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The Bellagio Five-Diamond World Poker Classic — Bola88 Part III



With two tables left in the event, I was the chip leader, but there was still lots of work to be done. My table absolutely stunk! It was full of top players, while the other table was full of newer players.


Nonetheless, I held my own at that tough table and went to the final table of 10 players as the chip leader with more than $2 million. Very early on in final-table play, Jennifer Harman, who’d been playing like a wizard all day, raised from first position to $80,000. The blinds were $15,000-$30,000 at the time, so that was a pretty standard raise.


In second Bola88 position, the second-place chip leader Eric Weiner called the $80,000. Next to the button, I looked down at the 8clubs 7clubs and just loved the situation. If I could catch a lucky flop, this might be a good opportunity to put a stranglehold on the tournament.


Now, if you are playing the 8clubs 7clubs, you are really looking to hit a straight draw, a flush draw, a pair, or maybe even two pair. Well, how do you like this for a flop? 9clubs 6clubs 5spades! Not only did I flop the nut straight, but I also had a straight-flush draw, to boot.


Jennifer went ahead and bet $150,000 on the flop. For her to bet this scary board, she clearly had to have something, so I was already thinking about how I was going to get all of her chips. Should I make a small raise? Smooth-call and wait for the turn? Go all in? There were several options, but I decided to try to attach her to the hand by raising the minimum. If she had an overpair, as she was representing, it would be very tough for her to get away from it.


Just as I was going through that process, Eric Weiner declared himself all in! Wow, somebody pinch me; how sweet is this?! I was just hoping to get some action on the hand from Jennifer, and now I had a chance to bust the second-place chip leader.


So, obviously, I called, and Jennifer smartly mucked her Q-Q. At this point, I wasn’t sure what I wanted Eric to have, but my first instincts told me that he must have flopped a set. Yup, he had flopped three nines. When I called, he must have been ecstatic, figuring me for a smaller set.


Surprise, surprise, Eric, my bust ’em had hit the flop in a big way. He got no help on the turn and no help on the river, and I’d reached the $4 million mark in chips. By the time we got down to sevenhanded, I had well over half the chips in play.


With a monster chip lead, my strategy was pretty simple: “Stay aggressive, but don’t do anything stupid.” By that time, the blinds were already $30,000-$60,000 with a $10,000 ante, so I was raising to $150,000 at least twice a round. I didn’t have that many good hands, obviously, but since everyone else was so short on chips, they were forced to wait for a hand.


If someone reraised me, I simply threw it away unless I had the goods. That simple, aggressive strategy saw my chip count go from $4 million all the way up to more than $6.8 million with six players remaining. There is one valuable lesson I learned from something John Juanda once said that I’m passing on to you. John once explained that it’s important to protect a big stack. Too many people are preoccupied with knocking players out, figuring they can afford it, but it’s simply more important not to risk losing a large lead, because it’s an advantage you can exploit with much less risk. In other words, with that many chips, you don’t have to take the worst of it if the situation doesn’t warrant it. Let the short stacks fight for position while you pick up the scraps along the way.


The next day for the television taping, I picked up right where I left off, staying aggressive but not giving anybody the chance to double up unless I had a solid hand. I opened pots with lots of trash hands, but when I put in large sums of money, I always made sure I came prepared with a real hand.


I finally got heads up with Humberto Brenes with about a 4-1 chip lead, and aside from a couple of minor scares, the road to victory wasn’t all that difficult. It’s not because I played so great at that final table, that’s not the case at all. It simply illustrates the power of a commanding chip lead.


I played one final big pot with Humberto when the flop came 7-4-3. Humberto had top pair, 8-7, while I also had top pair with a king kicker. If Humberto won that pot, it would be the first time since day two that I had not had the chip lead. A 5 on the turn gave him more outs, but when he blanked out on the river, I felt more relief than I did joy.


It was a strange moment. Coming to the final table with that big a lead, second place would have felt like an absolute disaster. Unlike my Borgata win a month earlier, which was extremely emotional for me, the feeling this time was much less enjoyable. Hey, it’s not that I wasn’t happy, but the Borgata win seemed more dramatic and had my heart pumping on several occasions.


Coming to the final table as a prohibitive favorite adds even more pressure than normal. If you don’t win, coming in second is even considered failure. If you find yourself in a situation like that soon (lucky you), remember to maintain your focus, stay calm, and, finally, don’t do anything stupid!




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Worcestershire finale

Our pitiless conquest of the media continued last week with a spot on Midlands Today about the Worcestershire on Film tour. Many thanks to all those who wrote in and pointed out that the footage included a couple of shots of Ludlow; please rest assured that all rogue Shropshire elements have been removed. And if you would like to catch the tour before it ends, can we recommend the screening in Pershore this Saturday 22 November at 2pm? Thanks to an on air plug from the BBC we are expecting a veritable swarm of people for the 7pm show the same day in Worcester – so if you want to avoid disappointment either get in the queue early, or get down to Number 8.


There were two full houses for the climax of our archive tour in Pershore and Worcester this weekend. A blow-by-blow account can be found in the photo diary. A big thank you to all the venues for their support, and to all the nice people who came along. Apologies to those who we had to turn away; if there are any extra screenings in the new year we’ll post the details here.

