Padraig's Poker News
LEST WE FORGET
The covid lockdown didn’t do us any favours. I lost two good American friends for life who were legends of the game, poker ambassador Mike Sexton and John ‘Scof’ Sheffield of WSOP Binions fame. Had so much fun with these guys over a few decades. Vegas won’t be the same. That’s for sure. Next time around I’m only going to have friends that are way younger than me. On the plus side Mary and I and a few friends visited Vegas a few years ago to visit Scof and Fiona when we heard he was in bad shape. We were of course joined by Mike and had a memorable evening laughing at stories of Vegas from the best. We couldn’t attend Mike’s funeral but I had the honour of appearing on Matt Savage’s Mike tribute. Matt was fantastic especially as several contributors had had a glass or two and went on a bit. I know Mike would have had a good laugh at that! I was talking to Jesse May who, like me, was waiting patiently to do his bit. He was concerned that his turn would come when he was dropping his six year old son to school. I told him not to worry. That the way things were going his son would probably be in college before he got called upon!
Mike wasn’t the only huge star we lost in the last couple of years. I was shocked to hear my former 888 teammate, Australia’s favourite son, Shane Warne had died suddenly while on holiday in Thailand with a group of friends which included our mate Gareth Edwards, former 888 boss. Warney was in a class of his own. He may have been Australia’s heartbeat but his charisma and personality made him much loved everywhere the game of cricket was played. I had some hilarious times with him at the televised 888 UK Opens and, of course, at the WSOP. But Keith Hawkins nailed it better than I ever could when Warney was surrounded by cameras as he played the WSOP Main Event. Some Americans asked who the was. Keith said he was cricket’s Michael Jordan. He sure was. RIP mate.
Ireland didn’t come out of covid too well either. We lost one of Ireland’s most popular players ever when Leslie McLean left us. I knew Leslie from the Jackpot days in the 80s. Even then he looked like a kid in a sweetshop. He always had that wonderful smile on his face which helped to make him the successful salesman he was. He absolutely loved the thrill of playing the game he loved. They say he was a great loser but a bad winner, though I didn’t see him win often enough to have an opinion on that. He once made a complete idiot out of me in the early 90s. I won the Griffen’s flagship weekly tournament three weeks in a row. I said in the pub that it was unlikely to happen again as the line-up was always pretty tough. Three weeks later it happened again. It wasn’t done by any of the up and coming Irish lads who were to punch above their weight internationally over the next decade or so. Nope! It was Leslie .It was regarded as about as big a shock as a rocking horse winning back to back Grand Nationals. To be fair it was as popular as it was unlikely and an absolute joy to watch. At his streamed funeral Leslie’s grandson Stephen did him proud. In his eulogy he said his grandad was certain there was no afterlife. That this was it. So we’d better make the best of it. He sure did!
A few months ago I joined poker legend Colette Doherty, Scott Gray, Peter Mabasha and half the Ivory clan at a celebration of the life of plo player Neil Duggan who left us way too soon during covid. His partner, the lovely Sandy, and family were unable to give him the send-off they wanted to at the time but sixteen months after his death they put that right with a lovely afternoon of food, drink, music and laughter and stories of the wisdom, kindness and humour of the man they missed so much told with great pride. I didn’t know Neil as well as the other poker people did as I was in Paris for decades but I did spend several nights a week sitting beside him in the Fitz game for its last couple of years in business. Neil always spoke very softly so seated beside him I heard some of what he had to say whilst most of the table didn’t and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing!
