Trip Report: The ‘Dublin Poker Series’ #2

To be honest, the phrase ‘I have been looking forward to going to Dublin’ hardly ever comes out of my mouth.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against it as a place and love the people, but it usually involves pulling what hair I have left out from the roots as I try to find parking, being dragged around shops I have no interest in or herding the kids through shopping centres trying hard not to lose track of one or, God forbid, both of them.

Losing one would be careless but losing both would be a disaster and might call for some form of an embarrassing encounter with the Gardaí.

But this was different.

There is always a nice feeling heading into the ‘Big Schmoke’ to play an Irish Poker Tour event.  I’m a big fan of the games that Donal MacAonghusa and Fintan Gavin put on.  In fact, I was one of the players that played in their original game at the Red Cow Hotel back in the day.  Too many days ago to count.

Driving in, I was listening to the latest ‘Chip Race Podcast’ with David Lappin and Dara O’Kearney.  They were talking about their adventures at this year’s WSOP in Vegas.

Irish poker pro & best selling author Dara O'Kearney

Irish poker pro & best selling author Dara O’Kearney

*If you’re not listening to their award-winning podcast and have an interest in poker you’re really missing out.  I highly recommend it.

In my bag were 3 books I’d prearranged for Dara to sign.  Not that I’m some kind of fanboy, but how many best-selling authors do you get to meet and 3-bet regularly?  Not many, I’m going to guess.  We’ll get back to this story later.

The Venue

The venue today is the same as for all 3 of the ‘Dublin Poker Series’ events, the Green Isle Hotel in Clondalkin.

In my humble opinion, it is the perfect venue for live poker outside of a card club or casino.  It has easy access off main roads, plenty of parking in its own multi-storey car park, and a smashing little café/restaurant/bar that serves great coffee and snacks as well as the usual pints and soda pop.

The main room is large enough to accommodate 30+ tables as well as plenty of room for the registration desk and makeshift money cage.  The airy space in the room makes for a very comfortable playing experience.  The 2 bars and the friendly staff offering table service doesn’t hurt either.

It’s no wonder the Irish Poker Tour has locked up the venue for the 3 one-day events across 3 months.

The main event kicked off on time at 2:00 PM and there were already at least 10 tables going as I made my way to the reg desk just a couple of minutes into level 1.

The Players

Some of the 600+ entries at the 2nd Dublin Poker Series

As ever, there was the usual ragtag bag of ‘degens’ that would turn up for a poker game on the deck of the Titanic.  Familiar faces were everywhere.  Some I haven’t seen since I was playing in the Fitz back in the day. Some I’d played with in last month’s ‘Dublin Poker Series’ outing.

After a few levels, there were a couple of notable groups in the room.

The first was a group of lads that were obviously on a poker day trip together as they hung around checking on the fortunes of their friends as each one was knocked out over the day.

The difference from the normal ‘gang of pals’ was that these guys were all hearing-impaired players.

I had the pleasure of playing with a couple of them over the course of the game and it was great to see all the dealers making sure the lads were not missing out on verbal actions and the like.

The other group was a sizeable contingent of female players.  It was only when I got down to the last 5 tables or so that there wasn’t a female player at my table.

The participation, and sometimes bad treatment, of female players in the game, was a constant theme of discussion around the WSOP this year as well over the last 12 months with some online sites choosing to sign ambassador deals with so-called ‘celebrities’ with questionable respect for others, especially women.

But that’s a discussion for another day.

The reason I bring this up is that I spent the first 5 levels sitting next to one of Ireland’s best ambassadors for poker, Annette O’Carroll.

Annette O'Carroll

Irish poker legend Annette O’Carroll

Annette is one of the best poker players in the country, male or female.  I highly recommend listening to her interview with David and Dara on their aforementioned ‘The Chip Race’ podcast.  It’s not only informative but entertaining as well.  Annette can definitely tell a story and have you hanging on her every word.

Most informative was her thoughts on how women in the game could and should take advantage of the tendencies of most male players when it comes to their beliefs about female players and their skill levels.

Talk about having a ‘rich history’ in Irish poker!

None in the room today could claim to have a richer history at the tables across this country than Annette.

A strong contender though would be Willow Connolly who I later played with around the time registration was ending, when we both re-entered at the last minute and were seated next to each other.

Willow Connolly

Dublin poker stalworth Willow Connolly

Willow, and her husband Eamonn Connolly, are well known on the Irish poker scene for years.  Willow comes from a family of great plyers including her mum, Jenny Hegarty, who once won the Irish Poker Open.

Diversity and having a healthy respect for each other is something that has given me great pride in the Irish poker community. Sure, we have our fair share of assholes and bigots but in comparison to other places I’ve played, we’re streets ahead in regard to inclusivity and respect.

We’re not perfect here in Ireland, but we do deserve a little credit.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoy playing the IPT games so much.  It always feels safe and welcoming no matter who you are or where you’re from.

The Tournament

The room was packed…

At my first table (and first buy-in) I was gifted with AA once and AKs 5 times and managed to spin those up to a grand total of, drumroll, zero chips.  In fact, half my starting stack went to others at my table because of those holdings.

