Vincent Meli Wins UKIPT Nottingham
Well that was quick.
In a blink and you’d miss it final table, Vincent Meli emerged victorious as the UKIPT Nottingham champion, collecting the shiny trophy and £159,325.
Patrice Brandt had to settle for second, but as he was the chip leader when the two struck a heads-up deal, he actually takes home more money (£168,425). But it’s Meli who will forever be able to say he is a UKIPT champion. He’ll also have to find somewhere to put the trophy. First world problems indeed.
After the early eliminations of Italy’s Alessandro Spina (10th) and Guillermo Nuez (9th) you sensed the final eight, who were only just getting used to the environs of the final table set, might settle in for the long haul.
There were a couple of sub 20 big blind stacks, but no one was in the danger zone. But anything can happen in poker and what followed was six eliminations in 45-minutes.
Brandt and Meli were both at the same end of the table and the chips kept flowing in their direction as Niall Murray, (8th, £24,200), Matthew Bonham (7th, £31,400), Jack Nolan (6th, £41,000), Tom Middleton (5th, £53,300), John Farrell (4th, £69,250) and Andrew Tuxworth (3rd, £90,070) were dispatched, with Meli and Brandt each scoring a hat-trick of eliminations.
What’s as remarkable in this period is that there were zero double ups, just bust out after bust out.
These weren’t lucky eliminations or extreme suckouts either. Sample elimination, Jack Nolan three-bet shoved with pocket jacks, only to run into Brandt’s Ace-King, who paired both his cards on the flop and made a full-house on the river.
We spoke to Nolan earlier in the week, and shortly after his elimination. The 31-year-old, who qualified on PokerStars for £109 said. “I’m like 1% what might have been and 99% incredibly happy. I have confidence in myself and I’m on the right track.”
With that trio of eliminations each, the stacks were pretty even, so before heads-up play began the two players paused to make a deal, leaving £2,000 and the trophy to play for. Meli’s dream day had started with a double up with aces and then quads against a full house and the script was written for the Frenchman, who has lived in London for the last 15 years, to find his way to the winners circle.
It was one way traffic during heads-up play, but there were no all-ins until the final hand when Meli’s Q♥ 6♥ rivered a queen to overtake Brandt’s pocket threes. There was a nice symmetry to this as Meli told us.
“I should’ve been out on Day 2. I had pocket threes on the button and 14 big blinds. I jam on the button and the big blind has ace-king. A flip, he hit a king on the flop but I rivered a three.”
In the aftermath of his victory Meli was calm and composed, coming to terms with the win.
“I’m very happy, it’s been a couple of hard years in poker and I haven’t been well. I can’t believe it. It went very fast and easy in a sense. The final table was only two hours, I was chip leader and everyone was short. It was easy to put some pressure. You always dream of it, but when it doesn’t happen it takes time to have a score. You still believe, but you feel it’s far away. I didn’t even think about the possibility of winning, not even at the final table. I’m very glad.”
He added. “Thanks to my wife Muna, she has been supportive of me all the way. Also to Tamer Kamel, a very good friend he’s been there with me for a long time, supporting each other.”
So that wraps up 2023 on the UKIPT, a year where Spraggy and Fintan both won titles and David Docherty dominated the leader board. Thank you to everyone who has attended the stops in Dublin, Malta, Blackpool, Brighton, Edinburgh and Nottingham. Details of where the tour will be heading in 2024 will be announced soon.
MAIN EVENT FINAL TABLE RESULT
UKIPT Nottingham £1,100 Main Event
Dates: November 5-13, 2023
Prize pool: £1,177,920
1st. Vincent Meli, France, £159,325*
2nd. Patrice Brandt, Germany, PokerStars Qualifier, £168,425*
3rd. Andrew Tuxworth, UK, £90,070
4th. John Farrell, Ireland, £69,250
5th. Tom Middleton, UK, £53,300
6th. Jack Nolan, UK, PokerStars Qualifier, £41,000
7th. Matthew Bonham, UK, £31,400
8th. Niall Murray, United Kingdom, PokerStars Qualifier, £24,200
9th. Guillermo Nuez, Spain, £18,650
*denotes a heads-up deal
Final Table Player Profiles
From 1,227 entries we’re down to the final nine in the UKIPT Nottingham Main Event. Read on to find out more about the players battling for a first prize of £201,700.
At the start of the final table the blinds were 80,000 / 160,000 – 160,000 BB Ante.
Seat 1: Matthew Bonham (UK) – 4,425,000
Dusk Till Dawn is Matthew Bonham’s local card room: “I’ve played here for years and years,” he said. Having racked up over $110,000 in total prize money, he is on track to equal or exceed his biggest ever live score (£22,500) on the final table today. After a couple of years’ break from playing poker – he suffers from a kidney disease and was very ill during Covid – it is a welcome return to the game, and to form.
“I’ve only had one bullet – I late registered the early flight,” he said, admitting that it hadn’t been smooth sailing all the way. “There were ups and downs… I had one spot where I got lucky with nine-ten, running into pocket nines.” In summary, a runner-runner gutshot straight kept him in business and started his run to the final.
Seat 2: Patrice Brandt (Germany) – 4,700,000
Patrice Brandt, from Germany but now local to Nottingham’s Dusk Till Dawn, has had a successful year. Taking down the Sunday Million on PokerStars was one of the highlights of the 40 year old pro’s recent results, along with “some other big scores” that have boosted him online at the same time as he continues to run deep regularly in big live tournaments.
In the Main Event here, he bubbled his first attempt at a Day 1, but took another shot in Friday’s flight. “Day ones were soft, but Day two got tougher,” he said, describing a turbulent early session yesterday that “started up and down, then settled into a rhythm.” That rhythm has continued all the way to the final table, where he starts out second in chips.
Seat 3: Vincent Meli (France) – 8,505,000
Vincent Meli, 43, has lived in London for 15 years and played poker professionally for nine of them. His main focus has always been on cash games and, having taken some time off just before Covid, found that period challenging.
Meli is aiming for the upcoming EPT Prague, as he has enjoyed that stop previously. “I try to go to EPTs, but don’t play the Main Events, I play the £1,000 events,” he said.
Regarding the UKIPT, he remembers the early seasons fondly: “I remember I played it years ago and it was fun – then it stopped for a while.” His return to the tour seems to have coincided with a return to form as he starts the final table with a comfortable chip lead. However the day ends, he will top his previous best result (£18,450 for winning the Sky Poker UKPC £1,000 8-Max in 2015).
Seat 4: Jack Nolan (UK) – 4,115,000
Jack was introduced to poker by his brother, who invited him to a home game. The 31-year-old, who’s a project manager for the NHS, qualified to UKIPT Nottingham via a £109 satellite. His tournament got off to a great start and he was the chip leader at the end of Day 1C.
As well as tournaments Nolan enjoys playing Omaha cash games and has recently started playing Omaha8 and Stud8. Should he finish eighth or better in Nottingham he’ll have recorded a new high score, besting the £18,860 he won back in 2016.
Outside of poker Nolan is dedicated fitness enthusiast citing Arnold Schwarzenegger as a role model.
Read more about Nolan in this article on the PokerStars Blog.
Seat 5: Andrew Tuxworth (UK) – 3,140,000
Andrew Tuxworth took up poker as a hobby, and since retiring, at 70 has been taking it more seriously. “From being really busy, to suddenly – nothing,” he said of having time on his hands and getting more interested in the game. He’s been playing at Dusk Till Dawn for the last ten years (racking up a string of small cashes, and one deep run for £25,000), but in the last year has been making the two hour drive twice a week to play.
Tuxworth won his seat into the £1,100 UKIPT Nottingham Main Event as an added prize for winning a recent regular Dusk Till Dawn event. He had some large-field event practise in Malta this summer (he qualified for that Main Event too) without a cash, but has found the deep run here at his local venue.
“I missed my yoga, bowls and Rotary to come back today,” he said. Hopefully the £18,650 he has locked up for making the final table has made it worth it.
Seat 6: John Farrell (Ireland) – 2,6750,000
John Farrell, 54, a building contractor from Longford in Ireland, has been playing poker for 30 years. He classifies himself as an amateur (albeit a very experienced one) both live and online, though he prefers the in-person game. Having discovered Omaha cash games a decade ago, he lost interest in Texas hold’em (in that format) and now plays the four, five and six-card versions of that game.
When it comes to tournaments, Farrell says, “I’ve played against the best and I enjoy playing against the best.” When he was the Sole Survivor at the Irish Open, Channel 4 interviewed him, asking “Does it frighten you playing against the good players?” He replied, “No – because they’re easier to play against than the bad players. If they don’t know what they’re doing, how are you supposed to figure them out?”
“I’m not a lucky player – I work hard for results!” said Farrell. “My plan is to win a major event, and has been for the last fifteen years.” Of his progression in the game, he admits, “I was a nit – you cannot be a nit player and be successful. You have to be a bit crazy. So I’ve changed my style of play.” Now comfortable in his game, he is on track to beat his previous best live cash finishing seventh or higher – and that elusive major title may be within his grasp.
Seat 7: Guillermo Nuez (Spain) – 640,00
Guillermo Nuez, 38, is a Spanish professional pilot whose work schedule has meant that he cannot devote as much time as he would like to live events. “I play whatever my time allows,” he said. “Poker started as a hobby, and now it’s more and more serious. This is a huge field and the most expensive tournament I’ve played – I feel like I’ve already won!”
Nuez, based in Barcelona, only plays tournament poker, and for the last two years has been improving his game and playing more regularly.
“I came here to have some fun,” he added, looking at the final table from the perspective of the short stack, “I have really enjoyed it.” His run at the final started with a smooth ascent on Day 1, then suffered some setbacks on Day 2 – but two huge pots propelled him towards the final table, where he’s guaranteed the biggest payday of this poker career.
Seat 8: Tom Middleton (UK) – 3,925,000
Tom Middleton needs little introduction. A stalwart of the UK poker scene, the 36-year-old is an EPT champion, winning his title in Barcelona a decade ago. Middleton defeated a field of 1,234 to win €942,000 but it’s far from his only accomplishment during a career in which he’s racked up over $3,700,000 in live earnings. He’s equally successful in the online sphere, where he plays as ‘hitthehole’ on PokerStars, having cashed for over $4,300,000. Among his many achievements, in 2014 he took down the PokerStars WCOOP Challenge Series Main Event, winning $500,000.
Success on the UKIPT has thus far eluded him though, with a fifth-place finish in the £2,200 High Roller here in Nottingham back in 2014 his best result to date.
Seat 9: Niall Murray (UK) – 4,680,000
Niall Murray’s last live tournament was in 2019; having once played full time on the circuit, he has reintroduced himself to the game playing satellites online on PokerStars, where he qualified for the Main Event. Now in the hospitality business, owning a pub and a music venue, the 35-year-old is keen to return to the felt: “I love the game. I want to get back into it – and change my work schedule!” he said.
Based in North London, Murray plays many poker variants and is a champion of mixed games both live and online, hoping that they make a resurgence in live festivals. As far as the UKIPT Nottingham Main Event goes, he says that he has battled short stacked the entire way, “grinding 20 big blinds for most of it.” Now third in chips, he was overheard last night simply telling his table, “I came to win.”
The Finale Countdown
It’s the final day of the UKIPT Season Finale here in Nottingham and today the final titles of the 2023 season will be handed out. There are five to be won, with the Main Event, High Roller and Cup principle among them.
Let’s start with the Main Event. The plan was to play down to the final table of nine on Day 2 but due to the massive field of 1,227 entries it always looked unlikely. We almost got there though. Ten players have unbagged chips at the start of play, so action starts on the final table bubble – which you can follow here via our friends at PokerNews.
Matthew Bonham returns as the chip leader, with a stack of over ten million (87 big blinds) whilst at the other end of the scale Guileermo Nuez is hanging on with sub 10 big blind stack.
In between you’ve got the likes of UK poker legend Tom Middleton, looking to add a UKIPT title to the EPT one he won in Barcelona a decade ago. There’s Niall Murray, a UKIPT final tablist back in 2012 and Jack Nolan – chip leader at the end of Day 1C – who we spoke to about his poker journey. He’s here after qualifying for £109 and is already guaranteed £14,350. It’s shaping up to be a fascinating final day.
Speaking of final days, the high rollers are back in action as well. We won’t have the prize pool in that one until late-reg closes at 14:15 local time. Plenty of sharks are looking to feast, Ankit Ahuja was the overnight chip leader, whilst Ben Spragg, Marcel Luske, Andrew Hulme, Scott Margereson and Carl Shaw are among the 34 overnight survivors. Expect that number to be bolstered by some late-entrants.