We also got to witness another grandchild deliver a great eulogy when Natalia Furlong stepped up to pay tribute to her much loved grandad Noel in a streamed funeral service. To say Noel was my nemesis is a bit of an understatement. He rivered me for the Irish Open in the early nineties. I had just about gotten over that when in 1999 he knocked me out in third place at the WSOP main event. Some didn’t give Noel credit for his achievement but they maybe weren’t aware that he had previously been at the final of the main event and had won two Irish Opens. He certainly had his own way of doing things and what’s wrong with that? Noel didn’t play a lot of poker. He was a highly successful businessman and also liked a punt or two on the horses, the most famous of which was when his own horse Destriero won the 1991 Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham. I got to hear that story and a hundred others about his life when we visited Foxwoods for a WPT event for a week. Heads up he was hugely entertaining and certainly didn’t have to make up stories!
Noel frequently had tournament last longer bets with another veteran of the Eccentric’s Club, Frank Cruess Callaghan. Frank was favourite in that one though Noel was more likely to actually win the tournament. In the game of life Frank lived a little longer than Noel but he also left us quite recently. Frank was a success in business, a lucky racehorse owner and loved his poker. He was also fond of the odd pint, especially in Hartigans. Frank played a huge part in the history of Irish poker. In the mid-nineties The Irish Open, which was where it all started in Europe, died. Frank was disgusted that, when poker was becoming hugely popular elsewhere, we didn’t have our own signature event. Frank thought this ridiculous and invited Don O’Dea, George McKeever to join him for dinner in Paris to discuss the problem. It wasn’t hard to get the lads behind a plan to revive the event and we quickly got lads like Scott Gray, Frank McGuigan and a host of players onside. The rest is history. Thank you Frank. When Frank retired he and the lovely Evelyn bought an apartment in Paris not far from where Veronique and I were living. Frank employed Vero as a part time French teacher which was odd as he was already taking classes. We then discovered he really wanted to make sure his homework was done well enough to impress his teacher and classmates. Typical! The last time I saw Frank was in The Fitz a few months before it closed for their iconic Last Thursday Of The Month event (a tournament which is now played in The Sporting Emporium and great craic). I remarked to Colette that he didn’t look well enough to play for eight or nine hours, let alone win. He did and he did. I should keep my mouth shut more often. RIP Frank.
More recently again we lost Harold Huberman. Harold played on the club scene in Irish poker for decades and epitomised all that is special about Irish Poker. He truly loved the game and the characters who play it. But most of all he loved the craic. He was a master of quick wit, irony and sarcasm and whether it was The Fitz, The Merrion or the Sporting Emporium he was playing in he made the world a happier place. In the nineties I christened him Harold the fifth because that was his most likely finishing position. Too tight to win and too tight to lose. He liked it! But I’m sorry. Harold the first is probably more appropriate.
NEW MONDAY STRUCTURE
We have a policy of giving players what they want, not what we think they want. Some players have told us they’d prefer 20 min clock on Mondays so that’s what they’ll get for a few weeks from Monday 29th. After that we will let the players decide which structure they prefer.
SATELLITE FOR KILLARNEY €2,500 PLO event.
Donal has asked us to run a satellite for the €75k guaranteed €2,500 buy in PLO to be played in Killarney on Friday Sept 30th, and we have agreed. The satellite will take place on Wednesday Sept 7th with the buy in €320+€30 at 8.15pm. The Irish Poker Tour are guaranteeing one ticket for Killarney. There will be a €40+10 sat on Tuesday 6th to qualify players for main satellite the following day. Structures etc will be posted shortly. GL to all!!
OMAHA REVISITED. FREE POKER
Now that we have our weekly tournaments and NLH cash games running successfully it’s time we got on with building a pot limit omaha cash game in The Sporting Emporium. After talking to a bunch of players we are going to concentrate on building a player friendly and bankroll friendly 1-2 game which will give players a chance to learn and enjoy the game without needing to get a second mortgage.
More good news. Partypoker are to sponsor the next Poker The Homeless event which will be played in the club. I applaud them for that as, though party and I parted company amicably with several names a few years ago. I still have several good friends there like Colette Stewart and Emma who were more than colleagues. Ask Mike Sexton! Mike absolutely loved the Padraig’s room bit. Sadly that’s not going to happen now though I know in my heart he will be there. Kills me he won’t be there to launch grass roots PLO game.
