Neil Channing

Neil Channing

Thursday, 8 January 2015

On tournament travels and new year resolutions.

Selling In

As many people have amusingly pointed out, no sooner had I announced last month that I became a brand ambassador for Sky Poker, that they immediately sold the business.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Sky Betting & Gaming has recently been sold. That is largely how the press reported it anyway. What has actually happened is that they have become a separate company and CVC Capital have bought 80% of the company for £800m. CVC have done brilliantly in recent years. Sky will retain 20% of the company and Sky Bet and Oddschecker, (who are also owned by Sky and are part of the deal), will keep their brand names and carry on as normal.
I am immediately hitting back at all the jokers who have made comments about Sky selling up the second I came on board by pointing out the excellent valuation of the company, which of course shows not only how terrifically well they’ve been doing in a tough market, but also how much value I’ve already added to the brand!
I note that last year CVC were thinking of paying £1bn to buy Betfair. Imagine waking up one morning and realising you did that! Hopefully they’ll be very happy that they made a great purchase and they’ll decide that all Sky Poker brand ambassadors should be paid double.

I’m told the Football League don’t have to worry too much either. You’ll still be sponsored and it’s business as usual fellas.

Back At The Vic
Part of my role with Sky Poker will be to get out and actually play a few hands of live poker, something I didn’t really do too much of last year. This month, my main focus will be at The Poker Room above the Grosvenor Victoria to play the first leg of season nine of the GUKPT, with a £200,000 guarantee that will definitely be smashed.

Last month, I was at The Vic for the Grand Final which had a whopping £400,000 up for grabs before a seat had been taken, and that ambitious guarantee was achieved comfortably. The Vic always provides the numbers and attracts some of the top pros, alongside plenty of live and online qualifiers, a few local businessmen and tour regulars, many of whom are attempting to defy maths and logic and prove that it is possible to be a professional player who just plays live tournaments.

It is that variety of players, age groups, styles and standards of poker that I love about any good poker game, along with the fact that players travel from all over the country to play what is a genuine UK-based tour. I would go further and say that if you don’t have a mix of people then you almost never get a good game.

The Beat Jan 15

Further Shores

It worries me slightly that the other main poker tour can’t seem to see this. I hate to nag the UKIPT but I would like them to change some things so that I can play them again. Putting aside the enormous rake for a moment, I would say that holding your events on obscure islands that are hard to get to unless you happen to live there and work for one of the main employers is not going to encourage regular guys with a job to travel.
Holding live poker events outside of the UK and Ireland sounds fun, particularly if it’s sunny. However, if that means that loads of extra money is taken out of the prize pool, a week off work is required and extra expenses that will eclipse the money one puts aside for buying into the tournaments that week are also needed, then, in my opinion, it’s no good for most of the regular tour grinders. Making it harder for people to simply buy into the event with cash is going to mean that they are full of online pros who grind satellites all day and are forced to attend. Those people will of course all know each other, will either not speak at the table or will speak about strategy and poker experiences that alienate the few “normal” people,  making those few ‘outsiders’ unlikely to return.
Perhaps you are happy with that. I can see a lot of benefits in holding events that need a lot of lovely online satellites to fill them and give a structure and an end result to the daily grind schedule of the many online satellite pros. I can see how a meet-up of players is great for customer retention and brand loyalty, and I can also understand how the tour could be pretty profitable in it’s own right. I do think, though,  that there is a danger that the tour could become, essentially, meetings solely between UK pros and semi-pros all very much of the same demographic. I can’t see how this would be the long-term goal. I’m sure that this month’s event at the Hippodrome will attract plenty of casual, ‘walk-in’ players from the London community, but I’m not certain that those players will follow the tour around and surely that must be a disappointment to all concerned. With £70 juice to pay on my £700 stake and 3% creamed off the top I’m afraid the event will have to just try and manage without me.

The Beat Jan 15

Finding a Resolution
One thing that isn’t even a New Year resolution this year is to blog more. I don’t even have to resolve to do it as it is just going to happen and that is it. I haven’t written a blog now for over 18 months. Part of the reason for that is social media. I embraced Facebook pretty early on and I was soon spending 20 hours a week replying to questions there and attempting to promote my little poker site. When I switched to Twitter, I thought I might spend less time online, but the search for the perfect retweet seems to take almost as long. It’s easy to tell people what you are up to via social media and then it seems slightly pointless writing a blog.

I think that blogs should be a bit different though. I always tried to make mine a combination of what I’ve been up to lately and a comment on specific issues that may have come to my attention recently. Usually it’s not possible to describe those issues and my reactions to them in just a few characters. The demise of my blog, something I’d done once a month for over seven years, coincided with the time that Black Belt was really starting to struggle and it’s definitely true that it’s easier to write about things when they are going well. I certainly felt at that time that there were things I wanted to say but couldn’t, and after we closed the business I really wanted to just forget about it and move on.

Catharsis in Blogging
Now, though, I think that taking time to reflect on things and assess where we each went right and wrong and what could have been done differently is a good thing. It’s not only cathartic to write the blog but it also can help you to plan and to examine thoughts you might not really take time to really reflect in our hectic world. For all of these reasons I’m going to start again and hopefully you’ll read my returning attempt. I think I’ll go back to where I left the diary of my life and talk about things that have happened in the last 18 months before I start rabbitting on about how A-K didn’t beat a pair of nines.

The one slight problem with blogging, and my main excuse for not getting round to it in the last six months was where to put it. I used to send my blogs to The Hendon Mob but the boys are not running that anymore. After that, I always posted my thought on the world up on Black Belt, a site that no longer exists.

Luckily, the good news for those of you who want to keep up with the adventures of a middle aged guy who never really got a normal life with a job, a cat, a dog and ‘2 Point 4 Children’, is that there is plenty of space for my blog on Sky Poker. We actually ran a competition to name the blog so if you are looking for it, then search for ‘Channing’s Chat Box’.

If I don’t at least get nominated for Best Blogger in next year’s Bluff Europe British Poker Awards there’ll be trouble! 

Tags: The Beat, Neil Channing