And in the £330 Cup, 48 players from the field of 324 are fighting it out over a first prize of £18,390. For anyone knocked out of the trio of events, they can always hop in the £500 Mystery Bounty or £100 Closer that start later today.
David Docherty: UKIPT Leader Board Champion
Form may fluctuate, class is permanent.
Cabinet makers of Glasgow stand by, it’s possible that David Docherty is going to be in touch.
The 36-year-old has just been presented with his UKIPT Player of the Year trophy. If there was any doubt the Irish Poker Open champion was going to win the leader board, it was put to bed on Thursday night when he took down the Super High Roller at UKIPT Nottingham, winning a little over £46,000, and stretching an unassailable lead that little bit further into the distance.
Docherty will have to make room in his suitcase for the trophy and room in a cabinet already containing seven trophies, accumulated from victories on the FPS, WCOOP, various live stops and the aforementioned Irish Open.
It’s been a remarkable year on the tour for the Scotsman, he’s cashed every Main Event, apart from Blackpool and along the way won the Irish Open for €365,000, finished 4th in the Summer Festival Malta Main Event and then put the icing on the cake by taking down the Super High Roller here, just to name a few highlights.
However, but for a twist of fate, Docherty would not even have been playing poker for a living anymore.
The road has not always been without bumps. To give you an idea of how long Docherty has been around, his first cash on the UKIPT came some 4,655 days ago and he made a UKIPT Main Event final table in Dublin in September of 2011, finishing eighth as Joeri Zandvliet went on to win his second Main Event title. Only three other players at that final table have a cash this year.
By 2019 he felt somewhat disillusioned with the game and applied for a couple of jobs within the poker industry. Then came the pandemic, a break to the norm which would save Docherty’s career. “Longevity in poker is underappreciated. I did nearly drop out the game a couple of times and the pandemic probably saved me from doing that. It came at the perfect time for me.”
The pandemic boosted online poker fields and gave Docherty a chance to rebuild a depleted bankroll.
“By 2019 I was at my wits end. I’d kinda made the decision to drop out. I’d had a long period of time with no scores, playing everything. I couldn’t get the breakthrough, couldn’t win the important hand at the important time and that had been happening for a large part of my career, both online and live.
“I’d had so many eighth place finishes, 12th place finishes, with six figures up top. Very much crossbar after crossbar. I didn’t let it get me down for the most part until 2019 where the bankroll had been damaged almost beyond repair, my mental health was starting to struggle with it, how long can I really do this?
“I’ve seen every single one of my peers who I hang out with on tour had had a significant score over the years, apart from me. Everyone kept telling me that you just need to keep doing it, it’s going to come through eventually. I did do that, I did it for ten years. But 2019 was the point where I just kinda called it. I don’t think I can keep doing this forever.”
Then, as Docherty puts it, two or three really weird things happened during the pandemic that all went in his favour. “One is obviously that it happened in the first place. Suddenly everyone got locked in their house and the online games boomed again. I had a chance to rebuild the bankroll online and Jack [Hardcastle] won a WPT during that period for over $400,000.
Docherty and Hardcastle had been best mates for four or five years before Hardcastle’s win and when they came out the other side of the pandemic, Jack now had the means to start backing Docherty.
“He said, why don’t I start backing you into £1k and £2ks in the UK. I was paying my own expenses, but Jack was taking my action. That gave me the opportunity to fire bullets at every stop. I was at every stop, playing every £250, every £500, every £1k, every £2k. Getting the volume in.”
In October 2021 Docherty finally had his breakthrough moment, taking down a £1k event in Luton for £138,000. As the saying goes, it’s never easy with Dominik Nitsche the player he had to defeat heads-up.
Since then he’s gone on to have more breakthrough moments, in October 2022 he first won the FPS High Roller in Divonne and then final tabled the EPT London Main Event, for a combined $170,000. Then came the Irish Open in April of this year where he exploded with emotion once he’d sealed the win.
“I’m still emotional thinking about it now. The moment the river card came down and I knew I’d won it was really overwhelming. I knew my whole family was watching at home and I had a really cool rail with 15-20 people.”
That win vaulted Docherty to the top of the UKIPT Leader Board and it’s a position he’s never relinquished, showing amazing consistency as he picked up points at every stop along the way to pick up the first prize of £15,000 package for the 2024 season. As for next year, one well known player is gunning for Docherty’s title.
“Benny Glaser messaged me after I won the High Roller here and said “I’m coming for it next season, I don’t want anyone else winning a leader board!”
UKIPT players, you have been warned.
Jodi Hurley: From £5 Pub Poker to the PSPC and Nottingham via the Power Path
The PCA branded baseball cap is a giveaway that Jodi Hurley has played poker in a more exotic location then Lenton. Indeed the Londoner, from Norwood, is a Platinum Pass winner who participated in the PSPC earlier this year. A $25,000 buy-in is a far cry from his poker beginnings.
“To start with it was difficult to get my friends to play a game for money that they didn’t understand too well, until a friend that did play online on PokerStars suggested trying out a pub poker game. We went and you have never seen three grown men so nervous about playing a £5 buy in game of poker.
“It was a weekly league structure and we were soon attending every week. I think it was probably six months before I won the game for maybe £60-70 and I was thrilled at that and had officially caught the poker bug.”
I’m chatting to Hurley shortly after he’s busted out of Day 1D of the UKIPT Main Event. He qualified via Power Path for just $1.50 and last weekend won another Silver Pass. It’s burning a hole in his pocket and he’s tempted to re-enter.
But, with each Silver Pass also containing a seat to the UKIPT Cup, which started today, he eventually decides that he’ll keep his powder dry and likely use it to play Eureka Prague in December. Although, given Hurley’s love for Power Path, he may well have snagged another Silver Pass by then as he tells me he has three $109 Step 4 tickets that he’s waiting to use.
“From the moment I heard about the Power Path and the passes I was locked into trying to qualify for one. I have always appreciated when there is extra value in games and with all the added tickets and overlays in the qualifiers there isn’t anywhere else with so much value available to players.”
So with tunnel vision, Hurley has made a beeline for the Power Path lobby whenever he logs onto PokerStars.
