Last week, the Black Belt Poker team of Neil Channing, Richard Ashby and Grading winners Sam Razavi and Adam Stoneham all endured a 22-hour flight to Sydney before relocating to Melbourne to play this year's Aussie Millions.
Although this will prove a new experience for our two travelling Brown Belts, Richard will be back on familiar soil having final tabled the Main Event two years prior. Emotions will be mixed, however, as he openly confessed to a major downswing at the following year's event in his debuting blog entry. This year, Richard seems to have arrived in high spirits with the high stakes cash games firmly in his sights.
"Despite the continued rain in Melbourne, things are hotting up nicely poker wise here. Last night they were playing $3,000/$6,000 Limit! A lot of the Full Tilt guys are in town as well as a couple of really wealthy Australian business men. They have a lively $100/100/200 PLO game which I may take a shot in later today. I managed to get stuck 14,000 'warming up' in a $5/10/20 game last night which shows you how lively the games are. I hope Channing et al have brought a lot of dosh with them."
Later in the week, Richard found himself tackling 'Crazy Mike', a name Neil had become familiar with following his experiences from last year. "Massive day of poker yesterday. I was up at 6am for the $200,000 GTD Winter Sales event and was still playing 21 hours later in a heads-up $300/600 Limit game with a guy they call 'Crazy Mike'. Anyone heard of him? Total crackpot but entertaining. Managed to win about $20,000 off him which almost covered my $30,000 PLO loss earlier in the day! He wants a rematch tonight. Just off to rail Channing in the shootout for a bit first as I think he is going well."
Despite the primary focus being tournaments and spending the $10,000 Grading package, Adam has also been dipping into the local ring-games:
"I put myself on the $2/5 list and got a seat straight away in the $1/2. The game was relatively soft; the players were generally just limping and then playing rather passive and, if it wasn't for the extortionate hourly $5 fee and then the 10 percent rake of pots and no free drinks ($4 for a coke), it would have been a very good game to play. I was feeling pretty tired at this point so I said I would go to bed if I win or lose a big pot. Some guy had decided to straddle $10 which, in a $1/2 game, I thought was a bit silly. I was dealt J-7 on the cut-off so I couldn't resist trying to take it. I put in a $25 raise and he called.
"The flop was 8-T-K. He checked and then called my $30 bet. The turn was an ace, which I thought was probably the best card for me to win this pot apart from the 9 or J, so I bet $65, hoping for a fold and wondering whether I could bluff him if I miss my double gutter on the river. Fortunately for me, the river was the perfect 9 and I was all in. I was expecting a fold but was delighted after a five minute dwell up when I got a call. I played a few more hands and left when they asked for the next hourly charge."
The first tournament on the Black Belt Poker hit list was Event #4's $1,000 No Limit Hold'em Shootout, which attracted 158 players spread over 18 tables. Although Neil won his opening table, Adam wasn't so fortunate, losing heads-up to former Grader and Brown Belt James Keys. Sam, meanwhile, could only manage a fourth, the winner of his table being EPT Vilamoura Champion Toby Lewis.
With just two Australian flags to his name, Neil was able to advance into the money and make it a hattrick, before falling just inches short of echoing his WSOP shootout final table appearance with a 15th place finish for $2,015. With James Keys opening preflop to 6,200 and the small blind flat-calling, Neil pushed all in for 19,600 with Ah-Tc from the big blind and James called. Despite having his nose slightly ahead, Neil was unable to fend off James' Qh-Jh, the board coming 8h-5s-Js-7c-8c to send the Black Belt Poker head honcho hurtling to the rail.
James wasn't the only Brit to advance to the final; John Eames, Andrew Teng and Jack Powell finished 10th, 7th, and 2nd respectively - with James dropping in 6th - thus allowing Denmark's Soren Blanner to snap up victory and the $37,920 first prize.
Whilst the aforementioned Black Belt Poker casualties enjoy a welcome rest in preparation for tomorrow's Six-Handed No Limit Hold'em event, Richard is busy in Event #5's 8-Game Mixed Event. A disappointing 68 players entered the event, but, nevertheless, Richard has guaranteed himself a payout by making it onto the final table of seven. Unfortunately, he is bottom in chips with 59,300, but if he can enjoy a good start, will be in with a realistic chance of adding an Aussie Millions side event victory to his bracelet win in Vegas.
Many thanks to Anne Laymond for the following images: