JP McCann Goes Beyond Call of Duty to Ensure Happy End to Turbulent Irish Open Week

  • A player was disqualified for slapping and bullying Louise Francoeur at the Irish Poker Open
  • McCann publicly apologized for deciding to reinstate the disqualified player afterwards
  • Irish Open organizer Paul O’Reilly and McCann twice tracked down a player who went missing
  • McCann stayed with the player in his hotel room to make sure he safely made his flight home
Rock climber extending a hand to help another
Amid a rocky week at the Irish Poker Open, tournament director JP McCann went above and beyond to come to the aid of a player in need. [Image:]

Behind the scenes

The Irish Poker Open produced more than its fair share of stories this year, but none more powerful and life-affirming than that of “Canadian Ben,” who had gone missing, and how he returned home safely with the help of tournament director JP McCann.

to ensure that one of his players was located and helped to get back to Toronto

While McCann was having his reputation questioned on social media in relation to his handling of an unsavory incident in one of the festival’s last side events, behind the scenes he was going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that one of his players was located and helped to get back to Toronto. 

McCann issued a statement on Saturday night, acknowledging that travelling player Louise Francoeur had been mistreated by another player at her table and that his original decision not to eject the player from the tournament was a mistake. He apologized to Francoeur and insisted that this incident will motivate him to improve standards further at his events.

Player who slapped Francoeur disqualified

Canadian player Francoeur is a regular on the live circuit with results stretching back to 2006. She was, like many, excited to be playing the Irish Poker Open this year, but her experience turned sour on the last night when according to her, a Dutch player seated next to her slapped her on the leg. Her Facebook post about the incident was deleted, but not before it was also posted to Twitter:

Francoeur wrote:  

“In the middle of a hand, the player to my right (who had been chatting away before this) out of nowhere slaps my thigh HARD! Dealer says ‘check,’ then the hand checks around and the last player opens cards… The player who slapped me slaps me again even harder and yells that he never checked and blames me for chatting with dealer and was slapping me to shut me up!”

The floorperson was called to make a ruling on whether the player had checked and after they left, the player continued to berate Francoeur who told him “I’m done!” to which he replied “F*ck you!” The floorperson came back, ordering him to stop and threatening to remove him from the tournament. 

According to Francoeur, “as floor leaves, the player turned to me, completely rising over me as we play last hand before break, very close to my face, and yelled ‘are you happy now! You want me kicked out, don’t you?’… At this point, two gentlemen at the table stood up for break and told him to stop trying to bully me… and [they] spoke to the floor in my defense… As player storms away, they rack his chips and tell me he’s being removed from tourney.”

Ruling to disqualify player overturned 

Francoeur’s table broke, so she moved to her new table, only to discover that the man in question had not been removed and was still playing the tournament. She called for the floor person again, who explained that the decision to expel him had been overruled by tournament organizer McCann. 

Francoeur explained that she was “livid and insulted,” adding: “JP McCann finally comes to talk to me and justifies his decision of keeping player in by saying the dealer shouldn’t have been talking [to me] in first place, and he made the initial mistake that caused spiraling effect, and that the player was just tilted like players do and that was no reason to terminate him from tournament. He said that the player even acknowledged hitting me and behaving badly, and apologized to HIM for the bad behavior, so he was just given another warning and [a new] table.”

shepherded the Irish Poker Open brand from a low point in 2015 to the massive field event it is today

In the days that followed, McCann was castigated and maligned on social media with some questioning his integrity. McCann is a 20-year veteran of the poker industry who has trained dealers and built some of the best live events teams in the business. He has overseen huge festivals and has shepherded the Irish Poker Open brand from a low point in 2015 to the massive field event it is today. 

McCann criticized

McCann was criticized for his handling of the incident, but he insisted that there was a mischaracterization of events as “neither the ruling which was made at the table nor the incident which followed involved any act of violence or physical harm.” 

McCann maintained that, according to what he had been told, Francoeur and the dealer were chatting the whole way through the hand and the player in question tapped her leg under the table, prompting her to realize that he was in a big pot and to take the hint that he wanted silence so that he could focus. 

there was never an issue of physical violence toward her brought to my attention”

When the player’s actions were construed as a check, the floor was called to arbitrate on that and not the fact that Francoeur’s leg had been touched. McCann said: “When I spoke to Louise later there was no mention of her being hit or slapped! I showed her what I was told happened and she said: ‘it was a bit harder than that.’ There was never an issue of physical violence toward her brought to my attention from anyone including Louise when I spoke to her.”

