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Is Red Dead Redemption 2 The GOAT? Not Quite

Caution: Does contain some spoilers

The most ambitious Rockstar Studios game of all-time is how Red Dead Redemption 2 was billed in the build up to its October 26th launch and it delivered in that respect.

From the gorgeous scenery, to NPCs that remember your previous actions, to horses’ bollocks that shrink or grow depending on the current climate, the detail in Red Dead Redemption 2 is second to none.

Showing ambition is great, but you need to be able to deliver the end product. I showed ambition in my late teens, chasing leggy blondes with big tits and I got fuck all to show for it. Rockstar did deliver on their promise of a fantastic game, yet I feel that those people calling it the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) have been caught up in the marketing hype that surrounds AAA launches.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Positives

Red Dead Redemption 2

Let’s take a look at some of the many positives surrounding Red Dead Redemption 2. I’ve already mentioned that it is arguably the best-looking game I have seen on the PlayStation 4, rivalling, if not surpassing, the amazing graphics displayed in Horizon Zero Dawn, which is one of my favourite games of all-time.

The level of detail is astounding. One mission saw me visiting a shop that was hiding the dirty secret of being a front for slavers. I had to find a way to enter the basement of this shop to discover where the owners had been keeping the slaves chained to the walls. After the shopkeeper refused to give me any information, I set about him like a pissed Connor McGregor on the night bus home, beating him until he spilled the beans. When I returned to the same shop a few game days later, the owner was weary of me being there, referred to my previous dishing out of cowboy justice and was even sporting a bandage around his head.

The most ambitious Rockstar Studios game of all-time is how Red Dead Redemption 2 was billed in the build up to its October 26th launch and it delivered in that respect.

You’ll also find some genuinely hilarious moments throughout the game thanks to Rockstars’ ability to tell a story like no other. From the eccentric French artist, to the incestual rednecks who will bum you and sling you in a ditch, Rockstar keep the side missions and random encounters fun and a joy to complete.

Two of the Best Ever Video Game Characters

Red Dead Redemption 2

Then there’s the acting of the main characters. Arthur Morgan is a great character who you start to connect with. That’s an issue with many games, you just don’t connect with them so don’t give two fucks if they die a painful death or they conquer their goals and ride off into the sunset. When Arthur gets sick and eventually dies, I was genuinely pissed off because I wanted him to escape the life of an outlaw and make it out there on his own or with his love interest.

Dutch Van der Linde is another superbly portrayed character. Rockstar do an amazing job of portraying Dutch as a charismatic leader whose world starts tumbling down around him, becoming more desperate and unhinged as the story reaches a thrilling climax. It’s rare for me to be so heavily invested in more than one character of a video game, film or book.

You also have to admire the sheer size of the map and the number of things you can do if you wish. There are 178 different species of animal to study, hunt and kill, each going about their own business in the vast setting. Spending time tracking better specimens and skinning them allows you to upgrade Arthur’s satchels and outfits and even allows you to make special trinkets that give you boosts.

Rockstar have set dozens of challenges from being a bandit, to excelling as a gambler (you can play dominoes, blackjack and poker). I reckon it took me a solid 60 hours to complete the story mode and I didn’t even complete half of the challenges or study that many animals.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Negatives

Red Dead Redemption 2

Having to find 178 different animals, including tiny bastard bullfrogs, is a massive chore when the hunting mechanic gets boring after two or three attempts and the fishing is about as interesting as, well, fishing.

So if a game is massive, fun, detailed and has a Hollywood worthy cast of characters, why isn’t it the GOAT? Well, my friend, it is a victim of its own ambition. It’s chasing those elusive leggy blondes with big tits when it should probably have gone for a solid 7/10 instead and got its end away. As great as it is to have all these different tasks at your disposal, they don’t really serve a purpose in-game.

For example, I got through the entire game with no issues at all without the need to upgrade any of Arthur’s outfits or satchels. There wasn’t a single time that I wished I had more space in my inventory, I just didn’t need it.

Another issue regards hunting in that you don’t need to do it to survive. You obtain meat when you kill and skin the ark-filling selection of animals but there’s that much food dotted around the map that I think I only ate something I killed two or three times. Having to find 178 different animals, including tiny bastard bullfrogs, is a massive chore when the hunting mechanic gets boring after two or three attempts and the fishing is about as interesting as, well, fishing.

Which brings me onto the character maintenance aspect of the game. You’re meant to feed Arthur and your horse on a regular basis to keep them in optimal condition; you need to clean your horse regularly too. Problem is, it doesn’t fucking matter if you don’t. Rockstar claims being underweight improves your stamina but reduces the amount of damage you can take, but the game is that easy during combat – I died once in a gunfight in the entire game – that it wouldn’t matter if the enemy were firing foam Nerf bullets at you.

I Don’t Need No Money

Then you have the money in the game. Early doors, you’re as skint as a Big Issue seller and wondering how you are going to afford any ammunition for your revolver. Within a few hours, you’re dripping with cash, have 10 guns at your disposal and don’t need to loot or rob anyone or anything. I think I had just shy of $8,000 before Arthur died and once I’d acquired the pump action shotgun, I didn’t need any other firearm because it was so OP.

While I loved Arthur in the game, I already knew he was going to die at some point because he is never mentioned in the original Red Dead Redemption that this game is a prequel to. Arthur is a strong, worthy lead character, yet I get the feeling he is just another version of John Marston, the original game’s main protagonist.

Why didn’t Rockstar focus the story of this game on Dutch? Show how he formed the Van der Linde Gang. Allow us to experience his world falling apart and showing us what happened to him in the run up to being hunted down by John in Red Dead Redemption? Dutch is such an amazing character that he could have had this entire game to himself. Perhaps that will come in some DLC at a later date?

