The Amateur Poker Association & Tour (APAT ) held the first live event, the English Amateur Poker Championship, of its first season at the sumptuous Broadway casino in Birmingham over the weekend of the 23rd-24th September. Significantly oversubscribed, the event was full to the venue’s 120 player capacity giving many players their first taste of deep stack live poker. Of the 120 players around 20 were playing live for the first time.
At a buy-in of only £75 and with 10,000 starting chips and a 40 minute clock the structure was designed to give the players who had been lucky enough to secure entry real opportunities for creative play and an antithesis to the shallow stack re-buy competitions normally provided for new and recreational players around the country.
The Tour sponsors, PokerStars.com, are providing an expenses paid entry to an EPT event for the winners of each of the seven series one events and the added prize for the winner of the inaugural tournament was entry in to January 2007’s EPT in Copenhagen with a total value of E8,000. Also provided were cash prizes to the top nine finishers, medals for the top three and an engraved championship cup to the winner.
In another innovation play began on each of the two days at 3pm and finished on day one before midnight to allow potentially inexperienced players to avoid playing at unfamiliar times for them. A feature of the competition was the remarkable atmosphere it was played in. Each and every player exiting the competition was warmly applauded by all the other competitors, the dealers joined in the fun and the sometimes intimidating nature of festival events with an occasional air of jaded cynicism was entirely absent.
With a soft structure the early levels were uneventful until we had our first major confrontation, an almost inevitable KK versus AA all in pre flop with Ben Turnstill from Luton spiking a King first card out to send another runner home early . Sadly for Ben he then tangled with Jay Woods from London (who had already eliminated Chris Hall from Staffs with J6 versus QQ!). Ben was holding Q 10 on a Q 10 8 board, pushing on a blank turn and walking into Jay’s J 9 for the nuts. This left Jay with over 60,000 chips and chip leader by a considerable distance.
Elsewhere the tournament was beginning to hot up. A feature of the next two days was going to be some unfortunate bad beats. Take this one for example. Stephen Waddington with QQ and Jeff Povey with KK are all in pre flop together with a short-stacked Christian Briggs with A 10. The board provided a real rollercoaster of emotions for all three players : A 10 Q,K,Q, so quads beat the full house and a flopped two pair.
Amongst other players challenging on the first evening were Nigel Johnson who’s AA held up in a multiway coup to propel him towards overnight chip leader, Mark Donnelly who’s AQ bust AA by making a straight on the river and Alistair Fowler (above) who was the life and soul of the party and bluffed and bullied his way to a big stack as well as catching big hands at perfect times such as finding AA on the button with the cut off already having pushed.
At the end of the first day 33 players had survived. Chip leaders were Alistair Fowler with 74,000 and Nigel Johnson with 73,000 followed by Liverpool’s Jimmy Doran with 62,700. The remainder of the field, a few short-stacks apart, were tightly grouped in the 30-50000 region. Blinds on the return were due to be 1000-2000 so there remained plenty of play.
As the field whittled down on Day 2 two players overtook the overnight chip leaders. Matthew Milne (right) from Glasgow flopped trip Jacks to eliminate an opponent with top pair on a King high board to move over 100,000 chips and Trevor Heath from Cornwall won an unavoidable confrontation holding K8 in the small blind versus the big blinds 87 on an 87K flop to move over 85,000 chips
One of the key hands of the tournament occurred with 19 players left. This was a vital moment of the tournament because the top 18 finishers were to receive APAT player of the year points, the Player of the Year receiving a WPT package as their prize. Matthew Milne raised UTG and Nigel Johnson pushed all in from mid position for 80,000 chips. Matthew instantly called with AA and a forlorn Nigel turned over KK. When the AA held Matthew had over 250,000 of the 1.2m chips in play and then executed an impressive aggressive big stack game to go deep in the tournament.
At around 6.30pm on day 2 we were down to our final table as follows:
1.Antony Wolsely from Halifax: 42,000
2.Jimmy Doran from Liverpool 60,000
3.Matthew Milne from Glasgow 273,000
4.Steve Parker from London 75,000
5.Mark Donnelly from Birmingham 153,000
6.Scott Moore from Cumbernauld 50,000
7.Dan Phillips from Tamworth 240,000
8.Andy Winkett from Cradley Heath 121,000
9.Trevor Heath from Cornwall 74,000
10. Alistair Fowler from Elgin 123,000
The action was not long in coming. Matthew raises in mid position and is re-raised all in by Steve Parker. Matthew calls and shows QQ to Parker’s Aces. Amazingly Matthew spikes a Queen on the river to send Parker home 10th and rocket him to over a third of the chips in play. Trevor Heath lost a race with his JJ versus Wolsely’s AQ to exit in 9th followed by the aggressive Fowler in 8th after being pushed off several pots by re-raises and unsucccessfully pushing before he was blinded away.
At that point Scott Moore who had played an incredibly patient an disciplined game moved into contention with a treble up, all in pre flop with two callers, as his AQ won with Ace high! Andy Winkett departed in 7th and at that point the blinds, moving to 10,000-20,000 began to bite. A see-saw battle ensued with chip counts swinging wildly as the players aggressively battled for finishing positions in the top three where the payout structure had concentrated the rewards and more specifically the top spot with the added value.
Matthew Milne experienced a particularly up and down level, his AK call of an all in by Doran being beaten by 10 9 and A 10 by Q J to the same player. However Jimmy Doran then re-raised all in with pocket 10’s. Unfortunately for him Wolsely was holding AA to eliminate him in 6th. Wolsely’s situation was soon to turn though when he attempted to eliminate Mark Donnelly (right) by calling his all in with A 10 suited and lost to AQ. When he then lost a race with a pair versus KQ suited he was out in 5th.
Four handed the chip counts were even, the blinds were big and the prize structure top heavy. A little bit of luck was required for one of the four remaining to triumph. Here Daniel Phillips won two key hands. JJ versus Moore’s AK and KQ versus Milne’s 10 10 to move into a healthy chip lead. When Scott Moore, short-stacked, ran into AJ after pushing with K 10 he was out in 4th and Milne unluckily left in 3rd having lost the important races at the wrong times.
Daniel Phillips and Mark Donnelly were thus heads up for the title. Phillips had a healthy chip lead which was lost on the first hand losing with 66 versus AJ all in pre flop but the battle was to be short when Phillips hit a flop of 8 2 2 for his hand J2 and Donnelly caught his pair on the turn to be drawing dead when the chips went in.
Daniel Phillips is therefore the English Amateur Poker Champion and off to the EPT Copenhagen as part of his prize