Sam Grafton secures a rare Isle of Man Hendon Mob flag and attempts to defend his GUKPT grand final crown

Poker isn’t everything. That’s the rumour doing the rounds, anyway! I remain sceptical, but I have invested a little of my time in other pursuits over the last couple of months. The pace of my online grind has slackened to its lowest level of the past few years and I’ve been enjoying a little better work/life balance. Of course, taking time off from poker doesn’t mean not playing at all. That would be crazy! I still had time to ‘flick it in’ for a couple of live comps while I’ve been on sabbatical from the online felt.

I travelled to the Isle of Man for the UKIPT. I was attracted by the £500k guaranteed prize pool and the thought of a trophy, but like any true grinder I was almost as excited by the prospect of securing a rare Isle of Man flag to add to my Hendon Mob. I’ve never been to the island before and it was not so much like visiting a foreign country as stepping back in time. Quaint high streets and pubs evoked the Leamington Spa of my childhood. Certainly no poker tournament I’ve ever played has seemed so far from the bright lights of Vegas.

Poker-wise the tournament went pretty smoothly for me, at least to begin with. I built a commanding stack on Day 1 and consolidated my position among the chip leaders in the early levels of Day 2. True to form though this early stage momentum didn’t evolve into a charge to the final table.

I didn’t exactly ‘blow-up’, but there were a number of sizeable and damaging bluff-shaped explosions in and around the bubble. In the end the elusive flag was captured, but I didn’t fully capitalise on the strong position I was in. At least I finally learned my lesson when it comes to bluffing and have sworn never again to fire three streets without a made hand, ever. Well, until the next UKIPT stop at least!

A strong defence

Next on my live poker hit list was defending my GUKPT grand final title. Taking my seat in the Vic’s newly refurbished poker room brought back memories of my victory in the event a year previously. It’s a rare privilege to attend an event where you are defending champion and it was one I relished.

My only disappointment was they made the event a re-entry this year. In the short-term being able to rebuy in events such as this is a real advantage for pros like myself. It means if I make a mistake or a weaker player gets lucky against me I still have opportunities to realise my expectation in the event. However, there must be a number of good amateurs who are happy to set aside £1,000 a month to take a shot at a GUKPT who will now be somewhat daunted by the thought of professional players being able to rebuy continually. After all, it’s hard enough to get Simon Deadman out once. The chances of busting him four times are very slim indeed.

Eleventh hour

I started the tournament in the same fashion as I finished it last year: getting lucky. I made a very dubious five-bet all-in with K-Q against young up-and-comer Barny Boatman’s A-K, but like the true champion I am I was bailed out by a Queen on the flop. From then on I picked my spots to bluff a little more shrewdly and also coolered a couple of good players so I came back on Day 3 in third position with 13 players left. 

I had a great chance of defending my title and making a small piece of UK tournament history. But it wasn’t to be. I made an ill-reasoned hero call against the chip leader and bowed out in 11th when my K-K was outdrawn by A-T. I can’t remember being more deflated by a live exit. I couldn’t bring myself to grind the Sunday majors and instead got into bed and worked my way through a family pack of ice cream Mars bars.

There was some small consolation to be had from the fact that my crown was taken by top bloke Kevin Allen. A tough opponent on the felt, Kev is one of the warmest people you could hope to meet away from it. A victory in the GUKPT to add to his win at DTD’s Monte Carlo means that paradoxically it’s a breakout year for one of the lads that’s been around seemingly forever. Sadly there are no shiny new trophies to place on the Christmas mantelpiece for me, but I do seem to be accumulating chips in live tournaments. I’m not disheartened and can look forward to 2014 with a great deal of anticipation. 


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