The Tournament Poker Rollercaster (you have to know when to get off)

March 2001 to June 2003 – First published in Poker Europa January 2004.

Over the past few years Simon “Aces” Trumper has been one of the highest profile players in Europe and it seemed that all he had to do was turn up at a tournament to win. But for the past seven months he has become almost invisible. Without putting too fine a point on it he almost went broke. How and why did it happen? Here is his personal account.

I often hear players say that tournament poker on the “circuit” is not sustainable because of the overheads and they wonder what it costs. They are not far from the truth as far as my own case is concerned. I like to think that one of my strongest attributes is the ability to self analyse after each tournament and look for improvement. I wish now that in doing so I had known when to stop. All the signs were there to tell me enough is enough way before I dropped my last £15,000 in Vegas at last years WSOP.

If you want to see a true account of two years on the tournament circuit and learn from my mistakes – read on. I started with a few results at the Vic in the festivals in 96, but it was 97 when I came 1st 2nd 3rd and 4th out of 6 events at the European championships that I became better known.

This then dramatically increased in 2000 when I won the second series of Late Night Poker but even by the end of 2000 I still didn’t play the circuit.

I In March 2001 I went to Reading where I originally began playing back in 95 with players such as Bob Coombes, Sean Hayes,Graham Pound, Tony Chapman and Nourri who now plays the big game at the Vic.

I played in a £50 Pot Limit hold-em and split it with Mark Hall.

The following day I went to Luton to play another £50 Pot Limit.I worked out if I came top 3 I could afford to go to Vienna for the European WSOP Trial so that was my goal. I eventually split it with Steve Vladar.

The following Monday on the first day of the Trial I arrived in Vienna, four days later I flew home with the trophy and approx £30,000 and that’s when it all started.

I began travelling to other events including Paris and Vegas to no avail, then back to Vienna in June where I won my second £1,000 No Limit event. On to Paris for a second spot in the £1,000 Grand Prix No Limit and I was now playing in a different country every month with at least one final.

This culminated with another £500 No Limit win in Paris and 2nd to the fantastic Hamish Shah in the fourth series of Late Night Poker.

So obviously having won about £140,000 I was now in great shape.

Or was I?

That year after all my expenses were taken out (including cash game losses!You should have seen the glee in the cash game players’ eyes when I sat down) I was actually ahead only £20,000.

My business suffered and turnover dropped but I was still able to take a minimum wage and a small dividend. However I would have been better off not playing, concentrating on my company and just targeting selected events in this country to cut out the expenses. So of course in 2002 this is exactly what I did… Not.

Right first stop Melbourne Australia and the Aussie Million. No good.

Then I had a few results, split the £750 No Limit in Luton for £20,000 and won the 250 Euro Pot Limit Omaha in Vienna, came 4th in the $3000 No Limit at the WSOP, made both the No Limit finals at the European championships at the Vic and five more finals in Luton and Paris for a total of £120,000 without the smaller placings.

By 23rd September 2002 I was now £30,000 up.

I had gained tremendous experience at the highest level all over Europe and America, was making finals virtually every month and was completely self financed from winnings.

My best game is obviously No Limit with 18 finals in 18 months with a buy-in between E500 and E5000 so what could possibly go wrong?

Well here is what: I was spending a minimum £10,000 a month in flights, hotels, food, taxis and tournament entries so even £30,000 only gave me a three month cushion. But as I had only missed out on a result in two months of the last 18 for me it was unthinkable that what was about to happen could.

From 23 September to 15th December I went to Vienna, Baden, the Vic, Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris, Walsall and Helsinki playing probably 30 events and only cashing in twice for E5000 .

I then played in the Poker Million and came second in my heat losing another £6,500.I ended the year £10,000 down.

Of course yet again my business had suffered and I had now stopped taking a wage. Something had to change.

At this time some players had come up to me saying that I had changed my style and was clearly under pressure.

Well the reason I had had such a drought was a few unforced errors of my own followed by 17 lost even money shots at crucial stages of events including AK against 55 in the Lido 3 tables out for a big pot against Johan Storakers who went on to come 2nd and QQ against AK of Isabelle from the Aviation in the 800 ENo Limit. Such beats as these are everyday occurrences in No Limit but 17 in a row hurts.

However I thought about what people had said and realised they were right. Although I had taken a lot of beats I knew I was not accumulating as many chips as I normally did so when I lost these pots I was being knocked out when previously I would have had enough chips left to make a recovery.

I decide to take a month off so in January apart from the Ashes heads up in Australia where I played and lost the deciding leg and the Aussie Million where I donated my chips to Ram I didn’t play. I was convinced this bad run couldn’t continue and as I was “only” £15,000 down was prepared to continue hitting my credit cards until the wins started again. After all one decent result I told myself and this minor hiccup will soon be a memory. So off to Paris, Vienna, back to Paris then Luton and after scraping three finals winning only E5000 by the middle of April I was £35,000 down.