Whether or not there was any intent to be violent towards Francoeur, it is nonetheless unacceptable to have your personal space infringed upon in that manner. In an exchange on Twitter, Francoeur said that her “it was a bit harder than that” response to McCann was intended sarcastically. She also stated: “The decision had already been made about [the] player staying without anyone ever talking to me. So when [McCann] did come talk to me (because I asked floor to talk to [him]), I was just very deflated, I wish all was on camera.”

Irish Open issues a statement 

The lack of a camera setup in the RDS venue was problematic, as it has meant that some “he said/she said” or indeed “he said/he said” situations that occurred over the long weekend have no objective perspective with which to consult. In any case, McCann ultimately released a statement on Saturday night, acknowledging the shortcomings in how this incident was handled:

Francoeur immediately responded, saying: “Thank you for this. And thank you and Paul for reaching out to me personally prior to this release. This is all I wanted. It takes a lot of courage to admit a mistake and implement changes as a result.” Drawing a clear line under the incident, she continued: “It was never my intention to put in question the Irish Poker Open’s great reputation and JP McCann’s integrity.”

Prior to the release of this statement, all sides of the incident had been hotly debated on social media. Some wondered if Francoeur deleting her original post was tantamount to her recanting. However, most of the attention was on McCann and the lack of an official response. 

Poker News Daily published an article entitled “Alleged Physical Altercation and Lack of Response from Staff Mar 2023 Irish Poker Open” in which the author claimed that public and private requests to McCann were “met with silence.” Well, subsequent details have offered an excellent reason for that silence, as it turned out that McCann was preoccupied with a very serious matter.

Reason for silence 

Posting on Facebook, Raph Raph told the compelling story of a young man named Ben who had ventured to the Irish Open from Canada. His intention was to return home on Monday, but owing to a medical issue, he never made it back. 

On Tuesday morning, McCann led a search for Ben and discovered his backpack containing his ID, credit cards, €2,000 (US$2,194), and $500 Canadian (US$374). Ben was missing and the police were already involved. McCann and his fellow Irish Open organizer Paul O’Reilly continued their search efforts and on Tuesday evening, McCann contacted Raph to say he had just tracked down Ben. 

“….he was able to locate Ben through his Airbnb host who said he was wandering around outside and that he would not let him stay there and that he may need medical help. JP rushed over to his location, gave Ben a ride to a hotel, checked him in and contacted his mother who was relieved to know where her son was. He even purchased a one way flight back to Toronto leaving the following day as well as staying with him until the early morning,” wrote Raph Raph.

Thankfully McCann and O’Reilly tracked him down again.

Unfortunately, the next day, Ben left the hotel and was nowhere to be found. McCann and O’Reilly went searching for him once again. They received a call that Ben had been spotted at the RDS and was walking to Dublin’s city center. Thankfully McCann and O’Reilly tracked him down again. McCann intended to bring Ben home with him, but Raph convinced him to instead stay in an airport hotel. 

“So off they went, checked him in again, and got him another plane ticket. JP spoke with Ben’s mother and slept at the hotel with him, ensuring that Ben was delivered to his flight at 10:00am Saturday morning. Thank God! I have known many people in my lifetime but not many who would go to these lengths to help a stranger. Needless to say, it took some time to get a proper statement out regarding Louise’s incident, but everyone needs to know what these men were dealing with.”

Response to the story 

Literally hundreds of people took to social media to like, share or comment on this good news story. Ciaran McGivern testified to how it was very in character for McCann to take care of his vulnerable players:

Others celebrated the safe homecoming on Facebook. Irish poker legend Annette O’Carroll said: “well done JP and Paul. A mother’s blessings on you both!” while veteran Irish player Oliver Boyce said: “Honestly, this doesn’t surprise me. I’ve played his events and known JP since he started about 18 years ago… I’ve seen him look out for people and always try to be fair, reasonable and respectful. Fair play JP and you are a credit to Irish Poker.”

Another poster bemoaned: “it’s a pity a story like this won’t get the same air-time as other incidents at the Irish Open,” and I can certainly sympathize with that sentiment. A cursory glance at my own article’s statistics show that negative stories get more clicks than positive ones. Exactly 73 of my last 100 articles have been positive stories, but it is the negative or critical ones that got far more attention. 

The social media algorithms amplify the articles getting clicks, prioritizing them on people’s feeds. The more people that click, the more likely it is that another person gets recommended the piece. Hopefully this will be an example of a positive news story that gets the appropriate airtime. Given the extraordinary efforts gone to by McCann and O’Reilly, it certainly deserves to. 

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