Don’t get me wrong, the above faults did piss me off a little and some of those negative points have stopped me from trying to earn the Platinum trophy, yet Red Dead Redemption 2 is still a game you simply have to play and is up there with the top five games of this console’s generation. The pacing is off a little with the first four chapters being quite slow before it erupts like acne on a teenagers cheeks for the last two chapters, which are ridiculously good and at a pace 10-times what the previous four were.

Get your hands on a copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 and let yourself get lost in the hype. Just don’t expect to play the GOAT because while the game is superb and amazing value for money, it tries too hard to impress and that sometimes results in it being bucked off its horse and onto the dusty desert floor.

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Setting Goals for 2019

It is important to set yourself some goals and targets regardless of what walk of life you’re from as they give you something to aim or aspire to. New Year is the obvious time, the cliched time, to set goals because you have a clean slate and a full 12-months ahead of you.

First, sorry to my entire readership base of three for not updating this little corner of the internet since Nov. 17. You can blame the lack of content on the fact I’ve been balls deep in Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PS4. The game is nothing short of fantastic. I’m almost done with the story mode, so will be writing a review at some point next week all being well.

As for my goals for 2019, you’ll realise several of them are interlinked; completing one will likely achieve another. Without further ado, let’s look at what lies in store for 2019.

Stopping Smoking

Stopping smoking

This is the number one on my list and I won’t care one iota if I fail to hit the rest of my goals if I manage to achieve this. I’ve stopped smoking a handful of times before falling off the wagon and starting again.

There’s a history of cancer and dodgy hearts in my family so me smoking is even more stupid than it would be for anyone else. You also have to take into consideration the financial cost of smoking. The brand we smoke is around £8.60 a packet, which is fucking criminal, and I’ve loosely worked out I’m currently spending approximately £400 a month on cancer sticks. That’s £4,800 a year. £4,800 a year that could be spent on a family holiday or wiping a credit card, anything other than destroying my lungs.

The plan is to go cold turkey. I used an e-cig the last time I stopped, but it’s not going to be too long before we get told by the experts that these are just as bad for you as cigs. Putting anything other than air into your lungs is a bad idea if you think about it.

To help keep me on the straight and narrow, I’m going to transfer money daily to a savings account, meaning I can see the savings I’ve made. We can then use the money how we see fit every few months or so.

Improve My Fitness / Lose Weight

Another goal is to improve my fitness and lose some timber, which goes hand in hand with stopping smoking. I started 2018 by jogging regularly and was starting to get into it. Then I pulled my right calf muscle and took six weeks for it to stop hurting. By this time, I’d given up on jogging and essentially sat on my arse for the rest of the year.

I’m not getting any younger and have already done a shit ton of damage to my body so vastly improving my fitness and losing some weight/ body fat to give myself a fighting chance later in life seems like a good idea.

I’ve already drastically cut down on the amount of alcohol I drink and that should make this goal easier. I’d need to weigh myself on New Year’s Day and somehow measure my body fat percentage at the same time before setting a concrete target.

Take More Care of Myself

Again, this is loosely connected to the improving my fitness and losing weight. I’ve never been one for following fashion trends but I do sometimes see clothes I like but then never buy them because they won’t look right on me.

Also, working from home means that you don’t have to take as good care of your appearance as you would if you had to work in an office o rhad a customer facing job. This means tend to only shave when my growth makes me want to scratch my face off, and I only shave my hair when it’s got to the stage that it looks like I have a dandelion clock on my head; that’s an exaggeration but you catch my drift.

These couple of things are connected to my mental wellbeing, too. Despite being an opinionated twat, I actually have quite low self-esteem and confidence and the opinion of myself is rather low. I still have spells where the black dog pays a visit, and this exacerbates the above. Making a conscious effort to improve all areas of my life, especially myself, should see a happier, less anxious and paranoid 2019!

Read at Least 12 Books

Must read more books!

Reading is one of those things that is easy to fall out of the habit of doing. While I find it hard to put a book down once I have started it, it does take a while to get used to reading again. My concentration levels seem to drop when I try reading. I think the main reason for this is the fact I skim and scan hundreds of articles and websites each week rather than reading them properly. When I then come to read an actual book, I find myself skimming and scanning, missing chunks of the story and not getting into it properly.

Twelve books in a calendar year should be easily achievable as it’s only one a month. Substituting browsing the news websites and the like for a chapter of a book should make achieving this target a piece of piss.

Write at Least 50 Blog Posts

Again, this should be easy as it is an average of slightly less than once per week. If I managed to read 12 books, that is 12 entries right there, plus if I start playing poker regularly, I’m sure I’ll fill this blog with bad beat stories!

Get Back Playing Poker Regularly

Playing online poker at partypoker

There was a time when my entire life revolved around playing poker or improving at poker. I’d play online or sometimes visit my local casino for a small donkament or cash game. Large portions of my time were spent reading books, forums and watching videos about poker.

Playing poker and being so invested in this game led me to working in the poker industry, which in turn stopped me playing poker. I often use the excuse that writing about poker for 10 hour a day means I don’t want to play poker when I down tools at the end of the day.

While this is true, there’s also a fear factor to consider. Thinking about it, I’m a little scared that I won’t be able to win anymore. The game has progressed so much and I’ve not kept up with the latest trends and strategies. Being unable to beat the game would piss me off, even though I was never a big winner by any stretch of the imagination. Not to mention it doesn’t look good for a someone in my position to be a complete fish at poker!

Perhaps I’ll stick a small amount online, probably at partypoker, and see if I can grind that up playing nano-stakes cash games. We shall see.

Make £5,000 From Non-Work Activity

This goal could be linked to the above if I do eventually jump back into poker, but it may also spur me on to start at least one of the two websites that I bought the domains for around this time last year!

I purchased one domain that is going to be a gambling portal with things like sports betting, casino and poker site reviews. I’ll feature strategy for these markets, news too, maybe even transfer gossip and esports.