JESSE MAY VISITS THE SPORTING EMPORIUM
About a decade ago, Scott Gray and I set out on a two week tour to play poker with the Irish grassroots players who are the heartbeat of the game here. It’s always tremendous craic. Tim O’Sullivan invited us to visit the pub game in Clonakilty, in West Cork. He got more than he bargained for when we showed up with a TV crew and The Voice of Poker, Jesse May. We think we broke a record because Jesse paid over €200 for his flight from Denmark to play a €30 event! He drank about half his bodyweight and nearly won the thing. The punters loved him. In an interview over breakfast the next day, he shook his head and said he’d never woken up in Ireland before with more money in his pocket than he’d started the previous day with!
When I got involved as poker ambassador for The Sporting Emporium, it was inevitable that he’d pay us a visit. He did, and was kind enough to write about Irish poker and his trip, as only he can. It goes like this:
I had enormous craic playing poker the other night at @SportEmporium. I was reminded of the very first time I ever played poker in Ireland. Which was the same night I first met the man who’s taught me more about poker than anyone else. That was the night I met Padraig Parkinson. It was the fall of 2000 and I was broke. Specifically, I was the kind of broke where you are not only broke but also have no prospects, so you pretty much are up for anything no matter what. Which is why when Liam Flood called to offer me a free buy-in to the main event at the Autumn Festival at the Merrion Club in Dublin and all I had to do was write an article for a poker magazine, I was on my way.
The Merrion Club was an old Dublin townhouse that had a sign out front telling about the famous poet who had lived there in the 17th century, quite narrow and quite high with big twisting staircases and high ceilings and lots of wood.
The tournament started and I was sitting there for a while terrified out of my skull. I was terrified because Noel Furlong was sitting on my left. He had just won the World Series the year before and I’d been told that he might be the most fearless poker player that’s ever been.
There’s a certain kind of tournament poker player that when something goes wrong, they always have the two jacks and I don’t want to go into why, but it’s a fact and unfortunately it says a lot more about the poker player than it does about the jacks.
At that time, I was exactly that kind of poker player and so of course, the first hand I played in Ireland, I had the jacks.
I got dealt the two jacks and raised it up under the gun and Noel Furlong 3-bet me. European champion Alan Betson was on Noel’s left and he immediately came over the top of Noel. And on Alan Betson’s left was Aidan Bennet, who I had never seen nor heard of before.
I’m not sure if I actually cried or I just wanted to. I didn’t even think twice about mucking the jacks, but Noel Furlong called like a shot. And Aidan Bennet had the situation read as perfectly as could be because his A-8 suited was miles ahead of Furlong’s Ace-six.
And that was my first ever hand of Irish poker.
Mercifully, the dinner break came soon afterwards. Kevin O’Connell, who I had become friendly with the year before during the filming of the first season of Late Night Poker, took one look at me and literally grabbed me by collar and said: “Come with me.” Which I did.
Because honestly who wanted to eat turkey and ham in the basement when the pub was across the street and on the corner? Kevin O’Connell wasted no time. Within minutes, I’d had my first pint of Guinness and my first shot of Paddy’s.
Pretty much the entire field spent the dinner break in the pub and by the time we went back into the Merrion Club, while I still had no shot at winning the tournament, a few things had improved. I was no longer terrified of the table, and I loved Irish Poker.
That camaraderie had me for good. No matter who you were and where you’d been. If you loved the game and treated it with respect, Irish Poker welcomed you with open arms.
It was only a few hours later that I was knocked out and on the rail. I was standing in a room on the ground floor of the Merrion Club when in walked Padraig Parkinson. My first memory of Padraig is him walking up to me and he had six arms and each of them was carrying a pint.
He was talking a mile a minute like we’d known each other all of our lives, and to be honest maybe we had. Padraig led me out into the Dublin night, which was a sea of Guinness, pubs, and talk about poker. And that began a friendship which has lasted a lifetime.
