World of Poker: Ireland

World of Poker: Ireland

There once was a U.S. based sweepstakes, designed to raise money for Irish hospitals, that was incredibly popular. Illegal, but popular. Tickets were smuggled into the country. How popular was it? About 13 percent of the population bought at least one ticket. The Irish are integral to the introduction of worldclass poker to the United States. Benny Binion, an Irish-American, created the Horseshoe in Vegas in 1951 and helped found the World Series of Poker in 1970.View Ireland Cardroom List

Daniel Cassidy, in his fascinating essay on Irish poker etymology (or origins of words) titled How the Irish Invented American Gambling Slang, postulates that the word poker may derive from the Irish word Poca, meaning pocket, meaning that players bet against each other’s pocketbooks rather than the house.

He is more certain about the origins of many other poker terms, which are derived from Irish: Jack, as in Jackpot (Tiach, a wallet); River (riofa, the card of reckoning); Nut (neart, power or physical strength); Muck (much, to cover over or suppress); Check (teacht, to freeze); Brag (breag, a lie or exaggeration), and Beat (bead; to be robbed or cheated). Then, there are other words heard often at the poker table. Scam (‘s cam, is crooked); Stud (stad, stop); Button (beart t-aon, the one dealing); Mark (marc, a target); Sucker (sach ur, literally a fat cat); Spree (sport or frolic); Moolah (moll oir, a pile of money); Racketeer (racadoira or dealer); and Baloney (beal onna, silly talk).

There are many notable poker pros that hail from Ireland. Alan Betson won the Euro Finals of Poker in 2001 and took second in the 2005 Irish Open. John Magill took 12th in the 2006 World Series main event, bubbling out of the final table. Padraig Parkinson took third in one of the $1500 No Limit events at the 2006 series, and recently cashed in the $5K event at the World Poker Finals. Probably the most famous Irishman poker player is Andy Black, who stormed on to the scene with a fifth place finish in the 2005 WSOP Main Event. Following that $1.7 million dollar cash, he took second in the Northern Ireland Open Championship and fifth at the Tournament of Champions at the Rio back in June.

The king of poker sites in Ireland is Paddy Power Poker. By focusing solely on the European market, this site has avoided any trouble from U.S. legislation. Paddy Power Poker sponsors the Irish Poker Open each year. Taking place over Easter Weekend in 2007, the main event is a €3000+200 buy-in affair with television coverage on Sky Sports, which services a large percentage of Europe. First place stands to win €550,000 and there is a maximum capacity of 700 players at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin. The history of the Irish Poker Open is pretty wild. The very first Irish Open was held in 1981 or 1982 and was a 7-Card Stud event. Every year following that, it was No-Limit Texas Hold’em, a rare game in Europe and a well-kept secret for years throughout the world. Pro poker player Mick Cook took the game from Dublin to the U.K. and introduced it to poker players in Birmingham and then London. He then went to Vegas, and brought Pot-Limit Omaha back to Europe with him. Irish player Terry Rogers is said to have taught WSOP main event winner Noel Furlong how to play poker.

In 1984, many famous poker pros made a rare trip outside of the U.S. to play in this event, such as Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese and even Stu Ungar. WSOP winner Tom McEvoy won the Irish Open main event in 1984 with Cook taking second. Today, Doyle and Chip tend to stay stateside, but still, many pros make the trip for the Irish Poker Open, as the hospitality is said to be outstanding. Other major Irish poker tournaments include the Irish Christmas Poker Festival and the Irish Poker Classic. The former is a five-day event, Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, which includes a satellite on day 1; a €300 No-Limit Hold’em Team Event on day 2; Day 3’s start of the 3-day main event, a €1,000 Hold’em event; a €300 No-Limit Hold’em event on Day 4, and a €250 event on Day 5 called the No Limit Hold’em Pub Challenge.

The latter event, the Irish Poker Classic, happened August 16-20 this year, and was also five events. The first was a €300 freezeout, then a €500 Pot Limit Omaha, then a €1,000 No-Limit Hold’em main event, with €10,000 added by Betfair, and finally a €500 freezeout and a €250 Pub Challenge.

And then there’s the mega-sized European series: the European Poker Tour, sponsored by PokerStars. EPT Dublin just concluded, at the Regency Hotel in Dublin. The event was Oct. 26-29 and had a €5,000 buy-in. A massive 389 players signed up from all over the world for a €1,847,750 prize pool. Roland de Wolfe, the well-known London poker player, won the event for a cashout of €554,300. It’s a safe bet that the EPT will be coming back to Dublin next season. Roland won the EPT Paris in Season 1 and took third in the WPT Five Star in April for over a million dollars. He also cashed in EPT Barcelona this season. That’s a staggering run for Roland.

When asked about normal events at Macau Poker Room, Ken Corkery, who runs it, responded: “Tournaments, sit & gos, cash games, 7 nights a week – Texas Hold’em and Omaha, all spreads. Highest limits played are €100 to 500 pot-limit Omaha and Texas Hold’em – also no-limit option on the Texas Hold’em.” (Note: €1 = $1.25.) As far as business and how the poker explosion has affected his business, Corkery had three words each: “Busy and growing” and “on the increase”.

Annual poker events at Macau are European ranked, and include the Irish Christmas Poker Festival and Irish Poker Classic, according to Corkery.

Club Oasis, the poker room at Amusement City, offers Texas Hold’em in no-limit and pot-limit varieties, but strictly cash games, according to John Kennedy of Club Oasis. “The Buy-ins are up from €50-5,000 no-limit and pot-limit, with blinds of 1/2, 2/4, and 5/10. The biggest blind played is €25/50.”

Kennedy says that Club Oasis is good high-stakes cash games. Although the club has run satellites for the EPT and WPT in the past, Club Oasis now concentrates on cash games only.

Kennedy is slightly more reserved about the future. “It will cool down someday, but we’ll see.”

Mark Brown
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