Well, I didn't win a bean at the UKIPT Nottingham tournament but - as predicted - I had a great time. It just had a terrific atmosphere.
That's partly because the event was so well attended, the prize pool went over the £1 million guaranteed (more than £100,000 over). This was exciting for its own reasons, of course: 207 contenders won prizes between £1,200 and £210,000, which caused ripples of glee in a world where, increasingly, people are realizing that you have to make your own luck.
But also, win or lose, players enjoyed being part of such a huge tournament: 1625 people gathered to race for the jackpot. The room was jammed, the bar was packed, the press were there, spectators were watching. It felt like the place to be. On the Saturday, play stopped for half an hour while everyone watched the Grand National, cheering and and swearing as their bets came good or otherwise.
Later that night, the PokerStars party kicked off in the marquee next to the tournament room. Devilfish, one of the most famous poker players in the world (who'd been knocked out of the main event and was playing the £2000 High Roller tournament) was persuaded to leave his chips at the table and take to the stage in the marquee to sing a few rock and roll numbers. (I say he "was persuaded". Just try and stop him.)
So, it wasn't just poker. It was a giant social gathering, nearly two thousand strong, with a major poker tournament in the middle of it.
In my earlier blog post, before the tournament, I explained that one of the things I love about the UKIPT (UK and Ireland Poker Tour) is that it's a real grass-roots series, with a mix of all ages and both genders, where recreational players come together with professionals and everybody has a chance. I told a story about an old chap I'd met at the first UKIPT Nottingham, back in 2010, who'd been written off by his young opponents as a duffer until he wowed them with the tale of a big tournament he'd won online.
So I couldn't help being delighted when this year's title, and the £210,400 first prize, was taken by 60-year-old Robert Baguley, a retired landlord from Leicestershire. He had won his ticket to the tournament at a live qualifier at Dusk Till Dawn for £100. Once he got into the last 207, guaranteed some prize money, he said he'd treat his wife to a holiday in the West Country. At the end of the event, having pocketed a six-figure sum, he said: "I might consider going to Tenerife rather than Cornwall now."
There were many brilliant youngsters in the tournament, many of whom won money, and many of whom I'm sure will go on to enjoy impressive poker careers. But for a tournament series like this, designed to attract players of all ability levels from all over the UK, winning their way in for small sums of money, Robert Baguley seems a poetic winner. He won't plough his winnings back into other tournaments and cash games. Or not all of it, anyway. Having proved that poker is a mind game - that anyone who concentrates hard, thinks deeply, puts their heart and soul into the action, plays patiently but fearlessly, can beat people 40 years younger than themselves - he'll go on a nice holiday with his wife, and think about his next adventure.
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