#153: “Smidge2.0″

For a couple of hours on Monday afternoon, #smidge2point0 was trending on twitter. Padraig ‘Smidge’ O’Neill was the chipleader with 6 left at the UKIPT Dublin final table and he was playing his A-Game. A couple of tough spots in small pots cost him some momentum and with 5 left, an absolute cooler flop in a limped pot blind versus blind conspired against him. Padraig had bottom pair and a flush draw on a AsJs3d flop and sensibly played it for maximum value and exploitation of his opponent’s range. He raised the flop, was called and committed himself on the blank turn, giving his opponent and eventual winner Richard Evans a very tough decision with A8. Richard thought hard but finally got it in and faded the 14-outer.

As Padraig received congratulations and commiserations from his sizable rail, a magnanimous and humble Richard left his seat to shake hands with him once again and tell him that he was ‘clearly the best player at the table’. He said that Padraig having position on him combined with his ‘psycho’ game had made his life extremely difficult for two days. Padraig thanked him for the complement and told him that he was rooting for him to take it down. A moment of sportsmanship like this tells you a lot about the calibre of both men. Such demonstrations of mutual respect should be championed in a game where the objective is to legitimately steal each other’s money.

Padraig picked up €20,700 for his 4 days of work, a super payday but less than I know he was hoping for going into the final day. More importantly perhaps, he received a massive boost to his confidence. A huge talent, Padraig is navigating his way through the early part of his poker career and results like this are both feedback and reward for the hours of hard work and analysis he has put in. Yesterday afternoon as Padraig pillaged his way to a quarter of the chips with 18 remaining, the disgraceful Pokerstars Blog created the narrative that he had coolered his way to a big stack. Sure, Padraig was the beneficiary of two big hands which lead to two big double-ups but he also lost a huge pot, having his Aces cracked by 99. The truth was he played out of his skin. He was relentlessly aggressive, the bane of his entire table with constant opens and well-timed 3bets. Then, of course, the same clueless blogger switched the narrative to:

“O’Neill’s attempts to play the bullying big stack game horribly backfired though when Richard Evans smooth called a three-bet with pocket kings, flopped top set and allowed O’Neill to barrel into him on a 5♠J♥K♦J♣ board with J♠9♥.”

It was as if the blogger was personally rooting against Padraig, relishing in any opportunity to rag on his play, make a snide comment about his facial expressions or just flippantly throw out what my grandmother would have called ‘a smart-arse remark’. The tone of the writing was so distasteful from the representative of a company who should be lauding the likes of Padraig – young polite kids who go about being poker professionals in the right way.

The reality is that this hand, despite the outcome, perfectly demonstrates how well he was playing. The villain had 33bbs and raised from late position. This is the ideal stack to 3bet as that bet has so much leverage in the hand. This raise is massively +EV and Padraig knows that. On the flop, he rightly bet his middle pin and on the turn, he is obviously married to the hand. The fact that the villain had a monster and played it deceptively means we should give credit to him rather than be results-oriented and cricticise Padraig’s line.

Padraig got back to his room that night having had the poker day of his short career thus far. Full of positive energy and itching to go back into battle, he logged on to check his table draw and read some of the blog posts. Reading what had been reported, the wind was taken out of his sails a bit. It was nothing he couldn’t shake off but it nonetheless shouldn’t have happened.

Then, in his summary of the final table, the same blogger posted the following earlier today:

“The young Irishman had been the chip leader for some length yesterday and his aggressive pre-flop game could get him back into the driving seat. As it happened, it just led to a car crash instead. Evans limped his small blind with A♥8♠ and Evans checked with 6♠3♠. Evans bet 80,000 into the A♠J♠3♥ flop and O’Neill raised to 210,000. Evans called and checked the 4♦ turn. O’Neill bet around 460,000 with 200,000 back and called when Evans shoved. O’Neill didn’t catch the spade, three or six that he needed.”

So, let me get this right… His aggressive pre-flop game led to a car crash hand where the villain limped into his big blind and Padraig checked behind, flopped a monster and couldn’t/shouldn’t get away? Well, if I may be similarly ignorant and judge you using the same rhetoric and implied values of your blog:

“The young Pokerstars blogger’s poor ability to write was on show for all to read yesterday. Despite this handicap, he could have gotten back into the driving seat with some well-balanced, intelligent contributions today. As it happened, it just lead to a car-crash blog where he was not only pejorative but utterly ignorant as well.”

Smidge2.0 played like a champion and was 3-1 when he got his money in today. With reporting of this calibre, the odds of you keeping your job in the long-term should be much longer.