O’Dwyer and His Lucky Chair Triumph at the Irish Poker Open 2022

  • Steve O’Dwyer has won the 2022 Irish Poker Open after taking some time away from the felt
  • He walked away from the Open with €318,000 ($343,195), the trophy, and maybe a lucky chair
  • Former champions Clarke and Wilson made the final table but finished 8th and 5th, respectively
  • There were some exceptional hands featuring O’Dwyer, as well as Wilson, Bushell, and Maguire 
  • O’Dwyer has promised David Lappin and The Chip Race podcast an interview following his win
Steve O'Dwyer
Poker pro Steve O’Dwyer has returned to the live scene by taking the top prize in the 2022 Irish Poker Open. [Image: Irish Poker Open Twitter]

A man of few words

An emotional Steve O’Dwyer was interviewed by Laura Cornelius right after winning the 2022 Irish Poker Open. A man of very few words, he chooses the ones he uses very carefully. There was an appreciation of his good fortune. There was a reverence for the event itself, the longest-running poker tournament in Europe. There was some delightful whimsy as he spoke about a lucky chair he wanted to bring home with him. There were also some emotional, heartfelt words about it meaning a lot to him. 

one of the greatest players of all time

O’Dwyer is one of the greatest players of all time but he hasn’t played very much poker of late. The world of nosebleed high-stakes MTTs is a swingy, often cruel place and one which tests a player’s tolerance for pain. Steve has an enviable resumé but it’s easy to look at tens of millions of dollars in live winnings and presume that his journey has been smooth sailing. Poker puts you in the blender. Downswings make you doubt yourself. 

O’Dwyer has been enjoying some well-deserved time away from the felt. Dublin, the ancestral home of the Irish Open, is his adopted city and a place that suits him. If you take a walk around St Stephen’s Green on an afternoon, you might spot him, ambling with no particular purpose, deep in thought. In fact, that’s where I bumped into him at the end of last summer.

Like riding a bike

We stopped to shoot the breeze, meandering between lots of topics. From domestic life to live tournament exploits, I found myself so engrossed in our conversation that I missed my train.

won the Super High Roller for $313,000

He told me that he was probably going to venture out to play a live poker festival in Cyprus the following month, his first since January 2020. A few weeks later, I was checking in on the results from the Merit poker festival and spotted that he’d won the Super High Roller for $313,000, his 26th live victory. It’s like riding a bike, I guess. 

Steve is underexposed for such a giant in the game, so naturally, before we parted ways, I tried to book him for an interview on ‘The Chip Race.’ He politely declined before offering a compromise. “Maybe if there was a particular reason or I had something particular to say on a topic, we could do a short piece on that.”  I asked him whether there was a topic on which he had strong opinions. He just smiled and shrugged. 

Steve wanted to riffle some chips

Since Cyprus in September, Steve also played the High Roller of the Unibet International Poker Open. Its €550 buy-in was substantially smaller than the registration fee in the High-Rollers he’s used to playing. We chatted briefly that day and I remember people asking what a guy with $30m in live winnings was doing in such a tiny event. My VegasSlotsOnline News compadre Dara O’Kearney joked that he really wanted to get that figure to $30,015,000, but the truth was he just wanted to play. 

Like so many of us, Steve simply wanted to riffle some chips, feel some cards in his hands, and have a chat with his table-mates. For a lot of players, myself included, live events are a reprieve from the lone-wolfishness of the online grind. The pandemic cut off our main avenue for socializing. It’s been a tough couple of years.

a homecoming of sorts for the Irish poker community

All of which brings us back to this year’s Irish Poker Open, a homecoming of sorts for the Irish poker community, shared with the usual throng of international visitors. A huge amount of credit is due to JP McCann and Paul O’Reilly for putting on a record-setting festival.

Three nights ago, I spotted Steve still in the field with about 100 left, so when I hopped into the commentary booth I half-jokingly told the audience that everyone was playing for second. Just 24 hours later and I was standing on the rail with only two tables left. I wished Steve good luck, following up with the mandatory fist-bump. I also reminded him of our conversation.

“If you win, that counts as a particular reason to do an interview, right?” He smiled and begrudgingly acquiesced. “Okay, but only If I win,” he said. “I’ll call you on Tuesday,” I replied. 

The skills of O’Dwyer’s opponents were on show

It would be easy to say that the final table was all one-way traffic but that would do a disservice to the other players that also contributed to a truly great poker spectacle. Resistance came in the form of former Irish Open champion Dan Wilson who proved why he too is among the game’s elite, playing the short stack with such poise and deftness, making the correct play time and time again, and pulling off one of the great televised hero-folds you will ever see:

There was also a mind-blowing above-the-rim check back by Matthew Bushell as O’Dwyer played possum with the flopped nuts:

O’Dwyer acknowledged putting some heinous beats on several opponents throughout the tournament. None were worse than the river one-outer he found to wreck Kyle Maguire when there were six left:

Whittling down the competition

There was an early bust-out for former Irish Open champion Patrick Clarke:

Next to go was Justin Boyle, a disappointing finish for the man who came into the final table in third position:

Chris Williams bowed out in seventh:

Bushell took sixth place after cruelly losing a 70:30 to O’Dwyer:

 Wilson finished fifth after proving what a short stack ninja he can be:

Garry Spinks, who let his trusted coin make a couple of knife-edge decisions along the way, came fourth:

Mircea Rus also navigated the short stack superbly, coming third and earning a well-deserved career-best payday:

The standard of play on the final table was immense and ultimately culminated in a battle between O’Dwyer and Maguire, the two men who came into the final table far ahead of the chasing pack. 

No miracle comeback for Maguire

Kyle Maguire is a true grinder, a player who has battled online and live for over a decade. Throughout his main event run, he showed tremendous courage and mental fortitude and on the final table he carried the hopes of a proud poker nation:

Heads-up was always going to be tough though as Maguire had just 9% of the chips in play and an elite opponent with whom to contend. Unfortunately for him, it was not to be. He got it in good for the umpteenth time in the final hand as O’Dwyer spiked his 3-outer, and that was all she wrote. 

A final table masterclass 

O’Dwyer treated the Irish Poker Open viewers to a final table masterclass. It was a clinic of what to do when you are chip-leader – what hands to use as semi-bluffs, what hands to flat in and out of position, what sizings to use to leverage the short stacks, how to bully the middling stacks. His understanding of ICM was on show as he put his opponents in the bin over and over again. Its also worth noting that he eliminated every single one of his opponents. 

Steve is a gentle presence at the table, his soulful eyes watching everything like a hawk but not in an overtly intimidating way. While Foxen and Chidwick interrogate your every gesture with their baleful stares, Steve is more like a sleuth, passively collecting data points, studying you like a problem to be solved. 

the 24th-largest score of his illustrious career

This was far from his biggest result. In fact, the €318,000 ($343,195) first prize is only the 24th-largest score of his illustrious career. However, he did seem to genuinely mean it when he said that it rated among his favorite wins. Maybe that’s because it was in Ireland, or because it has come at a time when he is returning to the game after a hiatus. 

Whatever the reason, he is a very worthy champion and he’ll be getting a call from me later today.