With five levels gone and only a few pots won through some ducking and diving including one against Annette where I managed to, as she put it, ‘confuse the hell out of her’ with a flopped set of queens after limping under the gun in an effort to get someone to re-raise and bloat the pot for me to make my comeback.

My sneakiness was in vain, and my dwindling stack became too much of a cross to bear with a fresh re-entry stack calling my name.

Shoving 10 big blinds with JT0 in the cut-off, with 4 limpers before me, hardly ever returns a positive result.  And so, it was today.  Busto #1.

So, with a re-entry stack in hand, I was involved in a few table moves over the next few levels and the numbers really started to drop and we hit the bubble at 56 players of the original 541 entries (including re-entries).  Just before this point, I was sad to look up and see Annette heading for the exit, her day at the felt done.

I arrived at my last table just in time to see Dara O’Kearney standing up from the seat immediately to the right of my allocated seat.  He was bust and, as well as his chance of winning another tournament was gone up in smoke, so was my chance of getting my books signed.  I couldn’t do it to the man.  Imagine saying ‘good game, and can you sign my books’ as he leaves the table.

Nobody could be that cruel.  Could they?  In Vegas maybe, not in Clondalkin.  I just took my seat and said “Unlucky…”.  Dara slipped off into the sea of empty tables and was gone.

Time to get busy.

The bubble lasted a good few hands with the hand-for-hand being excellently managed by Andre Lorencs, one of the TDs.  The fact that the bar had been ably managed by the staff of the Green Isle meant the atmosphere and some of the play at the tables were very entertaining.

Some players were a little off-kilter if you know what I mean.  Let’s just say some mightn’t pass a breathalyser test.

After what seemed like 30 minutes of hand-to-hand, the bubble burst but the usual dominoes of bust-outs didn’t happen for a good while.

Unfortunately, this is where my participation in the tourney ended.  With a stack of about 13 big blinds in the cut-off and a couple of limps before me (as well as being card dead for what felt like an age) I looked down at TT, said a little prayer to Wuntym, the pagan God of poker, and shoved.

The immediate call by the Scandie in the small blind that just covered me wasn’t a good sign but the insta-shove by the under-the-gun limper was the final nail in the coffin that was my hopes and dreams for another day, ending up with a min-cash.

My monster TT was miraculously ahead of the AJo in the small blind and stayed ahead all the way, but way behind the limped KK under the gun.  The KK hit another King in the window as the flop played its part in my downfall.  The chips went to a good home though as the KK player was James Tarrant who ended up chopping 3 ways for 3rd place money at the end of the night.

The Final Table

The Final Table

The last 9 players were Philip Brown, Valentin-Robert Pavelescu, Sorie Kamara, Paul Mooney, James Tarrant, Dan Paul Rus, Comin Deac, Brian Kiely, and Yang Yu.

I’d managed to tangle with 6 of the final-tablists over the course of the day and can say any of them would have been worthy winners.

It ended up with a 3-way deal with Paul Mooney taking the trophy, Sorie Kamara taking second and my vanquisher with the KK, James Tarrant taking a well-earned third place.

The Winners: James Tarrant (3rd), Paul Mooney (1st), and Sorie Kamara (2rd)

In the end, all the players were winners.  Every one of the 541 entries in the main event and over 100 in the mega satellite side event.  As ever, it was a well-run game of poker, something I’ve come to expect from the IPT.

With the energy spent on the main event, I didn’t get to see much of the mega satellite side event that had 11 package tickets (main event entry and 4 nights’ accommodation) for the upcoming ‘Irish Poker Festival’ in the INEC/Gleneagles Hotel in Killarney, but what little I saw just added to my feeling that things had gone well for the Irish Poker Tour today.

As I passed Fintan Gavin, the IPT player liaison, on my way to collect my min cash, he looked shattered.  However, he had a massive smile on his face and graciously listened to my bust-out hand like he actually cared.  God bless him!

“Happy?” I asked.  “Delighted”, he replied.  “See you next time,” he said as I sulked off out into the night to head back home with a little profit in my pocket and a smile on my face.

“Next time,” I replied.  Well, maybe, just maybe, it will be my time next time.

The Game

The game of poker, in particular tournament poker, is enjoying a resurgence after the noticeable lull pre-pandemic.

The appetite for well-run, player-friendly poker is on the up and the poker scene in Ireland hasn’t been this healthy for a long time.

With excellent and expertly run poker events and passionate poker operators like the Irish Poker Tour, we can hope that this newfound love for poker will last a long time.

As long as Donal MacAonghusa, the IPT tournament director extraordinaire, and the charismatic player liaison Fintan Gavin continues to supply a product that is enjoyable, accessible and as well received as the Irish Poker Tour, then the future of poker in Ireland is bright.

Donal MacAonghusa, the IPT tournament director, passes a watchful eye over the final table

The future’s so bright I might have to wear shades.

Just not at the tables.  Who wants to look like a tool?

Worse still, imagine the slagging I’d have to take from Fintan or Donal.

Even Annette O’Carroll might have to take me aside and have a quiet word about such a poker fashion faux pas.

Probably not, she’s too nice.  Like many others in the room.  I think it’s why I love live poker in Ireland so much.

Long may it continue.

So, until next time…


@pokerweirdo on Twitter

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