Dara O’Kearney: Back in Galway for Another Memorable Edition of the IPC

  • Always an interesting event, the IPC took place at the Galmont in Galway this month 
  • O’Kearney visited to fight in the Main Event and try for a fourth-straight Seniors cash
Galmont Hotel
Irish poker pro Dara O’Kearney reflects on his latest trip to the Galmont Hotel in Galway (pictured) for the Irish Poker Championship. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A memorable occasion

The very first UK and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) was held not in the UK but in Galway at the end of December 2009. Over the next couple of years, the UKIPT always kicked off in December in Galway in the Radisson hotel.

The first one was won by Padraig Parkinson

A number of things made it a memorable occasion. The first one was won by Padraig Parkinson who didn’t let the fact that he was disqualified from the event stop him from shipping it. The following year, a cold snap meant many of the online qualifiers were unable to get there in time. The organizers responded by postponing it for one day, laying on a freeroll for those of us who had made it in time.

By then the tour had grown into something that people were winning multiple satellites to. When the Main Event finally got under way, we all found ourselves unexpectedly at the same table. It seemed too unlikely to have simply been random: and it seemed less likely when we saw some of the other tables. One had all the Stars pros on it, another had all the qualifiers from a satellite in the local Eglinton casino. Most bizarre was the table of Toms. Apparently the Toms didn’t know each other, or realize that they were all called Tom, until someone from an adjoining table called “Tom” and they all answered.

What had apparently happened was that the person charged with doing the table draw didn’t understand the “draw” aspect and simply cut the list of entrants they were given into groups of nine. Once the organizers realized, they stopped the event and did a total redraw.

Irish Poker Championship

That first UKIPT doubled both as a UKIPT and the Irish Poker Championships (IPC), a tournament which had already existed for a few years. It eventually went the way of all other four-figure buyin tournaments after the Celtic Tiger died, and disappeared entirely.

it’s almost exactly how I remembered it

This year it’s back as part of the revitalized Irish Poker Tour, in the same room. The hotel is no longer called the Radisson. Like many other operations after the crash, it found itself under the management of NAMA, who eventually sold it to a new owner who rebranded it as the Galmont. Other than that, it’s almost exactly how I remembered it.

A few people had asked me to bring them a copy of my latest book to the event, so I brought a number of them. It would be an exaggeration to say I was mobbed in the lobby as soon as I arrived, but only a slight one. By the time I got to the room I only had a couple left. First in line was the Irish Poker Tour’s newest ambassador, the inimitable Paul “Rinty” Monaghan, who bought copies of all four books for his club. It’s great to see someone like Rinty get recognition for the tireless work he does at grassroots level organizing trips and groups to attend events both home and abroad. Local organizers like Rinty are the lifeblood of grassroots poker.

Fourth time’s a charm

It took me four bullets to make Day 2 of the Main Event, but I got there with more than four times my starting stack so I consoled myself that I was technically in profit. I made a good start on Day 2 and was well above average as the bubble loomed.

Six from the money, the dream spot presented itself. Niall McAree, who was playing the bubble aggressively, opened from early position. Liam McVeigh, who was adopting a similar swashbuckling approach, three bet in mid position, and I found Kings on the button and moved all in. Niall quickly folded and Liam made the call with A-Q once he’d worked out he was priced in. He hit the Ace right out of the gate sending me packing into the Seniors event which had already started.

Liam ended up being involved in a three way chop and claiming the title. He’s one of Rinty’s crew, who noted when we both ended up on the final table of the seniors that this was Liam’s first major live tournament, adding:

He’s hooked now.”

Another Seniors

My record in Seniors tournaments got off to a ropey start but got a lot better. Going into this one I’d cashed my last three, starting with the World Series of Poker event. I followed this by cashing the event at European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona, and then was involved in a four way chop at EPT London. I got off to a fast start in my attempt to make it four in a row, basically tripling up first orbit. When I was moved to a new table, my new tablemates expressed surprise that I had already accumulated so many chips. I joked that I was so tilted after near bubbling the Main Event that I was playing like an aggro donkey, but the reality was I just hit some very big hands.

there was still a lot of work to make the four in a row a reality

Before long I was on the final table as one of the shorter stacks. That meant with only five paid there was still a lot of work to make the four in a row a reality. I got there when Rinty bubbled after getting it in three-way in a great spot, his Nines against two A-Qs, but he couldn’t hold. From there I gradually increased my stack. The shortest of three, I got lucky winning an all in where I was dominated. I pushed on into the chip lead, and got it in flipping against Jay O’Toole to get heads-up with a big lead. I lost that flip, and then A-K against Jay’s Q-J for the same dominant lead heads-up. I got the rest of my chips in ahead but couldn’t hold so I bust in third, the dream of four cashes in a row achieved. The bigger dream to actually win a Seniors event will have to wait.

Jay O’Toole ended up winning in his maiden Seniors event, defeating Derek Baker heads-up.

Other winners

A lot of my friends had good results over the weekend. Marc McDonnell who I’ve known all my career (the first ever European Deepstack was both our first live final table) won the Mystery bounty and final tabled the Claddagh Cup. My roommate for the weekend Turlough McHugh was fourth in that for his biggest ever live score. Billy Johnstone took down the Monster Stack and Andy O’Toole kept up his impressive record in PLO events coming fourth on this occasion. Two of my students Ray Wheatley and Shane Kelly had deep runs in the Main Event, and one of my favorite people to hang out with at events in Ireland, the popular Pat Neary, took down the €150 ($162) side event.

The next major stop is in Westport at the start of next month and everyone who was in Galway is very much looking forward to that.