It’s not often Luton becomes a main attraction, but when there’s a BlueSquare.com GUKPT in town, the fabulous G Casino becomes a hotbed of poker action as fanatics nationwide make the roadwork-infested journey up/down the M1. In all, an impressive 376 players stumped up the £1,000 buy-in fee meaning alternates were required, Russ Cawley joking, “I’m sure the players would make room if they knew I was on the list.”
Among those taking their seats were a host of big names including Dave Colclough, Marc Goodwin, Neil Channing, Julian Thew, John Gale and TV maestro Ian Frazer, the latter fresh off triumphing in the Omaha event the night prior. At the other end of the spectrum lay a number of familiar faces from the small screen with Wayne Mardle, Teddy Sheringham, Tony Cascarino and Michael Greco adding a touch of glamour to the event and desperately trying to overhaul the ‘poker celebrity’ stereotype.
Whilst Gary Mills was awarded the wooden spoon as the tournament’s first victim, online pro Chris Moorman enjoyed a flying start when he found aces against Dick Lynch’s kings. Meanwhile, fellow titans of the virtual felt in Stephen Boyd, David Gent, Gregory Howard and Paul Foltyn were also making their presence felt. However, when the two surviving batches were pooled together for day two, it was David LaRonde who held a commanding chip lead with over 100,000 in chips whilst Adam Lawler led the chasing pack in second with 83,125.
A few suspicious eyebrows were raised when Dana Immanuel and James Dempsey arrived late and breathing heavily, but their excuse of “heavy traffic” was soon justified as other latecomers followed. Meanwhile, a handful of players will have wished they’d met the same obstacle as Jonathan Martin, Howard Whittingham and Adam Lawler all suffered early crashes.
As the day grew long, Leo Kam, Rob Sherwood and Andreas Mihail all enjoyed time at the top before a monstrous pot launched Sam Trickett into what would prove a commanding chip lead. After check-calling an 80,000 bet from Chris Moorman on a 4-3-2 flop, Trickett checked the five turn before pushing all in on the queen river. With three seconds to spare, Chris made the call before being shown A-J and mucking.
The bubble produced some sweaty palms, but after a lengthy period of short-stack nurturing we finally lost Jeff Rogers and the tension was released. What followed was bedlam as the likes of Ken Wong, Conan Bailey, Neil Bethune and Graham Wheldon were all desaddled in ultra quick fashion.
With 12 poker Trojans returning for the final day, it was indeed Trickett who led the pack on 942,000 with David La Ronde in second with 521,000. All eyes, however, were firmly fixed on darts supremo Wayne Mardle in eighth, but after failing to out coin-flip LaRonde, he departed in seventh for a highly credible £14,100.
Receiving similar attention was Liverpudlian Martin Green. After earlier threatening to “give up the game and leave it to the young guns” if he failed to reach the final four, a Save the Green campaign was started and a petition sent out. Although he finished in fifth after running A-T into the A-Q of James Mitchell, we can only hope he has a change of heart and persists with the UK circuit.
With Martin Jarvis departing in fourth, the three remaining players agreed to a chop in which each would receive £60,000 with £35,000 left in the pot for the winner. One man who wouldn’t be getting his hands on the trophy was James Mitchell. Reraising Sam Trickett all in with a paltry 7-3o, he was looked up by pocket sixes which survived a raggedy flop to leave us with our final two.
"This could go on a while, they're quite deep. I can see it going a few hours," claimed one railer, but how wrong he was as all the chips flew in on the first hand back. With Trickett’s A-Q fending off LaRonde’s A-7, it was all over and the young plumber from Nottingham was announced as the GUKPT Luton Champion for 2008.
Whilst LaRonde drifted into the shadows, Trickett basked in the glory of the spotlight and wore a Cheshire cat grin that would require a crowbar to remove. After aslo finishing fourth in a WSOP bracelet event Sam Trickett has emerged as one of the UK’s hottest talents and is surely a star of the future. In Luton, a star was born.
1st Sam Trickett -- £95,000
2nd David La Ronde -- £60,000
3rd James Mitchell -- £60,000
4th Martin Jarvis -- £30,100
5th Martin Green -- £23,500
6th Peter Arrigoni -- £17,850
7th Wayne Mardle -- £14,100
8th Stuart Rutter -- £11,300
9th Andreas Mihail -- £8,450