This is what I do

This is what I do

I played a bit of poker at college, but I was 23 before I got serious about the game. I’m from Killybegs, in Co Donegal, and I have a degree in business studies from Sligo Institute of Technology, as well as a diploma in sports recreation.

I didn’t really plan to do anything when I came out of college and then one of my friends suggested I try a game of poker. Straightaway, I was fascinated by it.

I have a sports background, so I liked the competitive nature and the mind games. I also liked the banter at the table. I played in a few tournaments and ended up winning one. The prize was Ir£1,000 (€1,200). I also played cash games and early on won a similar amount. I then moved to Dublin and started winning more in a week than I would earn in months.

I was lucky enough to win the Macau leg of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour early in my career. It was in 2009 and I was 23 or 24. I’m 29 now. The prize was more than $500,000 (€362,000). I went there to play with a friend and I won my seat at the main competition in a satellite game.

When you start off, you don’t have much money, so you try to “satellite” your way in. For that tournament, a seat was $5,000, and for every 10 seats bought, one person was allowed to win a satellite place in a separate competition where entry was $500. The goal is not to win the money, but to win a seat. You also get a hotel room, expenses and a goody bag; you could end up there for three days.

Cash games have fixed blinds — the amount put into the pot. That’s how betting starts and the game doesn’t change all night. In a tournament, you play with chips and the blinds are increased all the time, which forces the action. That can make tournaments very exciting. They attract a lot of recreational players, as everyone has a chance at winning. Cash games are more suitable for professionals and I’ve played them where the blind starts off as high as €1,500 per player.

As a professional, you have to take it seriously and a huge part of that is managing your money. One of the first things I did was build a house back home in Donegal. My next goal is to buy an apartment in Dublin. I made mistakes along the way, but that’s how you learn.

When people ask me for tips, I always say play a lot — don’t be afraid to play a lot of hands. It’s a repetitive game, so the more often you play and the more often you make wrong decisions, the more you can analyse where you went wrong.

One of the best things about poker is that if you are a novice, you could just sit down at a tournament next to a guy you may have seen play on television. It’s not as though poker players are idols, but if you’re a fan of sport, you’re never going to have a chance to play alongside Brian O’Driscoll or Robbie Keane. With poker, you just pay your money and take a seat.

Blain is an ambassador for and will be taking part in the UK and Ireland Poker Tour event in Nottingham from May 7 to 12

Casino sues poker professional over $9.6m ‘cheat’

Casino sues poker professional over $9.6m ‘cheat’

An American casino is suing one of the world’s most notorious card players, alleging that he won $9.6 million while cheating at baccarat.

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, in Atlantic City, has alleged that Phillip Ivey Jr, a champion poker player, exploited a defect in its cards, which gave him an illegal advantage.

Last year, Mr Ivey was accused of using the same technique – known as “edge sorting” – at Crockfords, the venerable Mayfair gaming club, to win more than £7 million. On both occasions he was allegedly accompanied by a young Chinese associate known as Kelly, said to be an expert at identifying playing card design flaws.

The backs of the cards had been imperfectly printed, with the pattern becoming asymmetrical.

Both casinos allege that Mr Ivey and Kelly instructed dealers to arrange cards in particular ways. After several hands, valuable cards were arranged with the irregular side of the card facing in a specific direction — allowing Mr Ivey to spot them as they emerged from the dealer chute.

Mr Ivey – who has been dubbed the Tiger Woods of poker – has admitted to edge sorting at Crockfords while playing punto banco, a type of baccarat based purely on luck.

Initially, he was betting £50,000 a hand at Crockfords. However, after the cards had been identified through their flaws, he asked the casino’s permission to raise the maximum stake to £150,000.

Mr Ivey has maintained that Crockfords was well aware of how edge sorting is exploited by co-called “advantage players” such as himself. The casino should not have used faulty cards, he has argued.

Cantor’s spread-betting is the talk of the town

Cantor’s spread-betting is the talk of the town

Instead of the trades that might make them money, some of London’s smartest punters were more interested in the future of one of the shops that takes their bets. They heard (and passed on) rumours that Cantor Fitzgerald, the American brokerage house that mopped up Seymour Pierce last year, is about to offload its spread-betting and contacts for difference, or CFD, business.

