The big headlines in poker are often reserved for the achievements of players in the upper echelons of the game, but the most important tier of poker, both live and online, is without doubt the lower stakes. Grassroots poker is the lifeblood of the game – a place where recreational players blow off steam, where up and coming players cut their teeth, and where communities are formed.
Irish Poker Tour (IPT) is the substratum on top of which these marquee events can flourish
In Ireland, there has always been a tremendous focus on grassroots poker. From pub poker to student poker to festivals with low buy-in main events, poker organizers have always nurtured and grown the game from the bottom up. If the Irish Poker Open is the big one each year and the Unibet International Poker Open (IPO) is the big-little one, then the Irish Poker Tour (IPT) is the substratum on top of which these marquee events can flourish.
The Irish Poker Tour came into being in 2005 and relaunched in October 2021, partnered with Paddy Power Poker and helmed by veteran player, commentator and event organizer Fintan Gavin. In August, they announced VegasSlotsOnline News writer Dara O’Kearney as the Tour’s “Live Poker Strategy Coach” and in September, they announced Andy Black as Ambassador. In the last two months, they have also found themselves a poster boy in the shape of Paul Carr who has won a hat trick of tournaments at consecutive festivals.
Carr’s purple patch
In 2010, Carr came to notoriety when he finished runner-up in the €3,500 ($3,645) buy-in Irish Open for €312,600 ($325,557). He outlasted 706 players, but ultimately lost out to James Mitchell for the title. It was a performance that garnered mainstream attention as Carr famously appeared on “The Late Late Show,” speaking about his breakout result.
He is the epitome of how grassroots poker can lead a great player to the big leagues.
Since then, Carr’s poker resume has been an eclectic mix of results in low and high stakes. His Hendon Mob profile boasts 68 live cashes, seven of which are in tournaments with a buy-in over €1,000 ($1,041), but also 21 in tournaments with a buy-in less than €100 ($104). He is the epitome of how grassroots poker can lead a great player to the big leagues.
In January 2015, Carr won the IPC Main Event in Galway for €16,450 ($17,132), igniting another incredible purple patch. That time, he followed it up by taking down the Cavan Open for €5,500 ($5,728), the JP Masters for €6,825 ($7,108), the Dublin Poker Festival for €15,000 ($15,622) and the Fitzwilliam End of the Month for €10,000 ($10,412) all in the next four months.
Hat trick hero
Since the relaunch of the IPT, Carr has been ever-present, but it is in 2022 that he has caught fire. In February, he came in 5th in Limerick. In July, he finished 5th in Claremorris. Then in August and September, he picked up a pair of third place finishes in Athlone and Killarney.
The trend was upward and it continued, culminating in a red-hot October in which he recorded back-to-back victories in Dundalk and Limerick events for €4,810 ($5,009) and €3,880 ($4,041) apiece. He completed his hat trick on Friday when he took down the Claremorris event for €3,800 ($3,958).
VSO News reached out to Carr, but the Limerick man was too modest to blow his own trumpet. Fortunately, Dara O’Kearney was happy to do it for him: “Paul is on an incredible run of form. One of the great characters of the game, he is reaping the rewards of some positive lifestyle changes and a more serious approach to studying the game. On top of these results, he recently won two online tournaments in the same night!”
Top quality events with low buy-ins and big guarantees
The IPT will be in Dublin and Galway in December and there are already stops announced for Cork, Ballinasloe, and Westport in the first five weeks of 2023. VSO News spoke to Fintan Gavin, owner-operator of the Irish Poker Tour, to speak about his objectives and ambitions going forward:
We want recreational players to be able to access top quality events with low buy-ins and big guarantees.
“The mission statement of the Irish Poker Tour is to bring professional quality poker tournaments to all regions. We want recreational players to be able to access top quality events with low buy-ins and big guarantees. To that end, we have put together a very special team of industry people who are focused on player experience. Paddy Power are adding value by adding money to each stop and the end result is an atmosphere that has been likened to much larger events like the WSOP, EPT, and Irish Open.”
Without a doubt, there is a live poker boom right now, and it’s great to see energetic organizers match the passion of the players who love the game. It is also heartening that those same organizers are paying attention to the grassroots. Take care of the pennies and pounds will look after themselves.