In brief, Madrid in December is a tourist destination for Spanish people. Meaning I had to brush up on my pigeon Spanish, as it is always important to make an effort I think. That said if someone had something in particular they wished to say, apologising for being English doesn’t stop them completing their Spanish sentence  Madrid is a nice cosmopolitan city, although I suspect you will like it more if you like Art. If I had a dollar for every painting I saw, it would not have been Doomcember, quite the opposite.

The poker was Campeonato Espana Poker Aranjuez. Aranjuez is a town which is a 50 minute bus/train ride to the South of Madrid. I knew that they did not speak much English in Aranjuez, but was prepared for this after Madrid. What I wasn’t prepared for was the taxi ride through what looked like the set from Chernobyl Diaries! I’d have taken a picture, but I was scared. My first challenge was explaining to casino staff with severely limited English that I was already registered after qualifying online! At least they got the red carpet out for me.

This hinted to me that not a lot about this poker tournament was going to be in English! So I spent a fair amount of time learning my Spanish numbers, as this was what was going to be important. While a bit card dead early I was left wondering what this lack of language equity might equate to. Not understanding the conversations going on, and spending time thinking about numbers when I was short on physical chips probably meant I was missing out on useful information. That said all I had was the game to focus on, which may have made up for it. I did amuse myself by finding some WSOP bracelet winner look-a-likes, can you guess who:

My biggest hand from Day 1 was an interesting one. Minraise from middle position, call on button, I call SB with 97o expecting that BB will come along and indeed we see a flop 4 way. It is checked around and when a 7x hits the turn I am betting for value and charging draws. Only the original raiser calls at which point I can be happier I am ahead. 9x on the river which I did not think I needed and I put out the kind of value bet that hopes to find a call from TT, JJ. Surprised to get raised on river, but did not think this LAGgy villain was slow playing QQ, Q9 on flop so I expected to have the effective nuts, although could not see much calling the shove which was the sensible raise size. My shove got snap called and surprisingly my 97 was good, I assume he had the case 9. Thanks to this and a few other pots I finished day 1 fifth in chips.

Day 2 started off really well as increased my stack by 25% just opening, 3betting in good spots and cbetting when called without much resistance. Dusted off a bit later in a blind on blind battle versus a sticky villain. Then was left around 25bb and proceeded to shove in good spots and maintain the stack approaching the bubble. 9 were paid as there were only 93 players. My day 1b was the only day 1 – an announcement in Spanish I guess I missed. There were 13 left for some time, but when we hit 12 we were quite quickly on the bubble and it was interesting as when the 11th place finisher on our table was eliminated at the same time a guy on the other table was crippled with KK < 77 (if only the KK had been ahead on the flop ). The guy with KK was left with 3.5bb and as such me with 16bb was left ICM handcuffed. It would be silly for me to risk much if anything of my stack when I could hopefully wait for the shortie to be eliminated and be guaranteed 1150 euros (enough to put a decent dent in Doomcember). So I folded AJ, 88 and AQ to raises pre waiting for the shortie to bust. Shortie got his last few in with versus 99 and the board ran out K2775.

Then after a little while we were even in chips and less than 10bb, I did not fancy my luck with blinding down so started to shove a normal range. Fast forward rising blinds and dodgy hands and I ship AcKc with 7bb UTG. Unfortunately I ran into a big stack BB who knew he should call wide. At the same time the slightly shorter guy was all in. We ran my versus first and saw a 343 flop and no improvement for me  I would not bubble if the shorty got unlucky with JJ versus T9o but that did not happen and I was the burbuja Señor!

So I said Adiós to my Spanish friends and tried to forget about both bubbling the money and the final table – one of my goals for 2013. After flying back to England in a storm and getting diverted to a different airport, I was grateful for surviving my trip and less concerned about bubbling. I was also grateful to go back to speaking English, although I will continue to count in Spanish in my head.