MPNPT: Back in the UK!
Good things come to those who wait, as they say, and after a break of three years the MPN Poker Tour finally touched down once again on UK soil when Manchester’s Grosvenor Casino played host (20-23 July).
Having visited various parts of the globe, from Vienna to Morocco, the festival tour retained a distinctly European feel, with the already cosmopolitan flavour of the city being added to by the sound of (amongst others) Scandinavian voices.
Mad for it in Manchester
‘Mad for it’ is a typically Mancunian phrase which typifies the vibe that came out of a city that brought the musical world the likes of the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and Oasis. But there’s so much more to this Northern powerhouse that helped forge the industrial revolution. For example, it’s the only place in the world where you can obtain a degree in Mummy Studies, the University of Manchester having facilities specifically aimed at the study of ancient Egyptian mummies…
Manchester also has the dubious distinction of being nicknamed ‘The Rainy City’ which, taking into account the UK’s reputation for rain, is already a little unfortunate, but especially so when, in fact, it is actually one of the drier cities in the country.
Alas, poker is an indoor pursuit, so in some ways the weather didn’t really matter, as a total of 288 entries in this war of attrition and patience (or, for some, multiple rebuying) took advantage of the excellent facilities of one of the UK’s biggest poker venues.
The Poker (Day 1A)
Day 1a was expected to see fewer players than Friday’s Day 1b, and Angus Dunnington survived the long-haul journey (12 levels) that saw 17 of the 74 entries make it to Day 2, turning his initial stack of 25,000 chips to 111,000. His friend and fellow Team32Red player, Phill Huxley, playing at the same table, was eliminated in a tricky hand, returning with another ‘bullet’ but not finding the poker gods on his side.
Angus spent the last few levels at a table – after being moved there – with a dynamic quite different to what he’d grown used to for several hours, with the mix of short and big stacks giving the game a greater sense of urgency. Sure enough, a massive pot with the typical scenario of a big hand – KK – versus a big draw seeing the latter catch a tournament-saving flush on the river proved to be crucial for two of the big stacks. This exciting episode encapsulated just how thin the line is between success and failure, as the tournament-saving river card in fact proved to be the stroke of luck that saw experienced Finnish player, Jari Hurri, ending Day 1a as the chip leader with 190,600 chips rather than – had fate been less generous – on his way out.
Meanwhile, Phill’s partner, Fabienne Freymadl (also part of the 32Red Live Streaming team) was impressing fellow revelers and spectators at the MPNPT Party in the casino. This has become a must-go event in itself, with a different theme at each festival.
This time, Fabienne and other brave souls who were capable of activities more immediately physically demanding than poker were trying to outdo each other at a game called ‘Batak Pro’… As you can see from the photos, this is a grown-up version of the children’s game that sees cute little animals being hit on the head with a rubber mallet as they briefly pop up. Batak Pro takes that up a few notches. Anyway, a good time was had by all as the free drinks flowed, snacks were eaten and fun was had both participating in and watching this test of reaction speed and physical endurance. Of course, with numerous prizes on offer, including a £150 side event ticket and 5 drink vouchers for the winner, and a £110 side event ticket and drink vouchers for the runner-up, that competitive edge poker players would be lost without added an entertaining slice of excitement to the mix…
The Poker (Day 1B)
Vegetarianism might nowadays be a worldwide choice of millions but, as it happens, appears to have officially originated – at least as an actual ‘movement’ – in Manchester. The Reverend William Cowherd (truth is indeed stranger than fiction) was waxing lyrical about the vegetarian diet down the road from where the Grosvenor now stands over two centuries ago, his followers going on to form the Vegetarian Society.
The atmosphere during Day 1b, however, was incredibly bloodthirsty, with take-no-prisoner knockouts and subsequent re-entries guaranteeing that, compared with Day 1a, many more chips would be in circulation. Some players contributed to the chip pool more than others, with David Lappin, for example, having several bites of the proverbial poker cherry. His fellow Irishman and good friend, Dara O’ Kearney – armed with a supply of Main Event seats – would even decide, after failing to survive Day 1b, to take advantage of the option afforded those players with both the inclination and the means to re-enter at the beginning of Day 2…
As it turned out David was able to exploit his extra lives and reached Day 2 with a stack of 75,000 chips. He was joined by other 32Red qualifiers, Matti Sahinoja (Finland; 102,000) and Mark Dyson (England; 37,600) among the 43 who would join the previous day’s 17 for a step up in gear on Day 2.
As was suggested above, the fact that there were many more chips flying around meant that the biggest stacks on Day 1b were much higher – the overall chip leader was Yiannis Liperis with a massive 328,600!
The 60 players gunning for a cash (35 prizes) increased to 63 on Saturday when three more re-entries tried their luck, one of these being the aforementioned Dara. In fact, at one point, he, Angus and Matti were at the same table, sharing the unenviable experience of having to put up with Liperis and his mountain of chips, which was mercilessly being put to good use.
Not surprisingly, this proved to be a tough day, and the sole Team32Red player to cash was Angus Dunnington, whose feelings were mixed. He had been eager to make amends for the Vienna leg, where he had also cashed but after losing an enormous pot with KK v QQ at the critical, juicy stage of the tournament. Day 2 this time was his most frustrating, but a cash is a cash, and his patience ‘honed’ after years as a professional chess player saw him get the most out of what had become a very short stack.
Congratulations to Tim Chung on taking top honours and the 1st prize of £29,900 – a performance all the more impressive when we factor in how short-stacked he was at the beginning of the Final Table action, and how quickly he saw off the opposition.