Most of the content in these markets is factual and quite dry. My plan, if I ever get the bastard off the ground, is to make them a little tongue-in-cheek and maybe even mildly offensive. Think Paddy Power and not The Guardian! Stick a few affiliate links in, fish read my shit, sign up to sites and viola: extra wonga.

The second domain is more fun but could lead to someadvertising revenue. It’s not a new idea, but I want to write a pisstake newspaper for Yorkshire folk. An old mate of mine, Simon Young, has a brilliantsite called the Suffolk Gazette that I love reading. I’d love to do something similar so look out for the Yorkshire Tribune coming to a screen near you soon, hopefully!

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Bad Luck On and Off The Tables

“If it wasn’t for bad luck we wouldn’t have any” is a phrase I’d often hear my mum say, usually after some household appliance broke / hours at work were cut / a big car repair bill loomed or similar. These financial hits usually came at the worst possible times, or seemed to know that we’d come into a little bit of cash and had planned to use it for something else.

The clutch and dual mass flywheel died on my car approximately 18-months ago. Having new parts fitted set me back £1,400, which stung a little. The bastard thing is back in the garage and a substantial repair bill is on the horizon, perfect timing with it being Christmas next month and the HMRC needing paying the month after.

It was my dad’s birthday on Nov. 13 and I set off to see him with a couple of the brats in tow. While on the motorway, I went to overtake a dawdling car in front and the revs went up, but the car didn’t accelerate. The gearstick had gone into neutral somehow. Strange, but I thought perhaps I’d done it by accident.

Car Begins to Die

We came off the motorway and as I was approaching a roundabout, I tried to change gear and simply couldn’t. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the car into any gear; it was like there was something physically blocking it. Thankfully, my dad’s house is only 0.25 miles from the motorway junction so after managing to select first gear, I could limp to his house.

The nice guys at RAC came out to me and he thought the clutch had gone. I told him that although I have the mechanical knowledge of a flan, it wasn’t the clutch because that had died 18-months ago and the symptoms were completely different, not to mention this new clutch had only done 34,000 miles, most of them on the motorway.

Mr RAC towed us to a garage near to our house then dropped us at home.

“It’s definitely your clutch and flywheel that have broken down,” the garage informed me the next day. “We can repair it for £1130.”

Like fuck mate. Not sure how he knew it was the clutch because he didn’t take anything apart and charged me £30 for the privilege of not having the work done with him! The Mrs’ boss told me about a garage his son had used for a repair on his van and said that he was not only good, he was also cheap, which makes him even better in my book. This new guy quoted me £520 to replace and fit the clutch and flywheel so I bit his hand off.

Fingers Crossed

After being towed by the Mrs boss to this new guy – that was an experience, being towed on a rope for the first time – the new mechanic said that it wasn’t the clutch! Turns out the clutch is fine, but the fucking gearbox is in pieces. New dude said that there’s no point putting a new one in and that he’ll try to find a second-hand one or a refurbished one t hat won’t break the bank. He also informed me that he needs to examine the clutch and flywheel closely when he strips it apart because they will need replacing if they have been contaminated with gearbox oil. Fuck my actual life.

Fingers crossed that it only needs a near gearbox and not all the other bits, although that’s unlikely because if it wasn’t for bad luck we wouldn’t have any.

In a vain attempt to claw in some extra funds, I jumped into a $2.20 buy-in Bounty Hunter tournament at partypoker. I only had like £5.90 on there s fired up a tournament while I worked on Wednesday.

This Is How I Run

Bad luck with 40 percent

What 40 percent of Hold’em hands looks like

It was a typical tournament where I was card dead for the first 10 levels, then picked up aces three times in like six hands and only won the blinds each time, before this hand sent me to the rail empty-handed.

The blinds were 2,300/4,600/495a. Villain is sat with 353,221 chips and I have 165,400. Villain is a complete fucking nutcase who has been raising, re-raising and making oversized bets for the past 30-40 hands. He opened to 9,200 from late position, I three-bet to 34,500 from the small blind and villain jammed all-in yet again. I called off the last of my stack with AdJs knowing I was getting around 1.6-to-1 so only needed 40 percent equity to call.

Forty-percent is a ton of hands, most of which I’m nicely ahead against. Villain showed As3c and it was no surprise that the flop fell 2h5c4h to gift him a wheel. The Th was followed by the 2d and I busted miles from the money places. That’s poker, folks.

Not sure if I’ll get to play any tournaments over the next week or so because I need to get some work done to try and pay for what will be a very costly couple of months. If anyone has a spare £20,000 knocking around, send them my way!

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Blogtober Never Really Happened

My plan of penning 25 blog entries during the month of October, known affectionately as Blogtober, fell flat on its arse with me only managing a paltry six posts.

Blogtober started well, dipped in the middle and the less said about the end the better. Three posts in the first four days of October stood me in good stead to achieve my goal, but only three more across the rest of the month saw my fail spectacularly.

Work kind of got in the way on more than one occasion, although that’s not a good excuse because work will, hopefully, always be there. Then there was some private family stuff that I’m not prepared to go into right now, but it took up a solid week and left me a little unmotivated to do anything at all if I am honest.

Shock, horror! Video games get in the way

Mass Effect Andromeda

Mass Effect Andromeda

Just as I was about to jump back in the hotseat and attempt to make up for lost time, I found myself motivated more to piss about on the PlayStation 4. I managed to complete the Far Cry 4 campaign, a game I started four years ago when I first bought my trusty PS4 and decided to install Mass Effect: Andromeda.

The Mass Effect series of games are up there with my favourite video games of all time. I bought the original Mass Effect for the Xbox 360 probably around 10 years ago when I found it in the bargain bin of GAME for a few quid. It was a game I instantly fell in love with and spent an age completing.

