3000, I’d got my opponent down to around 1000. You should normally win from a position like that. Unfortunately, he battled back, and at the hourly break, we were back to about even (there is a five minute break on the hour every hour in every tournament on every poker site, meaning more cigarettes are smoked on the hour by online poker players than at any other time). In fact, at this stage he actually had slight chip lead after he picked off a flimsy river bet bluff with something like third pair.
I was still confident I could win the game, but sadly, things just got worse. He got me down to about 1k. I think I shoved a couple of times with rag aces and he folded. I shoved again with, I think, K/8, this time he called with an ace and I was out! An 11th place finish did mean I’d cashed (ahem, for just over £20), and I’d accrued a few leader board points, but nowhere near as many as I’d hoped for in the two heads-up tournaments (my “speciality”!).
So we were into the penultimate day. During the day, I actually engaged in a non-poker activity by going to watch the Cardiff v Barnsley match. Given our standing versus Barnsley (who were bottom of the league), 4/5 seemed quite generous odds, so I put a whole £10 on Cardiff. We came from behind twice to win 3-2 in injury time after not the greatest performance, and I had won a whole £8.
So back to the poker..Saturday meant two bounty tournaments. I didn’t fair particularly well in these. I also played another £30 satellite for that evening’s £225 PLO tournament. I narrowly missed out on getting my entry via the satellite, but as I was clamouring for league points, I decided I might as well invest in a seat in the £225 event. The Omaha event, a game in which I am really a novice!
I’ve always thought of Omaha as being a bit complicated, but actually, I got quite into it and was enjoying it. With pot limit, you can of course either err on the side of caution and keep the pot low, or play a bit more risky and bump up the pot. I generally played cautiously.
I think I managed to flop a set of 8s twice in a row! But both times, there were straighty/flushy boards, against players who were betting quite big. But on both occasions, they only had draws which they missed, so after those couple of hands, I was actually in amongst the chip leaders. From about sixty entrants, I’d somehow managed to be near the lead with about twenty to go.
However, I was soon to make my biggest mistake of the whole week. The flop came A/2/9. I was holding A/2/x/x. A player to my right put in about a pot sized bet on the flop, which was quite unusual, obviously representing pretty strong strength. With my two pair, I felt I had to call. I don’t recall what the turn was, but he now put in a bet of about 9k. I had around 10 or 11k left. If I folded I would have gone down from about 7th or 8th place to maybe about 12th, but I’d still be in. I was almost certain he had A/9, but there was just the chance he had 2/9, or maybe A/K. Well, eventually, I made the reluctant call, and he did indeed have A/9/x/x and I was out.
It really was a shocking call given the situation, that being that I would have been much better off clinging on for more league points and a possible (and sizeable) cash finish if I’d made the Top 7. I don’t quite recall, but I don’t think of my other two cards other than the A/2 that one of the two cards was higher than a 9, meaning that another 2 was my only out on the river.
This exit made me feel a little sick. Although the only thing on the flip side was I do think it meant I’d developed a slight fondness for PLO (not necessarily a good thing!), and afterwards, I played a little PLO on Poker Stars.
The next day was the day of the Main Event which carried a buy-in of £110. I tried unsuccessfully to satellite in, so eventually bought in directly. There was also a £530 “super high roller” event, but this was out of my price range, and I decided not to even try satelliting into this one.
I got off to a shaky start in the Main Event. I think at one point I had to put down K/K, even though I had a gutshot royal flush draw on the turn. But I rallied back and began to get into it. At the end of the late reg period, there had been a total of around 220 entries, with 200 needed to make the £20000 guaranteed prize pool.
The top 38 were getting paid, and at the bubble stage, I was doing pretty well. I had A/10 on a Q/J/x board and elected to put in a reasonable sized bet, repping either the jack or queen. My opponent called. A king, my gin card, came on the turn, and I again put in a smallish bet. Now my opponent elected to go all-in, and I made one of the easiest calls of the week, although I did imagine quite likely we were chopping it with us both having made broadway.
Unfortunately for him/her, they were holding 9/10 for the lower straight, and they were out. It was a particularly unlucky way to go out at the bubble stage, I thought, but at least, as it turned out, the bubble must have already burst, and they did after all make the min cash.
Obviously, after this, I was doing pretty well, and I think with about 25 left, I was actually the chip leader at one point. Shortly after we passed the 24 left stage though, which meant another pay jump, disaster would strike. In about mid-position, I had pocket kings. I made a biggish raise. The big blind then elected to shove, and of course, I called. I wasn’t too disappointed to see him holding A/10 off-suit. But when an ace came on the flop, of course, this was a disaster. I lost maybe almost two thirds of my stack in one hand. I think if I’d shoved, the A/10 off would almost certainly have folded, but would that have been the right play? If I’d made a bigger raise, he may have just flat called, and I might have been able to lay kings down on the flop, but if I’d made a bigger raise, not knowing my opponents’ cards, it might have been folds all round. I don’t think I really made a mistake there, just got unlucky.
A couple of hands later, now on about 30k, I picked up queens under the gun, and was again unsure how to play it, now desperate for more chips. As it happens, other than folding, it wouldn’t have made any difference how I’d played it as I had to call an all-in to a player holding kings. I actually managed to hit a queen on the flop, but the king on the river meant I was whamboozled! I’d cashed for about £270, but it was a disappointing finish again after I’d been doing so well. If I had actually won this tournament, which had almost looked on the cards, there would have actually been a good chance of me topping the leader board, with the main event carrying double points, and especially as I had noted that most of the top few players on the leader board were not doing especially well on the final day.
There was also the “Donkament”, the final tournament in the series which I also played in. This was quite good fun as you started with a stack of 100,000, but the blinds went up really quickly. I actually managed to cash in this one as well, for about £70, and of course a few more leader board points.
But I knew that I was not going to have enough points to top the league, which was the main goal of course. If I was lucky, I thought I might just scrape into the top 10 (there were prizes for all finishers up to 10th). The next morning, I checked the leader board, and I was in joint 16th with 415 points, not too far off 10th, DarthVader69, who had 460, and in fact not that far off first, ABC_Geriatric who finished with 555.
I had played in nineteen of the twenty-two events. I added up my total buy-ins, and including rebuys and satellite entries, it came to around £930. My total winnings, after my five cash finishes were just over £1300, so overall, I’d made a profit. Could, and maybe should, have been more though. But I couldn’t complain.
Overall, it had been an enjoyable week of poker. I’ve never played online so intensively for such a long period, but it was a good experience, if a little lonely at times, like I say, with none of the players actually communicating while playing! As Grosvenor-sponsored player, Andy Hills, who won the GUKPT Passport in 2017, says, the GCOOP is definitely worth playing if you have the money to invest, and especially if you do well in the first event as I did! Unlike events on sites like Poker Stars, which attract tens of thousands of entries, on the Grosvenor site, there are never more than a couple of hundred entries in each tournament, and overall, not more than around 750 players played in the GCOOP this year, and of those, a couple of hundred only played a couple of events. So realistically, you have about a one in two hundred chance of winning a superb prize!
So as I say, fairly chuffed with my sixteenth place finish, but I think I might give poker a break for a bit now, and get back to concentrating on the things you normally do in December like Christmas. And the election. An election in December?!