On Wednesday night Liverpool take on Fiorentina in what is predominantly a dead rubber. All that rests on the outcome is a mere £600,000 prize money since Liverpool have now qualified for the Europa League and Fiorentina are through to the group stages of the champions League.
The atmosphere is likely to be strange, compared to what would ordinarily be another special European night at Anfield.
There is, however, one other factor that will make Wednesday very interesting. That of the full home debut for Alberto Aquilani.
There has been a lot said over the last month or two relating to Liverpool's lack of form and the loss of Xavi Alonso (a fantastic player and one of the best passers in the world.)
There is an incredible amount of expectation being placed on the shoulders of Aquilani before he has even played 30 minutes of football for the reds, due to his delayed introduction to the team through injury and then lack of match fitness.
Liverpool clearly have a very good set up with the two holding midfielders Mascherano and Lucas, when they play the top teams. However, when they play teams who are happy to sit back, Liverpool suffer because Lucas and Mascherano are generally dropping off to receive the ball from the central defenders when Agger, in particular, is more than capable of bringing the ball out ala Alan Hansen in his prime.
Aquilani is seen as the answer to all these problems, but you only have to look at the problems Newcastle United have when relying on a new messiah to save the club (Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer)
I am very concerned that the weight of all this expectation is going to be very difficult for Aquilani to bear. He is coming into a team that is struggling, without having had a proper pre-season, lacking in match fitness, and, depending on how Rafa plays him, potentially a new formation.
I only hope that our very knowledgeable fans bear this in mind and do not expect miracles immediately.
Poker wise, things have been going well in the last couple of weeks. I've started playing cash live again, and, apart from losing a pot with AA when I was reraised all in by Q9 (the reraise was less than a quarter of the actual raise) I've won some nice pots including the quad pot previously mentioned and another healthy pot with set over set.
What is more pleasing is that I have finally made a final table after a long run of missing out. Along the way I survived a huge limp reraise with QQ against AA when the flop brought 3 diamonds and his Ace of diamonds left me drawing to the only remaining queen which duly came. It makes a nice change when the odd hand like this comes out in my favour rather than against and even more pleasing because the guy slammed the table in celebration when I called his reraise as he turned over his aces.
I went on to come third in the tournament after having taken advantage of the short stacks on the bubble even though everyone had agreed to put £5 each into a saver for the person who bubbled. I was against this because I am not scared of busting out on the bubble and it is the time when people play really tight and real poker can be played.
I was also pleased with a couple of folds I made on the final table.
The first one came when a relatively short stack raised half his stack and I had AQ with plenty of chips behind. I had a think about it and asked him how many chips he had which he answered whilst staring at me. I was pretty sure he wanted me to call so I folded and told everyone what I folded to a couple of people saying I was stupid before the short stack showed his AK.
The second time we were 5 handed when a guy limped in early position which he had been doing all night with KQ type hands. I was in the small blind with K2 and 3 of us saw the flop of 665. I checked, as did the big blind and limper made a bet that I was certain was nothing but as I was contemplating the raise or out of position float, the big blind leaned back in his chair acting very uninterested so I folded and he called. When the K came on the turn Mr limp inevitably went all in and lost to the trip sixes!
Anyway, in typical fashion I busted out when all in pre flop with AK against A2 for £425 when second paid £650 and first was £1200 but as I've said many times, that's the way it goes in poker!
Finally, I have finished with badbeat after 9 months.
There were two reasons why I started with badbeat, firstly because I had run my bankroll down playing on the cruise, and secondly because I wanted to take advantage of their mentoring scheme.
My mentor was (I think) mainly a single table tournament (STT) player and we started out having sessions every week or two where he would watch me play a couple of STT tournaments. During this period he would watch my hands by using a screen capturing program.
As the weeks went on the gap between sessions grew a little bigger mainly because there were never any sessions in his diary during the evenings for me to book a session. I would book one whenever there was a spot free and I did e-mail him a couple of times to say that there were no sessions available for me to book a session on the online diary system.
In all the 9 months of this I never once had a single comment said to me about how I could have played a hand differently. The only comments that were ever said to me were along the lines of "Oh that was a really good move!"
When I went on holiday in August I was moved to a different skin on ipoker. My ROI on the original skin was around 10% over 1000 games with a profit of $4000 (and I don't think that included the 2 jackpot consolation prizes and a MTT win of about $2,000 in total.
For some strange reason, on the new skin I couldn’t win an argument and over the course of 500 games I lost all of the profit I had made over the previous 7 months. I wasn't doing anything differently and so I don't know whether it was down to having a different image on the new skin, whether it was just variance or because I was playing a lot more double or nothing tournaments. Anyway, about a week ago, I got an e-mail saying that my daily loss limit was being reduced from $750 to $500. At this point I e-mailed my mentor saying that I had got the message and was half expecting and talking about the point above regarding different skins, but I didn't get a reply.
The next thing I heard, was about 5 days later when I got an e-mail from the admin team saying that on the direction of my mentor they were dropping me from the trader scheme and I was more disappointed that my mentor didn't even contact me to let me know!
To be honest, I had already e-mailed a contact on another ipoker skin enquiring about rakeback deals because I was considering making the break anyway since I felt that the mentoring side of badbeat was as good as a chocolate fireguard and I had a big enough bankroll to play the levels I was playing at anyway.
However, that doesn't take away from the fact that the way things were handled were unprofessional.
After all, although my combined profits for bad beat were -$500, I had still generated over $2000 in rake and so they were still in profit from my stint there. The other factor is that, by dropping me they were, in effect, saying that I had become a worse player since joining, which says all I need to say about the mentoring system.
I was considering leaving before the holiday in August but they announced a series of online sessions where strategy would be discussed (I had previously suggested that they hold some live seminars similar to the ones held by Blackbelt poker during their audition process) but the one I attended was held online and was unsuccessful because of issues with connections and so got cancelled part way through.
Anyway, I'm not concerned but disappointed that, what should be a good concept, was unsuccessful.
The APAT online championship is on Sunday so I might have a run at that and some other MTTs because, since I joined bad beat I've not really played many MTTs which I think are my best format. I've also not played any satellites to the GUKPT or other tournaments either so I'll go down that route and see where it takes me over the coming months.
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