There’s a lot of things I admire about Padraig, but his love for the game stands even apart. And though I hadn’t seen him since before the pandemic, walking into his poker club in Dublin last week felt like coming home.
There’s a nice buzz, there’s a regular game, and as long as you treat everyone with respect you will be eternally welcome. If you thought live poker was dead, think again. @padraigpoker is hosting Irish Poker nightly in Dublin at @SportEmporium.
To be honest, I have never met anyone who can write or lie like Jesse May😂
THE VOICE OF POKER TO VISIT THE SPORTING EMPORIUM
In the year 2,000 Scott Gray and I were in the Isle of Man for the very first Pokermillion event. There we were introduced to a writer called Jesse May and haven’t managed to shake him off ever since. We even tried buying his book but that didn’t work. (The book is called SHUT UP AND DEAL and is a masterpiece.)
Jesse and The Devilfish were the two guys who did most to drag poker from the back rooms to our living rooms. They were the brightest stars of the iconic Late Night Poker series. The Fish was made for TV and along with Jesse’s infectious enthusiasm and instinctive sense of timing captivated the imagination of a generation of viewers who previously knew nothing about poker. Jesse was an overnight success and a must if you wanted to make poker TV.
As Jesse’s sidekick I got to take part in a couple of hundred TV and radio shows and to witness first-hand how it all worked. Jesse and our buddy Rob Gardner were pioneers of poker on TV and were generally about twelve months ahead of the competition. The Poker Show which was filmed in Vegas during the 2006 WSOP introduced a new audience to poker’s brightest stars and the craic that is unique to the world of poker.
Scott and I were in a Dublin pub a few nights ago and one of the bartenders was asking me about Jesse. I told him he’d be in town on Thursday so he could ask him himself! So can you.
Jesse will be playing (loose use of the word) poker in The Sporting Emporium from 8pm on Thursday so feel free to drop in and meet the VOICE OF POKER.
RETURN OF THE CASH LEAGUE
It is club policy to listen closely to what our players tell us they would like and, where possible, to give them what they want. It’s their club. Lots of you have requested that we run a cash league so that’s what we intend to do, starting from May 5th, the day the “Voice Of Poker” Jesse May is due to spend an evening in the club.
Over eight weeks €1 will be taken from each pot of €30 or more and added to the cash league prize pool .We will be tracking the number of hours every player plays and at the end of eight weeks play every player who has played a minimum of 40 hours will have qualified for the final in which he or she will be given a chip stack proportionate to the number of hours played. The final six players in the final will be paid prizes based on the size of their chip stacks at that point.
The club is aiming to make our flagship event, The End of Month, as big, as relevant and as much craic as possible. This will involve inviting as many of our friends from all around the country to join us and I hope they do. To make this a more attractive proposition for them we will not be taking money from pots for the cash league on those nights as they should not have to contribute to a prize pool they won’t be competing for.
If anyone has any suggestions etc. please speak up. As I said, it’s your club!
ICONIC END OF MONTH TOURNAMENT RETURNS AND POKER FOR THE IRISH RED CROSS UKRAINE APPEAL IS BORN.
When the Fitzwilliam Club, poker’s headquarters in Ireland, closed their doors for the last time a few months before Covid, it left a gap. Over the years they had built their famous End of Month event to the point that it attracted players, live and online, from all over the country for a monthly meet up to exchange info and maybe swig down a pint or two in McGrattans.
When I got involved with the Sporting Emporium the suggestion I got most from players was that it would be the perfect venue to host a continuation of this proud chapter of Irish poker history. I loved it, so as soon as we could we held our first End Of Month event on the last Thursday in February. The players got right behind it so roll on the last Thursday in March! Details of satellites will be up on the site soon.