“My plan was to play as many of the $1.50 and $11 steps with added seats as I could, preferably not buying in directly for more than the $1.50. I grinded the game for weeks and accumulated quite a few of the $109 qualifier tickets. I was getting close but not quite winning the Silver Pass.
“My worst miss was coming ninth when there were eight silver passes after a short stack cracked aces twice in a row, the second time being my own. The very next qualifier there were five Silver Passes available and I was deep in it realising I was probably going to have to try and steal light to make it as I was pretty card dead, I got jams through with junk hands a couple of times and was comfortable this time when the bubble came round and managed to hold on to win.”
Onto that PSPC experience. Hurley won his pass via a Twitch giveaway about a year before the PSPC and although he didn’t cash in the Main Event, he did end up on the feature table on Day 2, before busting to Leo Margets.
“It was the experience of my life. I didn’t cash the Main, but I did manage second for $1600 in the $50 PSPC Invitational for pass winners and their plus ones, just missing out on the trophy and official winners photo, losing to fellow pass winner Robert from Essen in Germany, a deserving winner and real gentleman.”
It’s clear from the way Hurley talks about his poker experiences that he values the camaraderie and friendships he has built up through playing the game.
“Live poker is such a social game and a great excuse to get out and be around others and be sociable. The value that playing poker has added to my life has been immense, from making a lot of friends, to having some amazing experiences and even making a bit of money from the game.”
And he has a special message for one member of the PokerStars team.
“Since meeting him for the first time last year I have to really give a shout out to Willie Elliott (PokerStars player liaison), he would do anything to make his players comfortable and welcome and is really inspirational with his generosity and real care and consideration for the players and poker in general.”
Always the value hunter, with the interview over Hurley, a keen quizzer, is on the hunt for team mates to participate in the PokerStars Pub Quiz which starts later that evening, where there are seats in a Sit and Go with free tickets and a package to be won.
All the Fun of the Freerolls
What do Bowling, Go Karting and the length of the Great Wall of China all have in common?
They’re all ways in which you could win a Player’s Choice ticket worth $1,100. During UKIPT Nottingham the events team have laid on various activities. The top three from the Go Karting, Bowling and Pub Quiz all earned a seat in a Sit and Go. The winner of that Sit and Go would pick up a $1,100 Player’s Choice ticket, second bagged two £109 tickets, third place a $109 Bronze Power Pass and 4th-9th an $11 Power Path ticket.
Last night Jodie Winter, Brad Davey and Jack Triggs were all flexing their mental muscles as Spraggy MC’d the Pub Quiz. Answering multiple choice questions on sport, the UKIPT and Nottingham.
Now they were the final three in this turbo Sit and Go, having seen off the likes of Oli Hutchins, Liam Johnston and, in Winter’s case, her partner Ash Williamson. The latter had got it in well ahead twice only to suffer back to back bad beats. They don’t hurt any less in a freeroll. He now watched on hoping Winter would win.
Triggs and Davey had been a team in the pub quiz, they’re both Spurs fans, but had failed to answer the sport question on Spurs correctly. They’d tied with another team as quiz runner-ups, and needed a tie-breaker to make this Sit and Go. Fortunately their knowledge of the Great Wall of China was far better. Or as Spraggy put it, “not as bad as their opponent’s.”
Any idea that they might work as a team to get the better of Winter was quickly put to bed on the first hand of three-handed play. Triggs limped, Davey shoved, Triggs, who was only halfway through his breakfast at this point, shrugged and said, “Go on then,” before revealing J♠ 9♠ . He was behind to the A♦ 7♥ of Davey, but flopped a straight and improved to broadway on the turn.
This was very much a turbo, 10 minute levels, 2,000 starting stacks and aggressive blinds. But all the players were in for nothing and happy to just have a shot at winning the top prize. The action was relentless and soon Winter found herself as the short stack and all-in. Ahead to the river with a pair of eights, Davey rivered two-pair and the two pals were heads-up.
Both Davey who’s 37, and Triggs (34) live in Basildon, by day they are window cleaners, although they don’t work together. Both now guaranteed a decent return on their pub quiz investment, they decided to go all-in blind on the first hand of heads-up but only reveal one card each.
Triggs rolled over the 2♣ and Davey the 7♣ so advantage Davey, both in hand ranking and chips, as he had Triggs covered. The board ran 8♥ 10♥ 6♠ 7♦ K♦ , Triggs looked cooked. Not so fast though, he peeled the K♦ to take the lead. Game on. But as the saying goes, “it’s always coming seven,” and Davey rolled over the 7♠ . Game, set and match.
The pair embraced and shared a laugh about how the Sit and Go had played out and that, after entering the pub quiz on a whim after Spraggy persuaded them, it had ended up like this. They may well hop into the UKIPT Cup later today, but if they don’t we’ll be seeing Davey at another UKIPT stop soon.
Meanwhile, across the card room another freeroll was taking place. This one was for online qualifiers and involved a Crazy Pineapple flipout.
If you’re not au fait with the game, everyone is dealt three cards. On the flop, each player must discard one of their hole cards and it then plays out like a regular No Limit Hold’em hand. Being a flipout there were no chips or betting rounds. The qualifiers were divided across a few tables and then each winner from the initial round advanced to the final table to play one more hand to decide the winner of the seat.
Today was Robbie Sanders lucky day. The 30-year-old from Norwich, who works in maintenance at the University of East Anglia was dealt a pair of jacks among his three hole cards.
Discarding his other card by the river of the T-2-2-Q-J board he’d made a boat and was sailing off with a Players Choice Ticket, which he can use for any regional tour. He’s still in the UKIPT Nottingham Main Event as it goes, and what’s more he qualified via Power Path for just $1.50 after chancing his arm on his lunch break at work.
It’s Moving Day on the UKIPT
It may be Sunday, but they’ll be no rest for the 185 players who return for Day 2 of the UKIPT Nottingham Main Event. If they’re still playing come the end of play, they’ll have made the final table.
The £1,000,000 guarantee has been positively smashed with 1,227 entries across the five Day 1 flights creating a prize pool of £1,177,920. The eventual winner of the Main Event will collect £201,700.
