My British poker trip: UKIPT, shopping, and Stapes

Besides playing a lot online lately (I love playing the Women's Tuesday and Sunday), I still enjoy feeling real poker chips and cards in my hands. It was time for some live poker again. Luckily, a few weeks ago, I got my live program from PokerStars. One of the stops that I would play was the UKIPT in London. Without any hesitations, it is one of my favorite locations.

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My trip starts with a short travel on the Eurostar. On the train, I checked the weather for the next four days in London couldn't believe what I saw on my phone screen (that weather app is amazing). I would witness the first sunny and warm days of the year in London. Great weather and awesome poker!

One of my closest poker friends and colleagues, Joe Stapleton, moved six months ago to London. Joe is the American co-presenter and commentator for the European Poker Tour shows, together with the amazing James Hartigan. Joe is one of the funniest and brightest broadcasters poker has to offer, and I was invited to stay at his place for the entire trip. Joe lives near Brick Lane, one of my favorite neighborhoods of London and also only 15 minutes away via the Tube from the Hippodrome Casino.

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Joe decided to play the tournament, along with James Hartigan, Charlotte Van Brabander (our Belgian Friend of PokerStars) and hundreds of other poker lovers. This £250 buy-in attracted more than 400 players in one of the most beautiful casinos of the city. As I took my seat at one of the tables, I saw a guy in front of me who kept giving me big smiles. First, I thought he took me as someone else, but after one hour of painful thinking, I finally recognized him. No, he was not someone secretly in love with me or a big fan... He was Joeri Zandvliet! He's a well-known Dutch poker player, and we used to spend days together with Charlotte Van Brabander during the first UKIPT I played in Dublin a few years ago. I felt really bad that I couldn't put a name to his face. I checked his winnings for this article, and, by the way, he won that main event in Dublin. Oh great, now I feel even worse!

This UKIPT started pretty well for me. I managed to build a decent stack in the first hours (more than two times average). But after that good run, I kept collecting bad beats. First, a flush against a full house, followed by a set of kings against a flush, and then to finish the butchery, I lost with a straight against - oh yes - a flush! And that last hand killed me. I busted just before the last break. Pretty gross. But while I was playing, I saw Joe wandering around; he busted before me and looked a bit lonely. That was the perfect occasion to try the cash game tables at the Hippodrome.

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That cash game session with Stapy (that's what he likes me to call him) at the £1/£2 table was probably the funniest one of my young poker career. Joe was pretty hilarious and got all the players on tilt, and he finally ended the game with the chips of all his adversaries, including mine. At our table sat Lulu Gainsbourg. He's a really good friend of mine and recently moved to London. Lulu wanted to play the UKIPT tournament, but it was completely full, so he couldn't register for it.

After the cash game, Joe, Lulu and I were starving and desperate to find a nice place to get some late dinner. Lulu knew of an awesome restaurant called Balans Café. What we forgot is that this restaurant is located in a specific neighborhood right in the middle of Gay Pride night! After walking through enormous crowds of partying drag queens and lightly dressed men, we finally found that restaurant. We had amazing dishes and delicious cocktails (my favorite one was the Porn Star, sounds terrible but tasted amazing) served by some more drag queens.

The next day was a bit painful. But besides playing poker, I'm still a girl. And you know, when you are a girl in one of the most fashionable cities in the whole world, AND it's sale time, I have to shop! And that's exactly what I did. I practically robbed Urban Outfitters and Topshop... and killed my credit card. The day after, Joe and I went for a big city walk. The weather was amazing as expected, the perfect occasion for a city trip. We walked the whole Queens Walk and enjoyed some delicious Mexican burritos, the perfect meal to get in shape for another live poker tournament.

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Before leaving this beautiful city I wanted to play the £110 rebuy event at the Hippodrome. Joe gave me another £100 to rebuy or add on, and if I reached the money, we would split the winnings. Good accounts make good friends. This tournament was a small one; only the top three would get paid. That one went much better than the UKIPT. After a few hours, I was the chip leader of the tournament and kept this position until the top three. Yes, I made the money! It was £440 for third, but the winner would take home more than £1000. Knowing how much that shopping trip cost, that first prize was more than welcome!

Unfortunately, my luck made a big U-turn, and I busted in third. Still, I was the only woman in the tournament, so I was really proud that I made it so far and taught those guys a lesson. Even the floor manager was impressed and railed me the whole time!

And on that happy note, my London poker trip ended. The next day, it was time to pack my bags. It took some mathematical thinking to figure out how I would get all those new clothes in my tiny little bag. Finally, Joe took me back to the St. Pancras Station. It won't be too long before I see Joe again because we will meet in September under the Spanish sun. See you all in Barcelona for the first stop of the European Poker Tour Season 10. Olé!

Gaëlle Garcia Diaz
@PokerStars in PS Women