Like everyone else I’ve watched the horrific events in Ukraine with a feeling of disbelief. When women and children become targets there is something very wrong. It has been shocking stuff but sometimes the good guys step forward and give us new hope. Sometimes it’s great to be Irish. We sure love the underdog and love to share what we said we didn’t have! I got several calls asking if the Sporting Emporium could help. Of course they could!
They will be putting on an event to raise funds for the Red Cross Ukraine Appeal on 22nd March at 8.15pm. Buyin €100. So, if you’d like to help our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in their time of need and have a fun night’s poker please join us. Info is available on the website or you can call me on 085 2169932. Thank you
BREAKING TOURNAMENT NEWS – BACK TO THE FUTURE
If you want to move forward successfully it is a good idea to learn from the mistakes and successes of the past.
When the Sporting Emporium and I joined forces with the intention of creating a poker room in the centre of Dublin where first time visitors would feel very welcome and the craic that has made Irish poker unique and envied would make the experience special.
We decided to break with tradition and ask the players what they wanted. As we were in lockdown I had plenty of time to listen! One of the things they almost all said was they missed the Fitz End of Month event.
It had been more than a tournament. It was a monthly meeting of players, live and online, from all over the country. They mostly showed up for the craic. I was living in Paris for twenty years and several times left behind a better game than I was going to find here to fly over for the night because I knew it would be fun. I’ve never been called smart!
I was delighted to hear that a decent end of month event was what the players were asking for as I love the idea myself. So from the 24th of February the tournament on the final Thursday of each month will be €270+30 NLH .
A Terrible Beauty Is Born
Some time in the late eighties The Irish Open was moved from it’s spiritual home, The Eccentric’s Club, to the more spacious and posh Griffen Club in Dublin’s Merrion Square. It remained there for a couple of years until it’s founder, Terry Rogers and club owner Teddy Hickson fell out over something stupid but that was Terry for you!
By that time the event attracted quite a few English players .Londoner Micky Moran was a regular when he wasn’t doing time for forgetfulness. He used to import gold and forget about the VAT but that’s another story. On one occasion he was accompanied by Mick ‘The Clock’ Cooke and the hilarious Alan Vinson. The London lads and the Irish guys were to become good pals over the years but they stitched us up nicely this time. They joined our dealers choice game and when they got to choose what game we played they chose Pot Limit Omaha. This was a new one on most of us though they assured us it was ‘just like hold’em. Yeah right! Being Irish and liking a gamble we loved it. The English guys told us we were doing very well. Bastards! They went home with the money but we had fallen in love with this action game. It transformed Irish poker and made it even more fun. That’s all we needed!
It was always our intention when The Sporting Emporium reopened to establish PLO as one of the games on offer as you had told us that’s what you guys wanted. We are going to start the ball rolling with a 1-2 optional 5 game on Friday 17th December and take it from there.
The game will run from around 6.30. Text 0852169932 if you wish to join the list!
Should be fun!
A Glimpse Of The Future
When the project to put The Sporting Emporium on the map as The centre of poker in Dublin and a ‘must visit’ spot for visitors from home and abroad it would be safe to say that we didn’t allow for a pandemic. Roy Keane wouldn’t be impressed! Nevertheless the plan is still there and the dream lives on.
It was always part of the plan to give the members and prospective members a very real say on the way forward. This was never a manifesto promise . It’s for real. I’m delighted that your suggestions have almost all been added to our plan and some added to. Despite the restrictions of time and staffing issues we made a start on the first item on the wish list on Monday of last week.
A weekly €120 tournament .The event started at 6.15 and ended in a three way deal at 11.40. Perfect. To be fair to you guys you voted with your feet and the great turnout makes moving on with the plan a lot easier. It was a truly special night with an excited buzz in the air that Irish poker seems to specialise in. The staff bought into it too. Some were caught smiling but thankfully weren’t reported! I missed it all as I was sick.
