Jamie Burland travels to Ireland for the UKIPT Galway Festival and gets to play heads-up against his poker idol Gus Hansen…
One of my favourite things about poker is that if you have the money for the buy-in, there’s a chance you will get to pit your wits against the best in the world. There’s almost no other sport where this is possible. I could practise and train at football every day for ten years but I’d never play against a Premiership footballer on a competitive level. Imagine my delight then as I was drawn to play heads-up against Gus Hansen at the Galway Festival. It doesn’t get much bigger and I was determined to give him a run for his money.
I hadn’t actually planned on going to Galway until the second week of the festival, where I had won seven (!) seats online for the UKIPT Main Event. The satellites for these on PokerStars and Full Tilt are the softest mid-stakes games online and you’re allowed to win them more than once! If you play in the £11 Turbo rebuy satellite though my advice is to budget at least £70-£80 for them – and never quit before the end of the rebuy stage as you are just burning money if you do that. Once the freezeout stage starts there are usually only about 18 players left with two packages and cash prizes up for grabs.
Oh dear O’Dea
The reason I was in Galway earlier than I’d planned was because Jake Cody texted to ask if I wanted to represent Team UK in the UK vs Ireland Heads-up event. I could think of better ways to spend €1k but once I found out that team tracksuits were involved I was in.
I drew Irish legend of the game Donnacha O’Dea in the first round and I found myself getting really nervous. I think the nerves were mainly in part to this being my first live heads-up event but having such an old school legend opposite me probably added to it.
My game plan was pretty simple. I didn’t expect Donnacha to give much away when we were deep and I thought his live cash game experience might give him the edge early in the match. I would play tight and try to get into the end game as I thought Donnacha might be a bit tight during the push/fold stage. I wasn’t too far wrong but this first round really could have gone either way. It was a best-of-three format and in the deciding leg we were both all-in a few times before I was the luckier player.
In the second round I drew Fintan Gavin who gave me a really tough match in the first leg. He won every hand and then I got a monster pair to win a huge pot. This happened three times before I won a flip to win. Fintan had been working tirelessly on the Galway festival and I had heard that he hadn’t even slept the night before. His hard work was there for everyone to behold in Galway, but a tired misstep in the second leg from him saw me through to the elite eight.
Gus nut crunch
The next match was the bubble match – heads-up for €4.6k – and there were no easy spots left. As fate would have it I drew Gus Hansen, a sophisticated sex robot sent back through time to play cards and set Pac-Man high scores. It was just after midnight as we took our seats. I shook Gus’s hand and asked him if he wanted to do a €500 saver. He didn’t.
Instead, he took out a fruit and nut bar and started eating it. I thought to myself how healthy he was and what type of a man carries a fruit and nut bar in their pocket until after midnight.
I was falling in love with Gus a little bit – it’s tough not to as he’s a beautiful man and much cooler than the Fonz. I’d watched countless Gus hands on TV from huge cash games and tournaments around the world, and here he was sitting opposite me with a look in his eye that said, ‘what you got for me kid?’ Or maybe I’m romanticising it and he was just particularly enjoying his fruit and nut bar. Either way, I didn’t care that he probably had hundreds of better, sexier and more fun things to do; right now he had to get through me!
He got through me. I don’t think I won one significant hand. He really took me to school that night. I took solace in the fact that Gus went on to win the tournament, so no one was able to beat him, but I was left wondering what could have been and also whether another one of these giant slaying opportunities would present itself again. For now, it’s back to the online grind, except there’ll be one change. I’m adding heads-up turbo sit-and-gos to my weekly schedule for practise so that next time I’m ready. You wait Gus, I’ll get you next time!
Galway with Jamie – Galway Poker Festival
Started grinding: 29th July 2013
Finished grinding: 11th August 2013
Total buy-ins: €4,895
Total cashes: €1,030
Total profit/loss: -€3,865
Number of tourneys entered: 5
Total cashes: 1
Biggest cash: €1,030 (14th, €330 Saturday Showdown Championship)
Tilt factor: 6 (out of 10)
Soundtrack of the day: The Ones Who Knock podcast (Breaking Bad analysis)