UKIPT Nottingham: Robert Baguley upsets odds to claim title and £210,400
Sometimes in poker, the best thing you can do is screw up your copy of the script, unread.
Robert Baguley, a 60-year-old retired landlord from Leicestershire, has just beaten a field of 1,625 of the continent's best players to win the Nottingham stop of the PokerStars United Kingdom and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT). It was an upset worth £210,400, and has proved once again that tournament poker is anyone's - and everyone's - game.
Few commentators would have picked Baguley for the title when he came up against the dominant chip stack of Iqbal Ahmed when the two went heads up at Dusk Till Dawn tonight. Fewer still would have chosen him at the beginning of final table play today.
When he lined up with that monstrous field on day one - a face in a crowd of champions, online phenoms and established pros - he wouldn't have been given a prayer. But Baguley simply played his own game, feared no one, and is now champion, having graduated from the £20 tournaments at Dusk Till Dawn to the winner's enclosure on the UKIPT.
"I can't think at the moment, I'm fuzzy headed," he said, when asked if there was anything he'd be spending the cash on. "I've been concentrating so hard on the poker."
He had previously suggested he would treat his wife to a holiday in the West Country with his winnings. "I might consider going to Tenerife rather than Cornwall now," he said. Baguely won his ticket to the main event in a live satellite last week, costing £100. That was about five times his normal tournament buy in.
The final today was played in high spirits and was over in little more than five hours. Ahmed had brought the biggest stack of chips to the final table, having led from the early stages of day two. But things didn't go his way in the early stages and after a series of huge confrontations only succeeded in improving his opponents' chances - including a very early double up of Baguley - Ahmed even seemed as though he could be the first player out.
But he dug in and weathered the storm, clinging on as Ian Senior became the first to fall. Senior had brought a huge, bespoke-attired railing section from his pub game, but he had to content himself with £22,750 for eighth place.
James Cummings fell soon after. He had not managed to build his small-ish stack and ended up running into Nick Woodward's monster pocket kings, finishing in seventh.
Woodward, however, wasn't able to press on very far from there. Although he played his part as action slowed for a couple of hours, he would be the next player eliminated. The damage to Woodward was done by Ahmed, who, reunited with the big stack, soon showed all how to wield it.
He pulled off a spectacular coup when he managed to send both Hasmukh Khodiyara and Barry McMahon out in the same hand, in fifth and fourth respectively. And then Ahmed also accounted for Grant Pirie in third.
The Aberdonian had been the only player anywhere close to Ahmed at the end of day two and had also managed to cling onto his chips all the way to the final. But his tournament would end against a familiar foe. Pirie took £96,700 for third.
That left two, and at this stage all the momentum was with Ahmed. He had about a two-to-one chip lead at the start of heads up play, and was keen to go one better on his runner up finish at the Estrellas Poker Tour event in Alicante last year.
But Baguely had different ideas. He won almost all significant pots in the heads up passage of play, standing firm against anything and everything Ahmed threw at him. "They were all brilliant lads, especially Iqbal," said Baguley. "The final table was played in a wonderful atmosphere. No one had a wrong word to say all day."
That was the end of that. What started with the gruelling three-pronged opening flight, then flew through the carnage of days two and three, ended with a popular champion, a popular runner up, and the satisfaction of a terrific week's poker.
The full list of prizewinners is on the prizewinners page. You can follow all the action from the ongoing EPT Berlin by heading to the EPT Berlin page. Thanks, as ever, to the photography of Mickey May.
The next UKIPT stop is in Dublin next month. Join everyone then.
Congratulations again to Robert Baguley and goodnight from Nottingham.