Mass Effect 2 released in January 2010 and is to this day one of the all-time classics; it is a masterpiece. Again, I spent upwards of 30 hours exploring various galaxies and being immersed in a wonderful story that I didn’t want to end.

BioWare released Mass Effect 3 in March 2012 and it was one of the few games that I didn’t mind paying full price for; I usually wait for the price to come down unless the game looks set to become a classic. The game itself was decent, although the ending was total dogshit especially when you consider fans of the series had put in more than 100-120 hours into the Mass Effect trilogy. I won’t post spoilers, but it was bitterly disappointing, so much so that the developers had to release new endings after a backlash from the nerdiest of fans.

I wasn’t holding out too much hope for Mass Effect: Andromeda because various reviews of the game said it felt rushed, unfinished and had more than its fair share of bugs, some of them game-breaking in how bad they were.

Thankfully, with me waiting forever to get around to playing this game, several patches had been deployed and most of the bugs squashed. I probably logged 10 hours in the game, which could have been 10 or more blog entries, I know, before some kind-hearted person bought me the Red Dead Redemption 2.

I’ll probably write a separate entry about Red Dead Redemption 2 because I am nowhere near finished with it despite piling 20 or more hours into it so far. Yes, I am almost 38-years-old investing time into video games, but it’s so damned addictive.

Two poker freerolls

Plans to jump back into the poker world also took a back seat, as I am sure you have already figured out. No Monster Series tournaments were played at partypoker, not even one. I did find the time to play in another £1,000 freeroll at Grosvenor Poker and a £3,000 freeroll too.

The £1,000 freeroll saw me fail to get above starting stack at any stage. By the time the blinds had increased to 125/250/25a, I was armed with a 4,447 stack, or slightly more than 17 big blind. One guy min-raised from middle position and both the button and small blind called. I opted to jam all-in with 9h9s only to see the original raise re-shove plus the other two players call off their stacks!

A board reading 8dJc2hQcAd didn’t look too good for my lowly pocket nines, so it was not surprising when I busted in 41st place with 18 spots paid. The original raise has AcAh, the button had 8c7c and the small blind QhJh meaning I got my chips in with less than 15 percent equity. Nice one, Pud.

Cowboys shot down

Pocket kings

Pocket kings

Things went a little better in the £3,000 freeroll even though I failed to cash. I managed to hover around the average stack before a short spell of being card dead and not being in the right spots to steal or re-steal reduced my stack somewhat.

Again, it was the 125/250/25a level that saw me come unstuck and I was in the big blind for this hand like my exit hand in the £1,000 game. A player jammed all-in for 3,075 from the hijack and I had a simple call to make in the big blind with KsKh. Villain showed Ac9d so I am a decent favourite to almost double my stack and make a run towards the money; I think a min-cash was like £80 so not too shabby.

My kings stayed ahead on the TsQs4c flop and the Th turn only to be cracked by the motherfucking Ad on the river. This left me with 1,458 chips and they went into the middle when the action folded to me in the small blind. My jam with Jd9c was snapped off by the big blind’s KdKh and I busted despite flopping a nine, meh.

I quite enjoyed playing on Grosvenor Poker so I may see if I can somehow spin up the massive £15 bankroll I have on there from the first £1,000 freeroll. The only thing that pisses me off with the site is how some split pots result in you have fractions of chips. I’ve just seen a tournament taking place now where the chip leader had 10,762.54 chips. I mean, how the fuck can that happen?

Needless to say, I’m going to attempt to post more frequently and play more poker between now and the end of the year, that is if I can tear myself away from being a cowboy / outlaw whenever I get a little bit of downtime from work!

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Happy Meals Are On Me!

My first foray into the world of online poker tournaments resulted in a minor cash meaning I can afford to buy the kids a Happy Meal with the money of somebody else.

I wrote a promotional article for UK & Ireland PokerNews highlighting three freerolls at Grosvenor Poker last week that highlighted two £1,000 and one £3,000 freerolls. As I created my Grosvenor Poker account via UK & Ireland PokerNews and had the password for the Oct. 21 £1,000 freeroll, I thought fuck it, I’ll play that.

The preparation for the freeroll wasn’t the best. My youngest was picked up by his mum and I had to drop my eldest off with his mum, but our journey time was extended by a couple of routes home being blocked due to an accident involving a motorcycle and a car. I’ve not heard anything on the news about what happened, but I do hope the biker is OK.

Firing up a freeroll

This freeroll kicked off at 1900 and I didn’t get to the eldest’s house until 18:50 and it’s a 20-25-minute journey home. A completely clear run on the way home meant I didn’t miss too many hands, thankfully.

A few hands after logging onto my laptop saw me call off a decent chunk of my stack. At 10/20, a player in late position on our seven-handed table opened to 60 and for some reason I flatted in the small blind with AcKd. I check-called a 120 bet on the 5h7sAh flop and did the same for 240 chips on the Qh turn. Like a donk, I check-called a 900 bet on the 4d river and was shown 6h4h for my troubles.

After losing a couple more pots, I managed to win a decent pot with Jc9c when I backed into a straight.

I was treading water despite this decent pot because the blinds increased every five minutes and in significant jumps. My 12 big blind shove from the small blind with AhTc cracked a pair or queens, but then everything reverted to finding spots to get my stack in and steal some blinds.

Short stacked ninja

Some breathing room was mine when the cutoff jammed five bigs with what turned out to be KsQc and I took the coinflip with a 5h5d and held.

A few more timely shoves and three-bet shoves helped me keep afloat until I picked up AsAc and got my massive 10 big blinds into the middle against QdTh to double up on the bubble. The bubble burst as my AhJs shove was called by KsQs and they spiked a queen.

It was game over a few hands later when I was forced to push a micro stack into the middle with 9d4h and lost to Ac9s.

Balling out of control with my £15 bankroll!

Balling out of control with my £15 bankroll!

