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Tuesday 5 January 2016


By Mick McCloskey

Due to recent events in Belfast, where local police raided another poker tournament and seized money and poker tables and chips, I have rehashed an article (below) that I wrote almost six years ago. Sadly not much has changed since then.

The island of Ireland is a fairly small place, in global terms, with a total population smaller than that of any one of a number of large cities in the UK. I’m not going to get into the politics of the situation here but, the island is divided into two parts, the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and Northern Ireland (NI). As I write a blog about poker, that’s what we are going to look at in a bit more detail.

ROI has a long history of running poker tournaments with the Irish Open dating back to 1981. Even in those early days, the tournament could attract a decent amount of visiting players from the UK and even from the USA. Fast forward to the early part of this century and the growth in poker meant that player numbers had started to outgrow the traditional tournament venues. Hence the tournaments started to be moved into large hotel function rooms, with travelling players staying in the same hotels. The ambiance and atmosphere thus created meant that the tournament experience was combined with a great social experience as well, pretty much unlike anywhere else outside of the old WSOP experience at Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas. In both places, you had most of the players staying, playing, eating and drinking in the same venue over a number of days and it was a great way of meeting and getting to know fellow poker players.

 The word of this type of experience filtered down to some of the smaller tournaments and the organizers of events in Ireland, that were able to offer good value, well structured tournaments began attracting more and more overseas players. In the last year I would estimate that the number of visitors, mostly from continental Europe, could be numbered in thousands rather than hundreds. One event alone, normally attracts well over 2,000 high spending Norwegians to Dublin for up to 10 days every year.  All these visitors have helped to create and maintain a vibrant poker industry in ROI, directly creating jobs for dealers and floor people. All these visitors need to get here so the airline industry, as well as other transport providers, feel the benefits. These visitors also need hotel rooms as well as food, drink and entertainment while they are here. All this has benefits for the Irish tourism industry as well as the economy in general. And it is not just the benefit of overseas visitors. Many people from other parts of Ireland and NI tend to stay in the same hotels for the duration of the tournament, normally a stay of 3 to 4 nights. The craic at these events is usually top class.

In NI such large tournaments are outlawed. Even people trying to organize something smaller, on a local basis, are liable to be, and have been, raided and shut down by heavily armed police. Enough said.

Monday 3 March 2014

Friday 12 July 2013


Mid Summer in Galway has for many years been synonymous with the week long Horse racing festival at the famous Ballybrit course just north of Galway City. The week has also been well known for the poker action breaking out in various hotels around town every night.

Local Poker Player and Poker promoter, Fintan Gavin, has this year decided to bring a bit more organisation to the whole thing by teaming up with online poker site Full Tilt to run 24 hour cash games and a total of 60 tournaments starting on 27th July, for two weeks. The festival will include not just poker but Pool, 25's, Bridge and Open Face Chinese. As they figured there was nowhere in town big enough to host all this action, they decided to build their own tented village for the duration! The location, I believe, is near the harbour, close to the City centre.

The Poker Festival kicks off on Saturday 27th with The Galway Cup, a €135 + 15 NLH tournament with an estimated prize pool of €100,000.

The Festival also includes a UK versus Ireland heads up competition with a very strong looking Irish team. This event is scheduled to be streamed live. Look out for links on the official website (see below)
The Festival also includes the Irish Poker Championship with a buy in of €2,300 + 200.

The poker action culminates with the UK and Ireland Poker Tour main event with a guaranteed €1 million prize pool. Players can qualify online at both Full Tilt and Poker Stars.

A full schedule of events can be found here:

For a bit of background, check out Fintan's own blogs here:

Galway has always been a fun place during Race week and this combination of Racing and Poker, along with the other events looks absolutely awesome! I can't wait.

