Complete amateur poker player Hilly The Fish tries his luck in the professional game with hilarious consequences

Amatuer poker player Hilly The Fish takes his chances in the Paradise Poker Tour

As long-time readers may recall, my tournament record in Europe is even worse than that of the England football team. With a grand total of zero significant cashes, there is admittedly room for improvement. As such, it’s with some trepidation that I agree to go back on the road for another stab at live tournament success.

Spain is uncharted poker territory, though, and I turn up in Barcelona with no reputation, and given the almost entirely non-British field, very little chance of a toothless simpleton bellowing ‘You’re that Billy the Fish!’ at me during a crucial hand.

Nevertheless, a €500 buy-in is scary stuff, and I spend the build-up to the tournament trying to convince myself to play without fear, which is of course counterproductive. Attempting to relax on the beachfront near the Gran Casino beforehand, I read a chapter of Shaun Ryder’s autobiography in which he has a gun put to his head by a crack dealer, something that is almost certainly more frightening than check-raising with air.

Sporting the dog-eared WSOP tracksuit top that saw me through to day three in Vegas – and which was once mysteriously stolen and subsequently returned by a reader – I take my seat amid a babble of Spanish. With my famous speech play rendered redundant, I keep my gob shut and simply observe, witnessing some surprisingly erratic play.

Crazy people

Getting the measure of my fellow competitors, I may not be the best player at the table, but I am definitely in the top eight. Some people seem to be there simply to get rid of their chips, including a serial flush-chaser that I tangle with early doors. Calling every bet, he gets there on the river but I manage to check behind with a set. It’s one of the few pots I lose, with some formulaic play proving enough to accrue chips.

It’s sometimes more about the hands I don’t play, and I am mildly despondent to (correctly)  fold J-T prefl op, only to see a flop of 8-9-Q. Picking up J-T again in the big blind, I check to the loose cannon’s mid-position limp. With a Jack on the flop I fire in a bet, which he instantly raises. I make the call and am confident I’m ahead when he checks the turn.

However, when a third heart arrives on the river he barrels 10,000 chips into a pot that can’t be more than 3k. It’s a crazy overbet, and represents pretty much half my stack. All the same, based on his prior play I don’t believe him, and make what I can only describe as a crying insta-call.

With my heart threatening to burst out of my chest Alien-style, the villain turns over two red…  diamonds! A monster pot slides my way to audible respect from the table. As for the loose  cannon (an old local) he goes into a pit of despair, chuntering away to himself for hours while chewing on a rancid fake cigarette. I even give him a virtual rubdown when I summon the Paradise blogger over to report the hand. In fact, when I see him days later he’s still muttering.

Having knocked out two short stacks, I move tables towards the end of the day in good nick, only for another all-in merchant to shove A-Q into my Q-Q for a third felting. Despite  hallucinating throughout the final stages, I finish the first day just after 4am by bagging up an above average 47.1k. Rewarding myself with a couple of ales and a croque monsieur, I retire to the repair tank for a lengthy session. There is no night or day, simply casino or hotel.

So near, so far

Fresh-faced into day two, the blinds are such that there’s nowhere to hide. I make a standard raise with A-K, which induces a shove from a relatively small stack. Making the call, I am overjoyed to see him turn over A-Q. I am less pleased when the river reveals a Queen to rob me of over a third of my stack. As I announce to nobody in particular: ‘That was unfortunate.’

Despite an internal monologue repeating, ‘I am not on tilt,’ a mistimed bluff wounds me further, and when I look down at a pair of tens it all has to go in, despite an under-the-gun raise from  the previous A-Q villain. I later discover he’s a former champion, which is not surprising with luck like that. His luck is in again when he flips Q-Q, and the fish is fried.

So what I’ve basically done is played well for 11 hours and then turned up the next day and given all my chips to a stranger. It’s a situation that sees me ‘rage-buy’ into the €200 side event (with my own money!). As a gauge of where my head is at, with the blinds at 25/50 and a few limpers, I look down at K-K and make it 175. When there are gasps all round, I realise I’ve inadvertently made it 1,075 (we’re using different chips to the main event). Unsurprisingly it gets through, and it sends out a message, the message being that I am a clueless buffoon.

Faced with a table full of action junkies and quicker blinds, nothing goes right and I eventually jam Q-J into T-T, which of course doesn’t hit. Swerving the pickpockets and hookers, I hit the streets of Barcelona, getting lost while pounding out the rage, past a slew of flickering bars, all showing the Barça game, the final stages of which I watch while angrily drinking alone.

There is some consolation in the shape of the Paradise Poker Tour party, and nothing numbs the pain like masses of free piss in the company of some attractive Dorises. It is effectively the losers’ party, but is a rampant affair nevertheless, with particular mention going to the Bulgarians who ring-fence a bucket of rapidly-disappearing booze.

It’s been a very strong tour, but all the same I come home with nothing more than a headache and an empty wallet. I hate poker, and I hate Europe. That said, if anyone wants to buy me into
the Prague leg…

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