The 44th Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) has seen the Canadians dominate the race for the most bracelets won outside of team USA. 10 gold bracelets in total, a fantastic achievement when you do the maths on a per capita basis. But I’ve never been any good at Maths. It was a lesson where I much preferred sniffing Tippex thinner at the back of the class. I just couldn’t see how maths would ever come in useful. Then I found poker.
Those 10-bracelets are the most that any country has ever won outside of the United States. But you would expect that award to go to Canada, because the USA apart, they are the country that sends the most players south of the border to play in the greatest poker tournament in the world.
So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the third country to win the most bracelets, at this years series, are the lads and lasses from the United Kingdom. After the USA and Canada, it’s the United Kingdom who sends the majority of their troops over the Atlantic Ocean when the month of May is ripped from the calendar and thrown into the bin; and it’s the UK that I want to focus on in the remainder of this article.
I believe the UK poker community is going through a tough time at the moment. Variance is hitting the country and we are collectively going through a downswing. When I first came to the WSOP three years ago I shared a mansion with eight other poker players from the UK. Of those eight I have only seen three of them at this years series, and none of the three that I saw are heading back over the water with more money than they arrived with; three of them are out of the game and one of them is grinding his arse off desperately trying to get out of make up.
There have been 16 European Poker Tour (EPT) champions crowned since Zimnan Ziyard took down EPT Loutraki in 2011, and 32 World Poker Tour (WPT) champions crowned since Dave Shallow took down WPT Dublin back in January 2012. We seem to have lost that winning touch, and when David Vamplew took second in Event #2: $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) 8-Handed, it looked like things would continue along the same vein.
Each time I ran into a player from the UK their persona reminded me of the British weather. Cold, dull and dreary. It was as if the vast collection of bad beat stories, coolers and tales of woe were getting to the guys. Everyone was down and it was going to take a superhuman effort to get everybody back up again. It’s all down to a lack of cash. When Chris Moorman took the decision to reduce his backing regime to a mere drizzle things got tough in the UK, when players keep losing large sums of money in live cash games – whether it’s down to variance or not – backers are going to tentatively back off. When players continue to run bad online and run up large sums of make-up everyone develops a sudden lack of interest.
It’s like Jeff Sarwer told me earlier today: “I have cashed for over $600k and have spent $200-300k on buy-ins. That gives me a 100% ROI and yet I don’t have much of that money left.”
The job of the professional poker player is a cost-heavy business and if we were in Greek mythology the UK poker player would be Sisyphus.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. In just one trailblazing week Matthew Ashton, Barny Boatman and Matt Perrins gave the UK something to shout about. All three of them taking bracelets back to the UK when it seemed we were heading home empty handed. The Boatman and Perrins rail undoubtedly two of the most memorable of the series; proving how passionate we can be, and how solid we are as a group even after a very tough few years.
The most impressive individual performance of the series was that of Ashton. It says so on the tin as the Scouser currently leads the WSOP Player of the Year race. The British mixed game hot shot taking a third, second and seventh before winning the biggest mixed game title of them all, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship for $1,774,089.
So that’s three bracelets for the miserable gits from the UK, but the success of Ashton, Boatman and Perrins seems to be rubbing off as the UK players have a decent presence in the final 300-players of the main event itself.
At the time of writing Kevin Williams is in the top ten with 1.5m chips, Stevie Watts sits on 950k, Kevin Allen has 900k, Shaun Conning has 850k, Ash Mason has 660k, Luke Schwartz has 509k, Stephen Bellamy has 479k, Tom Alner has 445k and Eli Heath has 345k. Over 75% of those still in with a shout of becoming the world champion were singing and chanting in either the Boatman or Perrins rail. They have seen a few dreams turn into tangible evidence of what is possible with the right attitude and a large amount of luck.
So come on lads. Chin up. Stop moping around and go and grab that $8 million by the bollocks. Let’s bring home some serious cash to the UK and then blow it all in casinos up and down the country, so the rest of the poker community can get a much needed injection of cash.