- Entertainment Early Doors
- Rocketing into Trouble
- The River Carries Everyone Away
- Leaving the Party
It’s no mean feat that The Chip Race has reached 100 episodes. The award-winning poker podcast features special guests, strategy segments and timeless interviews that already look certain to stand the test of time.
From its earliest iteration in 2014, The Chip Race has proved to be a winner with audiences, not just in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Since Unibet Poker became involved in the show in 2016, you can make that the world.
What better way to celebrate this feat than a poker tournament? That’s exactly what happened last night as The Chip Race 100th Episode Event took place on Unibet, with a €30,000 guaranteed prizepool. Having spoken to Dara O’Kearney a few weeks back about The Chip Race, Unibet and even why GTO solvers have re-ignited his love for the game, we had to take part.
Entry cost just €100 (about $120 USD), with a €47 (about $56 USD) bounty on our head. But would our own Paul Seaton sink or swim on the Sunday grind with hundreds of others? Let’s take a look back and find out!
Entertainment Early Doors
It’s no exaggeration to say that poker tournaments cannot be won early, but they can easily be lost. Sat at a table full of random names and avatars, I was pretty happy to see that PokerNews editor and long-time poker friend and fellow writer Matthew Pitt was at my table, and even happier to see that he as two seats to my right!
Early on, we avoided each other, but like the football teams we supported on Sunday as they played out a tense draw, it was only a matter of time before Pitt the younger — the Leeds super-fan recently turned 40 – and I got stuck in.
A little like my beloved Manchester United, I couldn’t get anything going in attack early on and 10% of my stack became donations that had been spread around most of the table. Then an exchange with Pitt saw me bump myself back up to starting stack thanks to my position to his left.
Using those chips, I managed to stabilize and get a feel for the table. This was, in no small part thanks to making a few written notes on my rivals. ‘Raises in early position with king-ten’, ‘Bets big on turn and river if makes flush on turn’, that sort of thing. Watching the cards at showdown will always help when it comes to gleaning information.
I had a couple of nice hands, too. Pocket kings made me a little and although I lost with a set of sixes against a rivered gutshot straight, I lost the minimum. Money saved is money earned, as the saying goes.
It was all going quite well, and while I’d seen the exits of two more PokerNews friends in Dutch reporting masters Yori Eskamp and Frank Op de Woord, who now runs Casino Nieuws in the Netherlands, I couldn’t complain about my own chances. No table move, user-friendly graphics and a luddite-friendly lobby… Unibet Poker were impressing me. Could I do the same to all both of my fans?
Rocketing into Trouble
One of the most frequently asked questions in poker interviews is ‘What’s your favorite hand?’ which, as I learned pretty quickly in my career as a live tournament reporter is both a) the worst question of all time and b) super annoying to anyone who just busted a poker tournament. It’s a little like asking Lionel Messi what his favorite color boots are after he’s just lost in the Champions League quarter-final.
The best poker hand is, of course, the winning one, and pre-flop, there is only one hand you want to be dealt. Pocket aces, American Airlines, pocket rockets. Whatever you call them, you want two aces as your hole cards, and when you get them, what you really want is to be all-in with some poor sucker who has no idea that you have them.
The odds of any two players at a full table both being dealt aces in the same deal are approximately 1 in 3,760. But that’s exactly what happened. And it wasn’t me who was freerolling to the nut flush from the turn.
Thankfully, that entertaining run-out didn’t end in disaster, although it was my bounty at risk as you can see. I’d already taken one for myself. One poor soul got short then ran rags into my ace-rag. An easy €23.50 made on the night and another €23.50 was added to my bounty. That would turn out to be quite important in the grand scheme of things.
The River Carries Everyone Away
The notion of a poker tournament is, of course, masochistic at its very core. If there are 100 players, then 99 of them will lose. Only one will win, and take it from me, the 2013 Birmingham SuperStack champion (below, right – don’t all weep with envy at once) when you do, it actually feels a bit odd, like you’ve been left alone to tidy up at a party. The pile of chips in front of you seems ridiculous, the feeling of displacement at being alone at a table where people played cards alien in its oddity.
The whole idea of playing a poker tournament, therefore, is to prepare yourself for losing and taking what you can from your own performance. Without further ado, let’s turn to the hand that did the fatal damage to my chances of lifting a virtual trophy and thousands of Euros.
‘DonNicolaas’, who had been very active raised from the button after I’d bet to around 2.5 times the big blind from middle position with the ace-king of spades. He bet quite large too, which usually meant he folded to action over the top of it if he didn’t have a premium hand. I was, of course, ahead of a few of those already. This action he wanted he very much got when ‘Abalrog31’ shoved all-in from the big blind for 7,101. I had 8,077 chips and re-shoved to make it a heads-up affair. Once DonNicolaas folded, which of course he did, the cards were on their backs and it was off to the races as Abalrog31 had pocket tens.
A ‘race’ in poker is where two players are all-in and ‘racing’ to the river without being able to bet any more. One has a pair, with the other having two over-cards. The rough odds of each player winning the hand are 50/50, a ‘coinflip’ since there are two cards the player with the ‘overs’ has plenty of draw to hit.
As it turned out, of course, I had suited cards too. The flop came nine-high, leaving me needing to hit an ace or a king to gain another bounty, but more importantly a chip-stack that would have sat in the top 25 or so with 250 runners remaining. I was suddenly a 30% – 70% dog.
The four of spades on the turn made things interesting, however. I was now 40% to win the hand, needing a five to complete a straight, an ace or a king to complete a bigger pair or any spade – even the ten – to complete the flush.
The river, dear reader, was the seven of hearts.
Leaving the Party
It may feel weird to be the last player in your seat, but online there’s no awkward moment holding up two playing cards for an exhausted photographer in a deserted cardroom. At home, you can simply withdraw your winnings, hug your loved ones and celebrate in whatever way you see fit, as Roberto Romanello told me last week when it came to winning his Triple Crown last year during the pandemic.
Down to less than 10 big blinds, I needed a double-up and quickly. Fortunately, as Dara O’Kearney and Barry Carter brilliantly break down in their second poker strategy book, PKO Poker Strategy, the chances of you getting a call when you have a valuable bounty on your head are much greater than usual, so you can widen your shoving range accordingly because other players will be calling you off extremely light.
Really, as you can see below, they will do so almost with any two cards.
One double-up achieved, but the next one would be vital. With the blinds racing around, I’d bumped myself to ten bigs, but I needed another double to get back into the game. Another ace, another raise, but could I take it down?
The dream was over. I’d thoroughly enjoyed The Chip Race’s celebration of reaching 100 episodes (including their hilarious centenary special, which you can listen to here) but I would not be winning the top prize.
Still, poker isn’t all about winning and I’d genuinely enjoyed the event. Being a two-day special, the tournament doesn’t end until a winner is found tonight on Unibet Poker. You can, of course, register with Unibet and join in the fun yourself. I go by the name of ‘Paul_Seaton’ on there, so if I see you at the table, good luck to you… just not quite as good luck as I wish for myself!