Monday 6 June 2011

Irish Title Returns

By Mick McCloskey

The title of Irish Open Champion returned to these shores after an absence of 3 years when Co. Clare’s Niall Smyth overcame a field of 615 players and a tough heads up against the very experienced Surinder Sunar at the Burlington Hotel over the Easter weekend. Niall picked up €550,000 for his weekend’s work as well as an extra package worth €100,000 for winning Paddy Power’s Sole Survivor promotion for online qualifiers. Sunar took €290,000 for runner up spot with Denmark’s Martin Petri coming third for €180,000.
Niall revealed that his success had all come about after he placed a €10 each way bet with Paddy Power on the winner of the English Grand National. He used his winnings to play an online satellite and went on to spin it up into an Irish Open seat worth €3,500. The rest, as they say, is history.

Talking of history, the last Irish born Champion, winning the title at the same venue in 2007, was someone else called Smyth, Marty of course. It was a case of almost like old times when I ran into Marty and Nicky Power in the hotel foyer at the end of play on day two. By this time the field was down to 55 players, who were all in the money. Just like 2007, all three of us were still in the mix, with Nicky going on to make the final table and Marty winning it. This year, also just like 2007, Marty went on to outlast the pair of us!

I must put my own deep run in this year’s Irish Open partly down to my first day table draw. I spent the whole first day in the company of Neil “Bad Beat” Channing and felt very relaxed all day chatting away to Neil. Well, to be honest, Neil did most of the chatting, as he does. But it did keep the atmosphere at the table in a light mood, or so it seemed to me. Not too sure how the rest of the table felt but, I was enjoying his company so much that I gave him a double up when his chip stack started to get a bit low. That’s the kind of guy I am. Actually, it was one of those classic race situations, my poor Pocket Queens versus his mighty AK. It also helped that I got a double up of my own early in level 2 when a young aggressive player floated my flop and turn bets before firing out a river bet and pushing all in after my raise. Unfortunately for him, I had made the nut full house on the double paired board and he could only beat me with quads. When I made the call I actually thought it was going to be a split pot before he announced he had no hand!

Virtually everyone I spoke to this year agreed that the new starting stack of 20,000 chips, doubled from previous years, made a big difference and provided a lot more play this year. The sponsors, Paddy Power, also did a great job in providing live online streaming all weekend. This included a feature table as well as roving reporters and camera teams and a studio area where Jesse May talked to various high profile guests. Well done to Iain Cheyne and all the live streaming team for all their work over the weekend. Having watched the first two TV shows on RTE I’m afraid to say that these productions failed to live up to the high standards set by the live streaming team.

One other matter I have had issues with in the past at Irish Opens, and I really thought it should have been sorted by now, was the payout structure. Most major tournaments worldwide these days pay out around double the tournament buy in to any player making the money. This year just over 10% of the field made the money, 64 of 615 players. The reward for the first 8 to be paid was a payout of €4,100. A measly €600 profit for outlasting a tough field for a full two days of play. After paying for their travel and hotel expenses, they didn’t really have much to show for their efforts. I really think it’s about time the organisers had a look at this issue again.
After all is said and done, the Irish Open is Ireland’s premier poker event and I would really love to see it continue going from strength to strength in the future.


J.P McCann’s Masters event was held over the first weekend of May at the Ballsbridge Inn, Dublin. J.P. and his team provide, in my opinion, the best run, best organised and best structured events in Ireland and I always look forward to them. This year the numbers suffered a little mainly from a combination of the tournament being squeezed between two other major events in Ireland, namely the Irish Open and the Poker Stars UKIPT in Cork, and also a move to this new venue, away from his natural customer base around the Tallaght area of Dublin. J.P. does a great job at grassroots level, and now around Europe as well, and definitely deserves better support than he got on this occasion. Despite the numbers, the weekend went without a hitch, with a load of added value and prizes for those lucky enough to cash or bubble all tournaments. The €500 main event ended in a four way deal with Tony Rafter taking the title and €14,875 in prize money. Eoin Olin took €13,330 with John Gallagher taking €11,400 and Con Collins picking up €11,000.

As a side note, it seems to help some players if they don’t actually manage to turn up at the right venue for the tournament. I reported on the Dublin Deepstacks event a few months ago when a player turned up at the wrong hotel and then went on to make the final table of the main event. Something similar happened at the JP Masters when a player, who shall remain nameless, apart from sometimes being known as “Doke” managed to turn up at the wrong hotel on the first day. To be fair, he went to the hotel where the event was held in 2010 so a mistake anyone could make, but didn’t. Anyway, he had the last laugh as he went on to make the main event final table and take home a nice wad of cash, assuming he managed to find his way home!


The Dept of Social Development has published a discussion document in the run up to a possible change/update in the North’s gaming laws. As regards casino games, there would appear to be no changes on the horizon, apart from a possible clampdown on Bingo halls trying to doubles as mini casinos. As regards poker, there seems to be a possibility that poker tournaments will be allowed in pubs and registered clubs, subject to certain limits, yet to be established. All of this will depend on the attitude of the as yet unnamed minister in charge of the Department, following recent elections. Being new to the ministerial job, I’m not expecting a quick resolution to these matters from the new assembly in the North. You can view the document on the DSD website.



With the WSOP getting into full swing in Las Vegas, there’s not much on the horizon for the home based players. One exception is a new event scheduled for 17th to 19th June at the Fairways Hotel in Dundalk. The Northern Open is being organised by Martin Silke along with Paul Lecky and Seamus Birt and has a buy in of €260 + 40 and a guaranteed prize pot of €40,000. The starting stack will be 15,000 chips with 60 minute levels. Irish Eyes Poker are sponsoring the event and running online satellites twice a week on their site. Further details can be found on Irish Poker Boards.


Player Ireland is in the process of setting up a new website which will include a list of Irish poker events. Casinos and tournament organisers are invited to send details of their upcoming events to

If you have any news, views or events you can contact me by email to