Dara O’Kearney: From the InterContinental to the InterClondalkinal

Ireland map with Dublin pin

At the Dublin Winter Festival, poker players met at the Green Isle Hotel in Dublin. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

The Mystery Bounty

The Green Isle Hotel once again proved a magnet for Irish and international poker players as ambitious guarantees were once again broken at a stop on the Irish Poker Tour, known as the Dublin Winter Festival, earlier this month.

There was a total prize pool of €38,000 ($41,501)

The festival opened with the guaranteed mystery bounty of €20,000 ($21,843). It seemed like a tall order for an event that started at midday Friday, but thanks to 131 entries and 37 re-entries, there was a total prize pool of €38,000 ($41,501).

Anthony Gaughan received the first bounty of €3,000 ($3,276) and a bounty of €1,500 ($1,638), but was eliminated in eleventh place. The second €3,000 bounty wasn’t paid out until the entire FT Knockout round, when Keith Brennan and Thomas Faulkner played heads-up and knew there was a big advantage in coming first. In the end, Tom triumphed, winning a total of €11,350 ($12,396), while Keith had to settle for €4,050 ($4,423).

The main event

Meanwhile, the Main Event had begun and the numbers grew rapidly over the next day and a half until the original €100,000 ($109,213) guarantee was cracked (€195,000 ($212,964) was the final prize pool). Finally, James O’Sullivan defeated Derek Baker to secure €39,000 ($42,593) heads-up after agreeing to a deal.

one of Ireland’s best players and a formidable force

Notably, Derek’s partner Liz Kelly came third with €19,000 ($20,749). At the start of the second day, a friend who had drawn Liz to his starting table asked me about her and I shared my opinion that she was one of Ireland’s best players and a formidable force.

At the recent inaugural Irish Poker Festival at the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge, I shared some table time with James, who attempted a rather ambitious bluff against me. He told me at the time that he just wanted a mention on my blog. I replied that I would, but I had one rule: I never mention who is eliminating me from a tournament (I don’t want to give opponents any additional incentive). He actually blew me away on that occasion, but since he won that main event (and didn’t put me out), I guess I’m reluctant to mention him this time.

Unsuccessful for some

For me it was a completely unsuccessful campaign. I ended up in 14th place on the leaderboard and was hoping to get my top 16 status with a few cash wins there and make it to the finals of the €40,000 ($43,699) leaderboard, but after failing to cash in, I am dropped to 16th place. I’ll be out of the country for the remaining stops, so my hopes of making it in this freeroll are all but over.

However, some of my friends and students had a good festival. Despite Paul Carr’s large lead in the above leaderboard, he began to worry when his main rival Darren Harbinson won the Omaha Sideshow race on Saturday, gaining 400 points. Paul then did everything he could to get back on his feet and secured second place in the final 4/5 Omaha tournament.

Keith has survived the roller coaster ride of the vicissitudes of variance

Keith Touhey also had a great festival, reaching two final tables, including a €13,500 ($14,749) finish for fourth place in the Main Event after putting in a disciplined performance in the final stages that gave ICM more respect than most of his Competitors. Keith has been through the roller coaster of vicissitudes of variance since I first mentioned him on my blog, but to his credit he has succumbed to the pressure rather than giving in.

The unluckiest man at this final table was Colm Chan. With seven chips remaining, he was in second place behind James and both were miles ahead of the others. Then he picked up aces. After opening with a 3-bet on James, he responded to James’ 4-bet with a 5-bet shove. James called with pocket eights, flopped a set and turned quads to send Colm to the rail. Colm is one of the classiest players and people you’ll ever meet, and it seems only a matter of time before he defeats a great opponent.

An emotional victory

The last special mention goes to my good friend Conal “Vautour” “Have you played with us before?” Prendergast.

There is probably no one who has played more Irish Poker Tour events than Conal, and he was so emotional when he finally won one, the Dublin 400 side event, that he burst into tears. He eventually finished third in an event won by the impressive David Costello.

All roads lead back to the Emerald Isle (or as my friend Pat Neary quipped when he suggested the title of this article, “InterClondalkinal”) for the final event of the year in Ireland in the final days of 2023.


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