Dara O’Kearney: Two Cashes and Lots of Fun at the Westport IPT

  • The latest Irish Poker Tour stop was in Westport, an Irish town I had never visited before
  • I fired two bullets at the High Roller to no avail, coming unstuck against 9-7 of hearts both times
  • Despite a lot of anticipation, a showdown with tour ambassador Andy Black never took place
  • A number of friends ran deep in the Main, including both Aidan McAllister and Gerard Keenan
Westport, Ireland
Irish poker pro Dara O’Kearney reflects on his time at the IPC in Westport, where he cashed twice and met up with old and new friends. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Into the Mystery Bounty

Somehow, in my 57 years on this planet, I have never been to Westport, which was voted the best place to live in Ireland a few years ago. I was therefore looking forward to the latest Irish Poker Tour stop there.  As it turned out, I never left the hotel, but I kept hearing how lovely the town is from people who had.

mystery bounties are different since the bounties are not in play until late in the tournament

I hopped straight into the Mystery Bounty on arrival, max late regging it. For those who have heard me railing against late regging bounties in my book “PKO Poker Strategy” or elsewhere, it might surprise you I chose to do so. However, mystery bounties are different since the bounties are not in play until late in the tournament, as I’ll explain in my mystery bounty book if I ever get round to writing it.

I had a pretty dull Day 1 in terms of the poker but good in terms of the social aspect. A highlight was getting to meet an online friend Anne Loughlin for the first time in person. Anne got crippled losing a big flip in almost the first hand she played. Undeterred, she made a pretty incredible recovery from there to finish fifth in the event.

For my own part, I came back to Day 2 as one of the shorter stacks near the bubble mainly hoping to scrape into the money. I managed that with the bonus of winning one bounty (I unfortunately drew the absolute minimum).

The Sligo contingent

I went straight from there to the Main Event where I again bagged up a short stack on the first bullet. I made a really good start to Day 2, tripling my stack without any big confrontations. My table broke and my second table proved less profitable. I barely won a pot and drifted back to a short stack on the bubble, busting shortly after securing the cash.

I hung around quite a bit with the Sligo contingent this weekend. Turlough McHugh became one of my closest poker friends during the pandemic, and one of my oldest friends Sligo legend Fergal “MidniteKowby” Nealon was back. Ever the value hunters, they’d crammed a third Sligo head Shane into the room. The only problem with that plan is a shortage of bedding, so I ended up lending a spare duvet from my room to Shane.

I’m sorry to bust the man who literally kept me warm last night”

Shane ended up being the one that called my all-in and busting me from the Main. As I left, his words of “I’m sorry to bust the man who literally kept me warm last night” must have had our table mates wondering about the exact nature of our relationship.

High Roller

I fired two bullets at the High Roller to no avail. Our brains are wired to detect patterns that aren’t there in random data, and the one from this was both bullets came unstuck against 9-7 of hearts.

The first one was literally my first hand in the event. I called a squeeze from the ever-active Fintan Gavin with 5-5 and we got it in on a 9-7-5 flop. He hit a 9 river for what Andy Black remarked must have been my first-ever first-hand bust out (I certainly can’t remember any others).

The second one came after I max late registered. This time I was the squeezer with A-J. I got one caller and when the flop came down all low hearts i was happy enough to get it all in holding the Ace of hearts and a stack to pot ratio of less than one. Unfortunately my opponent already had the 9 high flush and I didn’t get there.

GTO versus White Magic

In the run up to the event, tour ambassador Andy Black contacted me asking if I’d be willing to debate him on the topic of our (perceived) different approaches to poker. Dubbed as “GTO versus White Magic” I was pleasantly surprised how much interest there seemed to be in this, with people asking me all weekend when it was likely to happen. It had to be postponed at the original time as we were both still involved in the Main, and we agreed we’d do it whenever we were both free the next day.

discombobulated by the fact his white magic had failed to detect his opponent’s set

As it worked out our playing schedules dove-tailed most of the day so that one or both of us was playing at all times. We could possibly have done it after my second bullet in the High Roller but Andy busted just before me after getting it in drawing dead with no pair no draw on the turn against a set. That sent him speeding straight for the exit, perhaps discombobulated by the fact his white magic had failed to detect his opponent’s set.

