I was interested to see the legendary Vic, which so many of my European friends have told me about. Many of the casinos that I have been to in Europe have fallen a bit short of the images I have had in my head. The Vic certainly was impressive, though I must admit, interestingly enough the card room (which, of course is what I had heard about) was not as impressive as I had imagined. Apparently, they have massive new plans for a new state of the art card room that will be in place the next time the London Masters is in town next year. The casino, however, is quite a booming place, with many table games, and many fewer slots than I would have imagined...which is a nice break from American casinos, with their hundreds (or thousands) of noisy, flashing slot machines spread as far as the eye can see.
I was here for the London Masters, and had qualified on Poker Stars. I don't get to play much anymore, so I was very happy to win my seat (and a second one, thank you very much) after trying my luck at three super satellites online.
The people at the Vic were really great, and after some problems during registration where they were clearly understaffed, the tournament went off without a hitch. Actually, I must say I saw as little whining and complaining, and rulings by floor people as I have ever seen at any tournament.
I found out when I arrived that we were to be broken into two flights. We would draw at 2pm, and those that drew day one played at 4pm that day, while the rest came back at 3pm the next day. I was lucky enough to draw day two, as I was not looking forward to playing one day, then having a day off. The two flights of 120 or so would play down to 12, and those twelve would combine with the 12 from flight two, and would comprise the final 24 players, who would play down to one. The final 24 all got paid, and the final nine would be on TV. Top prize was 280,000 pounds, or about $500,000.
I was pleased to get to my flight on day two, and find only one name that I recognized at my table. Luca Pagano, a top Italian player was to be to my right. Ironically, Luca was the one who knocked me out of the EPT France tournament earlier in the year, so I looked forward to getting to know him better, and possibly returning the favor.
Top players that I saw in the field were Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, Isabelle Mercier, Kathy Liebert, Ram Vaswani, Tony G, Kirill Gerasimov, Willie Tann, Noah Boeken, Stewart Nash, and many others.
The table was a very tight, timid table, which may not provide you the opportunity to get a monster stack, but it can be good to build chips. I was knocked down to 5,000 chips (we started with 10,000) right out of the gate, after I tried to trap a guy by limping from the small blind, and the card that made me two pair on the river, made him a wheel.
From there I got it back up pretty quickly. I had Pocket Aces once, and they held up. I decided to play for all my money with Pocket Queens (the guy who re-raised me was the only guy at the table shifting a lot of chips, so I felt he could have a smaller pair), and the first card off was a Q. Now at about 25,000, I took the aforementioned Mr. Pagano out with AK, after I believed him to be on a blind steal from late position. He was on a steal it turned out with Ace 4, and I didn't get unlucky with a nasty four, so off I went.
I will recount one key hand. There was this wild young Czech player who sat down at our table pretty short stacked...he had maybe 6,000 chips. He was moving in every third or fourth hand, and we all looked at each other like 'right, who is going to clip this fellow?' On this one hand Jac Arama raised it to 3,000, and the Czech player moved all in for about 10,000 (Jac had about 20,000 left). I looked down at AK suited, knew the kid was on a move, and hoped Jac didn't have a monster. I moved my stack in, which had Jac pretty much covered. Jac debated for along time, and finally folded. It was a good thing he did fold, because a river King (the kid had 8 10, and caught an 8 on the flop) would have made Jac a flush, but was also the card I needed to knock the Czech out. That put me at about 45,000, and I was the clear chip leader at the table. Just when I was able to take advantage of having the big stack at the table, they moved a guy with a mountain onto our table (of course to my left). I got it up to about 55,000 with about 30 people left....and then proceeded to go on a Caldwell-esque dead card run the likes of which haven't been seen in the Vic for a long time (OK, I exaggerate). I saw one pair, and zero big Aces the last three hours of the tournament. I actually feel kind of lucky to be where I was at. I was making "creative" moves down the stretch with hands like 8 10 suited, and just got lucky that I never ran into a hand.
I made it into the finals on fumes, 22nd out of 24 remaining players in chip count.
I arrived the third day my second day with very modest hopes. I played all of one hand. With only 4 big blinds in my stack, I pushed my chips in with the first Ace I saw (Ace four actually), and ran into pocket queens. No miracle Ace for me, and I manage only 23rd place, but take home 4,000 pounds (a little over $7,000) for the effort. The result was actually really disappointing for me, as I had a stack early, and couldn't maintain it.
Overall, this was a pleasant trip, and the people at the Vic, and the Poker Stars people should be commended for a top notch event. I will see you at the next event I am in.
Ed Note: Poker Stars have our highest rated tournaments, find out why