Dara O’Kearney: Keith Touhey Is a Legend, and Other Mammoth Observations

  • The banter was in full flow during the Mammoth Poker Series at the Bonnington in Dublin
  • Dara reflects on the predatory nature of live cash, which he believes requires a lack of empathy
  • He had to break the heart of his chatty neighbor as the bubble loomed in the competition
  • Aidan Redden won the event, and Keith Touhey locked up first place money in the High Roller 
Will Smith slap meme
VSO News’ Dara O’Kearney has reflected on his time at the Mammoth poker competition in Dublin, including sharing a table with Irish poker pro Keith Touhey.

A return to the Bonnington

I found myself back in Dublin’s Bonnington Hotel playing poker, this time for the PokerStars-sponsored Mammoth Poker Series. It’s an event that makes the rather bold claim to be the biggest poker event since the Ice Age.

the banter was sharper, the mood merrier and, the atmosphere more convivial

A friend of mine who lives in New Zealand is terrified that we have all forgotten how to socialize during the pandemic. One visit to the Bonnington should set his mind at ease. If anything, the banter was sharper, the mood merrier, and the atmosphere more convivial.

Two years is long enough for most of us to craft some new material, remember how much we loved live poker, and build up a huge desire to interact with fellow humans.

It took a few attempts, but I even eventually bagged up a decent Day 2 stack. 

The Stu Ungar charm

Andy Black told me once that Stu Ungar used to charm the players to his immediate left; a strategy designed to induce them to play more straightforwardly against him. Most humans find it harder to bluff or three-bet the guy they just befriended. I’m one of those people.

At one of the breaks, I was chatting to Aidan Quinlan, who asked me why I don’t play live cash. I struggled to find an answer beyond not finding it rewarding or enjoyable, but eventually, I remembered the main reasons for this. I’ve had experiences of live cash where it was painfully obvious where the money was coming from (drunks or others struggling with addiction issues), making it feel unpleasantly predatory, an impression re-enforced by the politics and the lengths pros will go to keep the right kind of players in the game, and the wrong kind out. In this case, right just means unprofitable, and wrong means any players who might cut into their own bottom line. 

this behavior is normalized as entirely acceptable

Recent experiences and tales from friends who play live cash have done nothing to dispel this initial impression. In fact, if anything, it’s hardened my view. It seems you not only need the total lack of empathy of the sociopath to stick the boot into a vulnerable young competitor with a history of mental health issues the minute they show signs of mental weakness, but this behavior is normalized as entirely acceptable – a “rite of passage.”

Broken hands and hearts 

While tournaments present a less obviously predatory environment, you still end up breaking the hearts and crushing the dreams of people you like all the time if you’re successful.

I was really enjoying the chats with my neighbor to my right as the bubble loomed. He asked how long I’d been playing and told me he’d only played a few years. He was working with one hand, the other one being broken (I didn’t ask). A short while later, I broke his heart.

Near the bubble, he raised on the button playing 15 big blinds. He’d been opening a lot, so didn’t seem to be tightening up. In the small blind, I looked at my first card (Ace) and decided the second one didn’t really matter. I was shoving on the basis that I covered him and the big blind, so I expected them to fold nearly always rather than risk elimination on the bubble. I wasn’t thrilled to see that my second card was a Deuce, but I stuck to the plan and shoved. The big blind quickly folded, but my neighbor looked pained, then shrugged and said I have to call. I knew I was playing one card at best, and he turned over JJ. The ace appeared on the flop to send him unhappily to the rail. 

The legendary Keith Touhey

As we got down towards the business end of the tournament, I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Keith Touhey and Lorenzo Fusciardi; two of the funniest people in poker. Things got off on a good footing with Keith when he kindly doubled me up (I defended J9 shallow, check shoved the KJ9 flop, and held against his AQ). 

I hit runner runner to double up again

He doubled me up again two tables out when I shoved AK into his AA. He apologized as he tabled them, but a few minutes later I was the one apologizing as I hit runner runner to double up again.

I eventually bust in 13th shoving AT into JJ. Aidan Redden ended up winning the tournament, so congratulations to him. Keith, who was crippled after my AK got there, took it in good spirit. After he’d recovered to cover me again, he said he was hoping to make the blog after all he’d done for me. I joshed that if he knocked me out he wouldn’t. I’d simply go with:

“I busted against an unknown player.”

After he bust, he asked me if I thought the High Roller would be good value. I said it would, and he went off to late reg. Several hours later he locked up first place money in a chop, something that impressed me to the point that I decided to include him not only in this article, but in the title.

His friends clearly have a sense of humor too as they sent me the featured image after they heard about his Aces getting cracked by my AK.