Sunday 12 May 2013


 Full Tilt Poker is bringing Ireland’s biggest ever series of poker events to the West with the inaugural Full Tilt Poker Galway Festival.
The Festival will take place from July 29 – August 12 with the highlight being the five-day €1,000,000 guaranteed UKIPT Main Event, running from August 8 - 12. All the action on and off the felt will take place at the custom-built Full Tilt Poker Village right in the heart of Galway city.
Full Tilt Poker will host a wide range of events throughout the two-week long festival; adding even more excitement to a city already buzzing with people participating in Galway Raceweek, which runs from July 29 – August 4.
The Main Event is just one of over 55 tournaments and events taking place, including the Irish Poker Championship, the UK v Ireland Heads Up Challenge and, for the first time ever, the Irish Bridge Masters.
As well as the chance to compete for a wide variety of prizes and major tournament titles, Full Tilt Poker qualifiers will also benefit from exclusive promotions such as the Last Longer, which will see the last qualifier standing win a prize package for every remaining main event in the UKIPT season. On top of this, qualifiers will receive bundles of extras such as an invite to Full Tilt Poker parties, drinks vouchers, custom avatars to use online, the Full Tilt Poker player bag brimming with merchandise, and lots more.
Prizes will be awarded to any player that wears a Full Tilt Poker patch and knocks out the most number of opponents, finishes on the bubble or is the first to get knocked out. In addition to this, there will also be a Players’ Lounge, free Wi-Fi, and enhanced concierge service for all.
Gus Hansen of The Professionals – Full Tilt Poker’s premier players – will be competing in the UKIPT Main Event; as will the Full Tilt Poker Ambassadors, a team chosen to represent the tour and interact with players on and off the felt. A bounty will be on the head of each Ambassador, with prizes up for grabs for any player who knocks them out while wearing a Full Tilt Poker patch.
Full Tilt Poker players can win prize packages and seats to the UKIPT Main Event online from as little as $1.10. Satellites kick off today from 10.25 ET with the first qualifier beginning at 15.30 ET.

Wednesday 27 February 2013


This article was first published in March 2005

Is poker success down to skill or luck or fate? Or is it a combination of all of these?

I have had a few experiences that would seem to suggest that fate may play a part. One of these relates to a trip I made to Barcelona in September 2003 for the Barcelona Open tournament, the predecessor of what would become the 1st leg of the European Poker Tour the following year.

When I arrived at my hotel I was allocated room 13 on one of the floors. (I can’t remember which.) I really didn’t think anything much of it and carried on with business. Over the next 2 or 3 days I played in various tournaments and satellite games and some cash games. Whatever I played in, I couldn’t seem to do anything right. I couldn’t win a flip to save my life. Even if I had AK against an Ace with a smaller kicker I still couldn’t win!

After about three days of this torture, I decided that my room number may be the root of the problem. So, I rang down to reception to ask if I could move to a different room. The guy at reception seemed very concerned and asked if there was something wrong with the room. "No" I said, but explained to him that I was playing Poker and that the room number seemed to be unlucky for me. “Aaahhh” says he, knowingly, “I understand”

A room change was arranged immediately – a triumph for international customer services in Spain.

So, anyway, I entered the main event the next day and proceeded to get a very nice payday with an equal three way chop in the tournament

My new room number was 114. Number of players in the main event? 114. Scary or what?

Looking back at the results, I noted that the buy in for this event was €1,000 with a €50 Reg. fee on top. For this we were treated to a three course meal, with wine, in the casino restaurant. How times have changed!

Another similar experience happened in Slovenia about eight months later. The difference here was that I was running pretty good. I made a final table in one of the side events and won my seat for the main event in a satellite.

The main event was a two day affair and I was chip leader when we got down to the final table of nine at the end of Day 1. After the chips were counted, the seating draw for the final table took place. The way they did this in Slovenia was that that the lowest stack got to draw the first seat and so on down the line. So, when it got to me, there was only one seat left. Table 8, Seat 8. Now, this sounded quite good to me as I had recently read somewhere that under some Chinese birth chart, my lucky number was supposed to be 8.
In the final the next day, I never lost the chip lead and when play eventually got heads up, I had about a 3 – 2 chip lead.

After a bit of heads up play, I picked up a pocket pair on the button. I made a standard raise only for my opponent to move all in. I made the call and he turned over AQ or AJ.

When the dust had settled, he did not improve and my pair held up to win me the tournament.

My pocket pair? 8-8!

Strange but true.