Recapping the action

This meant I had finished 14/75 and picked up a free £15. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a brag or anything like it, after all, it’s only a £15 score from a free tournament, but it did show me a lot of areas that I need to improve.

I’m very rusty, having not really played anything for three years and a couple of things stood out that I am going to need to work on if I am to get back into the game.

  • Stop being a calling station even against donkeys
  • Stop overvaluing suited one and two gappers, particularly against fishes

Overall, I was quite pleased with my short stack game – I’ve had plenty of practice over the years, obviously – and how I read some of the situations. Yes it was only a freeroll but free cash is free cash and now the Happy Meals are on me!

Not sure if I’ll get to play any of the Monster Series events at partypoker from Sunday as I can’t really afford to stick any money online at the moment as it’s been a very expensive month. There is another £1,000 freeroll at Grosvenor Poker on Sunday evening though, so perhaps I’ll crush that instead.

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Tempted to Get Back Into Online Poker

There was a time that I harboured dreams of becoming a professional poker player, either sitting behind my computer screen playing online poker or travelling around the UK and maybe the world playing in poker tournaments.

I soon realised – I say soon but it took three or four years – that this was never going to be the case. Why? One reason was that I was not dedicated enough to putting in the hours away from the table to study the game. Another was my inability to log a significant number of tournaments or cash game hands to make some semi-serious money.

Missing the boat

My chance to realise the dream probably came around 10-years ago when I split with my then girlfriend and moved into the pub my mate was running. We struck a deal where I would work a few shifts behind the bar when I finished my day job in exchange for renting the room. This meant my outgoings were very low (I wasn’t earning much but the ratio of income to outgoings was decent) and I saw my little lad on Saturdays so I had plenty of spare time.

Instead of knuckling down and putting in the hours, I kind of went off the rails a little bit and spent most of my spare time chasing birds, getting pissed up and taking various substances, as you do when you’re a bit of a dickhead.

Another opportunity reared its head around 2012 when I had got my act together and had fallen back in love with the game. I was working in the poker industry by now, although not to the extent of the present, and enjoyed some decent results.

Staking opportunity

I was writing some articles for Betfair, including an ongoing series called Pud’s Poker Progress where I’d document my progress, or lack of it, in the online poker world. Betfair agreed to stake me in their GSOP series if I wrote a daily recap of what had gone on during the previous day.

A handful of min-cashes by yours truly were followed up by some decent scores, even better that I hadn’t had to buy into any of the tournaments. I finished 50/600 in a $108 buy-in rebuy for a then career-best $520.82; the best was yet to come.

One of the latter events of the series was a $22 buy-in Deepstack with $30,000 guaranteed. Cutting a long story short, I took down the tournament for $4,844.32 in cash and a $525 seat to the mini-Grand Slam, or Main Event as most people would call it these days. That is still my largest-ever online score.

online poker biggest win

My biggest online poker win

Great start to the year

A couple of months later, I finished 3/2994 players in the PokerStars $3.30 rebuy for $2,483.37. I used to love that tournament and the 2R1A events. On Jan. 1, 2014, I finished 4th in a $5.50 2R1A for $980.92 then towards the end of the month I finished sixth in the $3r for $821.38 and five days later finished fourth in it for $1,459.38.

Despite this impressive start, I hardly played again that year, opting to try grind the 180-man games.

I recently fired up my old PocketFives account and added my screen names into my profile so any poker I played would be tracked. Sadly, my Betfair Poker scores from the Ongame days (remember those) are missing.

Three years since my last tournament

One thing that struck me was my last tournament cash was in Oct. 2015, three fucking years ago! Well, that’s not entirely true because I cashed in a couple of small POWERFEST events at partypoker this Sept. because I won some free tickets in a promotion. But still, three years I’ve not played poker tournament for.

Something else that stood out was my profile is showing a mere 264 cashes, going to show how little I used to play even when I was in love with online poker.

Working away in the PokerNews Live Reporting team didn’t help as I was away for days at a time, weeks when it came to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Neither did getting the roles I have now where I spend half my life writing about poker and people winning ludicrous sums of money, meaning I don’t have the motivation to play online poker when I throw in the towel for the day. Yet I am being drawn back to the game.

It was probably the handful of tournaments I played with my free tickets from partypoker. I only managed to scrape a couple of min-cashes and one or two bounties while playing on my phone, in the pub where the Mrs works, while I was waiting for her to finish.

But I really enjoyed playing. The buzz of being all-in. The excitement of reading your opponent and being able to bluff them off a pot. It all came flooding back and I liked what I felt.

Where to play online poker?

Online poker or live poker

When I turned $200 into almost $1,000 in Las Vegas cash games

I’m still not going to be able to log a lot of volume if I am honest because of work and family commitments, although I am determined to get involved in some online poker tournaments in the next week or so, money permitting as I haven’t had a bankroll for three years!

PokerStars isn’t an option for me as I am banned from playing there. I’ve not done anything dodgy, but The Stars Group owns a majority shareholding in iBus Media, which is the parent company of PokerNews, which in turn loosely makes me an employee of Stars and therefore not allowed to play at their online poker site.

This means I will likely play at partypoker because I like the direction they are going in with the continual improvements to their software, promotions and games offered, plus the iPoker Network and 888 put me on life tilt.

The Monster Series is coming up at partypoker from Oct. 28, a series of 144 tournaments with buy-ins of between $2.20 and $33 yet with combined guaranteed prize pools of $3.4 million. Perhaps this could be the perfect time to jump back on the horse, brush off the rust and see if I can still remember what hand beats what or if I am an even bigger fish as I was back in 2015.

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Jeremy Simpson: Worst Referee Ever?

Everyone is biased when it comes to their football team, myself included. It can’t be helped. It’s a natural thing to side with your team. That said, Jeremy Simpson, the referee at the Leeds United versus Brentford game, was that fucking awful that he’d either been paid off to be a total dick, or had never seen a game of football before in his life.

