Tero Laurilla Wins the Irish Poker Open 2024

  • The Irish Poker Open was hosted by the 300-year old Royal Dublin Society
  • Everything about the way the Open was run was absolutely top-notch
  • The Main Event could use slight tweaks to the early blind structure
  • Laurila received the second-highest payout after a three-way deal at the final table
Tero Laurila wins 2024 Irish Poker Open
Tero Laurila won the Irish Poker Open 2024 Main Event. [Image: Irish Poker Open Instagram]

The Royal Dublin Society

On June 25, 1731, a group of fiercely patriotic radical thinkers met in Dublin for the first time to found the “Royal Dublin Society” (RDS). Their mission was to put ideas into action that would transform Ireland by creating a thriving, vibrant culture and economy. By 1734, the Society had overseen the planting of 55 million trees for the purpose of timber production for future building developments. By 1877, it had created or offered patronage to four major cultural institutions – the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library, the National Gallery and the National College of Art and Design – to support Irish artists. In the 1860s, it premiered the Horse Show, promoting best practices in breeding and showcasing the best sport horses in the country.

great to see the Society opening its doors to the risk-taking card smiths of poker’s traveling circus

In 2023, almost 300 years after its inception, the main building within the RDS was the location of a record-breaking edition of the Irish Poker Open. Subculture is still culture, so it was great to see the Society opening its doors to the risk-taking card smiths of poker’s traveling circus. Last week, the festival returned to the same opulent Dublin venue, smashing records once again and making a strong case that the oldest poker tournament in Europe has found its new home.

As each preliminary event took its turn to break attendance records, the writing was on the wall that the Main Event was going to hit a very large number. That number was 3,233, roughly 25% up on 2023, buoyed by around 900 satellite qualifiers all dreaming about the mother of all parlays. In the end, it was Finnish player Tero Laurila who claimed the title, defeating Irishman Hiep Ninh heads-up, who actually walked away with lion’s share of the €3,152,175 ($3,415,160) prize pool after a three-way deal.

The gamble has paid off

In my preview of the Irish Poker Open last week, I wrote about the risk taken by organizers JP McCann and Paul O’Reilly when they rebranded the event as a €1,150 ($1,246) tournament. In our interview with James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton on the “Poker in the Ears” podcast myself and fellow VSO News contributor Dara O’Kearney reiterated how much of a gamble that was. There is no doubt now that the prestige lost by reducing the buy-in has been restored by increasing the number of runners.

The quality of dealers and floor staff was exemplary.

The atmosphere was electric all week with parties pretty much every night in “The Craic Den.” The quality of dealers and floor staff was exemplary. The PokerStars livestream was top-notch and credit to the production team who showcased Irish voices every day. Dara and myself were given time in the booth, as was Irish PokerStars ambassador Fintan Hand, EPT Prague champion Padraig O’Neill, and two of Ireland’s talented young guns in Colm Chan and Thomas Murphy. Photographers Danny Maxwell and Mickey May produced some wonderful images while bloggers Rod Stirzaker, Christian Zetsche, Frank Visser, and Jason Glatzer conjured some eloquent words to describe the action.

The huge number of satellites both live and online was great to see and proof of how allowing players to win multiple seats maximizes liquidity, leading to greater numbers of individual qualifiers. With the likelihood that this festival will continue to grow, is there room for improvement? My answer would be yes, but not very much. The formula is close to perfect, but, because I’m a pedant, I will try to make a couple of constructive criticisms.

Constructive criticism

With the increased numbers, something in the structure had to give and correctly, it was taken from Day 1. I would, however, try to get to the same point in the same amount of time a slightly different way. Currently the starting stack is 30,000 and the first three levels are 100/100, 100/200 and 100/200-200 and the 14th and last level of the day is 1,500/3,000-3,000. I would increase the starting stack to 50,000 and scrap the first two levels. By doing this, the average number of big blinds will be much the same at the end of the day, but there would be a bit more play in the later part of the day when it is important rather than at the beginning when it is less so.

