Sunday 14 October 2007

A little bit of history

A little bit of history
By Mick McCloskey

Did you know that Ireland was the first European country to introduce Texas Hold’em tournaments?
I got to talking with Mick Cook, the veteran English poker pro, at the 2005 Irish Open Tournament in Dublin. Mick is something of a historian when it comes to Irish poker and he tells me that he and fellow English pro Derek Webb played in the very first Irish Open and that he has never missed an Irish Open since. Apart from the quality of the tournament itself, he tells me that he very much appreciates the, always warm, Irish hospitality he receives on his visits here.
This first tournament was a 7 card stud event, run by bookmaker and poker pioneer Terry Rogers in his Irish Eccentric Club in Dublin. He thinks this was held on Good Friday 1981 or 1982 and the buy-in was £500. The following year the game was, for the first time, No Limit Texas Hold’em. From Dublin, Mick took the game to England and introduced it to the punters at The Rainbow Casino in Birmingham and, from Birmingham, to The Victoria Casino in London. He tells me that the first Hold’em games in England were played half pot limit. Mick first went to Las Vegas in 1982/83, where he started to hone his new found Hold’em skills. He also latched onto another new game, which he brought back to England, Pot Limit Omaha.

    The real kick start for the game in Ireland and the UK came in 1984, when a group of about 25 American players arrived in Ireland to play The Irish Open at Killiney Castle. This group included the reigning World Series of Poker champion, Tom McEvoy as well as two times World Champion Stu Ungar. Indeed, Stu Ungar proceeded to win the first two events that year. Tom McEvoy won the main event, after a two hour heads up battle with Mick Cook. The whole event attracted widespread TV and press coverage in Ireland and the UK. Mick recalls that the main event had about 45-50 runners and had an entry fee of £1,000.

    Among the Irish players in the early years Mick recalls such characters as Terry Rogers, ”Suitcase Johnny”, ”Famous Seamus”, David Jackson, Colette Doherty, Donnacha O’Dea, Sean and Don Fagan, Liam Flood and Jim Langham, an Irish international table tennis player.
Mick was full of praise for the contribution made by Terry Rogers to the development of Poker in Ireland and, eventually in Europe as a whole. He credits Terry for his pioneering efforts in this field. He tells me that Terry gave future WSOP Champion Noel Furlong his first poker lesson. His advice to Noel was to develop a strong right arm so that he could keep pushing the chips in! If there was ever to be an Irish Poker Hall of Fame, he would nominate Terry to be the first member. Indeed, he would put him on a par with Benny Binion, who was actually a friend of Terry Rogers in those early years. He considers both Benny and Terry to be the main founders and promoters of the great game we know as Texas Hold’em.

No comments:

Post a Comment