“Shit refs, we only get shit refs,” is a common chant from the Elland Road faithful because, basically, we always seem to get referees who are so ridiculously bad that you wonder how the fuck they ever got a job in the first place.

A good referee, in my opinion, is one who lets the game progress and only pulls up the action when a major infringement has occurred. Not this card happy cunt, though. Simpson’s performance was that bad that Pontus Jansson now faces disciplinary action after claiming Simpson’s refereeing was tantamount to robbery.

You’re not fit to referee

Simpson is called Jeremy for a start so he is bound to be a bit of a bellend, it’s a given. But when you look at his stats for this season, they make incredible reading.

He was officiating the Sheffield United versus Swansea game on the opening day of the season and nobody went into the book. His next match saw five players receive a yellow card and he’s booked between two and six players in every games he’s been in charge of since.

From the 13 games he’s been the bastard in the black, he’s dished out 50, fucking 50, yellow cards and three reds. Either he’s a complete numpty or he’s been the referee at some MMA fights instead of football matches.

Yesterday was a joke. Actually, no it wasn’t because jokes tend to be funny. Yesterday was a total shit show.

From the first minute he was blowing his whistle, dishing out cards like they were going out of fashion, and giving dubious decisions.

Luke Ayling sent off by the worst referee ever

Luke Ayling sent off by the worst referee ever

Two complete fuck ups stand out from a long series. The first was the decision to award a penalty then only book our goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell. The Brentford player was almost on the floor before our ‘keeper got anywhere near him, the referee waited a full 10 seconds before pulling play back, awarding a penalty and giving a yellow card to Peacock-Farrell.

Surely, if Peacock-Farrell had stopped a goal scoring opportunity and was the last man, if you’re going to book him, you have to send him off?

The second monumental mistake was when Ezgjan “Gianni” Alioski literally fell over with nobody with a couple of yards of him and the referee gave us a free kick!

“You’re not fit to referee” and “You don’t know what you’re doing” echoed around all four stands.

Simpson then sent Luke Ayling off for a second yellow card when 1.) it wasn’t a bookable offence because he didn’t touch the Brentford player, and 2.) he let a Brentford player off, who had already been booked, with a very similar offense.

“The Football League’s corrupt!”

A draw was probably a fair result after a bit of reflection, although we did more than enough to claim all three points in the last 20 minutes of the game when we were dominant. Neither side were clinical enough.

While Jansson is bound to get a fine for swearing live on Sky TV — all he said was shit — their player Sergi Canos was allegedly seen aiming a headbutt at Alioski when he somehow ended up in the Brentford dugout. I bet fuck all gets said or done about that, but it definitely would have done had it been the other way around.

We’ve now got a break in play until Oct. 20 when he travel to Blackburn Rovers for another dinner time kickoff. It’s a break that comes at a good time as it allows the likes of Gaetano Beradi, Pablo Hernandez, Kemar Roofe and Barry Douglas to return to fitness; we’ve missed Hernandez’s creativity in the previous few games that is for sure.

Still, we’re third in the league, have the second-best goal difference and look to have a belief that we will still be competing after Christmas. Exciting times could be ahead, is it time to start dreaming?

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Things That Boil My Piss – Part 1: Other Drivers

Driving is like sex in that you can do it legally in your late teens and everyone thinks they’re good at it but in reality they’re a bit shit.

I estimate that I have driven approximately 250,000 miles since passing my driving test on Aug. 2, 2001, some 17-years ago. While this distance is nothing compared to some people who drive for a living, or have to commute daily, it is far enough to lay claim to being an experienced driver who has probably seen it all on our roads.

Some people drive only because they have to. I’m in the camp of actually enjoying driving, well, most of the time. Being stuck in traffic and queuing winds me up no end, but I like getting behind the wheel for the most part.

The roads, however, are full of mouth-breathers who fuck only knows how they managed to get a licence; some of them must have performed some amazing pork sword swallowing skills to get that pass slip. I passed at the fourth time of asking, in case you were wondering. No sucky sucky ten dollar from me.

There’s not a day goes by that I get in my car that at least one of the following things happens to heat my piss into a bubbling mixture of anger and brimstone in my bladder. How many of these royally fuck you off?

Not acknowledging you’ve let them pass

Sweet baby Jesus, this is probably the one thing that turns me into Raoul Moat. Flash your lights at me, raise a finger or two, give a little pip of your horn, wave like you’re demented, call me a fat cunt, do ANYTHING to acknowledge I have gone out of my way to make your journey that little bit easier.

A few weeks back, a weird situation cropped up. I stopped to let a young lad get passed as cars were doubled parked the full length of the street we were going down. He gave a little wave to say thanks, but then called me a wanker because I didn’t say thanks for him saying thanks! Maybe he needs Gazza turning up with a fishing rod and a KFC more than I do.

Drivers who don’t use their indicators

I know BMW drivers receive a lot of stick for not using their indicators, but that’s probably because the yellow flashing bastards are an expensive added extra on their car so they don’t bother with them.

Why don’t people indicate? It’s not like that have to wave a flag or anything, the indicators come on when you move a little plastic stick at the side of the steering wheel. I’ll tell you why people don’t indicate, because they are inconsiderate little pricks, that’s why.

Those twats who drive through speed cameras 10 mph slower than needed

Please drive past these at the normal speed

Please drive past these at the normal speed

This makes me want to drown a puppy. Let’s play a little game. If you’re driving on a road with a 40 mph speed limit and look up to see a speed camera ahead, how fast do you think you’re allowed to go past it without it going off? Think about it. 40 mph, right? So why are people insistent of slamming on the brakes and sauntering past at 25 or 30 mph? Wankers, the lot of them.

Cockwombles who are constantly braking

Pay attention to the road ahead and you’ll limit the number of times you have to brake whatever roads you are driving on. Try taking your foot off the accelerator instead of using your brakes to drop your speed by a few miles per hour.

