UKIPT report: When good hands go bad

Being a local girl living a stone's throw from the venue hosting the first ever PokerStars Isle of Man UKIPT and harbouring a newly discovered passion for Texas Hold'em, I was, to say the least, excited! As I also have aspirations of entering the 2014 Barcelona EPT Main Event, deciding to enter the Sunday Deep Stack Turbo side event was inevitable.

Recently, I have been researching professional women poker players, including Fatima Moreira de Melo, to understand what makes them so good and to, hopefully, learn from them. So, when I entered the event, I felt prepared. I even had a strategy. I was going to take Fatima's advice about staying calm and collected and ask for help when needed. Knowing that she was sitting somewhere behind me nailing the Main Event made me feel it was all possible. I hoped to somehow channel her success, like magical poker ether!

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I aimed to follow Liv Boeree's example in shrewdness and planned to play tight until the antes were introduced. Then, when there were juicy pots to steal, I was going to come out fighting with Vanessa Selbst-style aggressiveness. I saw there feeling like the inevitable culmination of my poker experience; this was where all my hard work was going to pay off ... I hoped.

Unlike the casino tournaments I have played before, the Isle of Man UKIPT was streamlined. They were equipped with big screen TVs in each corner, displaying information regarding the blinds and antes, and the chips had values on them. Keeping track of my chips was something which I struggled to keep up with in the past, so it alleviated some anxiety. I felt comfortable. I was to discover it was a false a sense of security.

It was going well. I was chatting to the players, taking in the unique UKIPT atmosphere. Then, about an hour into the game, I was dealt pocket aces. It interfered with my strategy. I was out of position and going against the chip leader. But pocket aces! Hell, I had to play those. Right?

Ann-Marie - UKIPT.jpg

Already I was overconfident, so after what seemed a harmless flop, I checked, anxious to grow the pot. But I let it get out of hand, and even though I caught a third ace on the river, it gave my opponent his straight. When he turned over king-jack, it still took me a while to notice it and understand why the chips were being raked away from me.

I lost most of my chips in that hand, together with my confidence. I was left with a dwindling stack, and although I managed to bolster it with a few all-ins, I still went home about 150th of about 190 entrants.

This experience taught me two things:

1. Pocket aces may be desirable, but they don't always pay out.
2. Overconfidence is a dangerous thing.

It also goes to show how many variables are involved in any one hand. I have since learned that pocket aces will still lose against two face cards about 20 percent of the time. Aces don't guarantee the pot; they still require the right game play. Knowing this is where the skill lies and what separates the professionals from the amateurs.

So, for me, it's back to the drawing board. As much research as I have conducted, playing in that side event left me feeling that the more I learn, the less I understand. But I also have newfound respect for the game and the people that play it well enough to earn a living from it.

Having an UKIPT in the Isle of Man was an amazing experience and will undoubtedly bolster the local poker community. I know it has already piqued the interest of many of my female friends, and I aim to build on this. But for now, I and the local residents who have been caught up in this poker fever are left with that same desolation we feel after TT week, when the fun is over and normal life has to carry on.

So, until next year, we will all have a giant poker-shaped hole in our lives!

Ann-Marie McCarthy
@PokerStars in PS Women