The Beat

The Beat

Monday, 2 September 2013

Channing on grinding, BBL Newcastle and Sky's TV cash game.

Back to the grind

I haven’t played a single hand of live poker since the WSOP. Years of experience have told me that playing when you first come back costs you a fortune. If you’ve won in Vegas, you arrive back too cocky, trying to show the regulars how you’ve been bashing up the international superstars and pulling moves that are way too aggressive. Every game you sit in feels too small and so you become just the fella to make it bigger. If you’ve lost in Vegas you are the guy, sitting in a £2/£5 game full of grizzled Vic regs, trying to win £50,000 while most normal people are out at a barbeque.
I’ve resisted all of those temptations in favour of staying at home and losing on sports.


I’d like to say I’ve been using my break to watch training videos and read up on the latest strategy while checking out all the stats on my HUD to repair some obvious leaks. At least I know what I should be doing.

A break can be great, but it’s important to know when to go back and I think I’ll do it this month. My body clock is roughly back to “normal” after weeks of jetlag and I’m going to break myself in gently with some smaller games. Expect to find me in the £2/£5 games at the Vic trying to suggest we make it £5/£10 or at least get the double straddle going. I may also be in the £300 monthly tournament and in any other tournies they can tempt me with.
I’ll see you there.

The Beat Sep 13 The Vic

Newcastle Live!

I seem to spend my whole life either organising the next Black Belt Live event or answering questions about when and where the event will be. I was really hoping I’d have a chance to reveal all here but, as usual, poker events get announced every day, and I’m now looking at switching the date to avoid a clash.

In the past I’ve been accused of making everything we do at Black Belt a bit London-based. I guess that is fair criticism but it is hard to point to another part of the country where you can put something on and pretty much guarantee runners.

Last year we tried an event at DTD, and they did a great job of entertaining us for the weekend. We did our brains in overlay, though, and I definitely was keen to go back to London for the next one.

The people at Aspers really looked after us and they seemed very keen to have us back so I thought we’d try something slightly new. Black Belt Newcastle Live will take place September and we'll make it a £180+20 buy-in with a £25,000 guarantee. Hopefully by the time you read this we’ll have had some satellites and you’ll be able to see a date on the site.

If you live anywhere north of Watford and you’ve never had a chance to try one of our live events, we hope to get the chance to offer you a fun weekend and a prestigious tournament with a superb structure where you’ll have the chance to win big money and a lovely trophy.

If you live south of Watford, we’ll still see you there. It only takes three hours from King’s Cross and Newcastle is a great town.

The Beat Sep 13 city

Sky’s the No Limit

Even though I haven’t played any poker for ages, it feels like I’ve never stopped due to the constant repeats of the Sky Poker cash game. Lots of people have asked me questions about it, so I thought I’d try and answer a few here. The game was filmed about three months ago in the Sky TV studio, close to Heathrow airport. We filmed over three days with the sessions starting at around 2pm and running until midnight. The show does not have a massive budget and what you see on screen is pretty much what happened with around 95% of the hands being shown in the order they were played.

Many people have asked why we “only” played £5/£5. You have to understand that everything is a balance. On the one hand there were some players who talked about coming who wanted to play higher. That would have immediately ruled out some other players. I was the person that suggested we keep the stakes reasonably small so that many different people could afford to come. I think all poker games work best when you have a mixture of pros and amateurs, of cash game players and tournament players, of aggressive and passive types and of rocks and loose cannons.

You have to also consider the needs of the TV company. Sky Poker is essentially a channel that promotes their poker site. They want an entertaining programme that they can repeat forever, but it is also important for them to promote poker as a fun game that anyone can enjoy. They feel that their target players will be able to put themselves in the shoes of someone facing a £250 raise when they hold pocket kings on an ace-high flop, but they may struggle to really empathise with the player facing a bet of £6,000 in the same spot.

Lots of people have suggested that we all played terribly and it must have been because we were finding the stakes too small. I certainly can assure you that I was playing to win and that a nice £5,000 in the "good" column just before Vegas would have been very welcome. I’m not certain that there was anyone on the table in that series who would consider throwing away £5,000 just for a bit of fun, and I know that even if they did have millions in the bank they are all competitive enough to want to win, not just for the money but also for the bragging rights.

I definitely remember playing a lot of junky hands but I usually did that in position and in pots where I was the aggressor. The game became pretty deep-stacked in the late stages and there was a lot of opportunity to play hands with big implied odds. I think some people are used to much shallower cash games online and they didn't really appreciate that enough.

I personally thought £5/£5 blinds with a £1,000 buy-in would open the event up to so many people and it would be easy to find a steady stream of players to pass through the game. It turns out I was wrong. We struggled to keep the game going for three days; there was often an empty seat on the six-handed table and the game really lacked a crazy gambler who was prepared to give a bit of loose action.

Generally, the guys who did play made few mistakes and if I’d have found myself in that game at a casino I’d have suddenly decided I had some urgent ironing to catch up on at home.

I think there are plans to make a new series in the future. I would definitely do it again. If you feel like you could put £5,000 in a Sky Poker account and come to a TV studio and play for a few hours, without looking too miserable or folding every hand, I’m sure they could find you a spot.

The Beat Sep 13 Channing

Tags: Neil Channing, The Beat, Black Belt Poker Live Newcastle, Sky Poker Cash Game