Yesterday was by far the busiest day of the festival so far, with 697 entries combined across Day 1D and Day 1E, with 105 of those advancing to today’s Day 2. Two new flights created two new chip leaders. Teodor Evstratiev – who topped Day 1E with 768,000 – is the overall chip leader heading into Day 2, with Jordan Bamford, the Day 1D chip boss, a relative pauper in comparison, with ‘just’ 660,000.
They sit one and two in the chip charts, but the man in fourth place as play begins, knows what it’s like to win a UKIPT. Tuan Le took down UKIPT Blackpool back in July, winning a super quick fire final table to collect £53,630.
Other notables to punch their ticket to Day 2 during yesterday’s double dose of Day 1 action were: Hang Xu, Kevin Allen, David Docherty, Kevin O’Donnell, Waheed Ashraf, Tim Chung and Ankit Ahuja. They join the likes of Fintan Hand, Ben Spragg, Marle Spragg, Adam McKola and Elliot Hackney in Day 2 action.
As well as the Main Event, today sees the start of the £330 UKIPT Notts Cup and the £2,200 UKIPT High Roller.
A reminder you can follow the live updates from the Main Event via our friends at PokerNews Click here for live updates from UKIPT Nottingham
Vinnie Mohan: Perfectly Balanced
It’s been a long grind for Vinny Mohan to get to where he is now. The 35-year-old, who lives in Tooting, South London first started playing poker when he was 19. “I started playing after watching my friends play $3.50 45-man SNGs on Stars and got hooked and fell in love with the game.”
In the intervening 15 years Mohan has gone on one hell of a journey and ticked off a number of accomplishments. He’s made four WCOOP final tables, two SCOOP final tables, has top five finishes in the Sunday Million and Warm-up and in 2022 he hit a six-figure score, winning $103,000 in an online tournament.
The big turning point for Mohan came five years ago, when he and some poker buddies, including Tom Simm – who’s also playing in Nottingham – started streaming on Twitch. One of their crew made it deep in the Sunday Million and none other than Patrick Leonard started watching the stream.
Stars aligned, one thing led to another, and Leonard agreed to coach Mohan and the four others who were all part of the same poker crew. “In 2018 we were lucky to run into Pads and it all kicked off from there. Five of us went on this crazy journey. He taught us so much, I didn’t know how to improve necessarily. He taught us how to get fundamentally better, how to think better about poker.”
Currently Mohan plays three to four times a week and will play a full series when SCOOP and WCOOP roll around. Despite his success Mohan, who is an IT professional, has never been tempted to jack in the day job and go pro.
“At this stage no. It’s myself and my wife. I can’t just quit and say I’m off to be a poker pro. It’s quite unstable. Despite having good results, you have winning and losing months, years even. I’ve got a good job, I’ve got a good balance. For me mentally it’s good. I’m in a good mental place, it’s not just all poker. I can get away from it for a day or two if I need to.”
It’s clear he has a sensible head on his shoulders, and it’s borne out by the route he took to UKIPT Nottingham. Mohan won two seats, the first in a regular £109 qualifier and the second through Power Path where he managed to win a Silver Pass.
His friend Simm is also here via Power Path having won a Gold Pass, which he’s since split into four Silver Passes. “Because you can’t DBI the $109s, Power Path is incredible value. I luckily won a Silver Pass, I’ve been grinding them.”
So, what advice would Mohan offer to those wanting to go from micro to mid stakes?
“Study and volume is key,” he says. “That’s how I’ve basically gone from a low stakes player to where I am now. Definitely play a lot, experience is vital. Studying is key too. Get better at playing 10, 20, 30 and 40 big blind poker. That’s where the majority of poker is played in tournaments. Work on that. Maybe late-register tournaments and don’t play 200 big blinds deep, especially if you’re playing really good players who have way more experience than you do.”
It’s all very well playing and studying, but Mohan is keen to emphasise that there’s no secret formula.
“You’ve got to study right. We’ve actually got a coach in our group called Gareth James. He’s a brilliant coach. I don’t think he’d disagree, but he’s probably a better coach than player. He’s a teacher by trade. He’s brilliant theory wise and understanding the why behind things. So having him in our group of five was brilliant because the four of us, we were all players by experience whereas he was very methodical, very good at learning and understanding.”
So back to Nottingham, where Mohan didn’t get off to the best of starts. “I got coolered out of the first bullet. I cold 4-bet queens from 40 big blinds. The 3-bettor called and on jack high board I bet, he jammed, I called off. He had aces. Second bullet I got coolered a bit by Fintan (Hand). On J-J-5 I had queen-jack, he had king-jack and we got it in by the river. I was short, but I’ve somehow spun it up. I’m not doing too badly.”
You sense Mohan is one of poker’s survivors and he would survive to Day 2. He’ll be back on Sunday with a stack of 82,500 in search of a UKIPT title.
The Poker Journey of Jack Nolan: Skill, Strategy and a Heart For Helping Others
“You have to learn from every hand, every game, every loss. It’s about consistently improving and adapting to stay competitive.”
We’re sat across from Jack Nolan, a 31-year-old, who’s life in Leighton Buzzard strikes a balance between the commitment to self-improvement and a career dedicated to project management within the NHS. But there’s also a third string to his bow, poker. And he’s here in Nottingham after qualifying online.
Like many of us who find our way to the game, Nolan got his start via Late Night Poker, and in Jack’s case, his brother. “I was invited to a game by my brother and his friends. I had never played before and like many, found instant enjoyment from the challenge the game presents. I didn’t know much about poker other than what I had seen on Late Night Poker when I watched TV when I was younger. I decided to try and improve my game with little financial investment with the hopes that one day I could get good at the game and maybe win something big.”
He’s already had a number of notable results, both live and online, with an £18,860 cash for a third place finish in a £200 event the highlight of his live career. Whilst, in the online sphere, he final tabled a Sunday Million with 22,000 runners, eventually busting in ninth place, winning $14,000.
There’s a long way to go in this event, but if things continue the way they are for him then UKIPT Nottingham could prove to be his best result to date. As we chat to him, he’s the chip leader and indeed he would go on to bag the biggest stack at the end of Day 1C.
So, to the hands that got him there. In the first, holding AK, he decided to flat call a pre-flop raise, cautious not to bloat the pot against an opponent who had a big stack. The flop was king-high, Nolan stayed the course, calmly calling down three streets of his opponent’s bets and his hand was good, as his opponent revealed KQ at showdown.
Later he semi-coolered the same opponent with pocket aces against AQ and by plays end he had bagged 639,500, or 21 and a bit starting stacks.