You could be forgiven for thinking that poker festivals are characterised chiefly by such obvious things as cash, chips, bad beat stories and so on because conversations and thoughts will invariably feature these clichés. Indeed, that is often the case, but our aim when coming up with the various avenues through which players can be part of Team32Red and attend international poker competitions extends to more than the turn of a card. Here are examples of 32Red players who illustrate that there’s more to being a poker player than chip counts:
Luck – or, more significantly, bad luck – is something that poker players become used to and philosophical about but, for 32Red and MPNPT regular, Julie Whitworth (aka Ladydriver), fate dealt a particularly cruel blow before Manchester. For Julie, a popular Team32Red member who encapsulates what poker should be about, this was to be her ‘home’ event. Having cashed in Malta she was looking for a repeat success here but, unfortunately, was taken ill.
But that doesn’t mean she didn’t play a role, supporting her fellow players from her hospital bed. Here’s what she had to say: “As part of Team32Red, I was unfortunately taken into hospital the night before I was due to meet up with everyone… I was taken aback on Sunday afternoon by a visit from Nick Diaz, Angus Dunnington, Phill Huxley, Fabienne Freymadl and Sean Ainsworth, delivering some beautiful flowers and a card signed by lots of my fellow MPNPT companions. I may not have been there in body but my spirit was with the team. Thanks to all for the good wishes, and I will be with you in Tallinn!”
Phill Huxley is a great example of how to get the most out of 32Red Poker. In his own words, he ‘loves promos’ and makes sure not to waste any opportunities. He qualified for Manchester by winning a Route 32 promotion. These revolve around collecting starting chips for a Final proper in nightly ‘Flip’ qualifiers, which put everyone all-in every hand until the winners emerge, require just a few raked hands to register, and are completely free. He made a point of fulfilling the easy daily entry requirements, took his chances in the Final (knocking out his friend, Angus Dunnington, in 4th place in the process; note that the runner-up wins a €550 Main Event seat…) and bagged a €1,500 package.
Add to the mix Phill is an excellent player, and it’s a recipe for success. He didn’t make Day 2 in Manchester (but cashed in the Manchester Poker Cup), but poker is the ultimate ‘long’ game, and he’ll be a danger, as always, in Tallinn…
Another 32Red qualifier whose journey to Manchester is the perfect incentive for all players is Andrew Talbot. He is one of a number of people who have the good fortune to win a fantastic €1,500 package by hitting a royal flush in our daily Flush Royale tournament. Having never taken part in a poker tournament before, he was expecting to find the situation and environment potentially difficult but, in fact, found himself feeling quite calm. This is a common and pleasant surprise for many in this context, and Andrew’s positive experience should serve to help ‘new’ players decide to make the most of our promotions and qualify for poker festivals.
Finally, Gerard Molloy sums it up perfectly: “My feedback is very positive regarding the MPNPT. I won my package (my first MPNPT event) online at 32Red. I didn’t win at the tables but the experience was amazing… I would very much like to qualify and take part in future events, so hope to see you again soon…”
A memorable hand doesn’t have to be a devastating bad beat on the river or someone flopping four aces, and even when we are involved in a ‘big’ hand it might not be the one we find the most significant.
Phill Huxley, for instance, found the hand which saw him eliminated from the Main Event as ‘pretty funny’ and, importantly, this highlights the pragmatic, must-have-a-sense-of-humour attitude that is common amongst players. Phill had AK and found himself all-in and up against two opponents. AK is the kind of holding that should give you a fighting chance, but in this particular case Phill’s opponents had as their hole cards a pair of Kings and a pair of Aces! Phill: ‘I couldn’t have got it in much worse…’
Matti Sahinoja of Finland qualified for Manchester via a satellite at 32Red, having already played in MPN Poker Tour events in Vienna and Sofia, as well as the Irish Open (again through 32Red). He managed to go deep into the Main Event, at one point having quite a big stack. But navigating a safe route through the jungle that is tournament poker is never straightforward, and he ultimately fell short of the money.
As far as ‘memorable hands’ is concerned, what stuck in Matti’s mind most is when he faced an all-in bet while holding middle pair. This is always a difficult spot to find yourself in, not least in a big money festival, overseas, with your tournament life effectively on the line. The decision-making process can be hampered by the prospect of calling and finding that your second pair is, in fact, the second-best hand. He called, and had indeed made the correct decision, which is one of those poker experiences that never ceases to feel very satisfying…
Dara O’Kearney suffered a typical curse that the poker gods tend to dish out to those in possession of big pocket pairs. He three-bet Kings over an under-the-gun raise and was called. The Flop brought 10 8 7, both players ended up all-in and his opponent had – you guessed it! – J 9 (off-suit).
‘Made-up’ words can often be better than existing ones. Another is Gincident. Both feature the word ‘gin’, around which a special event was held for those players who fancied doing something different on the Sunday evening to round off the Manchester festival in style.
A dozen or so players took up the invitation for a barge cruise down the Manchester Ship Canal, where they were treated to as many Gin & Tonics and imaginative, tasty cocktails as they wanted, as well as endless platters of food, a fascinating, entertaining history of gin and a unique view of the city (such as Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United) from the traditional barge as it chugged along the canal…
Next Stop: Tallinn
If the MPNPT had a Walk of Fame, then Estonia’s picturesque capital, Tallinn, would take pride of place, being the most visited venue of the Tour thus far. If you haven’t yet enjoyed the poker festival experience this would be a great time to start, and at 32Red we have numerous, player-friendly ways for you to book your place at the €150,000 event (19-22 October), with €1,500 packages and €550 seats to win. Check out how to qualify, have fun, and we hope to see you there!