Thoughts from the South - Pub Poker

Thoughts from the South
Thought No. 4
Pub Poker

It was a warm Monday night that I was driven to the pub. Driven not by a car, but by my hunger and boredom. The said pub is only 5 minutes away on foot.

I had gone with the intention of watching Spain play Honduras in the second of their group matches. Both teams had lost their first encounters (against Switzerland and Chile respectively) and for both teams this was a must-win game. But it was Spain on whom the burden of expectation was placed, and they had a lot to make up for after their shock defeat at the hands of the Swiss.

I arrived about ten minutes before kick-off. My first question was whether they were serving food. The fat lady at the bar called the chef by phone - presumably he was still in the kitchen. Apparently they had a pizza which somebody had ordered but had not collected, as they had left the premises before they had finished cooking it. I accepted the pizza, along with the Mushroom topping. It was a surprisingly square pizza - its four corners were clearly identifiable. Like the four corners of a football pitch except... square.

My second question was whether they'd be showing the match. You may wonder why I didn't ask this first. The reason is I had already watched a match at this pub before so I knew the chances were that they probably would be showing it. And sure enough, they were.

My third question was a request for a bitter shandy. For the ignorant amongst you, a bitter shandy is a drink made by mixing a half-pint of lemonade with a half-pint of bitter. The bitter in question was a local brew called 'Patriot'. Rather unpatriotically, I pronounced it in the American way - 'pay-triot'. It is a very nice bitter though, and would do any country proud I'm sure.

And then off I went - pizza in one hand, pint in the other, and change jingling around in my pocket. The place where I would have liked to sit was occupied, some large fellow in a business suit sitting back with this tall glass on the table. So I took a rather less optimum position. I still had a good view of the TV projection though, and within the next few minutes came the kickoff.

On a normal day, there would have been plenty of tables affording me a better view of the screen. However, right in the prime real-estate of the pub there was nowhere to sit, as a few sets of tables had been converted into Poker Tables, large felten slabs with cushioned edges.

I had already finished the pizza within eight minutes of kickoff. It was beautifully oily and the mushrooms weren't too offensive. Once I had finished by bitter shandy I went off to the bar again. I inquired as to the poker. "£5 Buy in, £5 add-on if you get to the final table. Talk to the man in the chequered shirt."

I then asked what time the poker was likely to start. "8.15...8.30" was her estimate. I would still be able to watch the full first-half before anything started. I ordered another pint.

And watch the first-half I did, along with two Spanish goals. It wasn't until the end of the half-time punditry that the various groups in the pub (those playing pool, those watching football, those sitting at the bar) coalesced around a laptop, which had been recently foisted out and plugged in on a surface near the poker tables. It was at this point that I too got off my seat.

I introduced myself to the tournament director. Sure enough, he had a chequered shirt. He used some poker software to distribute the players amongst the two tables. There were fourteen of us in total. I sat on Table 2 with an ideal view of the football, which was just entering the second half. I made an effort to involve myself in the idle banter which somehow seeps its way through in the lazy, low-testosterone world of the poker tournament.

"Three." I declared at one point, almost shouting, as Spain scored a third goal. Except they didn't. It looked like a goal from what I had seen, but it had actually bounced off the advertising boards and hit the back of the net from the other angle. All at lightning-speed obviously - these fellows can kick pretty fast.

Also fast was the blinds structure. For the poker-illiterate amongst you, here is a brief account of what happens in poker tournaments.

- Each player starts off with a set number of chips
- The aim is to win all the chips in play. Whoever does this, wins the tournament along with what ever the first place prize is
- Prizes are sometimes given to places below first, such as second and third
- Once you lose your chips, you are out of the game
- Each round, two of the players have to put in forced bets known as 'blinds', as they are 'blind bets' due to the fact that they are paid before any player has seen their cards
- The players paying the 'blinds' changes after each hand is dealt
- Blinds ensure that there is always some money in the pot and therefore always something worth contesting
- As the games go on, the blinds increase in value, and represent a larger proportion of your stack. Therefore you need to contest pots more frequently, other wise you will pay more and more blinds without winning any pots. This is called being 'blinded out' and will result in you losing all your chips

slowplayed the flop and called a bet. The turn was a blank. The same better as before bet again, this time 1 thousand. I raised all in. He called instantly to reveal two sevens in the hole, meaning he had a full house (77766) to my trips. I needed a six to win.... but it didn't come.

I thought I was out, but it turned out I had more chips than him and so I still had just over a thousand to my name. However, within a few hands the blinds were up to 100-200. Luckily I picked up two aces and doubled up against 45 suited. I doubled up again later with Pocket Queens.

Soon we had got down to nine players. The tournament rule was that once we got to the final table, each player could add 4,000 chips to his stack (and it was all 'his' - no females were playing) for a further £5. This we did.

The total prizepool was now £115. However, the pub management had to skim £15 off the top because... those are the rules. Pub poker tournaments are only licensed to issue up to £100 in prizes.

1st prize was £60
2nd prize was £30
3rd prize was £10

Long story short, I got short when I ran a three-way all in, A9 versus my AQ versus AK. After that I was a dead stack and soon I was out.

It had been the first time I played poker in eight weeks, and was a fun enough affair. But I believe in future I shall save my time and money for the larger events.


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