Neil Channing

Neil Channing

Monday, 2 June 2014

Why he's giving the WSOP a swerve.


If the most common question I get in April is: "Are you going to the Irish Open?" then undoubtedly in May it's "What is your Vegas plan?"
It's always been such an easy question to answer.

Since 2001, I’ve had the same routine. I simply go at the start and come home once I bust the Main.

I did that when I didn't really play many tournaments, I did it a couple of times when I had a job, and one year I did it when I was completely Murray Mint (I had less than the smallest buy-in to an event to my name).

In those years, I've done okay. Most times I've come back with a profit, and the years that I have lost have been well looked after by my good years. I've had a few final tables, a 2nd place that I was very happy with, and one that still hurts today.

One thing I do appreciate is that spending six or seven weeks in Vegas is a very tough physical and mental challenge. I am certain that if you are not fully prepared for that challenge, then it isn't one you should attempt.

Many times I've seen players at the Series who have "gone". You can just see that Vegas has beaten them, they are exhausted or demoralised, homesick or broke. They can't see it themselves of course, and if you were to tell them what you had seen, they may not thank you. In almost all of those cases I have seen that person lose an excessive amount of money just a short time after I made the observation. Sometimes the person I have observed has been me, and sometimes I have managed to stop myself – just not often on either count.

This year I am full of self-awareness, which is one of the reasons why the answer to the question, "What is your Vegas plan?" is..."I'm going to enjoy watching it from the UK."

Imagine a summer of watching Wimbledon from my sofa (not from a cabana by the pool), of getting up at 4am to study Royal Ascot and then betting on those races at 2.30pm (rather than getting up at 4am to watch Royal Ascot and betting on those races at 6am). Imagine how much money that extra preparation time could be worth. Imagine not missing the Derby, like I didn't do for 25 of my first 35 years on the planet. Imagine watching the World Cup in a country that really cares about it. Imagine no need for air-conditioning. No walking up and down that long corridor from Starbucks to the Amazon, not playing poker at noon when you have just woke up, not paying hundreds of dollars for internet, not living in one room for two months, not queuing to pay massive amounts of juice to Harrahs, not being worried about being treated like a criminal when you're entering the country to engage in your hobby and spend loads of money to help the US economy, not having to ever choose which of the boring Rio restaurants to go to for your bad service experience today, and not having to face 100 taxi journeys where every single one has the potential for an argument, a chance to be abused, ripped off, or simply offended by some racist or sexist viewpoint.

I shall miss it, and I'll be spending the whole time thinking I've made a mistake and wishing I was there.

The Beat June 2


One thing I am certain to do all summer is follow all the action. When I say I'll follow all the action, please don't underestimate what that simple sentence will mean. I will remain a WSOP junkie my whole life. When I am there, I can easily get to the Rio at noon, play for thirteen hours, then get back to the room and spend five hours on the internet reading every single morsel of information I can find from multiple websites to tell me what was happening at The Rio that day. If I suffered the ultimate bad beat of being in a section of the Pavilion where the Wi-Fi was not great, then I'll also have a good old-fashioned four hour Twitter catch-up to get through before bed.

It's going to be so good to do all of that, having not just spent 12 hours being depressed, and without the added bonus of losing $1,500.
I'm sure I shall be following an extra 50 or 100 people, and my computer will need a dozen extra windows open at all times, but I'm going to love the opportunity to keep on top of things as they actually happen, rather than a day after. I may even watch some streaming, if they have any, something that has never really been possible from over there.

It's gonna be great.

If I feel like I'm missing out on getting a good gamble on the action, that can easily be sorted. Loads of people will be enjoying fantasy WSOP betting (probably best not to bank on me as a selection this year). Some people will be playing the very popular pools at, some will be betting on Betfair or with Ladbrokes and others on the One Drop, and there'll be loads of opportunities to buy pieces in people. I've had about 20 staking requests already.

I may write some tips on betting on poker and specifically some selections for this year’s WSOP at Betting Emporium. It'll be free to read if you are a registered user, so you should check that out. I think I've already seen a few mistakes on the One Drop event, so we should have a good chance to get involved.

On the subject of the $1m buy-in event, I may make a late change of plan and fly out there if anyone fancies buying me in. If you're a bit short, then lob us the odd $900,000 and I'll take care of the rest.

The Beat June 3


One thing that has partly influenced my decision to enjoy the WSOP from about 6,000 miles away this year is some of the behaviour I witnessed there last year. The antics I saw were largely from a small group of mainly US pros.

If you remember, I spent large amounts of the summer complaining about one simple thing. I complained that players who got a living out of the game were behaving very poorly if they communicated at the table only with players who fitted into their clique, and excluded others from a different demographic.

I was totally misrepresented by some, who simply said I couldn't take the criticism.

Some said I was attacking youth. This is not the case. I was attacking only the players who I saw, day-in day-out, chatting away at the table, who were only capable of, who only felt the need to, communicate with those of their peer group. My comments were only aimed at pros, and you so rarely see a group of older pros on the same table that the problem doesn't come up with that group.

Some said they had seen older players behaving really badly. Guess what, I have too. I was only criticising professional poker players, though. Of course it would be great if everyone behaved perfectly at all times. The people that lose a lot may be grumpy and miserable, and this may make it hard for them to smile and chat. They have zero obligation to the game and no need to see it grow and prosper. The pros do, and that is why they must take responsibility for helping the health of the game and its future.

Some said I was attacking the practice of berating, and that old guys do that too. I am against all berating of players. I often get involved in fights that are not really mine to bother with when I see players being berated. I am aware that more losing players than winning players berate. That is why I didn't ever mention berating. I'm sure those that mentioned it and attributed any discussion of berating to me were busy trying to deflect from their bad behaviour that I do focus on.

Some said I was wrong to insist that quiet, shy kids should be made to talk to people with whom they have nothing in common. That is not what I said. If you are quiet and shy and would rather sit in silence and listen to music, I would say that is not ideal and it probably does not help the game. It does not massively damage it in the way that chatting loudly for hours, but totally excluding the three guys from Pigsknuckle Arkansas who drive a truck and are playing their first event, does – just because they have little idea of what should constitute a four-bet shoving range.

Some said the WSOP is a great time to catch-up with mates. It's a convention. Of course they want to discuss poker, talk about online successes, reference everyone by their online screenname, talk advanced strategy and gossip about people that those outside of this world won't know. I agree. All that is one of the best things about the WSOP. As long as you do all of that away from the table I have absolutely no problem with it.

By the end of last years WSOP, I had hundreds of messages of support from recreational players who agreed 100% with what I was saying, and who commended me for speaking out on their behalf. I also had dozens of abusive messages from people claiming to be pro poker players, defending their right to be total arseholes. The latter abused me for being old, out of touch with the modern game, and a long-term loser.

If you really think I am a long-term loser how are you feeling about the missing $80,000 that I won't be putting in the prize pools this year?
Of course, it won't be easy for me to not be out there. Every day more people will be flying over. I'll have friends constantly trying to tempt me to jump on a plane and "just come for a week." They know I can't really do that.

It is tempting, and I may still do that, but right now I feel like the most likely thing is that I book a flight for early July and I go and play the Main Event only.

It may be the freshest I've ever been going into the Main – I ought to be hungry, and I'll definitely be well fed and rested.

I may as well win it.

Tags: Neil Channing, WSOP 2014