Poker is an easy game. You need only listen to defeated players as they wander from the table, having seen all their stack slid in an opponent’s direction. “Easy game,” they will say through pursed lips.
That kind of utterance is, of course, laced with bitter irony. But when you see what someone like Iqbal Ahmed did to today’s UKIPT Nottingham field, you realise that it really can sometimes be like a stroll in the park.
Ahmed is the chip leader going into Sunday, the penultimate day of this record-breaking tournament. And he has about twice as many chips as most of his closest challengers, five times the average. He bagged 1,580,000 chips to be precise, which is the kind of stack players often take to a final table.
We played seven blood-washed levels at Dusk Till Dawn, during which the returning field of 346 was culled to 76. That meant eliminations came thick and fast, and Ahmed was personally responsible for the quashing of at least five dreams.
At one point his stack was so huge, he needed to clear some room to fit it on the table, so knocked out the player on either side of him in a single hand. That’s how you do it. And then again. And then again. As players wandered away to their respective hotels, Ahmed tried to calculate exactly how many people he had eliminated and simply couldn’t remember. He chuckled, baffled but incredibly happy at the dizzying passage of play.
Haste was the order of the entire day, and we even cruised through the bubble without a single pause. Usually hand-for-hand play can slow down proceedings, but not this time. Two players bust simultaneously as tournament officials were still counting the players. They both slipped away, probably assuming the other one was the bubble boy. That works for all.
The players chasing Ahmed include Chris Brammer, yesterday’s leader, who rode his own wrecking ball today. He knocked out the Team PokerStars Pro Jude Ainsworth on one of the first hands of the day, a straight versus flush cooler, and Brammer ended with 616,000. The other Team Pro, Liv Boeree, would follow Ainsworth to the exit soon after. And we also lost Marcin Milde and Ken Isaksen (two day one chip leaders) plus Sam Razavi, a UKIPT stalwart.
Craig Burke, who finished fourth at the last stop on the UKIPT, in Galway, is also pressing. He enjoyed a comfortable passage to 562,000 chips. He is clearly getting used to arranging a stack too.
The popular local Jason Herbert is one of the only players who emerged unscathed from table Ahmed. He bagged 550,000. The closest contender, however, is Grant Pirrie. A huge pot in the final half hour vaulted him to 1,019,500. Only he and Ahmed are through the million mark.
Today’s entertainment was so brutal and rapid that tournament officials opted to shorten the day from the scheduled eight, to a more comfortable seven. It was a move welcomed by all after the gruelling opening flight, necessary to squeeze the survivors all in today.
You can look back on whatever carnage occurred before our eyes on our two level-by-level update posts. There was plenty of blood during levels 12-15. And it was matched only by the plasma sluicing through levels 16-18.
Thanks again to the photography of Mark Gregory of PhotoShy, stepping in for the still wounded Mickey May. We will see you all tomorrow, when we will play down to a final table of eight.
Goodnight from Nottingham.