The Irish Open is the oldest poker tournament in Europe, and as much an Easter traditional as hot cross buns and chocolate eggs, so when Rory from Grosvenor suggested to me and Joe Beevers we go over for the long weekend, we didn’t need asking twice.
After the usual quick pint in Dublin Airport, we headed for a quick lubrication in the hotel bar, as Jeff Duvall, Albert Sapiano, Mike Hill, Ian Simpson and Fintan Gavin all stopped off for a chat.
Playing day 1a meant an early night, but despite being a good boy, I just couldn’t seem to get going at the tables. I made dinner break with 34k from a starting 30k without doing anything spectacular, but lost the first chunky pot I got involved in soon afterwards, running AhQx into a set on a Q93 all hearts flop.
Seats one, two and three were having dream days while the rest of the table struggled, and seat two got me again with his funky style to leave me on fumes.
He limped in early position, I isolated from the button with A4 suited and we saw an AT4 flop four-ways. I bet big, knowing I’d get action from an ace and probably not from much else, and the guy who limp-called came along.
The turn was a king, and pretty sure he wouldn’t play AK this way, I bet big again for value, and again he called. The river was a queen and he led 10k. Any jack now made a straight, but there weren’t many ways he could have got to the river with a jack in his hand – it was either a limp-called AJ, which I felt unlikely as he’d raised these hands previously, or nothing.
I called and got shown AJ.
Just to prove he played AJ differently as a rule, I was finished off squeezing all in from the big blind with 45 suited for 6k at 150/300. The same guy had raised to 800, got three callers, and called my all in. The other three folded, he showed AJ and hit some jacks.
There had been 250-ish runners on day 1a, but it soon became evident they were going to smash the 500k guarantee as more and more faces turned up, so I didn’t need to think long before deciding to re-enter on day 1b.
After a bit…ok a lot….of queuing, I got my new seat, which was with Mick McCloskey and six of his fellow Irishmen.
As happens on these long day ones, I seemed to be playing a lot of pots with just one opponent. The good news is, I was beating seat one in just about every one.
This included him raising my blind and, with two callers already in, me defending KT suited and flopping trip kings.
The action was checked round, as was the 10 on the turn that made me a full house.
The jack of spades completed a flush and, first to speak, I figured I had to bet and hope to be paid off by a flush or two pairs.
I was resigned to winning just a small pot with my monster hand, but the original raiser bumped it up from 2k to 6k and I was pretty sure he had exactly jacks full.
I figured I may as well move all in, and after a bit of thought, I got paid off by jacks full and doubled up to 45k.
After knocking out the only guy I could beat in a pot, I didn’t win many pots strangely enough, although having Ross Boatman (aka the man from the NatWest adverts) move into his seat, at least gave me a chance to find out how advertising works and catch up on his latest acting exploits.
I should have made day 2 with 50k, but decided to try and bluff a guy who had just doubled up and ordered his first pint with half an hour to go, and my six high didn’t beat his turned straight, so while I made day 2, it was with only 27k.
While the dream was still alive, it soon ended, as I took the first chance I got to get in a flip and sadly lost.
I called a raise with 66 and watched as the button, who had looked like he wanted to get involved on his previous button, made it 5500. The raiser passed and I knew it was the right thing to do to move all-in…he was probably bluffing and I had plenty of fold equity, and if he wasn’t, it was pretty likely I was in a race.
A race it was, and his AK found some friends to give me an early bath.
I’m normally not a fan of playing side events after the main, but I loved the idea of a turbo, and the fact it was the Liam Flood Memorial, a man who did so much to bring the Irish Open and poker to Europe, meant I had to play.
The fast-paced structure would have been loved by the man himself, and it wasn’t long before the chips were flying round.
I made it down to the last four tables before I shoved for the third hand in a row over a raise, watched a guy call his whole stack off having put nothing in, got the raiser to fold but my AT had no chance against the mighty A6.
I was left with 3bb, still enough to beat the guy who took my whole stack and donked it off with K8o next hand.
There was one chance to win something at the Irish Open left, the 250 PLO side event, and thankfully that’s exactly what I did!
There were only 35 entries, but the field was tough, with Jeff Duvall, Padraig Parkinson and Joe Beevers all coming and going from my table.
By the time we made the final, a young Irish guy I’d never played with but who I later found out was former Irish Open champ Niall Smyth had all the chips.
As ever in a PLO comp, I played pretty tight and waited for my spots as others departed, and with three left scored a big double up, flopping top set of queens from the big blind against an inside wrap and holding. With 520,000 chips in play, I had around 180k and the chip lead with the stacks so similar, but the other two went to war and after Niall came out on top, I was heads-up for the title but with a chip deficit to overcome.
Niall, a proper friendly, chatty type who was fun to play with, offered to chop the money by stacks, but I didn’t fancy that, despite it being after 1am and having to be up at 6.30am to fly home.
I got the better of the early exchanges, and with the chips pretty even, Niall again offered to chop, this time 50/50.
I said we should flip for the win and the trophy, and when it was pointed out that disappointingly there was no trophy, we flipped anyway, and I came out on top to take first place!
As ever, the Irish Open was one of the best tournaments you can ever attend, and winning a side event and coming home with a few euros never goes amiss either.
Next up I’ll be attending the UKSPC, but as it’s a year or 20 since I left uni, I’ll be playing some of the open events and as a bounty in others! After that it’s UKIPT London, GUKPT Reading, and making Vegas plans.
Don’t forget Vegas satellites are running on Grosvenor Poker online, where you can win a poker trip to Vegas and take on Colossus!