Deep Runs, Memorable Tournaments in Paris

  • My biggest live score in five years got me off to a great start in Paris
  • David Lappin and I both bubbled in the VIP invitational
  • Two more solid tourneys, cashing in both the FPS Main Event and High Roller
  • France served as a fantastic host and the tournaments were very well-run
Poker chips arranged to form the French flag
EPT and FPS Paris were a success for VSO News’ own Dara O’Kearney. [Image:]

Heck of a start

As a poker pro, I constantly remind myself that it’s all one big lifelong session, and that worrying about short term results is as useful as worrying about weather. That said, on live trips, it’s always nice to start with a result. This is truer on major month-long excursions like the WSOP where a bad first week can make you feel beaten up and chasing only a quarter of the way through your campaign, while a good start can give you the feeling of nothing to lose now. This is particularly true when that result nets more than your likely buy-ins for the entire trip, as was the case for me in Paris when I took third in the opening 1k Freezeout for over 25k. This was my biggest Hendon Mob score since 17th in an online WSOP event during the pandemic, and my biggest live score in over five years since my Party Millions final table in Nottingham.

The tournament itself was not particularly memorable or remarkable apart from the result, mainly a procession through a number of standard spots and flips where I ran well enough to stay in. I built a stack early on, but prolonged card death and table draws that didn’t allow for much creativity meant I bagged up a bit less than average. Day 2 was a parade of standard shoves and re-shoves to keep my head above water but still below average, until I caught some heat on the second-to-last table and got to apply a lot of ICM pressure, so that when the final table formed, I was second in chips.

I was very happy with my play, particularly in the endgame

The final table was an up and down affair for me where I wrestled the chip lead at one point, only to find myself shortest with four left. I clawed my way up to third and then took out the always impressive Ankit Anuja (who was a guest on the most recent Chip Race!) to move into joint second. I then got it in effectively flipping post flop versus the other joint second, and didn’t prevail. Overall though, I was very happy with my play, particularly in the endgame. I’ve done a lot of specific ICM study recently with my study buddies Monica Vaka and Turlough McHugh, and it makes me feel a lot more confident being able to execute when I am still in with two tables left. It’s almost a relief when you bust in a standard flip as it means you fade having to live with yourself after a major mistake.

FPS Main Event and High Roller

Next up was the FPS Main Event, where I again made Day 2 and cashed. In many ways it was a repeat of the opening event, except I built and maintained a bigger stack on Day 1 but ran out of steam earlier on Day 2. The event was won outright by former Chip Race guest Matti Moolhuizen, who makes up half of my favorite couple in poker. Here’s a photo of what looks like me officiating at their wedding, but is actually me signing a copy of Poker Satellite Strategy for them at my first ever book signing years ago.

The last event of the trip was the FPS High Roller, but before that, I got to take part in the VIP invitational tournament. Things were looking pretty good for me and my VegasSlotsOnline News colleague David Lappin, when I was chip leader early on and he wasn’t far behind, but then we kept running into Aces to finish 8th and 9th, respectively, with only seven paid.

In the FPS High Roller, I quickly built a stack again, albeit in fortuitous fashion when I got Kings in against Aces and Ace-Jack. I was already getting ready to click “re-enter” on my phone when the flop came down Q-T-9, but running clubs gave me a flush and the winning hand.

A tortuous bubble meant I withered back to just seven big blinds going into Day 2.

I went extremely card dead for a long time through a series of tables, one of which may be the toughest I’ve ever played at live (it featured Santiago Plante, Joey Weissman, Georgi Sandev, Leo Margets, and Maria Lampropoulus). A tortuous bubble meant I withered back to just seven big blinds going into Day 2. Lappin was having a much more eventful bubble that included a verbal altercation with Tom Vogelsang and Parker Talbot. Lappin has written an entire article on it, so I have little to add except that I noticed that many of the most zealous callers of clock are a lot less observant of other rules, such as no phones when they have cards, and no talking that could influence action in multi-way pots.

I’d also like to point out that the floor handled the situation perfectly, quickly deciding the clock call was uncalled for, and admonishing the PokerStars ambassador who felt the need to involve himself in an altercation at another table.

France is a wonderful host

I went into this event a little apprehensive because while I didn’t attend last year, everyone I knew who did came home with horror stories. The Stars live team has a record of learning from mistakes quickly, and that was in evidence this year. Increased capacity and staffing levels made for a very well-run event.  I’m not a particularly patriotic person, but it does fill me with some sense of national pride to see so many of the best live events staff as products of the Irish poker scene, be they born in Ireland, based in Ireland, or learned their craft in Ireland.

good old Irish efficiency and common sense went a long way

Whether it was head of security Tony, my namesake Dara Hanlon marshalling the security bracelet lines, live events supremo Dave Curtis overseeing everything, or the host of other Irish based or Irish produced dealers and floor staff who are the very best at what they do, good old Irish efficiency and common sense went a long way to smoothing the challenges of arguably Europe’s most regulation-happy market. The things they think of to outlaw, like massages at the table, eating at the table, big blind antes in PLO tournaments, paperless registrations, or reentries in all but your first flight boggle the mind sometimes.

But there’s much to appreciate about France and the French too. They are remarkably welcoming. They are remarkably tolerant of not being allowed to talk their own language at the table in their own country (something I wouldn’t be surprised to see changed by regulation, and who could blame them?). Their food and culture are second to none, and they possess a civility that other countries could learn from. This was in evidence when a lady on my table stone bubbled the FPS high roller and nobody celebrated, much to the surprise of watching bloggers. As I get older, I become more aware of the creeping ageism I encounter on my trips abroad, but the French are famous for their inter-generational harmony and respect for their elders, and the only ageism I encountered on this trip came from visitors.

Success on multiple levels

On a personal level, three cashes from three events and a podium finish felt very good and continues the growing confidence I’ve been feeling live recently. The event was also a massive success for the organizers, both in terms of numbers and player experience. PokerStars live events are also on a bit of a roll after massively successful EPT stops in Barcelona and Prague, the biggest ever UKIPT in Nottingham, and now this. They wisely discontinued the PCA in the Bahamas which has long been a bit of a curate’s egg on the schedule and an unpopular destination, and pulled their act together in Paris.

I have heard they, too, have learned from past mistakes

Their next major event is the Irish Open, which I also expect to be a massive success, maybe the biggest Open ever. I have heard they, too, have learned from past mistakes, and this year have tweaked things to ensure side events won’t need to be cancelled, or octogenarians like Kevin O’Donnell forced to play long days way past their bedtime. Who knows, they might even get commentators into the booth who know a few of the local players, or at least how to pronounce their names.

My deep runs in all the events I bought into left little time for socializing, but I did manage to go for dinner with recent Lock In guest Maria Konnikova on our first night there. Better yet, she finally got to meet Mrs. Doke, who she had long suspected was a figment of my imagination, and we treated her to a joint rendition of our how we met story, a highlight of which seems to be how different our memories are on almost every point.

I also greatly enjoyed the number of people I hadn’t met before who took the time to say how much they had learned from the books I have written with Barry. An absolute highlight was getting meet Bert “Girafganger” Stevens for the first time in person. He doesn’t disappoint, and Mrs. Doke has a new favorite poker player. I even found her watching his videos back in the room, and singing along to “Fire,” which she informed me was her favorite song as a teenager.

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