THE BLOG

The Online Poker Crown Is Up for Grabs - and One Card Room is Making the Most of It

08/02/2016 16:58 GMT | Updated 08/02/2017 10:12 GMT

The Super XL series on 888 Poker highlighted some of the best tournaments available on the internet - and what a time for the poker room to up their game.

The crown for the top online poker room is suddenly up for the taking as news from Team Pokerstars suggests that David Bazaar, CEO of Amaya, is set to put in a cash bid to take full ownership of the company - which owns both PokerStars and Full Tilt. Just five years ago, 888, a tiny poker room ranked 17th in the world for popularity - since then, with huge changes to gambling legislature internationally and a number of cashback schemes, they now sit in second.

Now the poker room are looking to tighten the back between themselves and the kings, on the back of two high profile boycotts and a breakdown in talks between some of PokerStars's highest profile players and Amaya (which owns PokerStars and Full Tilt) executives. With the undisputed champion wounded, I was keen to try my luck in other rooms.

I'll be honest - I set up an 888 Poker account just to play in its Super XL series, which ran through the last week of January. The opener, a $160 buy-in $250k guaranteed whopper, looked like a shining example of the tourneys I want to be involved in. Deep stack, long blinds; it was going to be a long one.

The main event, which saw a particularly bright hand ended by 88 vs 44 - both players hitting a set - boasted prizes of over £100,000, breaking 888 records for online multi-table tournaments. The eventual winner of the main event on Jan 31st, jnevanli, took home over $180,000 (£125,000).

I'll be honest again - I was card dead for the first two hours of the opening event. There's a prolonged period of easing in in these tournaments and splashing about in the early blinds is not advisable. With more than 1600 players taking part and a four-hour late registration period, I was just hoping to be in good shape when the doors closed.

And then I noticed.

Too good to be true? I thought so. My shining light of a tournament was, as it turned out, an unlimited rebuy. I only had enough on the account for a single attempt.

But, hey, I struggled through and won a few coin flips. By the time the bubble burst, I was sitting on more than one million chips - no easy task.

I will be the first to admit that, with a chip lead, I can be overly splashy and call one too many all-ins, but, yes, I donked chips quickly. Eventually, with 20 players remaining, I shoved my AJs into the BB from the button. His AKo held and ended my 11 hour tournament at 5am.

Until now, that's a 100% cash success rate - a badge that I intend to wear with pride. Sitting at my metaphorical rail, Sofia Lövgren noted a couple of hands that she called me up on with haste. Midway through the tournament, the 888 Poker pro caught me defending my big blind with 47 off (and rivering a superb set) - which, for some reason, I'm allowing you to watch.

Sofia dubbed my turn call of 1,700 (1/6th of my stack, she notes) "optimistic" before my lucky river card sealed the deal. She added: "calling a 1,700 bet with third pair OOP just seems way too loose. You might have the best hand some percentage of the time, but you just can't improve very often, and will have to fold the river so often. Villain is representing a lot of strength here. I would just fold, calling is just too -EV in the long run."

Less than happy with my play here, she scathed: "I would say you should be careful in spots like this in future. Better hands to call in this spot are hands like T9o+ and suited connectors at this stage of the tournament because they just play so much more comfortably post flop. Just throw hands like 47o where they belong - in the muck!"

To go deep in such an explosive tournament will forever be one of the fonder memories in my recent poker history - and it is certainly a feat I hope to achieve again very soon.