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Wsopbanner Irish Poker Open 2008

by Jennifer Mason |  Published: Dec 31, 2008

Print-icon Irish Poker Open 2008I arrived at the Regency Airport Hotel the night before the first starting day of the International Poker Open, when the final throes of preparation were being undertaken in the large room that was to play host to more than 1,000 runners over the following two days. Tables and chairs were set up with probably the EU-regulated minimum amount of space between them; dealers congregated briefly in the bar before getting a sensible early night (and if you believe that, you've never been one!); computer terminals were set up in the lobby for the online delectation of players without laptops; and the organisers worried over it all. The IPO had, the year previously, broken records for number of entrants, proving for this year's directors that there is some serious demand for reasonably priced, well-structured tournaments.

The first thing I noticed about the room itself was the décor - the BoylePoker logo was not the only banner to decorate the walls - with an eye-opening international contingent Easyjetting their way to Dublin just for this €150 tournament, a delightful array of different countries' flags took prominent place around the players. When I asked which country had jumped most enthusiastically onto the IPO bandwagon, Paul Spillane immediately replied, "The French. There are over 400 French players here, for some reason." Two of them had, in fact, been hovering politely behind a velvet rope put up halfway down the hall when I arrived on the still-under-construction scene. As I blithely stepped over it, secure in my as yet uncredentialed press status, one of them asked, "Excuse me? Is this the way to the poker?" I had to let him down gently, telling him that if he wanted to be first in line for a game, he'd have to wait right there for just over 15 hours.

My tournament as a player lasted about five levels. As one of the lucky bounties proudly displaying my Sunderland jersey that stood me out as a "marked woman" whose elimination would result in the buster receiving a free shirt and addition to a prize draw for something football-related, I was never optimistic. I just wanted to outlast a couple of the other bounties, like Neil Channing, Maria Demetriou, Colette Murphy, or "Mad" Marty Wilson.

I think there's room for one personal hand: a five-way limpfest saw me on the button flop bottom two with J-8. Someone who'd limped with A-Q hit top one. It all went in, and running sixes counterfeited me, effectively ending the run of fun and sending me into the press enclave. That's not the interesting part, though - it's that timing is everything. On relative tilt after that one, with two big blinds, I suddenly received a rush of cards of phenomenal proportions. Aces, kings, A-K - and all the weird little cards played when auto-pushing all came through for me, found other people with hands to call, and would have resulted in a landslide of chips had I not just been basically felted. Had the whole experience been less hugely enjoyable, I would have found this situation to be frustrating. As it was, however, I was granted a night's reprieve from reporting and found as many people as you might expect already ensconced in the bar.

It soon became apparent on day 1B that low buy-in or not, everyone appeared to be in full competitive mode. The action was fast-paced and most seriously undertaken, with repeated calls having to be made to clear the central pathway through the room of enthusiastic railers of all nationalities. The IPO seems to have managed that most rare and interesting of feats - getting four figures of players from different countries to play a relatively small-stakes event with all the competitive zeal of a European Poker Tour event.

The second day saw 180 players dwindle to a winner. Actually, dwindle is entirely the wrong word - as it was a chip bloodbath from the outset. Players busted continuously, and when it reached the bubble, it passed almost unnoticed, such was the frenetic pace of the action. There was no holding on for the money-back-and-a-bit payout. When the threshold was announced, there were four all ins within four hands, the last one being the unlucky bubbler. It carried on in the same fashion through the afternoon, and it looked like the whole field might have dissolved by midnight at one point.

That point was the reaching of the final table, which featured four Frenchmen - Maxence Decorne, Elie Payan, Cyril Bermaud, and David Introligator, two Brits - Peter Murphy and Jonathan Gelston, and a lone Dutch woman - Malika Pater. The home side was represented by Raymond Kerley and Ruairi Coy, and these two started the final with the largest stacks. It doesn't really need to be said that with this combination of nationalities' supporters thronging the final, the atmosphere was deafening, with shouts of "Tapis!" mingling with "Come on the Irish," and something unintelligible but clearly supportive coming from the railers from Holland.

Although Kerley started as the chip leader, it was Coy who eventually took the title, but not before all the side bets on how long it would take everyone to be done with poker and decamp to the bar had been lost. Something seemed to have snapped in the hitherto aggressive players when the big money was on the line, and an initial caginess turned into one of the longest-lasting final tables I have ever watched. Even with the blinds rocketing further than blinds have gone before, the final six played doggedly on past the conclusion of the day's Omaha event (won by Joe O'Neill).

Deals were tentatively suggested and rejected, the hotel was somehow appeased after it became clear that 4 a.m. was now a conservative estimate for the conclusion of play, and by the time Coy, Decorne, and Payan were three-way, the announcer was changing every 20 minutes as Neil Channing and Jesse May took turns recovering in a corner.

A chip count deal didn't actually halt play - they continued until almost 6:30 a.m., at which time Coy finally finished off Decorne, whose supporters were still there acting as deal hagglers and determined railbirds. By this time, several guests were heading for early flights around Europe already, but this didn't stop the remaining hard-core players and friends from partying until collapse. Having sold out 1,300 seats comfortably in advance, the only question for next year is whether they will add a second starting day or hold the event in the Rio Convention Centre.

Final results were as follows:

First: Ruairi Coy - €37,530
Second: Maxence Decorne - €23,130
Third: Elie Payan - €17,000
Fourth: Peter Murphy - €13,000
Fifth: Raymond Kerley - €9,000
Sixth: Jonathan Gelston - €7,000
Seventh: Cyril Bermaud - €5,500
Eight: Malika Pater - €4,500
Ninth: David Introligator - €3,500

Jen Mason is a part of She is responsible for its live tournament coverage in the UK and abroad.