Elena's UK Adventures Part II: London
After a rowdy and champagne-filled Saturday night at the UKIPT Players Party, Mickey and I bid Dublin farewell and scrambled to catch an early flight back to London. We needed to be back on time for the online Sunday grind, especially because that wasn't just any Sunday! That week was the 8th anniversary of the Sunday Million, which meant that PokerStars' flagship tournament would feature an $8 million prize pool.
On a Sunday, I play basically all the tournaments with "Bigger" or "Hotter" in their names, plus whatever else I can fit in; I usually have between 12 and 20 tables running, depending how big my screen is and how much abuse my eyes are willing to take. I started the day with my usual mix, and as the hours crept on and tables came and went, I noticed that one table consistently remained: the Sunday $8 Million. I tried not to get ahead of myself; even when we made it into the money, there were still thousands of players remaining. But when the field of almost 50,000 was whittled down to around 800 and the Sunday $8 Million was the only table left on my screen, it started to feel like I could really have a chance at a seven-figure payday. Unfortunately, much like hundreds of other dreamers, I made a wholly anticlimactic exit - in 266th place for a little over $1K. That was disappointing, but I think $8 million guarantees are a great idea and that PokerStars should consider working more of these tournaments into the schedule!
The next day, it was time to step out on the town for a star-studded event, the British Poker Awards at the Hippodrome Casino in London. I had never attended (or even really heard of) a poker awards ceremony before, but I am always up for a decadent night out at the Hippodrome. Dating back to 1900, the glamorous venue was once London's premier theater for everything from circus acts to jazz concerts. It reopened as a casino in 2012 after extensive renovations that retained the ornate character of the original venue, and its PokerStars LIVE poker room is my favorite place in London for a cash game and a cocktail.
The British Poker Awards, hosted by Bluff Europe and PokerStars, featured a variety of honors for individual players (our outspoken buddy Sam Grafton earned the distinction of Best Poker Personality), along with titles for the best venues, leagues, and even online poker sites. Many UK poker celebrities were in attendance, including established veterans like Neil Channing and Barny Boatman, and younger luminaries like Liv Boeree and Sam Trickett. After the ceremony, the guests were all invited to a friendly freeroll tournament, where the prize was one seat (winner-take-all) in the upcoming £275 Hippodrome Spring Classic. The freeroll was an opportunity to socialize with some legendary players, and I am proud to say that, despite not winning anything, I did make it to the final table!
That night at the Hippodrome, Mickey and I also got a chance to meet an unexpected celebrity idol: "The Chaser." In Dublin the week beforehand, we spent a couple rainy evenings flipping channels on our ancient hotel TV and had found a UK quiz show that piqued our interest. At first "The Chase" felt somewhat confusing and complicated for a game show, but we became hooked as soon as we were introduced to our opponent, The Chaser. The Chaser is the enemy, and he enters the stage from a dramatic cloud of fog and flashing lights to the tune of very ominous music. However, in contrast to all this intimidating fanfare, The Chaser himself was always quite friendly and unassuming in demeanor. This guy just seemed like a big jolly dude who was good at trivia. What made it all even funnier was that The Chaser had to come onstage quite a few times in one episode, so it got more and more hilarious each time the same over-the-top production was initiated upon his arrival.
When Mickey and I spotted him from across the room during the awards ceremony, we couldn't believe it was our new favorite quiz show villain. What was he doing at a poker awards show? Well, it turns out that The Chaser (he does have a name - Mark Labbett - but I prefer The Chaser) is a huge poker buff and was there representing a local British pub poker league. He was happy to snap a photo with his new biggest fans. We love The Chaser!
Over the course of the next week, Mickey and I had a couple more posh nights out in London but spent most of our time busy working the online grind. I got a shot at one of the biggest online final tables I've played in my career: The Big 109! The tournament had an $80K guarantee, and the prize pool that night made it up to $127,700, giving me a shot at a $20K first prize. Although that would have been awesome, I ended up taking sixth place for just over $5K, which still put me solidly in profit for my UK trip.
The next big series on the horizon is SCOOP, and a hop up to Canada is my plan. Last spring, I took a trip to Vancouver for a week during SCOOP and had a great time; this year, I'm swapping coasts and taking the party to Montreal! As a bonus, the PokerStars Canada Cup at the Playground Poker Club kicks off just as SCOOP ends, so there might be a little live poker in my future as well.
Good luck to everyone playing SCOOP, and maybe I'll see you on the felt!