One winner (and friends) set for a memorable Lads Night In
A few weeks ago we launched a charity contest that offered one winner the chance to play a private Lads Night In home game with Team Pro Jake Cody, in London, with all the trimmings and accommodation taken care of for the winner and his friends. At the same time you could raise some money for a truly worthwhile cause.
To enter the winner needed only to tweet the line-up for their dream home game. Phil Honey, a father of three from Buckinghamshire, did that, impressing the judge (Cody) with his choices. And so he and some lucky friends will be headed to London on September 25, for what should be a night to remember.
But before that, his dream home game would look like this:
Seat 1: Scotty Nguyen. Proper Old Skool and without doubt my ultimate poker hero.
Seat 2: Victoria Coren Mitchell. Funny, intelligent and a winning smile = a lethal combination.
Seat 3: Mike Tindall. Having seen this sporting legend play a few competitions he comes across as totally fearless and a really nice guy.
Seat 4: Shannon Elizabeth. Not sure I need many reasons for the call up. She plays poker and is a total hottie.
Seat 5: Curtis Martin. I'm a big NFL fan and huge Jets supporter. This guy is a legend in that sport.
We spoke to Honey about his home game, and what poker means to a bunch of friends who once a month put real life aside to play cards.
"For me the number one thing is that is has to be fun," he said. "As with many things in life it's all about balance - don't play too often so everyone is longing to play, make sure there's something for those people who bust out early, keep things competitive yet friendly, keep the prize money attractive but make sure the buy-in isn't too much for those that might not have as much spare cash.
"Having a night out with mates is great escapism for everything else. When you're locked in a hand you don't worry about work issues or problems at home as you need to concentrate 100%."
But, as Honey pointed out, a home game is all about the people. Dream line ups or one thing, but really, a reality line-up is just as good, and in our view every home game should have a player nicknamed "Lazarus". Check out the Lads Night In line-up below. Some characters may sound familiar.
"Richard 'Dogfish' Honey. Always the flamboyant one and loves playing the table bully. His strengths are his flair and his ability to make others react to what he's doing rather than the other way around.
"Simon 'Robson Green' Rofe. Extreme Fishing!!! This one is a danger. Plays lots of flops and if he is 100% focused on his A-Game he'll take down top spot. Loves 5-6 suited. When it comes to Heads-Up he's the best we have.
"Rupert 'Pinewood' Warren. He might not quite be 'Hollywood' but he has a great understanding of the game. Favourite hand is 10-8 and 'Never a Jack without an 8'. His biggest strength is that he knows exactly how everyone else plays better than they do and has an uncanny knack of guessing people's hole cards.
"Alexis 'No Fear' Panayiotou. In my opinion he's our outstanding player. I'd love to see him take down a really big tournament as I genuinely think he has it in him. Completely fearless and very astute. The only chink in his armour is that he's having a terrible year with us.
"Pete 'The Street' Panayiotou. 'The Street' because every time we play he picks up loads of houses. Could be first out or just as likely he can steamroller the lot of us in an hour. It's horrible to go up against him when he's the chip leader.
"Jason 'JBJacks' Bennett. A really, really superb all-rounder. Consistently at the top of our leader board every year and won our Championship in 2010 and 2013 so has earned everyone's respect. He's had some notable on-line wins but his weakness is live cash games, especially if mixed with a lot of Drambuie.
"Richard 'AnyTwo' Evens. Burst into our group by winning The Open in 2011 and soon established himself as a regular. Has a background of playing brag and whatever you do, don't bluff this guy - he will always call you, sniffing them out like a police dog.
"Dan 'Lazarus' Rangecroft. It is hard to knock this player out. Like a cat with nine lives he's always there at the end of a game. His biggest asset is the way he thinks about every decision and really pieces together how people have played a hand. Due a big win.
"Phil 'HoneyMonster' Honey. You've already heard enough about me - I'm just the lucky one.
Like a lot of players, Honey and his home game crowd caught the hold'em bug watching Late Night Poker in the 1990s, and gave two cards a try as well as their usual game of five card draw or Stud.
Then they adopted the TV show format ("It capped people's losses, which wasn't happening in messy cash games") and took money from the prize pool to buy a table and chips. Years later the same regulars meet every month, using a points system to create an end of year champion. And with it being a home game there are a few unique varieties thrown in, as Honey explained.
"Our 'normal night' consists of a couple of very familiar NLHE sit & go tournaments but we also play a MONTE (Mental-One-Night-Turbo-Event), Bounty Games, the £5 re-buy is always a great laugh. There's DOSH (Draw, Omaha, 7 card stud and Hold'em), a cash-night and a High Roller event for those that can afford it. The Tag-Team and 'The AshesRyder Cup' team events have come and gone."
All this contributes towards a Grand Final night at the end of the year, with a winner takes all tournament. "Ultimately you get the coveted title and bragging rights for at least 12 months."
But behind what should prove a fun night is a good cause. The idea behind Lads Night In is to increase awareness of prostate cancer, with players encouraged to raise money by taking part in a home game and donating the proceeds. The money goes to Prostate Cancer UK.
Honey is among those who has experienced prostate cancer in his own family.
"My father and his brother both suffered with enlarged prostates once they were into their 60's," he said. "An enlarged prostate doesn't always mean prostate cancer but if anyone starts having trouble when they take a leak they really should find themselves an hour and make an appointment to see their GP.
"I'm very happy to my Dad came through that ordeal and has made a great recovery. Before they operated on him they made him lose weight so he's been down the gym and has never been fitter.
"Most blokes are awful when it comes to health issues but events like Lads Night In are really helping."
So looking ahead to that night in London what is he hoping for when he looks up at Jake Cody across the table?
"It's not top priority but I'd like to win some money off him," said Honey. "I think it's great he's prepared to play with a complete set of donkeys but if we could just learn a few things off him then I'll be very happy.
With that spirit it seems a good night is in store. And who knows, maybe Cody himself will be the real winner.
"If he does well enough - he's more than welcome to join our Grand Final night in December where Christmas jumpers or fancy dress will earn players an extra 500 chips."
You too can play a part by visiting the PokerStars Lads Night In homepage. There you'll find how you can help by hosting your own home game to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.