Chris Moneymaker doesn’t deal the cards, but if he did, he’d probably be the most action-inducing poker dealer in the world.
Earlier tonight, on the final day of the £140 Moneymaker Tour stop at the Le Meridien hotel in Piccadilly, Moneymaker sat down in the dealer’s seat to deal the first few hands of the heads-up encounter between Andrew Barham and Justin Bateson.
“I think I suggested it actually,” Barham tells PokerStars Blog. “I thought it would be a good photo opportunity.”
It turned out to be a lot more than that. With just one hand dealt from Moneymaker’s fingertips, it was all over and Barham won £7,501 plus a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars Players Championship worth roughly £26,000.
“It was unbelievable,” he tells us, as his enormous victory began to sink in. “When I was coming back from the break to play the heads-up, I bumped into Moneymaker and asked him if he had any advice on how to approach the heads-up with a chip lead. His advice was to put lots of pressure on, play lots of small pots, and know that my opponent was going to miss more than he was going to hit. It was very sound advice.
“Then in the first hand I looked down and I had pocket kings. I took Chris’ advice and min-raised from the button, which was called.”
Barham flopped an overpair on the queen-high flop, while his opponent Bateson had flopped top pair with a flush draw. As you can imagine, action ensued.
“On the flop, I felt very confident I was ahead, so I wasn’t expecting him to raise. When he instantly went all-in, I made the call and he had what I hoped he’d have. It’s never easy though. I had been on the losing end on a couple of two-outers at this final table, and he had a lot of outs.”
Barham covered his eyes as Moneymaker burned and turned. Fortunately for him, the turn and river were bricks, and the tournament was over.
“I was completely overwhelmed when the final hand was done,” Barham says. “I can’t describe how badly I wanted to win the Platinum Pass. Over a three-day poker tournament, there’s a lot of emotional energy involved and a lot of concentration, so the relief at the end was very overwhelming. It was an incredible feeling.”
Barham, a 50-year-old Aviation Insurance Broker who lives in East London on the Isle of Dogs with his family, now has nine months to prepare for the biggest tournament of his life: the €22,500 PokerStars Players Championship, which takes place in Barcelona next August.
The £140 Road to the PSPC Moneymaker Tour stop attracted 468 total entries, creating a £54,475 prize pool. There was roughly £10,000 reserved for the winner, as well as a coveted Platinum Pass worth approximately £26,000, and it was this top-heavy payout structure that prompted Barham to switch up his tactics coming in.
“£140 is a lot of money,” he says. “When you’re playing poker, sometimes it’s easy to forget that some people can live on that for a week. But the prize on offer in this tournament was so huge that it was unbelievable value.
“Because of the nature of the prize, with the Platinum Pass making it so top-heavy, I felt I would have to be aggressive and take calculated risks to build a big stack,” he says. “I saw that other people had finished Day 1A with more than 300,000, so I set myself that amount as an aggressive target.”
Barham stuck with his plan (“tight and aggressive, my usual game.”) and began picking up good cards. Thankfully for him, they held up when he needed it most. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though.
“I had a few rocky hands at the end of Day 1 and was probably starting to go on tilt, so the day ending was good for me,” he remembers. “I came back fresh the next day.”
Barham swiftly managed to increase his chip stack up to the 600K mark on Day 2, before running into a spot of bother, requiring a miracle river card for him to survive.
“I found myself all-in with AQ vs queens, and felt my tournament was over,” he recalls. “Four cards down, there was no sign of an ace. I stood up, put my coat on, and was ready to leave. Then an ace hit the river, which was incredible. Then the very next hand I picked up pocket aces versus the pocket kings of the chip leader. He was a very aggressive player, and I actually had a hand for once. It couldn’t have played out better. From that point on I had a big stack, and I never looked back.”
The short days (just six hours of play on Day 2 saw the field whittled down to a final table) meant that the eight remaining players could get a good night’s sleep. For Barham, that’s essential.
“If I’m honest with myself, I think my limit of playing quality poker is around six or seven hours. Beyond that, my emotions come in, and it’s difficult to keep going. This format suited me.”
Barham entered the final table as the chip leader and decided if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“My strategy coming into the final table was the same as it had been all along: play big hands aggressively and work in the occasional bluff,” he says. “I was showing down a lot of my hands yesterday, which isn’t something I usually do, but I wanted everyone to see I was playing strong hands.
“I had the comfort of a big stack and told myself it was just a sit and go tournament with eight people. I did not want to think about the enormity of the prize.”
Barham managed to increase his lead, mainly by stealing the blinds. “I went from 3.6M to 4.5M, and my plan was to gradually suck the life out of the other players as the blinds increased,” he says. “I could see there was a lot of nervousness at the table, so I ran a few more bluffs than I normally would. But it was working.”
When they got down to three-handed, a deal was proposed and agreed upon. This was music to Barham’s ears.
“I was quite keen to make a deal, as I just wanted to play for the Pass,” he tells us. “I wanted to keep the pressure on them, but get the money distraction out of the way.”
His plan worked like a charm. But in the end, his lucky charm was none other than Chris Moneymaker himself.
Barham had his first taste of poker around a decade ago in a £10 tournament at a corporate event for his work and enjoyed the psychology of the game. He then found himself heading to Las Vegas for a friend’s 40th birthday party.
“I’m actually quite a risk-averse person, so I didn’t want to play the casino games where the house has a huge edge,” he says. “So I played a few poker tournaments instead, and I’ve been playing ever since.”
While his Hendon Mob profile is actually a few cashes short (it only shows his scores since 2017), he’s actually put up some good results over the years, including a second-place finish at a PokerStars event in Macau for around £3,000, and a £12,000 score in a £220 tournament two years ago.
“I’ve been through all of the phases poker players go through,” Barham says. “Playing live, switching to online, losing online, switching back to live. I still play occasionally online, but now I mainly play live events with buy-ins ranging from £140 and £440, which these stops are perfect for.”
Barham had planned to chase his Platinum Pass dream at future Moneymaker Tour stops, but now he can just relax and take it easy. Of course, there’s still the small matter of preparing to play a €22,500 tournament.
“Let’s be honest, the chances of me winning…it’s a long shot,” Barham says. “I’ve been so focused on winning this Platinum Pass that I haven’t thought about how I’ll prepare for such a huge buy-in.
“I know what I’m not going to do though, and that’s sell action. I want to play it an optimal way for me, which means not playing it scared. That fact it’s a freeroll will help with that, so if I don’t win, I haven’t lost anything.
Unfortunately for Barham, Moneymaker won’t be dealing at the PSPC 2020.
“My plan is just to go and play good poker.”
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