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Poker Stories: Chasetheriver’s poker history

March 19, 2019

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Welcome to a new series on our blog: Poker Stories! We’ll be sharing stories from both staff and players alike, whether it’s a bit about their background, or a memorable account of something that happened at the poker tables.

Our Poker Operations Manager, Rob, who’s known here on Replay as Chasetheriver, has an extensive history with poker — both as a player, and working as a collusion and rules expert. He shares a bit about his background in today’s article, and in a follow-up next week, he’ll discuss collusion in online poker. Read on.

“I first played live poker for real money in the early ’80s. In those days, many UK casinos were privately owned and all were private clubs where you had to apply for membership, which took 48 hours to process. I would travel 30-odd miles to Northampton’s Rubicon casino where they held a poker tournament three nights a week — one for NL Hold’em, one for Pot Limit Omaha, and one for Seven Card Stud.

I recall the entry was £10 with unlimited rebuys for the Hold’em and Omaha, and there were maybe four tables for those two games. The blinds would double instead of climbing in increments, which made final tables a nightmare for sorting out side pots. We used redundant James Bond style cash chips and plaques with £ signs on them — a practice which was eventually outlawed by the Gaming Board of the time. All casinos began to use dedicated tournament chips with no currency symbol for their poker events.

Pretty soon I found I was doing reasonably well. Importantly, right from the beginning, I kept meticulous diaries of every tournament or cash game I played to know exactly which venues were the most profitable. Before long, I had made the sister Rubicon casino in Wolverhampton, 30 miles in the opposite direction, my regular venue. There was a NL £5, £10, or £20 Hold’em tournament every night of the week at 9pm, except for Tuesday which was Three-Card Brag.

I had a full time job and drove up nearly every evening after work, often staying until closing time, which was 4am every night apart from 2am Sunday morning. The British Gaming Act of 1968 was in force. No alcohol at the tables, no tipping the dealers (we still called them croupiers), and just two slot machines per venue.

The standard of poker play in Wolverhampton at that time was second to none, at least in a provincial casino. It was the regular venue of several players who turned professional, such as Lucy Rokach, Surinder Sunar, Paul ‘Action’ Jackson, and Micky Wernick. When we had a ‘Big One,’ players traveled from the Vic in London and the likes of Liam Flood and Terry Rogers flew across from Ireland to attend.

Then there was Black Monday, October 19th, 1987. My employer found he was over-exposed on the UK Stock Market (FTSE) and literally lost the ranch overnight. With more free time and no wish for a ‘proper job,’ I began to play the north of England circuit, lodging in Bolton, Manchester and playing at Bolton, Stockport, Leeds, Bradford, and less frequently at Nottingham or Derby.

About this time I witnessed the beginning of the career of Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott. The games were much softer in the north and my EV for several years at the time meant I averaged a return of double my entry costs. Travelling or kicking my heels during the daytime waiting for the next poker tournament to start cut into my bankroll, but I was easy come, easy go.

In 1991, I spent 6 months in Vegas and this was the first time I ever played Limit poker. An English poker-playing friend of mine had a house in Vegas and wanted to spend more time at The Bike in LA, so I got to house-sit and used his Olds ’88 to get back and forth from the Mirage or Gold Coast to play 3/6 Hold’em or 10/20 Omaha 8 or better with the tourists.

For reference, 1991 was the first time the WSOP Main Event guaranteed $1,000,000 for first place and there were 215 entrants. I saw the legends of poker of that time up close, and although the nearest I got to most of them was from the rail, I played several bracelet holders in different tournaments. My favorite encounter was being seated next to Hans ‘Tuna’ Lund (the previous year’s WSOP 2nd place finisher) in one particular event and he was a very amiable gent.

Upon returning to the UK, I found that there were local casinos in Coventry beginning to have poker covering every night of the week. Luckily I had started a mortgage on a house in 1987 and I began to play more locally with occasional trips to the Rainbow casino in Birmingham. During the mid to late-90s, I realized I still had not broken into the “Big Time” and bought a black cab (all the owner-operated cab drivers seemed to have an endless supply of cash, lol).

Then the internet happened. I stopped going to brick and mortar events soon after 2000 and got started at Paradise Poker (they only allowed you one table maximum in the beginning, but that was all my Windows 98 computer and dial up connection could handle). Soon enough, along came Poker Stars, Ultimate Bet, Party Poker, and a host of others. I played Limit poker in ring games, but mostly NL in tournaments.

At about that time, I was asked if I wanted to work for a start-up poker site as a collusion and rules expert. They had lofty ambitions of becoming a top 10 site within 5 years. Having just traded my first cab in for a brand new one, I declined. But in 2006, just after UIGEA, I went back to them and became a member of the Collusion Team of iPoker. By then, online Fixed Limit poker was all but dead. My days were spent detecting and dealing with collusion and fraud at work and my nights were spent 6 tabling $100 NL at various sites, and even one or two where they offered Royal Hold’em.”

This is just the first part of Rob’s poker story. Next week, we’ll be sharing his insights into collusion in online poker. Keep an eye out!