Dara O’Kearney: London Poker Festival Trip Report

  • The trip began well with a good start in the Mystery Bountry, making the final table
  • Next, I bowed out in 48th in the Main Event after a couple of bullets
  • Main Event winner Jay Patel defeated David Costello headsup after a chop
  • The women’s event was the most fun of the festival, and Lydia Cugudda took the win
Dara and London Poker Festival lineup
The recent London Poker Festival was a huge success for Asper’s and the Irish Poker team.

A fast start

As I traveled back home from the London Poker Festival recently, I had a distinct sense of deja vu as I shared a cab to Heathrow with my room mate, celebrity chef Kwangchi. The reason for this was that my last two trips to London were similarly profitable, and also ended with sleepless all nighters before early morning flights.

I ended up making my second live final table of 2024

My trip got off to a good start in my first event, the Mystery Bounty. I have a particularly good record in Mystery Bounties (given I literally wrote the book on the format), and on this occasion I ended up making my second live final table of 2024, albeit on my second bullet. I play both Day 1’s, with very different experiences.

I made a fast start up to three times starting stack on bullet one, only to then go card dead, as the blinds rose to the point where there were more spots where someone was all in preflop. After the first standard twenty big blind get in spot, I was the one left with twenty bigs suddenly. A second such spot arose shortly thereafter, and when my Ace-Queen failed to get there versus Ace-King, I bust.

Into Day 2

By contrast, I made a terrible start on the second bullet, dwindling back from starting stack until I found myself with just four big blinds a couple of hours before the end of play. I think one of my strengths is not panicking or forcing it in those spots, knowing it can turn, as it did on this occasion. A crazy heater in the last session of play saw me bag up the chip lead going into Day 2, not far from the money.

I lost the chiplead and one third of my stack in the very first hand of Day 2, but was still in a great position to claim a double bounty when I found myself in a three way all in with Jacks on the bubble. A short stack shoved Ace-Jack, and after Paul Romain reshoved for more (but well less than me) I called off. Paul’s King-Queen hit the turn and to make matters worse, he immediately pulled the biggest available bounty of £10,000 ($12,611). Paul’s a good guy though, so I didn’t bregrudge him.

a high-quality final table with not many big mistakes

I was feeling a little less charitable when I lost another three-way all in near the final table bubble, this time my Tens holding against Sixes but losing to King-Jack, as this left me short and in danger of not making the final table. In the end I got there as the second shortest stack. It was a high-quality final table with not many big mistakes so it turned into a bit of a grind.

My hopes of adding a second live win to my Hendon mob this year were still alive with five left as I navigated the short stack, but my Ace-Ten got rivered by Queen-Ten to end that dream. However, the bounties I drew were well above average so overall it added up to my first five-figure score of the year. The event was won by the very impressive Glen Gaines who on this occasion navigated his short stack more successfully than I did.

The Main Event

I also fired a couple of bullets at the Main Event, getting through in the last chance saloon (the hyper Day 1F early on Day 2). Contrary to popular misconception, a higher portion of hyper flights advance (with a lower average stack), but I was happy to bag up roughly average overall. I was pretty card dead in Day 2, and scraped through the bubble, got a few ladders, before ultimately bowing out in 48th.

One very welcoming feature of the entire trip for me personally was the number of locals who took the time to let me know they’d read and greatly benefited from my books, including Main Event winner Jay Patel.

Jay defeated my fellow countryman, the very impressive David Costello, headsup after a chop.

The Irish contingent

It was a very good festival overall for the visting Irish contingent, with Peter Murphy taking fown the 1K One Dayer, Irish Poker Tour ambassador Paul “Rinty” Monaghan taking third in the same event, and IPT leaderboard winner Paul Carr taking the lion’s share in a chop in the Omaha event.

Paul also scraped through the bubble of the Main Event with an even shorter stack than mine, and we had good craic as he ran over to me between hands for coaching on how to play an (for him) uncharacteristically tiny stack under extreme ICM. Most of my my coaching took the form of a four letter word beginning with F, as did most of his feedback.

The Women’s Event

By far the most fun event of the entire festival was the Women’s Event hosted by IPT ambassador Tanya Masters and “The Truth Detective” author Alex O’Brien (who also kindly hosted me at the start of my trip), which attracted a record number of entries and (I believe but I could be wrong on this) the largest ever prize pool for a women’s event in the UK. The complimentary prosecco and Ferraro Rocher added to the gaeity of the event, as did the spot prizes organized by Tanya and Alex. These included copies of my books, and I was happy to take a break from the last side event I played to pose for some photos with the winners.

I guess I don’t need to read Dara’s book now”

The event was won (after a three way chop that included Alex) by the always cheerful and cheeky Lydia Cugudda, who went from being very happy to win a copy of my ICM book to quipping “I guess I don’t need to read Dara’s book now” as she was presented with the trophy. Worst winner’s interview ever, Lydia!

Overall, the event was a massive success for Asper’s and the Irish Poker team, as they hit a challenging guarantee in difficult circumstances (the rail strike definitely didn’t help, with my co-author Barry Carter among the many who didn’t make it down to London as a result), and a very enjoyable one for me as I got to catch up with lots of friends I hadn’t seen in ages.

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