An Irish poker holiday
Since prehistoric times, people have celebrated the equinoxes and solstices as sacred events. In secular culture, the Spring equinox is celebrated via a variety of pagan traditions, most notably the gifting of (chocolate) eggs. In Christian culture, Easter is celebrated as believers reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
players from far and wide descend on Dublin to genuflect before the poker gods
In Ireland, historically a Catholic country, Easter is a particular focal point on the liturgical calendar. For an Irish poker player, however, Easter weekend takes on a different significance. There is still lots of prayer, supplication, and rogation as players from far and wide descend on Dublin to genuflect before the poker gods in the hope that their stacks might rise again.
The Irish Poker Open is one of the most popular events on the poker calendar with huge international appeal. This time last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold, the festival’s organizers acted fast to find the event an online home at partypoker.com. This year, they have continued that relationship, with the festival running from March 26 to April 7.
Terry Rogers started everything in 1980
The legend goes that when bookmaker Terry Rogers walked into Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in downtown Las Vegas in the late 1970s, he stumbled across a high stakes poker game. His interest piqued when he realized the players were holding just two cards, betting any amount they wanted pre-flop and across three streets where community cards were dealt. Stud and draw poker were popular in Ireland at the time, but Rogers believed that this new game, “No Limit Texas Hold’em,” was the future and home he went to spread the good word.
In 1980, “The Irish Poker Open” was born, hosted by Rogers in Dublin’s Eccentric Club. Despite having a reputation as a curmudgeon, Rogers was actually considered to be one of the more generous bookies by the Vegas gambling fraternity. As such, he befriended the likes of Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson, and Stu Ungar, who came to the Irish Open in 1982 and 1983.
Irish Poker Open’s rollercoaster history
After a decade of consistent growth, the Irish Poker Open eventually outgrew the Merrion Casino and started being held in hotel venues. The Jury’s Ballsbridge Hotel, the Burlington Hotel, and Citywest Hotel have all taken turns hosting the extravaganza since 2006 as the field size grew from 339 players to the record 1,807 players in 2019.
Through that period, the buy-in went up and down, growing as big as €4,200 ($4,947) when British poker pro Neil Channing was victorious in 2008, going back down to €1,150 ($1,355) in 2016 where it has remained since. That was the point at which IPF Limited bought the event from PaddyPower, which had helped to get the event to its peak, but had also stewarded its decline.
A modest guarantee of €500,000 ($588,950) in 2016 raised eyebrows as some feared the worst for the once powerhouse event. Happily, those fears were unfounded as, in the safe hands of IPF’s CEO JP McCann and company, the festival has grown year on year. In 2019, the prize pool for the Main Event reached €1.8m ($2.12m), the biggest since 2011.
COVID-19 forced the festival online
Last year, the Irish Poker Open was the first major live event to be held on the cyberfelt. Speaking with VegasSlotsOnline News, JP McCann, who is also the event’s Tournament Director, said that “the online Irish Open is a perfect fit for both IPF and partypoker.”
McCann has every reason to be pleased at how everything turned out last year. His festival’s strong brand, buoyed by the online poker boom, meant that €5.6m ($6.6m) was paid out to players across all events in 2020. Brazil’s Pablo Silva claimed the title of Main Event champion, topping a field of 2,945 players to win €462,100 ($544,308).
we would like to thank partypoker for taking the initiative”
McCann explained how “Silva was one of 22 champions who won tournaments during the festival, including virtual versions of classic Irish Open events like ‘The Liam Flood Memorial Event,’ ‘The Mini Irish Open,’ ‘The JP Masters,’ and, of course, the €1m ($1.18m) guaranteed Main Event,” adding: “we would like to thank partypoker for taking the initiative to help ensure Europe’s longest running Poker Festival goes ahead during these very challenging times.”
243 players have reached Day 2
Days 1A and 1B of this year’s Irish Poker Open are in the books and so far, the tournament is being lead by Artsiom Prostak of Belarus. 15% of the field has progressed to Day 2 and are in the money. The average stack is 1,338,271 chips and in the the top 100 of the 243 players through so far, there are plenty of notables:
Day 1A – in the Top 50
- Isaac Haxton 4,202,053 chips
- Patrick Leonard 3,435,635 chips
- Dylan Linde 3,008,209 chips
- Benjamin “Bencb” Rolle 2,090,221 chips
- Luc Greenwood 1,431,134 chips
- Dietrich Fast 1,412,179 chips
- Conor Beresford 1,345,112 chips
Day 1B – in the top 50
- Marc MacDonnell 4,275,366
- Daniel Smyth 3,455,994
- Niklas Astedt 3,254,774
- Jaime Staples 1,322,061
- Alex Foxen 1,184,343
- Cathal Shine 1,137,746
- David Yan 1,136,177
There is a Turbo flight (Day 1C) this afternoon, right before all the players come together for Day 2 tonight. So far, 30 Irish players have progressed including Marc MacDonnell, Cathal Shine, Andy Black, Louise Butler, Padraig O’Neill, Daniel Smyth, and Ivan Tononi.
For Christians, Easter follows Lent, a period of 40 days (not including Sundays) which is observed by acts of penance and fasting. Most poker players have been starved of live poker for 400 days and it may well be several more months before the live circuit returns. At least in the meantime, the Irish Poker Open and other online festivals like it are giving us a much needed taste of the game we love. Come Wednesday night, a champion will be crowned.