The Unibet IPO: The Greatest Poker Show in Town

  • Lappin finished 4th in the Main Event as Cukrowic claimed the lion’s share of €200,000
  • Irish up and comer Simon Wilson took down the LuxonPay ‘Super Highroller’ 
  • With Nick O’Hara as ringmaster, Lappin says the tournament had a carnival atmosphere
  • He also details a couple of hands from his campaign, including two pocket Jacks
Unibet IPO
Irish poker pro and VSO News writer David Lappin (pictured back right) has reflected on his time at the Unibet IPO where he finished 4th in the Main Event. [Image: UnibetPoker Twitch]

Cukrowicz claims the coveted title

Last weekend, I played the hugely successful Unibet International Poker Open (IPO) in Dublin – a tournament with a long and proud history dating back to 2007. There were 804 entries to the Main Event and a jam-packed side event schedule that meant a room full to the brim with players from 34 different countries. 

Cukrowicz took home the lion’s share of the €200,000

After a three-way deal, France’s Ilan Cukrowicz took home the lion’s share of the €200,000 ($195,682) prizepool. He pocketed €30,900 ($30,232) and claimed the much-coveted IPO title with Dutchman Alexander De Decker and Greek player Alexandros Fixmer winning €25,320 ($24,773) and €23,500 ($22,992), respectively. 

I finished in 4th place after losing a flip, my A-K no match for Cukrowicz’s pocket Tens. That ended up being the last hand of the tournament, which featured four other Irishmen on the final table – Carl Cullen (5th), Noel McMahon (6th), Kevin Carragher (7th), and Paul Carr (8th). 

Wilson wins LuxonPay ‘Super Highroller’ 

There were three big side events at the IPO, starting with the LuxonPay €1,100 ($1,076) buy-in €50,000 ($48,915) guaranteed event. Dubbed a ‘Super HighRoller’ (air quotes necessary), this tournament drew a high standard field with the cream of Irish poker battling some travelling heavy-hitters. My first table featured my two closest poker friends Dara O’Kearney and Daragh Davey, so I knew there wouldn’t be any easy chips. We are the top three cashiest (if it’s not a word, it should be) players in Irish poker history with over 500 career live ‘in the money’ finishes. 

Irish up and comer Simon Wilson took down the title

Other tables included the likes of Max Silver ($5m in live tournament winnings), Marc MacDonnell ($3.2m in live tournament winnings), Michael ‘Big Mick G’ Graydon (former Supernova elite), Nick Newport (Irish Winterfest winner), and Chris Dowling (Killarney car-park champion). In the end, however, Irish up and comer Simon Wilson took down the title and €18,820 ($18,411) first prize:

On the final table, Wilson saw off challenges from veteran players Ivan Tononi and James O’Brien. He also outlasted another breakout Irish talent in the shape of Colm Chan and self-proclaimed ‘top paddy’ Michael Dwyer (last Irishman standing in both the live and Online World Series of Poker Main events in 2022). In the other big side events, Dimitrius Choulis and Martin Walsh chopped the Highroller after the elimination in 3rd place of Daragh Davey, while Alan Gilmore took down the ‘Chip Race Mystery Bounty’ event. 

O’Hara is the ringmaster

Nick O’Hara stepped into his usual role as ringmaster of the three ring circus that is the IPO. He is is an event organizer, tournament director, and poker software entrepreneur and he flexed all three skill-sets over the six-day festival. Tournaments, cash-games, and lots of side attractions combined to create a wonderful carnival atmosphere and the greatest poker show in town.

almost 100 players qualified for the event

In the weeks preceding, almost 100 players qualified for the event on Unibet Poker. Speaking to VegasSlotsOnline News, Unibet Head Of Poker Kris Bergvall expressed his delight with the partnership: 

“The IPO is a special event in Ireland, drawing players from all over the world for what is a wonderful celebration of grassroots poker. There is always a massive local turnout too and we appreciate all the work that Nick (O’Hara) does to ensure that, win or lose, the players have a great time. Unibet Poker was very proud to sponsor the festival for a fifth year in a row and we hope that association will continue for many years to come.”

Pocket Jacks for all the chips? 

In what I hope will be an interesting departure from my normal type of coverage, I’d like to discuss a couple of hands from my IPO deep run. A lot of players will tell you that pocket Jacks are a tricky hand and so they proved to be for me late on Day 2 and again early on the final table. With roughly 25 players left, Jamie Bachoo opened from UTG2 off a stack of about 42 big blinds. British player Steven Frew, who I had profiled as tight flatted in the hijack. The talented Jonathan Cummins squeezed from the Small Blind and playing 45 big blinds, I woke up in the big blind with pocket Jacks:

After a long tank, I folded the spot and was obviously disappointed to watch back the coverage to discover that the opener had a suited K-J, the flatter had the hard to fathom Q-3 offsuit and the 3-bettor was light with A-9 offsuit. Had I shoved, I would have added over a third to my stack uncontested.

The spot seemed fraught with danger

My first instinct when I looked down at my hand was to shove but I changed my mind over the course of several minutes deep in thought. The spot seemed fraught with danger, especially in a tournament in which I was chipping up easily, finding an ample number spots to push small edges or take advantage of my opponents’ tendencies. The reward was clearly there in this hand but I would have to risk my entire stack to actualize a slim enough edge versus the ranges. 

Jacks again and a mental checklist

With nine players left, I was in what poker players like to call an ICM-coffin. Sitting middle of the pack (4/9), my 35 big blinds were very workable but it would be a disaster to bust before the shorter stacks, two of whom were hovering around the 10 big blind mark. From the lojack, the chip-leader and ultimate winner Cukrowicz opened. The action folded to Fixmer (3/9) in the small blind who shoved for 45 big blinds. Once again, I looked down at pocket Jacks:

Honestly, this one felt like an easy enough decision. I’ve played a lot of final tables live and online and my endgame ICM-awareness is one of my stronger qualities as a poker player. (It helps having a podcast partner who literally wrote the book on ICM) In this spot, I put Cukrowicz on a wide range, probably around 25%, but I put Fixmer on an extremely narrow range. 

Given how the ICM-handcuffs were also on him, the specific hand that made the most sense for this shove was A-K so I figured him for that a huge proportion of the time. I also thought that he might play Queens and Kings like this too. Aces wasn’t out of the question but it would be an overplay so I discounted it. The one combination of Jacks and six combinations of Tens would probably flat but again I couldn’t rule them out so I discounted them too. Versus that range, including the weightings that I assigned, it didn’t feel super-close so I relinquished fairly quickly with a rye smile.

A skinny edge is still an edge worth taking versus elite players

In both hands, I took my time, running through a mental checklist, hoping not to miss any important detail in a hand. I strongly recommend this to any player faced with a tricky decision. For me, this checklist always ends with me asking myself the question “is there an easier way to win chips in this tournament?” In stronger fields or in turbos, the answer is often ‘no’, leading me to take what I have determined to be the +EV play. A skinny edge is still an edge worth taking versus elite players or in fast formats. However, in softer fields, particularly well structured tournaments with lots of recreational players like the IPO, that answer is often ‘yes’ and, in those cases, after factoring in ICM as best I can, I am okay with turning down marginally +EV spots, especially when it is for a large portion of my stack.