People were coming up to me all weekend to tell me Andy was claiming I was running scared, but nothing could be further from the truth. Hopefully we can make it happen at a future event.

An absent hero

The most talked about man in Westport wasn’t even there, Paddy Power Twitch streamer Tom Parsons, who multiplied his lifetime Hendon Mob live cashes one hundredfold with his big result in the Bahamas. His bust out hand became the most talked about hand of the year in Ireland and caused fierce debate.

We have booked Tom to come on the Chip Race to discuss the hand in detail for a strategy segment, so I don’t want to spoiler that but I will say that Andy and I had polar opposite views on the hand (which was going to form part of the “GTO versus White Magic” debate).

I’m pretty sure Belarus is even farther from the Bahamas

I heard a wide array of arguments for the theory that Tom had messed up the hand, of varying degrees of convincing. The funniest justification I heard for folding was how far he had travelled for the event. Apart from everything else I’m pretty sure Belarus is even farther from the Bahamas.

The Chip Race

Speaking of the Chip Race, David, Barry, and I are flattered to again be shortlisted for a record third time at the GPI Poker Awards (we won the first time):

On the other hand, I don’t mind revealing that Barry is smarting from the omission of ‘GTO Poker Simplified’ from the Best Written Content shortlist. Even if it’s our best received book to date by the poker masses, I wasn’t surprised at the omission. A quick glance at the nominees, not just this year but every other year, quickly reveals that strategy content never gets a look in, not just in this category but in any other category where it goes head to head against non strategy content. It’s fairly clear most of the voters are industry people rather than players, so it’s not surprising they have a natural preference for human interest stories around poker rather than strategy content about the actual game itself. For my own part I don’t place much stock in any awards, valuing much higher the genuine interest and praise of people who actually buy and read the books, and hearing about any successes their work at improving themselves leads to.

I brought as many books as I could comfortably carry to Westport and quickly sold them all, having to disappoint a few people. It’s particularly heartening to see players of all ages levels and backgrounds eager to consume the book. As self publishers, Barry and I rely almost completely on word of mouth to sell the books, and the reviews of people who read and benefited from the book are far more important than the votes or non votes of industry heads with no interest in the actual game itself.

Some final shoutouts

So to summarise, two cashes and lots of fun. At this stage, I’ve caught up post pandemic with most of my friends, but two of the last on the list were Scottish couple George and Lesley Devine who were in Westport for the weekend.

I always like to see a player’s passion and work ethic pay off

Some final shoutouts for some other friends who went deep. Both Aidan McAllister and Gerard Keenan final tabled the Main Event. I was almost as thrilled as Gerard was when he got a trophy for winning the Last Longer. Ger is a genuine enthusiast who lives and breathes the game, and I always like to see a player’s passion and work ethic pay off.

Before rounding up my shoutouts, I’d like to reiterate something people sometimes forget: I’m not a journalist, and the trip reports I write like this are not impartial. My cohost and fellow VegasSlotsOnlnie News writer David Lappin specialises more in the who won what type pieces, so I encourage you to check his out if that’s what you’re looking for. Because my pieces are entirely personal I only tend to shout out people I’m either friends with or interact with in a meaningful way. So don’t take it personally if you won something big and I didn’t even mention you.

The last No Limit Holdem event of the festival was the Monster, and I was absolutely thrilled to see my friend Paul Rinty Monaghan take it down. I’ve written before about Rinty’s tireless promotion of grassroots poker in Northern Ireland and beyond, so I won’t repeat myself, but it’s great to see him reminding everyone he’s also a formidable player at the tables.

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