Despite the success he’s had in poker Nolan is adamant that it’ll remain purely a hobby for him.
“For a long time, I wanted to play poker for a living, however I’ve realised that my true calling is to help other people. Poker is a great way to get some extra money, and I’ll still pursue it recreationally, however there are much more important and valuable things to be doing with my life than spending all of my time in a card room.
“I’d love to achieve the glory of being one of the best, however I no longer invest all of my energy into following that path. If it happens it happens but I’ll always maintain my goal to help others as my priority.”
When not in the card room, Nolan is a dedicated fitness enthusiast citing Arnold Schwarzenegger as a role model.
“Recently I’ve become interested in my fitness, completing lots of weightlifting exercises and maintaining a healthy diet,” he says. “Following some digestion issues, I no longer eat gluten, dairy or processed sugar and I feel much better for it. Other than that I’m very much into gaming and being social with friends.”
It’s not always been plain sailing for Nolan, who tells us that he used to fester in negativity and never knew where he belonged or what he was going to do.
“Now, I’m much closer to contentment. When we have gratitude for life, the negativity disappears. I now live each day to its fullest. I work on myself and improve by 1% each day. This is the best way to progress.”
If today’s performance in Nottingham is anything to go by, then it’s working.
The Biggest of Days
“Clear the schedule,” the tournament staff shouted. Ok they didn’t but they might as well have. Today is all about the Main Event in Nottingham, with Day 1D expected to be so big, that a satellite scheduled for 1pm had to be removed from the list of events, to make way for the expected turnout.
Flight 1D of the Main Event started a short time ago and there are already 180 players already in action including Marcel Luske, Dara O’Kearney, Daragh Davey and Ben Dobson. Those who fail to advance from Day 1D do have a last chance saloon with Day 1E – a turbo flight with 20 minute levels – starting at 19:00. Over the first three starting flights we’ve had 530 entries, expect that to be almost doubled today.
The target for those playing today is 639,500 or, to put it in poker terms, 21 and a bit starting stacks. That’s the amount Jack Nolan managed to amass last night as he led the 42 players who advanced from the field of 277 entries. More on Nolan later – we spoke to him last night – but the 31-year-old from Watford, who qualified online, is sitting pretty at the top of the chip charts.
Look over his shoulder though and he’ll see the sharks circling. Fintan Hand’s heater continued, he bagged the third biggest stack and will return tomorrow with 449,000. Also in the money and back on Sunday are: Yucel Eminoglu (364,000), Steve Jelinek (221,000), Ludovic Geilich (213,000), James Atkin (148,500), Michael Kane (132,000) and Paul Fontan (122,500).
Fun off the felt in Nottingham
We get it, you come to a big festival like UKIPT Nottingham, with its £1,000,000 guarantee on the Main Event, and Plan A is poker, poker poker. Heck even Plan B might be cash game poker rather than tournament poker. But, if you need a Plan C and the poker doesn’t work out, then PokerStars have the players, and their +1s covered.
A trio of off felt activities are lined up for those who find themselves chipless, and each will send their top three contenders to play for poker prizes in a single table tournament on Sunday November 12, at 11am. The activities are:
• Go Karting, Friday, November 10, 20:00
• Bowling, Saturday, November 11, 18:00
• Quiz, Saturday, November 11, 21:00
The winner of the Sit and Go will pick up a $1,100 Player’s Choice ticket, second will win two £109 tickets, third place is good for a $109 Bronze Power Pass and 4th-9th will each collect an $11 Power Path ticket.
Spin To Win
Even if the activities don’t take your fancy, then anyone attending has a chance to win. Fill out a short online survey and you get a spin of the wheel. Prizes range from hoodies to socks (Christmas is coming) to a deck of cards.
Online qualifiers also all receive a bag, with some tasty merch stuffed inside, including a t-shirt, hoodie, deck of cards, plus one massage voucher and two food vouchers.
Steven Taylor, A WCOOP Champion at UKIPT Nottingham
Mike Watson might have won two EPT Main Events, seven SCOOP titles and three WCOOP titles, but he was denied a fourth WCOOP title by the man sitting across the felt from me at Dusk Till Dawn.
Steven Taylor is a 43-year-old Actuary from Radlett, who plays poker entirely for fun. He qualified via an online satellite to UKIPT Nottingham. Earlier this year, on September 25th, it would be an online satellite that would lead to him becoming a WCOOP champion. He entered a $55 satellite to WCOOP 71-H, a $1,050 6+ Hold’em event. “In terms of strategy it was nothing more than trying to make straights and work out when players are bluffing at you.”
It worked. He found himself in the tournament proper and with eight players left and seven making the money he was one of the chip leaders and looking at a min-cash of $2,766 an amount that was very meaningful to Taylor’s bankroll.
“I got very nervous on the money bubble,” he says. “I was almost chip leader with eight players left. Then I just folded about fifty hands in a row and by the time it did burst I was in the middle of the pack. The bubble took forever, I was just praying someone else would get knocked out and eventually they did.”
In the money, it was time to change gears.
“Once we got to the final table I just decided no more scaredy cat. If there’s a spot worth going for I’m going to take it and I ran extremely well. I felt like whilst I was playing against world class players, their edge was far less than it would have been in a similar NLHE tournament. So for example, just finding yourself in 50-50 spots with people you know are way better than you, I was willing to do that because I knew I didn’t have an edge and that probably helped me.”
A few hours later and Taylor was a WCOOP champion banking over $23,000, a new career high score. Well at poker. “I did win ‘The Deal’ jackpot on PokerStars about two years ago for about $28k, not quite as big as the jackpot I saw was won by someone recently, but still ridiculously lucky.”
At the poker table his previous best cash was for just over $20,000 and came in…Kyiv. Taylor takes up the story. “I qualified on PokerStars, I’d never been anywhere exotic before. It was a full package for a week away, with a $3k entry for the tournament.”
There for a holiday, as much as a poker tournament, Taylor ended up making a deep run, finishing eighth. “I turned up expecting to have some fun, ran like a dream and made it to the final table. I was thoroughly outclassed, but what an experience. It was really exciting.”
Taylor has never been back, “I do try to satellite into things, but that was the most exotic by far,” he says. Whilst Nottingham might not be as exotic, his tournament here is going in much the same way so far. “It’s been a really good day so far, lovely venue,” he tells me during a break in play. I’m up to about 45,000 from 30,000 starting stack.”