The thing is I figured I was playing well and that it was only the poker gods conspiring to challenge my sanity with beats like the Omaha in Vienna.

This was a key event. I had won it the year before and with eight players left and average chips I fancied my chances.

The chip leader raised and I looked down at AAKJ double suited and moved all. I was called by AQQ4 and naturally the queen was the first card on the flop. I was out and he went on to win the tournament. It’s times like these when you have to decide: Do I stop now and take a break or what?

So I booked a flight to Vegas.

Yet again a little voice in my head said ok you’re £35,000 down but you won £42,000 there last year so go for it – this is your last chance to get out of trouble.

I arrived five weeks before the main event with £5,000 intending to play one event the $2,000 No Limit and use the rest for super satellites.

I had pumped myself full of self belief that I could turn things round and I sat down to play the $2,000 very confident.

But now I know what happens when you’re under pressure.

You play without feel and with fear.

And this is what happened. I had built up a good stack and a player two off the button made a standard raise. He had only been in two other pots with AK and KK so looking down to find QQ in the big blind I chose to call rather than raise as both times he had been raised before he moved all in.

The flop was 8 9 J and I made my second mistake and moved all in. He shrugged his shoulders, sighed, checked his cards and called flipping over Q-10 and I was out.

Not a good start.

The supers were very quiet at the beginning due to a $200 No Limit event being held every night but I decided I had no option but to play even if there was no seat just cash. My first try was uneventful then suddenly for the first time in eight months I hit form.

It was a Friday five days before I was booked to leave – three weeks before the big one. It was the afternoon super satellite – two tables and not enough for a seat. Down to three I’m chip leader and offered a proportional deal I take $2,300. That evening there’s only enough for one table down to three again I’m chip leader and take $1,700.The following night there’s one $10,000 seat, with three left I’m chip leader but can’t afford to offer the others a deal. Then one of the players offers me $3,500 and the other guy $3,000 and takes the seat.

Now I am $6,825 up and I enter the Sunday evening super. This time there’s a seat and $2,000. I get heads up with Casey Castle, we can’t agree a deal so we save a $1,000 and play on. He raises and I move in with pocket 3s. He quickly calls showing QQ. Here comes the flop for a seat in the big one – 6 6 3. Lucky me. I’m in the main event but all is not well.

What I should have done is flown home and then back two weeks later. Instead I decide to stay and try and win some more supers which will earn me $10,000 a time.

The rest was a blur. Basically I played another 17 supers made 3 more finals but missed the seats. Also due to some help from some great players who knew my predicament I was put into the $5,000 and $3,000 No Limit hold’em events but to no avail.

The weekend before the main event I had told myself I was going to rest ready for Monday. But by now I had done my tank and borrowed a few thousand to try the one table satellites which I had previously done well in.

The last four supers always give the most seats so on Saturday afternoon my good intentions to take a break went out of the window and I sat down with 301 other players. After the rebuys had finished it was announced that we were playing for 15 seats. With 60 players left I was chip leader and dreaming of winning the $10,000, paying back my friend and being in great form for the big one. Sadly it wasn’t to be. I finished a gut-wrenching 17th.You can’t believe how much it would have meant to win at this time.

I tried to get over it Sunday but after five weeks in Vegas and the rollercoaster taking a steep drop I was never in shape to play my “A” game so for the first time in four attempts I failed to make the second day in the $10,000 Championship Event.

Yet again it was QQ in my big blind that cost me most of my chips. Under the gun raised, I flat called the flop was 5- 6- 7 and he milked my calls all the way to the river before flipping 8 9.

For the first time in two years I completely lost my focus and walked away from the table in a daze a few hands later.

To be honest I almost felt a sense of relief. I knew I was at the end of the road.

I had gone from £30,000 up to £50,000 down in eight months and I finally came to my senses. I flew home from Vegas and knew I had to make a lot of changes before I could play again.

I would like to be able to say that I got up the next day full of enthusiasm and started working again and sorting my life out. But it was not that simple.

When you have lived this almost surreal existence travelling all over the world, experiencing the wonderful highs for 18 months before finally hitting your personal wall and with it the despair of failure and financial difficulty it takes time to recover. I was depressed for three months with no energy and it wasn’t until one day in August I woke up and thought: That’s it. I’m sick of feeling sorry for myself. If I had listened to my friends this could have been prevented but the way I figured it with my record it was only a matter of time before I won another decent sized win.

Well I learnt the hard way. It doesn’t matter what you’ve achieved before, if things start to go against you and you won’t accept it and you won’t believe your game is affected a small loss soon becomes a big loss. Fortunately I have always been able to earn a good living outside of poker so I am getting every thing back under control and enjoying it. I still love the poker world and feel ready to play again. I played a £400 No Limit in Southampton and came fifth when my JJ got beat by AK with an A on the turn. I managed to raise a smile and thought it will all even out in the long run. All I have to do is play my best as and when I can afford it and the results will be there.

One thing I guarantee you I will be back.


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