Trip Report: Irish Poker Open
One of the largest annual poker tournaments in Europe is the Irish Poker Open. The buy-in of €4,200+€300 (roughly $6,750) is just small enough to attract hoards of casual, local players, and just large enough to lure a decent-sized crop of young online pros from all over the world, especially those between the ages of 18 and 20 from America, who are not of legal gambling age in their resident country. Yet, the buy-in is also just small enough not to attract hoards of top American pros, many of whom are reluctant to fly across the U.S. for a $10,000 buy-in, and don't even consider flying across the ocean for a $6,750. In fact, Doyle and Todd Brunson were about the only such participants in this year's Irish Open. I can assure you it wasn't because they are grinding it out on the tournament trail. According to Todd Brunson, they were sponsored to attend the event.
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Paddy Power Poker, hosts of the tournament, posted a guaranteed prize pool of €3,000,000 for the Main Event, which means they only needed 667 players to meet the guarantee. I doubt the organizers expected that to be a problem. Last year's tournament lured 708 of participants. However, that tournament had a buy-in of €3,500. Paddy Power underestimated how much the increase in entry fee (not to speak of the increase in the value of the Euro over the past year) would effect interest in the tournament. This blunder cost them a cool €200,000 in overlay money, essentially making the tournament vig-free for the participants. Woohoo!
The field was split into two Day 1s. I joined about 310 others on the first day. Most of the big name players also played on this day. Among those in the field were the Brunsons, Sorel "Imper1um" Mizzi, Isaac "westmenloAA" Baron, Michael "timex" McDonald, and several other players that lack a household name but are anything but lacking in ability. If any of those online pros I named don't seem familiar, try not to get too sick if you do a Google search and learn of their ages and gross winnings.
It was hard for me to avoid just that feeling when talking with Isaac Baron (who by the way, is an extremely nice young guy) in the hotel lounge one night. Already aware that he is just twenty years-old, I pressed enough to get him to volunteer some nuggets like that he made more like seven-figures instead of six last year, drives a Maserati, and just bought a $2,000,000 house in Los Gatos, an affluent area in Northern California. It's surreal knowing he can't even buy alcohol in the states yet!
Thankfully, my starting table was void of any such players. In fact, I'm quite sure that I was the only non-European and also the only under-30 player at the table. With 10,000 starting chips, I didn't play too many hands of significance in the first few levels. During 50/100, two players limped and I decided to attack their apparent weakness in late position by raising to 550 with Queen-Ten offsuit. The player on the button called, as did one of the limpers. The flop came Ten-Three-Two. The limper checked, I bet 850, and both players called. The turn was another Two. The limper and I checked and the player on the button bet 2,500. Some background on this guy was that he was a tight, 50-something European who I hadn't tangled with at all. With that information in my mind, I made a fairly significant mistake by calling after the limper folded. We checked the Eight river, and he took the pot with pocket Jacks. The more I thought about that hand, the more I hated my call on the turn. There's virtually no hand a player as tight/passive as he was is betting 2,500 on the turn which can't beat Queen-Ten.
Over the next several levels, I recovered from that hand by winning a bunch of small pots and generally avoiding confrontation. The highest I reached was 15,000 after calling an all-in and winning a race that, admittedly, was for about 80% of my chips.
During the second-to-last level of the night, 200/400 (ante of 25), I had a stack of 11,000. I had just been moved to a new table, and didn't recognize anyone. Two players limped, and I looked down at King-Ten offsuit on the button. At these stakes, I virtually never limp into a pot. However, this was one of those rare times where it seemed okay. I didn't like a raise since it would have had to large and made against two limpers who were entirely unknown to me. A fold seemed a little too tight with this hand on the button. So I called. The flop came Ten-Five-Three, with two spades. The first limper bet 2,000, the second limper called that bet, and I had a fairly clear path to shove all-in. If everyone folded, I would have increased my stack by about 50% without having to show my cards. Anytime a situation like that presents itself, shoving is the standard play with a decent hand. Everyone folded except the second limper. He thought for quite a while before calling with Ace-Eight of spades. Yada-yada-yada, he got there for a 26,000 pot (average was about 21,000 at the time). Of course, that was especially brutal when you flew to Europe for it, but after an hour (and a couple of pints), I was over it. Can't win them all.
I spent the rest of the trip relaxing and (of course) playing more poker. On Day 2 of the Main Event, I joined 260 other Day 1 bustouts in a €1,500+€150 tournament. That tournament was quite a bit tougher for me as I spent most of the day with top online players "brainwashed" and "JovialGent" to my immediate left. Somehow I managed to bag up an average stack and make it back for Day 2 of that event. The first level we played the next day was 500/1,000 (ante 25). On the second hand, I put 2,600 of my 18,000 stack into the pot from middle position with Ace-Queen offsuit. It folded to a 40-something European who shoved all-in for 17,000 from the big blind. This was a really tough spot, but I just don't think you can fold here. I probably had an aggressive image in his mind just from the way I look, so who knows what he's playing back at me with. I talked to a few respectable players about this hand, and they all agreed there's no way I can fold. Well, it was a short Day 2 for me; he had Ace-King.
That was on Sunday. Since I busted out so early, I was able to join about twenty other online players in the hotel lobby with our laptops for all the major online tournaments. The day ended on a better note. I was able to recover my loses from the €1,650 by taking down a $20 rebuy tournament.
While it didn't make me rich like I had hoped, the trip was definitely a fun experience. I give nothing but a full endorsement to the Irish Open. It was a really fun and well organized tournament that makes for a great poker experience.