I would like to thank those who took time out from playing to phone me and tell me how much craic it was and helpfully suggesting I should be sick every Monday. A tad harsh I thought. The feedback and social media comment on the event was superb and I was happy to see the staff get the plaudits their efforts in tough times so thoroughly deserve. Thanks to all who took the time to contact us for your kind words.
Monday this week again produced a good turnout and was good fun. Our government announced increased restrictions to which the club has responded as expected. The club policy has always been to put the safety of staff and players first. I am totally in tune with that. We already close at midnight but until restrictions are eased, hopefully in January, poker will be played on extra large tables. These tables were made over a year and a few false dawns ago. At least they’ll come in handy now! Thankfully there are four of them so we can continue with Mondays event, albeit with numbers reduced to 32 plus alternates.
See you Monday,
Stay safe, Padraig
A Month’s A Long Time In Poker
The 22nd of October was a day for optimism in the Irish poker world. The iconic IPO marked the return of poker festivals and, much more importantly, The Sporting Emporium and the other casinos and clubs got to open their doors to the public again after 19 months in lockdown. I had been in discussions with the Sporting Emporium people over 20 months about how best to make the fantastically located upmarket casino Ireland’s number one poker venue, attractive to Dubliners ,players from all around Ireland and visitors from all around the world. We were both on the same page in that we thought that going back to the basic fun and craic that made Irish poker unique and encouraging members to tell us what they want rather than telling them what they want.
So we were delighted to get two tables in action on the first night back ,despite the IPO being in full swing. We were joined by England’s John Kalmar and his lovely wife Kyla. Skally, as he is better known, is a former WSOP final tableist but that didn’t help him here! The following night we were joined by my friend Rob Yong, entrepreneur, cofounder of Luxon and owner of DTD, Simon and Nicola who make DTD work, Paul Jackson, famous for THAT hand against Phil Ivey and a good friend of mine and Irish poker, winner of first poker million, John Duthie. Rob and his entourage had flown by private jet from the UK. I asked Rob’s Kevin O’Connell why the private jet? He said it was quicker than a helicopter! I give up! Rob was kind enough to record a vlog which gave us great publicity overseas. Hopefully we will see the spin off from that when things improve.
For the last few weeks poker has been well supported especially as we have been held back from introducing the tournaments and plo games you guys have been asking us to put on due to staffing issues that seem commonplace these days.
Then the government decided they wanted town locked down from midnight each night. Its another blow to those who’ve just got back to work especially when the club meticulously protects the safety of staff and customers alike. It is a blow for sure but it does provide the opportunity to do things with the poker schedule to benefit customers and staff alike.
We will be opening at 6pm every day now and, shortly, a little earlier on Saturdays.
We will, starting on Monday 29th November, be holding the €120 NLH tournament you guys have been asking for. It will start at 6:30pm. It would help if we knew what numbers to expect so it would be helpful if you texted me on 0852169932 to book your place asap.
We will be offering plo, initially on Wednesdays and Fridays, starting on Wednesday November 24th at 6.30pm. Blinds will be 1-2 optional 5 but hopefully 2-5-10 is not too far away. Again please feel free to text me to book a seat. It will fill up for sure.
We also intend to soon start opening a little earlier on Saturdays and, again as suggested by you guys, holding a tournament with a buy in of about €150 .More on that soon. I hope you guys will enjoy the changes in our schedule.
Good news. Partypoker have agreed to sponsor our Poker For The Homeless charity event which we will hold in the club in next few months. As in the last few times we ran it, Brother Kevin will receive two thirds of the money raised with the other third going to Pieta House, the suicide people. Both these charities are popular with the poker community. We hope rugby legend Reggie Corrigan and snooker legend Ken Doherty, huge supporters of our efforts over the years can make it. We were talking about this in the club the other night. I was telling the guys about one morning years ago when I was having breakfast with Ken. He was telling me he and The Mammy had been among the VIPS to meet The Queen the previous evening. I rang Reggie and asked why he hadn’t been invited. He said it was because when he played against the English we won! Ouch.