Lange and Donnellan

This week a new show opened at the Ikon gallery. Darcy Lange: Work Studies in Schoolsgathers some of the reams and reams of video footage which New Zealand artist Lange shot on his visits to schools in Birmingham and Oxfordshire during 1976 and 77. As he went along he screened his work back to the pupils and teachers who he was filming, sparking off a dialogue about documentary and how the kids saw themselves being represented onscreen.

If you happen to make it down there, pop into the Ikon shop and you can pick up a copy of the Landmarks booklet which 7inch produced last year. This is a record of a project we did around another chronicler of Birmingham life, TV documentary maker Philip Donnellan. Although the two never worked together, they had a similar willingness to involve their subjects in the work they were making. (In fact, Donnellan got in trouble at the BBC for inviting some union employees he had filmed into the edit suite at Pebble Mill.) You can also download a pdf of the booklet from the Landmarks project page.

Oliver Postgate, r.i.p.

Oliver Postgate died yesterday, aged 83, leaving behind an amazing body of work and a hell of a life. There are plenty of old kids TV programme which we nostalge over but which bore us rigid after 10 minutes on dvd. Thanks to the artistry and story-telling and fun that went into them, Clangers and Bagpuss and Ivor will always be a class apart. We look forward to foisting them on future generations for many years to come, and the marvels which he and Peter Firmin achieved in a converted pig-sty should be compulsory viewing for any filmmaker bemoaning their lack of funding.

Less familiar and equally of note (in a more grown-up, messy way) was Postgate’s own story; his crackpot inventions, his conscientious objection during the war, his tumultuous family life, and an abiding sense of inadequacy which he used as a motor for his work and talked about with candour on Desert Island Discs last year. It’s a bugger to track down, but do read his memoirs Seeing Things if you get a chance. Here’s a brief snippet, from a revelation that visited him during a hospital stay in 1978:

“What hit me then was a realisation that this joy in life that drives through all things is the life that drives all things. I felt the huge engine, the driving, rolling river of life and death, of happiness and sadness, a river of which my dark fumbling life was only a tiny part, a leaf on the rapids, yet, in my realisation of it, I was part of the river itself, both a part of it and it a part of me.”

Mystics in Bali

At the last 7inch event we showed a brief clip from 1981 Indonesian horror flick Mystics in Bali, by way of a taster for a full screening at Flatpack in March. The response since has been so striking – ie, numerous people saying ‘what the hell was that?’, ‘you’ve infected my dreams’, etc – that we felt that we should spread the joy a little further. If you like the look of it, the dvd is available from Mondo Macabro. And this Thai advert for Sylvania lightbulbs is a handy primer on East Asian bogeymen:

The Way We Were

2008 is slipping through our fingers, and we’re in nostalgic mood. Well actually, I’m supposed to be writing copy for the Flatpack brochure and will hungrily grab at any distraction that comes along. This is unlikely to be in human form as it seems that I’m the only bugger in the Custard Factory today, so I thought I would shuffle through the last 12 months from a 7inch point-of-view…

>> Just over a year ago we were showing Christmas Ghost Stories at Highbury Hall. Not strictly 2008, but this unnerving event has been on our minds of late since Mark Gatiss’ excellent Crooked House screened on BBC4. (The whole caboodle is up on iPlayer until 3rd Jan – find yourself a computer in a darkened room.)

>> In January we spent a couple of days in Belfast on a film festival training course run by the ICO, a good opportunity to blether with other festival folk and gird our loins for the return of Flatpack Festival.

>> There was a nice run of Sunday-night gigs at the Hare and Hounds. Highlights included a straight8 special, Derrick Knight reminiscing about Travelling for a Living, and the surprisingly informative Housewives’ Choice. A big thank you to Adam and all at the pub, and everyone who submitted work or played records.

>> In April this website arrived, complete with a vastly improved archive for the stuff we’ve done over the years and of course a blog – always a welcome alternative to work.

>> Shortly afterwards the Film Council picked Flatpack as one of seven key UK events within their new festival strategy. Which was nice of them.

>> 7inch celebrated turning five with a raucous do at the Rainbow. Slightly later in the year Mr and Mrs 7inch marked ten years since they first met in the projection box at Odeon New St. Oh, heady days.

>> We did guest-spots for Supersonic and Green Man festivals (fleeing the latter just before the deluge), as well as participating in Vivid’s Flux-fest with an odd and enjoyable warehouse evening.

>> Our Knitflicks weekend at Compton Verney attracted enthusiastic knitters and all kinds of strange press interest (culminating in this).

>> In the autumn we got to wallow in the work of two of our heroes, Len Lye and Delia Derbyshire, in the process discovering Derbyshire’s actual bloomin’ gasmask.

>> There was also lots of pootling around lovely venues in Worcestershire as part of a touring archive project, with Mrs 7inch appearing on local news and everything.

>> And we had a nice day out in Sheffield.

>> Then as Christmas approached we reacquainted ourselves with the spread-sheets, night-sweats and mounting drama that can only mean festival time.

Tomorrow it’ll be 2009 and Flatpack will feel a whole lot closer, but it’s nice to remember how much we fitted in this year. At a guess, well over 6,000 punters reached and hopefully most of them satisfied. If you were one of them thanks for coming along – and either way, a happy new year to you.