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Padraig Parkinson - Irish Eyes Smile of the Poker World

Derrick Oliver-Dewan

Article by Derrick Oliver-Dewan

There is no one quite like Padraig Parkinson.  A poker pioneer in Ireland, where the Poker Gods keep Irish eyes smiling, Parkinson was an outspoken proponent of the game before it, the game, exploded onto the worldwide stage.  He was there long before Moneymaker.  Witty, sarcastic and likeable to a fault, Parkinson has the rare ability to blend humor with his astonishing natural talents at the poker table, a wicked combination when the cards are running good.  Oh, what a world champion he would have been.

"Thanks for reminding me," he joked during our interview on High Roller Radio after being asked if he ever thinks about what could have been. A man of his stature a world champion? A man with his gifted speaking abilities?  "I didn't know it at the time but it would have been worth millions to be now.  I was just playing for the money back then and third was good."

It was 1999 and the World Series of Poker, for years a stomping ground for Las Vegas pros or American businessmen with deep pockets and a fascination for cards, was about to experience something new; an invasion of Irish professionals, who had been crafting their trade since the inception of the Irish Open in 1980.  Opponents may have been 'Green' with envy, pun intended, as the Shamrock descended upon Binion's like a sea of lily pads.  Novelist James Joyce could not have written a better script that year.  Mickey Finn finished 14th, George McKeever was 7th, bubbling the final table.  Back then only six qualified, and Parkinson's mate Noel Furlong, who already had main event final table experience under his belt, won the world championship.  Parkinson was third.  The 'Skill' of the Irish, you might say.

Along with his main event showing, Parkinson also captured the inaugural television series Late Night Poker, which drew huge audiences in the United Kingdom and gave him maximum exposure.  Among his many wins are the Irish Poker Championships in 2009 making him the first PokerStars UKIPT champion and $125,000 richer.  Most recently, Parkinson pocketed another $77,000 for winning the €5,000 re-entry Omaha Cup.  

We first met in at the lobby of Hilton Metropole at the EPT London following a PokerStars VIP party at a fancy nightclub. I was there representing Poker Pro magazine and introduced myself.  It wasn't long before we discovered we had a mutual friend in fellow Irish pro Don Fagan.  Don had taken me under his wing in 2007 at the World Heads-Up Poker Championships in Barcelona, Spain.  I was lucky enough to win a 242 runner online satellite into the tournament on 888, Pacific Poker back then, and was excited about the opportunity to win more than a million dollars.  Although I didn't make it past the first round, Fagan, a long-time chum of Parkinson's, made the 10-day stay an experience of a lifetime and because he made the semi-finals I was treated to some fine poker in the process.  

Parkinson, like many an Irish poker player, is known to imbibe and that's what he and I did until the wee hours of the morning when hotel staff kindly suggested we exit the lobby because the they were starting to see its flow of regular morning traffic.  Parkinson regaled me with stories from poker games past and was thoroughly entertaining in doing so. It was a great night in London.

It wasn't until a few later we spoke again, on the phone, while he was in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker.  The interview lasted about half an hour and I was thrilled to speak to a man with such great poker talents.  He was hilarious too!

“There was a cash game going the other day,” he started, a legend of poker telling me a story and, yes, I was absolutely thrilled.  “You know this battle between the kids and the old guys? I think the young guys resent the old guys more than the old guys resent the young guys.  Just because the money today wasn’t around in our day doesn’t me we should resent them.  The money’s still there if you’re playing well enough.  The kids think most of the old guys can’t play and the old guys think most of the kids are assholes!  Don’t get me wrong, some of the young kids are really, really nice, and you can have a great laugh with them, but many of them are just too young to understand – life, let alone poker. The 20 year olds’ have a big thing coming when they get to 30 and realize they’ve wasted the best years of their life looking at themselves in the mirror instead of chasing girls and doin’ the stuff you’re supposed to be doin’.”

Padraig’s earned the right to make such statements of course; his star power has earned him sponsorship dollars with 888, one of the biggest online poker sites in the world, and broadcasting gigs to commentate on poker television shows alongside Jesse May.  His blog is super popular and he's become a true character of the game.  He is an outspoken advocate of banning sunglasses and head-phones at the poker table and would like to see a shot clock introduced.  

“Anyway, there was a bit of a needle going between an old guy and a young guy in this game.  The old guy eventually played a hand like shit and beat the kid out of a pot.  The young guy didn’t like it and started going at the old guy, telling him how bad he played the hand.  The old guy said, ‘kid, I’ve been playing poker since you were in diapers.’  The kid was great, he just said back to him right away, ‘and I’ll be playing poker when you’re back in diapers.’  I thought that was beautiful."

I think Padraig Parkinson is beautiful!   

Editors Note: Derrick Oliver-Dewan is a broadcast veteran with 18 years experience in radio and television and the founder of www.highrollerradio.net and the High Roller Radio Poker Blog.  He can be reached at derrick@highrollerradio.net

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