The idea, according to those who thought themselves in the know, is that Charles Knott — the man who runs that business and a specialist in dealing for what the City likes to call “high-net-worth” individuals — will carve it out of Cantor.

Cantor would concentrate then on institutional broking and market-making, while its CFD and spread-betting business is dropped wholesale into Solo Capital, an acquisitive boutique financial services group with connections to India and the Middle East.

The plan, purportedly, is then to roll in Old Park Lane Capital, the broking house founded and run by Michael Parnes, son of Anthony Parnes, the millionaire stockbroker nicknamed “The Animal” who became embroiled in the Guinness scandal in the 1980s. Old Park Lane brings settlement facilities and regulatory licences to any combined entity.

Otherwise, the wider stock market trod water. Again. The FTSE 100 drifted 12 points lower to 6,792.2, with traders reluctant to take meaty positions before the latest update on the Federal Reserve’s thinking today and before Scotland decides whether to remain part of the United Kingdom tomorrow. Stock markets across Europe nursed similar, modest losses.

Among those weighing on London was ARM Holdings, off 18p at 920p after the Nasdaq endured its worst day since July on Monday. America’s technology investors were said to be clearing the decks for the market debut of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company, at the end of the week.

SABMiller, whose merger ambitions were knocked back by Heineken within the past fortnight, slid 79p to £36.61 after it emerged that no takeover talks were happening, for now, with Anheuser-Busch InBev, the biggest drinks group of all. Still with the drinks industry and Punch Taverns was 3.9 per cent higher at 9.35p. Today, finally, the company should be given the go-ahead for a painful debt-for-equity swap after years of talks with bondholders.

Back in the Footsie, Pearson, the publisher of textbooks, ran 20p higher to £12.26 after a push by Morgan Stanley, while miners were underpinned by positive research from Deutsche Bank. Oil shares were buoyed by a jump in crude prices after Opec signalled a production cut and Libya curbed output. Royal Dutch Shell’s B shares rose 19½p to £24.99½.

On AIM, TXO jumped 38.7 per cent to 0.215p after a contract to process waste oil with a company in which it invests was extended. For TXO bulls, that offered proof that the potentially highly lucrative technology works.

Thalassa Holdings was thumped 41½p, or nearly 23 per cent, to 139p after a horrible profit warning. Blaming sanctions against Russia and a new chief executive at a Russian state-owned customer of its seismic surveys, the energy services company is struggling to convert its pipeline into revenue. In response, WH Ireland hacked back its target price for the shares from 400p to 260p.

Investors go where action is

There was plenty of action in Action Hotels as investors in London checked into the only listed Middle Eastern hotels group.

Sheikh Mubarak, its founder and chairman, is a member of the Kuwaiti ruling family. He delivered a maiden set of interim results this week that drew applause from investors who had backed the business when it floated on AIM last December, among them Andy Brough, the Schroders star fund manager, and L&G.

Revenues were higher. So, too, were occupancy levels and the value of Action’s half-dozen hotels. Less gold taps and polar bear-skin rugs, Action focuses on the Middle East’s mid-market, taking in brands such as Premier Inn, Holiday Inn and Ibis.

Unusually, Action develops, builds and owns its hotels, but lets its brand partners look after marketing, operations and other “front of house” functions. A further nine hotels are under construction in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Both Sanlam and finnCap were pushing Action shares that made their debut at 64p and settled at 69½p yesterday, valuing the company at north of £102 million.

Wall Street report

A rise in oil prices was the cue for energy stocks to climb on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones industrial average back towards the record-breaking territory of last month. At the close, the Dow stood on 17,131.97 points, up 100.83.

VoIP and Social Media: The Best Low Cost Ways to Keep in Touch While Abroad

When you go abroad, it can be expensive to keep in touch with friends, family or business contacts, especially if you want to have live contact with them. However, there are plenty of good ways to talk, text and video call for less. So before you jet off and resign yourself to a huge phone bill, have a read through this guide. In it you’ll find tips on the best ways to keep in touch at a low cost.

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