Don’t be a Wildebeest!
Monday, 28 September 2009
It took The Lord six days to create the earth and after that he needed a day of rest, so I imagine that he was admitted to Heaven’s equivalent of The Priory after arranging the remarkable set of circumstances that resulted in Jerry Yang's victory in the WSOP Main Event.
I also suspect that Jerry’s constant, nagging pleas to his god only just resulted in all those prayers being answered by appropriate river cards, rather than a bolt of lightening flying through the roof of the Rio Conference Centre, hitting him squarely on the bridge of his nose.
One thing about his win is that, following the PR coup of someone named “Moneymaker” winning the event, if a player can win who, on multiple occasions when all-in, is greeting bad cards with jubilation because he doesn’t realise they are bad cards, and vice-versa, then it offers hope to all of us.
This year’s final features arguably the greatest poker player of recent times, Phil Ivey. It would be great for poker if he wins it, much like a champion racehorse winning the Triple Crown.
From my own perspective, I hope my good friend James Akenhead wins it. He is a great person, respectful, honest and decent, and also a great poker player with a superb poker brain. He is certainly not the type to let success get to his head, and his head will always remain on his shoulders and not up his arse. He is fortunate to have some very good friends to help him keep grounded and mould his playing style.
Money is by no means his primary objective, although he will use it to “fill his boots” in the way any young person would be expected to, and I hope he doesn’t get too sore.
Before James got on the plane home, he left his cheque for $1.26 million on the chair on which he’d sitting playing blackjack, and then mislaid it again at the airport check-in desk, before finding it stuck in the cover of his passport.
On the day of their arrival back home in England, James and Karl made the effort to turn up at the Norman and Beverly Pace Charity Poker Tournament and, despite the jetlag, he was even kind enough to knock me out.
The Hit Squad is a group of great players who all discuss poker and help each other improve. I’ve been lucky enough to have played on the same poker tables as nearly every current big name player from around the world and in my opinion Praz Bansi has the classiest table presence of the lot. He also has a ridiculous amount of fully-controlled and well-directed flair. He has clearly influenced the flairy way in which James “float folds” his cards, a technique I have tried and failed to master, although I may follow in James’ footsteps and sit on my bed practicing a more flairy way of folding cards.
James also has his “big sensible brother” in Karl Mahrenholz, to help reduce the chances of him spunking his poker winnings on roulette tables when drunk. Karl can play a bit of poker too, and is probably the most successful poker player in the world in terms of winnings to height ratio.
I have never had the pleasure of playing against Chaz but I have heard very good things about his game and, as for his younger brother Sunny, I have played with him a few times and he would not flinch at a poker table if a bomb went off behind him.
I was recently talking to Mick McCool (that ginger poker player from Melton Mowbray who “likes” greyhounds and claims to now be a cash player not a tournament player) and we were discussing the impact on the UK poker scene of James making the WSOP final table in November. One great thing is that his tremendous success will probably result in an influx of new players onto the UK poker scene, as the PR surrounding his achievement will be very prominent in the media.
One of the reasons for this, and arguably one of the negative aspects for existing players, is that it propagates the stereotypical mindset of many players with an inherent gambling mentality – that they just need that one big win and that it is attainable.
I know this is one of the greatest hooks used by the gaming industry (The National Lottery being the best example). This is the “quick fix” approach that keeps so many running daily to lottery machines and sees hordes of mind-numbed, partly-cooked clones sitting in front of fruit machines in Vegas, pressing buttons like drones on a factory conveyor belt.
They flock like wildebeest seeking new pastures and attempt to get there by crossing the shortest, shallowest part of the river. They see a member of their herd standing on the other side and follow the quickest route, choosing to forget the crocodile infestation and ignoring the hundreds of bloodstained bodies floating down the river. They only need to see one successful member of their herd to justify their unnecessarily perilous quest.
Only the highly astute “special ones” (excluding those that wear out the prayer mat and get their god on a good day) with a highly developed skill set, and the odd ridiculously lucky one, will prove successful and the “quick fix” method, whilst most attractive to the unskilled and lazy, is very rarely the successful route to take.
It‘s easy to mistake the fast-moving, hyperactive James Akenhead as some kind of over-aggressive maniac and it is this misunderstanding that allows so many to mislead themselves as they strive for success.
Very few players can play the highly skilful game required to have constant success nowadays, especially using the high-powered, controlled-aggressive approach. The likes of Lawrence Houghton, Chris Moorman, Paul Foltyn, Sam Trickett, Javed Abrahams, Sunny Chattha and JP Kelly can pull it off but most will fall by the wayside, trying to run long before they can crawl, let alone walk.