Docherty Wins Super High Roller, Mckola Tops 1B, time for Day 1C
Welcome to Day 1C of the UKIPT Nottingham, today is all about the Main Event, with just Day 1C and two satellites to this, or future Day 1s on the schedule.
But before we get to today’s action we need to rewind to yesterday and catch up on what went on in the Main Event and the Super High Roller.
We’ll start with the latter. With 46 entries, the £3,200 event easily met it’s £100,000 guarantee and there were plenty of sharks circling for the £133,860 that would be divvied up among the top six finishers. Steve Warburton, Tom Hall and Mitch Johnson all made the final table but not the money, whilst start of day chip leader Kevin Allen fell in 6th for £9,370, Paul Fontan was fifth for £12,050 and Andrew Hulme took home £15,390 for finishing fourth.
Three handed it looked like PokerStars Ambassador Fintan ‘Easywithaces’ Hand was going to win his second UKIPT title in just three weeks. But, despite holding the chip lead during three-handed play, the UKIPT Edinburgh champion had to content with the bronze medal and £20,750. Still, that’s another fine result for the Irishman.
That left Hang Xu and David Docherty to battle it out for the title. Xu had one UKIPT runner-up finish to his name already, having finished second in the High Roller at UKIPT London in September, and he would once more have to settle for the runners-up spot, which was good for £30,120.
So the title went to Docherty. If there was any doubt that the Irish Open Champion was going to finish top of the UKIPT Leader Board, that issue has now been put to bed. Docherty collects £46,180 for the win and later this week will be confirmed as the Leader Board champ and with it collect the £15,000 UKIPT 2024 Package consisting of 10 £1,100 live events tickets plus £4,000 in cash.
Now, let’s switch our focus to the Main Event. One Hundred and Fifty Four players entered, and just 23 made it through to the money and Day 2. Top of the chip charts is none other than Adam McKola. The content creator – who’s part of The Club – bagged 518,000, with Brandon Sheils his nearest challenger with 460,500.
McKola – who finished third in the UKIPT Brighton Main Event – vaulted to the top of the counts thanks to a pocket kings vs pocket queens coup against Ryan Otto. It all went in pre-flop, Otto flopped a set of queens, but a king on the turn sent a massive pot the way of McKola.
He’s not the only big name to advance to Day 2 from last night’s flight. In fact, a boat load of big names will be back on Sunday. Scott Margereson, Spraggy, Tom Middleton and Elliot Hackney all finished in the top ten and further down the list of those who bagged chips you’ll find Florian Duta, Keith Johnson, Leo Worthington-Leese and Marle Spragg.
If you want to find out who tops Day 1C then a reminder that our colleagues from PokerNews are here covering the action and you can Click here for live updates from UKIPT Nottingham.
Graham Carter – Honesty Is The Best Policy
“You have to get better all the time just to stay where you are. The standard is improving all the time.”
It’s one of the first things Graham Carter says to me during our chat. It’s a great attitude and goes some way to explaining how Carter, who is now 54, has managed to play poker full-time since 2012. It’s the first of a number of lines from Carter that illustrate just how honest he is about his own play, a fine trait to have as a poker player.
As for his Main Event so far “It’s been pretty awful, to be honest. I’ve got about 15k left, I was down to six. I’m down but not out.”
Bad luck, bad beat, bad play we inquire. “Bad play if I’m brutally honest,” he replies. There he is, being honest again. “I play online pretty much, occasionally I qualify to live tournaments, he says. “I haven’t played properly live since before the pandemic. It’s so much of a different game. I was a little bit out of sorts I think. I was unlucky too. I flopped a set, he rivered a flush and put a big bet in on the river, I should’ve been able to find the fold, but I didn’t.”
If that bad beat story is one as old as time, Carter has another more unique dose of bad luck to share and I promise this one is worth reading.
“I had some real bad luck, in I think the 10th Anniversary of the Sunday Million. I was going nicely and my computer died. I was at my girlfriend’s house and I needed to get back to my house.
She’d left the car in the pub car park as she’d had a couple of drinks. I’m legging it to the pub to drive back to mine – about a 10 minute drive. It’s winter, I’m scraping the ice of the car with a credit card so I could drive it. I drove back to my house and got back just in time to see myself blinded out in 181st for around $4,000.”
Fortunately for Carter if his Main Event experience is short and sweet, it won’t have cost him the full buy-in. “I won my seat from an initial £11 Satellite that got me to a £109 Satellite. Received £300 cash for expenses, as well as the seat, so I am freerolling.”
It’s not the only spin up Carter has been on, he’s also been taking advantage of the free daily Power Path ticket. “I spin up the $0.50 free ticket you get every day, I’ve got to a few $109 sats from that.”
Before poker, Carter worked in IT and then as an actor. “Always as a kid I liked acting and always thought I’d go into it. I didn’t do enough professional hours to get the equity card before turning 16, so I just gave up on that idea.”
Fast forward a few years. “I was having a bad time at work and saw an advert in the paper for a post-graduate film and television acting training course. At the time my company was doing voluntary redundancies and I decided I was going to go for it and did a six-month diploma with Redroofs, which is where Kate Winslet studied.”
Carter went on to work mostly in corporate videos and commercials, does his acting give him any edge on picking up if people are acting at the table? “It’s not very often that you get someone who tries to look as if that card didn’t suit them, because it’s so obvious. It’s more catching micro expressions that people do without realising. I might notice that and also it’s more how I am with myself.”
He isn’t the only professional poker player in the family. His son Gary also makes a living from the game. “I taught him, and then he just took off,” says Carter. “He’s quite a private person, most of his play is online. He keeps a low profile and plays a lot of cash. He’s a better player than me. He’s very good.”
So, does Graham still see himself playing poker ten years from now? “I hope so. Being an old boy like myself, you either have to move with the times or you’re going to get beat. I’m at this point now, that I’m happy to have had a decent living for the last ten years from poker. But also, I really want to try and push myself further before I am too old. I want to see what I can get out of the game. I’m treating this live event as a new beginning.”
Speaking of new beginnings, we can report that Carter’s Main Event has taken a turn to the better and he’s spun his stack back up to 40,000.
