Leeds plays host to a wonderful weekend of poker and a popular home grown PPUKT champion. Ross Jarvis reports…
It was with hope in our hearts, a slight hangover and sweaty foreheads that Dave Woods and I sprinted for our train bound for Leeds. We made it just in time. The last PPUKT leg in Brighton was a huge success and Leeds was set to be even bigger, with a great turnout of 101 players (including re-entries) and a flashy casino set in the heart of a brilliant, thriving city.
Before the poker began we checked into the salubrious Holiday Inn and had a warm-up of Wetherspoons chicken and 6.5% ales. It may have worked for eventual winner Woods but not me. Whether it was the occasion getting the better of me or because I was too busy hawking the magazine to anyone within earshot, I somehow managed to donk off my chips within 90 minutes, despite the deep-stack structure. Thank God for re-entry as I dusted off another £110 and vowed to approach it differently from here on.
Plenty of familiar faces were in the crowd, including Brighton leg champion Charlie Morgan who was downing a few beers to ‘ease the nerves’ and long-time PokerPlayer supporters Duncan and He len Godfrey, who were battling for cash and the title of best player in the marriage.
Back-to-back titles for Morgan were off the menu after he lost a race early on, while young pro Tom Ambler was accumulating a big stack – and dominant table presence – that he would ride all the way to the final table. My second bullet was going much better than the first, until a series of beats and lost races saw me crash out for good in the middle of the pack.
It was proving to be a stressful day for PokerPlayer editorial director Woods – mainly away from the table. A speculative scorecast on Man Utd vs Swansea was looking set to land him a lovely £300 before Danny Welbeck chipped in a fourth goal in the 93rd minute to reduce his bet to smithereens. Tilt was likely to follow for Woods but the poker gods intervened by gifting him pocket Aces. He managed to get all-in versus A-K and J-J to scoop a huge triple up, sending Woods into the final table second in chips. He celebrated this considerable achievement by staying up until 4am to watc h the Ultimate Fighting Championship and drink buckets of Corona. Hey, if it works for Scotty Nguyen…
Out on his shield
The prize pool was heavily weighted towards the top three spots, with first collecting in excess of £3,000 (plus a £1k GUKPT seat) and ninth only £250. One player taking full advantage of this was chipleader Tom Ambler, who was bossing the table with a very loose-aggressive game. The only player to really take him on was Anthony Shields, who made the final table of a UKIPT event in 2012. The two big stacks were clashing constantly, and a final confrontation was inevitable.
Before that though, we experienced a series of quick bustouts. The most spectacular was the elimination of Richard Sanger in sixth, who ran the nut straight into Shields’s nut flush for a huge pot. Meanwhile, our man Woods was struggling to get going, but a double-up with A-J against Mark Lathwell’s A-K got him back in the game. Woods then put the final nail in Lathwell’s coffin by KO’ing him in fifth. Tsk.
Ambler and Shields were taking it in turns to run over the table while Alan Alderson and Woods chugged beers and looked on. A major pot was brewing and it came to fruition when Ambler five-bet jammed 9-9, only to be snapped off by Shields with pocket Queens. A brutal 9-T-T-J-9 runout gave Ambler quads and sent Shields ranting to the rail in fourth place.
To his credit, Shields recovered from the bad beat to give praise to his opponent, ‘he’s a very good player and he got the best of me over the entire final table.’ Three remained and they quickly agreed on a deal to even out the steep pay scale. Despite the cash prizes now set in stone there was still a £1k GUKPT seat to play for – and the coveted PPUKT trophy.
The deal seemed to free Woods of all inhibitions and he went on a rampage, clutching the chip lead after a series of big hands. Pretty soon it was heads-up between the resurgent Woods and young hotshot Ambler, with Alderson finishing third after a gutsy display worth £2,515. Ambler would have been a huge favourite but Woods showed his intestinal fortitude by turning up the heat and playing some great, aggressive heads-up poker. Suddenly the 20% I had swapped with him looked to be a great investment.
It was nearly all over when the two both got all-in on a 2-T-T-4-J board, however Ambler’s T-5 somehow avoided a chopped pot with Woods’s T-3 to double up to evens. But a few hands later all the chips went flying in preflop. Ambler held the advantage with A-J versus the K-Q of Woods, but a King on the flop changed all that and gifted Woods the GUKPT seat, PPUKT title and the coveted trophy. It was a fantastic event that ended with a fitting winner in Dave Woods, the Godfather of PokerPlayer magazine. One more for the home team!