My biggest gripe with those dickheads with a twitchy brake foot is when they brake all the way down a hill. USE YOUR FUCKING ENGINE TO HELP KEEP YOU UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT YOU PLEBS. Not only does your constant braking make the person behind you not know if you need to stop, you run the risk of your brakes not working when you need them. Google “brake fade” if you don’t believe me.

Panicking when the emergency services are trying to get through

Why is it that the majority of the driving population go into a frenzy whenever they see flashing blue lights with the accompanying emergency siren? Watch the next time a fire engine, police car or ambulance is tearing you behind you, especially if you’re in standing traffic. Sing the Benny Hill tune in your head as you watch people wonder what the fuck they need to do in order to let the emergency services through.

Here’s a tip for those of you who are mongs and don’t know what to do: If you’re in the inside lane, pull over to the left. If you’re in the outside lane, pull over to the right, thus creating a parting of the traffic so the emergency services can get through; Moses would be proud.

Those knobheads who drive in the dark with no lights on

How on this planet does anyone get into their car on a night and set off driving without turning their headlights on? Anyone who does this should be publicly flogged with one of their own arms or legs.

On the flipside, those wank stains who drive with their rear fog lights on need kicking in the bollocks or ovaries. If your “cool” front fog lights can’t come on without the retina-searing rear lights coming on, don’t fucking use them unless it’s, say, really fucking foggy.

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It Could Be Time For Leeds United Fans To Start Dreaming Of The Promised Land

A 4-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers on May 2, 2004 condemned Leeds United to relegation from the Premier League. Things took a more sinister turn at the end of the 2006-07 season with the not-so-mighty Whites dropping into League 1.

Leeds fans have been treated to some utter dross since being relegated from the Premier League, but now could be the time for Leeds United fans to start dreaming of a return to the promised land.

I don’t want to get carried away after only 10 games played, especially after what happened last season when we were top of the league in September only to spend the rest of the season looking over our shoulders and generally being shit. Yet I can’t help being optimistic, maybe a little over-optimistic about our chances of challenging for promotion this season.

Preseason gave reasons to worry

That optimism was nowhere to be seen before a ball had been kicked in anger. giving Marcelo Bielsa the head coach role looked to either be a genius appointment or doomed to failure. We only signed a handful of youth players, sold Ronaldo Vieira, one of our most promising young players, and seemed to be shipping out all the shite second-rate players that the previous regime had brought in.

Then came the signings of left back Barry Douglas from Wolves for £3 million, striker Patrick Bamford from Middlesbrough for £7 million and the loan signing of promising winger Jack Harrison from Manchester City, to add to the other loans of ‘keeper Jamal Blackman and the still-injured Izzy Brown.

Worrying, in my eyes, was the core of the starting XI under Bielsa was going to be the same group that looked devoid of confidence for long, drawn out spells of last season. Preseason was a joke with Bielsa never playing what we thought would be a likely first team and I feared the worst, even checking Betfair for the odds on us being relegated.

Bielsa works his magic; polishes several turds

Kemar Roofe looks like a brand new player at Leeds.

Kemar Roofe looks like a brand new player at Leeds.

My opinion has done a complete 360 after the first 10 games; Bielsa seems to be something of a genius. His ball breaking fitness regime in preseason has the entire squad looking leaner and stronger than I have ever seen and the fitness levels from the ‘keeper through to the striker are nothing short of ridiculous. There’s no doubt we’re the fittest team in the Championship and that should stand us in good stead.

Bielsa has manged to find a system that everyone has bought into. The Argentinian maestro has given new leases of life to the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Mateusz Klich and Kemar Roofe, all of whom looked lost during the previous campaign.

Phillips, for me, has been a revelation during the early part of this season. Everything from his positioning, tackling and passing has come on in leaps and bounds. I once said Phillips would struggle in League 1, now he’s a commanding midfielder for a legitimate promotion-chasing team.

Klich was sent out on loan last season when the first of our two managers that year, Thomas Christiansen fell out with him. The Pole is amazing, easily one of the best midfielders in the division. From a guy who looked like his career at Elland Road was over, Klich has returned to the fold and has shown his class wherever in the midfield he’s been asked to play. His composure on the ball, range of passing and goal scoring abilities have shown he will be vital to us this season.

As for Roofe, he grabbed his chance to lead the line before he succumb to injury. Four goals in six starts makes him our top scorer and one who kept £7 million signing Bamford out of the side. Roofe had his doubters, but he’s looked like a different player under Bielsa’s guidance.

Great results, better football

It’s not only the initial results that have impressed, it’s the football we’ve been playing that have captured the imagination. Some said Stoke City were poor – they were – when we beat them 3-1 but we demolished Derby County 4-1 on the road, were unplayable at times when he hammered Norwich City 3-0 at Carrow Road and Preston North End couldn’t get near us when we smashed them 3-0 at home.

The recent 2-1 defeat at home to Birmingham City looked to be a minor blip as all 11 players on the field looked to be having a bad game. And while we drew 0-0 at home to a very defensive Middlesbrough and 1-1 away to Millwall, those are games we would almost certainly have lost under a different manager and set up.

Some of the football we played against Sheffield Wednesday last Friday was sublime and if we’d have had Roofe up front, we’d have put the contest to bed long before the fluke, sorry wondergoal, scored by Adam Reach.

We’re currently second in the league having won five, drawn four and lost one, scoring 20 goals and conceded eight. Leeds may have only won once in our previous five games, but that is without Roofe, our most creative player in Pablo Hernandez and a quality forward in Bamford.

All three should be back in action by October 20 when we face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park but will be missing for tonight’s game against Hull City and Saturday’s match against high-flying Brentford.