Edi Neacsu – 50 Not Out
“It’s my birthday,” says a smiling Edi Neacsu as we sit down to chat during the first break in play in the UKIPT Nottingham Main Event.
And not just any birthday. The Romanian, who lives in Biggleswade and has called the UK home for the last decade, is 50 today. He’s spending his special day at Dusk Till Dawn, having qualified online on PokerStars, not once, not twice but three times.
“Plan A is to use the other two tickets to play the High Roller,” he grins. “And if things happen to go badly, then onto Plan B.” He may need that Plan B as he’s had a rough ride during the opening two levels, describing the competition as tough. “I’m down to 22k, but I’m grinding.”
A set back to his stack is unlikely to faze Neacsu, who has faced many obstacles in his life since moving to the UK, including a period where he was homeless.
Unsurprisingly, he says the ideal birthday present would be to go on and win the tournament and he received a surprise visit from some poker buddies before play began today. “It was a very nice surprise, two of my friends they said they were busy with their job and they couldn’t come and at 11:30 they pop in with presents and happy birthday wishes.”
Shout out to Danny Strange, Lisa Greer and Dee Ashton for the moral support and gifts, which included a limited-edition Zippo lighter and a bankroll boost for Neacsu, “for this adventure” as he puts it. “It’s so nice to have friends around you who care about you in this kind of moment.” They all play in the same home games, and on the APAT tour, where Neacsu has been the Romanian captain for the last five years, whilst Strange is the current Amateur World Champion of PLO.
Despite the early bump in the road Neacsu wears a permanent grin, determined to enjoy this day and this event whatever happens. He’s no stranger to poker success either, having taken down a PokerStars London Series event at The Hippodrome Casino in September 2021, winning over £25,000. Neacsu was taught the game whilst still young by his father but credits Jonathan Little with shaping his game in recent years. “He has taught me to play well and has coached me for several years. He always told me to enjoy myself and love life as well as play good poker.”
As for the future, Neacsu, who works as a forklift engineer, would love to win enough to give poker a go full-time, but for now his sights are set on this event and qualifying for future stops. “I will keep on trying to qualify for live events in the UK. It’s quite hard to travel abroad to play because of the job. But I will give a try to qualify to Prague.”
The Story So Far
The UKIPT first visited Nottingham back in May 2010. The first Main Event champion was Andrew Couldridge, who banked £80,000 for the win. Since then Gareth Walker, Robert Baguley, Ben Mayhew, Duncan McLellan, Sam Mitten-Laurence and Andrew Maxwell have followed him into the winners’ circle. Maxwell beat a field of 582 back in July 2022, collecting £98,150 in the process.
We expect that field size to be smashed this week, and although our live coverage from UKIPT Nottingham begins today, the events started on Sunday and there’s been plenty of action over the past four days, including:
• Day 1A of the £1,100 Main Event – both in Nottingham and London
• Day 1 of the £3,200 Super High Roller
• A side event win for Marcel Luske
The Main Event
Across two flights – one here at Dusk Till Dawn and another at The Hippodrome Casino in London – 99 players took their first shot at the UKIPT Nottingham Main Event title. As I’m sure you’re aware by now, in the UKIPT Day 1 plays down to 15% of the field, and everyone who returns for Day 2 has made the money.
Among the players to already book their ticket to Sunday’s Day 2 are Philippe Souki, the Londoner, who finished eighth in the 2022 WSOP Main Event, squeaked through with 28,000, a stacked dwarfed by Darren Ali’s 324,500, who topped the London flight. The only player to best Ali’s stack was Saleem Khan, he led the 11 qualifiers from Day 1A here in Nottingham, bagging an impressive 344,500.
The Super High Roller
The biggest buy-in event on the schedule got under way last night. As you’d expect from a £3,200 buy-in there were plenty of familiar faces at the felt. PokerStars Ambassadors, and UKIPT champions Fintan Hand and Benjamin Spragg were among those to fire and fail. But, with late-reg open until the start of Day 2, we’re sure we can expect to see them again, indeed Spraggy confirmed his appearance via social media.
Good morning from Nottingham!— Spraggy (@spraggy) November 9, 2023
Bust the £3200 tournament via losing a flip.
Bust the £60 satellite 6 from the ticket via rejamming K6 suited.
Today, I'll be re-entering the £3200. And then the main, and then the £230 PLO and then the £120 8max. Hope to see you guys down at DTD!
A look at the list of those who did make it through suggests that Fintan and Spraggy will have their work cut out if they’re to trouble the scoreboard today. Kevin Allen, bagged biggest, with Andrew Hulme, David Docherty and Steven Warburton all in the top five. Further down the leader board you’ll find Waheed Ashraf, Kuljinder Sidhu, Keith Johnson, Scott Margereson and Ludovic Geilich. Tough crowd.
Luske Locks Up A Spadie
No matter what the buy-in and no matter what your pedigree, it’s always good to pick up a cash, final table or win early on in a festival. Marcel Luske hit the hat-trick last night. The Dutchman, who had won two European Player of the Year awards before some of his opponents in last night’s £120 NLHE 6-max freezeout were even born, showed that experience mattered. He defeated Philip Joyce heads-up to win the title and £3,584 in the 129 runner event.
How to follow updates from UKIPT Nottingham
The PokerStars Blog will be in Nottingham reporting from the event from Day 1B on Thursday 9 November, through to the final table on Monday.
PokerNews will also be on hand to bring live updates on all the action from the tournament floor itself. You’ll find hand details, chip counts, and everything else from the Main Event, over on their site. The link will appear below.
But be sure you bookmark this page as well. On the PokerStars Blog you’ll find information about the event itself, more on some of the players taking part (professional as well as amateur), and a bit about what it’s like to play a UKIPT tournament.
As always it should be a great event. We’re certainly looking forward to it.
In the meantime check out more details about the UKIPT Nottingham festival, including key events, below.
UKIPT Nottingham dates: November 5 – 13, 2023
UKIPT Main Event: November 5-13 – £1,100 – £1,000,000 GTD
UKIPT Super High Roller: November 8-9 – £3,200 – £100,000 GTD
UKIPT High Roller: November 12-13 – £2,200 – £200,000 GTD
UKIPT Cup: November 12-13- £330 – £50,000 GTD
UKIPT Nottingham will be held at Dusk Till Dawn Poker and Casino, Boulevard Retail Park, Lenton.