Panel Discussion at the Paddy Power Poker Irish Open
What’s the world’s second-longest running poker tournament, behind only the World Series of Poker?
If you glanced at the title, you probably guessed correctly. The answer is — the Irish Poker Open.
First played in 1980, the Irish Poker Open has always been a “Who’s Who” of the game’s premier players, not only within Europe, but from just about everywhere. Even poker’s greatest legends came over here all the way from America, most notably Doyle Brunson, “Amarillo Slim” Preston, Puggy Pearson, Chip Reese, and Stu Ungar, back in 1984. The Irish developed a reputation for both hospitality and action, and an everlasting bond was formed between players on both sides of the Atlantic which continues to this day.
I came over here primarily to observe and to learn. I certainly knew about the Irish Poker Open, and I’d also heard many players boast that this was one of the most prestigious titles in all of poker to win. Padraig Parkison once famously said, “Aside from the prize money, I’d rather win the Main Event of the Irish Poker Open than a gold bracelet.” High praise, indeed.
Given my limited experience here in Ireland, I was surprised and elated to be asked to join a panel discussion, which took place last night prior to the start of the Irish Poker Open championship event. Sponsored by Paddy Power Poker, I took the stage alongside Mike Sexton and Padraig Parkinson. Kara Scott, formally with ESPN and one of poker’s best on air personalities, served as the moderator. The ballroom attracted a standing-room only crowd. Then, when the tournament break ended and play resumed, about half the audience bolted.
All joking aside, I was thrilled just to be there and listen.
Mike told stories, some I’d heard before and others that were new to me. One thing that’s great about gatherings like this is when you hear these great tales, it also triggers your own memories. Surely, no one in poker has more memories or is as great a storyteller as Mike. I could listen to him for hours (and many times, have).
Padriag is kinda’ the Mike Sexton of Ireland. That might seem like an odd comparison, but he just knows everything and everyone. I got a kick out of hearing how the Irish Poker Open was formed and was able to learn more about two greats who are no longer with us — Terry Rogers (aka “the Red Menace”) and Liam “the Gentleman” Flood, who passed away last summer. They were both bookmakers as well as poker players and essentially put what we know today as the Irish poker scene on the map.
By the way, I was also impressed to learn that Kara Scott wasn’t just a moderator. She had a bit of history with this event of her own, finishing second in the Irish Poker Open championship, back in 2009.
Note: Photo courtesy of Christian Zetzsche (via Paddy Power Poker)
Following our panel discussion, we all headed into the pub here at the hotel. One thing about the Irish Poker Open (and many tournaments played outside the U.S.) is the unique atmosphere and strong sense of camaraderie that exists not just at the tables, but around the entire event. Players seem to hang out and socialize a lot more here in Europe. I like that. I wish American poker tournaments were more like what I’m seeing here at the Irish Poker Open.
Here are a few snap shots of some old and new friends.
One highlight for me was hanging out with several players and personalities who I don’t see very often. This photograph was taken which includes — (L to R) Kara Scott, Padraig Parkinson, me, Andy Black, Noel Furlong (very rare, he’s the 1999 world champion), Mike Sexton, and Thor Hansen.
I was also lucky to meet some new friends. My two new favorites are brother and sister — Barney Gribbin and Bridie Gribbin (don’t you love those names?). Talk about cool people and great pals to hang out with. Both Barney and Bridie are from north of Belfast, where I hope to visit in a few days. I should note that Barney’s name might be familiar to some, since he used to run a few tournaments years ago here in Ireland. When they told me they were fans of this website, I certainly owe them thanks for reading and for being my two new favorite people to hang out with in Ireland. Thank you, Barney and Bridie!