My second quibble is the rake on side events, which I think is a little bit too high and could be shaved by 2%. The €350 ($379) tournaments were all €310+40 ($336+$43) with an additional 2.5% removed for dealer costs. Most of the structures have a couple of levels removed early on and either a 20- or 25-minute clock. That’s not quite a turbo, but it’s certainly not far off. I think that it would be nice if these were €315+35 ($341+$38) instead.

It’s win-win-win.

I also think each daily Championship Event should be a two-day tournament, playing to the final table (at approximately 2am) on Day 1 and returning at 2pm the next day to play out the three-four-hour-long final table. I pitched this idea to virtually every player I met last week and not a single person pushed back on it. The benefits are obvious: the players, dealers, and bloggers are fresh and not forced out of their likely sleep schedule while the organizer has the opportunity to hype the final table. A secondary roped off final table area where these final tables play out would also provide another nice focal point in the room. It’s win-win-win.

Notables bow out

With 60 players left on Day 3 of the Main Event, there were quite a few big names still in with a shot including Irish legends Dara O’Kearney and Padraig Parkinson, online end-boss Conor Beresford, WSOP Online Main Event finalist Simon Wilson, Dutch WSOPC ring winner David Hu, Dutch WSOP bracelet winner Tobias Peters, the inform GUKPT champion Brandon Sheils, Irish Poker Tour regular Darren Harbinson, UK beast Kully Sidhu, UK regular Deborah Worley-Roberts, Irish veteran Larry Ryan, and washed up content creator turned Karaoke try-hard David Lappin. Of them, only Parkinson bagged up and he would bust early on Day 4 in 14th place, just after talented up-and-coming Irishman Aidan Quinlan. In fact, the Day 4 eliminations came thick and fast, meaning the final table was set before 2pm.

Spaniard David Tous came into the final table second in chips, but a mistimed bluff cost him dearly and contributed to his ultimate demise in 9th place. Irishman Adrian Thorne busted in 8th when his A-5 suited failed to crack the A-K of Cypriot pro Georgios Tsouloftas. Lithuanian Vidmantas Beliauskas was next to go, losing a flip to the United Kingdom’s Mark Johnston.

Stephen Groom got married to pocket Jacks, succumbing to Laurila’s pocket Queens to bow out in 6th. Popular Irish veteran Oliver Boyce had very poor card distribution for long spells on the final table, managing to ladder to 5th. Shorthanded, Tsouloftas looked to kick on, but met with resistance in the form on the outspoken Ninh who was making top pair a lot and holding.

Three-way deal

With three left, a lengthy deal negotiation got underway from which chip leader Ninh secured a massive payout of €310,696 ($336,617). Laurila and Johnston both locked up €232,685 ($252,099) and the three men agreed to play on for reduced ladders of €25,000 ($27,086) and €60,000 ($65,006). Johnston ultimately busted out in third, losing a flip with pocket Nines to Ninh. Prior to that hand, Laurila had stolen the lead from Ninh in a big pocket Tens versus pocket Sixes confrontation, but now the two men were similarly stacked.

In a short heads-up battle, Laurila took control versus local man Ninh who had played the role of table captain for much of the day. The Finnish PLO cash game specialist and spiky-balls card-protector lover got it in good in the final hand, making quads by the river to be crowned Irish Poker Open 2024 Champion.

I’ve only gotten four and a half hours of sleep two to three nights in a row.”

In his post-tournament interview with host Laura Cornelius, Laurila exclaimed: “I almost passed out with all the stress coming out of my body and mind. I’ve only gotten four and a half hours of sleep two to three nights in a row.”

With the way the drinks were flowing right after his win, it looked as though he was in for another late night on Monday.

€1,150 Irish Poker Open 2024 Main Event Final Table Results

  1. Tero Laurila – €292,685*
  2. Hiep Ninh – €335,636*
  3. Mark Johnston – €232,685*
  4. Georgios Tsouloftas – €142,760
  5. Oliver Boyce – €109,820
  6. Stephen Groom – €84,480
  7. Vidmantas Beliauskas – €64,960
  8. Adrian Thorne – €49,960
  9. David Tous – €38,420

*after three-way deal

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