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Paddy's Corner

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Jun 01, 2007

The fame game
One of the reasons the Irish Open became the biggest as well as the best in Europe was that Alan Betson showed up. Every man has his price, and the €2 million guaranteed by the sponsors was enough to get former champ Alan to leave his computer. It's not any easier to win when he's around, but it's likely to be a lot more fun! He didn't let me down.

At the beginning of the tournament, Alan was seated beside Jennifer Tilly. For the first half-hour, the table was surrounded by photographers, including one creepy-looking guy whose camera had the longest zoom lens I've ever seen. It looked like it would go on forever. Eventually, Alan said politely to his neighbour: "Sorry about all these photographers taking my picture; I sincerely hope it's not putting you off your game."

My own timing was a little off. I didn't know another former champ, Macker, aka Brian McCarthy, had gone out on the bubble. Five minutes after his elimination, I bumped into him and asked him how his luck was (usually when somebody asks you this question in Ireland, he knows exactly where you finished!). "If my luck was any better, I'd be dead," he replied. The Irish Open is the Irish Open, as there's such a buzz around, you couldn't be depressed for very long, so five minutes later, Macker was happily telling stories about characters who had graced the Irish game. My favourite one involved Heffo, one of the shrewdest men ever to pick up a card. If you were stranded in an igloo during a blizzard and running out of supplies, all you'd have to do is start a poker game. If the lineup was soft enough, Heffo would find you. Several years ago, Heffo underwent brain surgery. A couple of days after his operation, Macker and a few of the lads went to visit him in the hospital. Heffo was very impressed when they told him the operation had been carried out by no fewer than five surgeons. He was a little less impressed when they told him one performed the actual brain surgery while the other four were involved in trying to remove his wig.

Shortly thereafter, I was watching Jesse May being interviewed by Irish TV. When they asked him who he thought would win, he said he fancied Betson's chances. A few seconds later, just over Jesse's shoulder, you could see Alan shaking hands in the background with the guy who just knocked him out. It was that kind of weekend.

Homeless hit fifth street
The Irish Open is steeped in tradition: late nights, great craic and camaraderie, terrible food, and at least one major cock-up. This year was no different. A few years ago in the Merrion club, the breathless young man who was in charge of registration did everything perfectly - from the players point of view, anyway. He forgot to deduct the registration fee from the prize pool and gave us a little bit of free poker. This year, the organisers attacked things from another angle. The sponsors had undertaken to add €3,000 to the Omaha prize pool. When the event ended in the excitement of a multiway chop, the added money got forgotten by all involved. The mistake was discovered the next day, and Paddy Powers decided to donate the money to Simon Poker Day, Irish poker's charity for the homeless. Omaha usually ends up in one guy feeling pretty unlucky. It's nice to see that it doesn't always have to be that way.

Padraig Parkinson is well-known on the European poker scene, both for his poker prowess and sense of humour. He was one bluff away from winning the 1999 World Series of Poker, but unfortunately got called.