This team, and they look like a team again, seem to believe they can go all the way this season and you can’t help but start dreaming about returning to the Premier League under Bielsa’s guidance, even if them man does sit on an upturned bucket during games. There’s a long way to go this season, but like Liverpool fans say every August, perhaps this is our year.

Disclaimer: If Leeds lose to Hull today, discount all of the above, we’re shit, we’re going down and Bielsa out 😉

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Best News Ever? Fuck You Cancer!

I’ve got prostate cancer.”

Those were the words, or at least they were along those lines, from my dad’s voice that flew through my mobile phone and hit me with the force of a heavyweight boxer.

The rest of the conversation was something of a blur.

My dad had been hinting at meeting up for a few weeks prior to that phone call, saying he had something he needed to tell me and that it would be better to do so face-to-face. One Facebook Messenger message stated, “don’t worry to death, nowt that can’t be sorted,” followed up by “nowt that will finish me off” and “not something critical.”

I was convinced it was something to do with the old man’s ticker. He’d been diagnosed with a heart rhythm problem a few years ago and was controlling it with beta blockers and the like. Maybe one of his valves was dodgy and needed replacing? Perhaps he needed a bypass?

“I’ve got prostate cancer.”

What the fuck, Dad? Nothing too critical or anything that’ll finish you off. I remember, vaguely, rattling off some shit about how it was important to remain positive in such situations before regaling a story about the Mrs’ mum who died of cancer almost four years ago, before I had the chance to meet her.

Probably not the best anecdote to share, but I was rocked and clutching at straws rather than sit there in an awkward silence.

Their Body, Their Choice

To say I was stunned by the announcement is an understatement. I told the Mrs, then didn’t have a clue what to do or say.

Google can be your worst enemy when it comes to looking at diseases, yet I still frantically searched for the survival rates of different courses of treatment. Dad had said he’d decided to undergo radiotherapy and hormone therapy instead of having the tumour removed.

Why the fuck would he be doing this? There’s something in your body that is killing you and will take you away from us all, but you’re leaving it there. As the Mrs said to me, you must respect the fact that it is the cancer sufferer’s body and therefore their choice.

That’s the first part of the guilt surrounding cancer sufferers, the guilt their family and friends feel for wanting to try and take control of their lives when they’re not the ones having to endure any treatment.

Dad’s no fool. In fact, he’s one of the most intelligent people I know, so I knew he’d done more than his fair share of research into all the possibilities and potential outcomes. His body, his choice.

What do you say?

I’ll openly admit that I’ve been wank when it has come to being the supportive son. I’m rubbish at all that shit; I never know what to say.

“Oh hi, Dad. How you feeling?”

When I know full well he feels like his insides have been set on fire due to the radiation being blasted at him from all directions.

“How’s work?”

When I know he’s had to change his hours because he can’t see properly for the first hour or so of waking, can’t control his body temperature due to his body having less testosterone in it than that cunt Louie Spence so is constantly hotter than the sun.

That’s the problem when someone you know is seriously ill, you don’t know what to say to them. You don’t want to act or treat them differently, but in the back of your mind you know they have cancer. It’s fucked up.

I’ve been dealing with it how I deal with similar things of this nature, by trying to joke my way through. OK, the jokes are shit, but by making light of the situation I could avoid the elephant in the room.

A death sentence

The only first-hand experience I had of cancer before this was from the grandparents on, ironically, my dad’s side. Granddad died after undergoing surgery for lung cancer. Grandma survived breast cancer only for another form of the horrible little bastard to take her later in life.

My Mrs told me about the suffering her mum went through in the final stages of her life as she battled with the “Big C” so everyone I knew on a personal level had died after being diagnosed with cancer.

And there lies another guilt-causing problem: you start to, or at least I was, making plans for when the battle is finally lost.

I remember welling up in the car after listening to the German entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest as it was a guy singing about his dad. Fighting back tears and with a lump in my throat the size of a decent King Edwards spud choking me, I recall wondering how I’d react if I got a call to say the cancer had spread and there was nothing more they could do.

There were even fleeting thoughts about what I’d say at the funeral, or if I could even manage to get any words out in that situation.

How would my mum be? What state would my sister be in? How the fuck do you tell the kids that they won’t see Granddad anymore? All this when the poor old bastard was sat boiling his tits off at home and trying to go about his business as normal as possible.

What a cunt, Matthew. Thinking like this. But I couldn’t help it, despite the guilt it made me feel. It’s not like I was wishing the old man was dead, far from it, but you kind of make mental plans in your head for when cancer claims yet another life because it is often seen as a death sentence.

A new-found respect

I’ve always had a lot of respect for my dad. Coming from humble beginnings, he strived to be the best he could be academically, earned himself a degree in Chemistry – I think he was the first person in his entire family to do so – and has always done everything to be a provider for his family, including us lot.

While I have no doubts in my mind that he’ll have had a cry to himself on the nights he was along and trying to get to grips with the fact he had cancer, he’s gone about his daily routine with a smile on his face and a positivity that has been almost unnatural; you’d never know he had cancer and was undergoing treatment unless he told you.

There’s me moaning about being tired after a crap night’s sleep, and there’s Dad walking around full of the joys of spring despite almost glowing in the dark from radiation and going to 27 pisses during the night.

They say you learn a lot about someone who is facing adversity. I’ve learned that my old man is even more awesome that I originally thought him to be.

Fuck you cancer!

So, what’s the best news ever? Well, it came last week when my dad was told the months of treatment, the hours of worrying and the burning pisses had been worth it because his cancer is in remission.

It means that he no longer needs have injections to stop his body producing testosterone, which this form of cancer feeds off. We just have to wait to see what, if anything, happens when his body begins making testosterone again, but for now we can say fuck you to cancer! Here’s to one day everyone everywhere being able to say that to their tumours.

Dad and I

A photo of my dad and I pissed up at my sister’s wedding a few years back (look at the size of my head!)