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Power to The People

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: May 01, 2010


Generally there are two types of poker players. The first usually starts out as a name, gradually gaining the attention of the public. Results are known long before the person behind them is, and the hype surrounding what quickly becomes a commodity spreads like a virus and infects every pore of the poker community. The second is the kind of person who manages to steer clear of this hype and attention despite consistently good results and a personality that works hand-in-hand with their game. People who have sat at the same table as these players often know just as much about the person’s character as their game. But these players are few and far in between.

It is hard however to deny the charm of a cheeky Irishman with a toothy grin and a heart bigger than the poker room it typically resides in. The man in question is Ireland’s own Nicky Power, a man who is no different whether on a golf course, on the felt, on a televised final table, or at the bar. He is one of these homegrown local heroes who is content with making a living from what he currently does best.

Nicky Power at the Irish Poker OpenRunning Good
A jack-of-all-trades, Power worked as a roofer, a stevedore, a painter and decorator, and even a fisherman before returning to college at 30 to complete a masters degree in accountancy. It was then, aided by the influence of Late Night Poker, the seed for his future career was sewn. While working in an accounting practice and teaching accounting part-time in the Waterford Institute of Technology, Power found himself more and more embedded in the poker scene. “I started playing live local €20 pub games. I didn’t know anything about the wider world of poker that was out there, but I investigated it and started going to larger events around the country.”

Growing up around games of stud and draw poker, Power brought this experience to the table, and soon found himself wondering when his good run was going to expire. “I put it down to the fact I’ve been a gambler all my life, so I would have a natural understanding of things like pot odds and implied odds, I would have more gamble in me than a lot of other players. Most of the players I would have started out with around the table at the same time would have probably been playing tight and I would naturally be able to exploit this,” says Power.

Too Close for Comfort
Although Power managed to bag himself a few five-figure cashes, it was really in 2007, when his country was given a formal introduction. On screens everywhere across Ireland, poker fans watched as Power made it to the final table of one of the most prestigious poker events in the world, the Irish Open. For many, sixth place would be a lifetime achievement, but for Power, the scent of the big win was too close to bear. One of the most sociable men in poker, got up, left the table, got in his car, and drove the long journey home to Waterford where he remained housebound for days. “It’s quite unlike me, and may seem stupid,” says Power, “But I just knew what that win meant. Take the European Poker Tour for instance, there’s like 12 EPTs this season. I think if you win an EPT, there’s so many of them now that the prestige of winning is diluted. Whereas I think if you win an Irish Open, it’s a bigger thing profile-wise, definitely for anyone in Ireland, and I think internationally as well. I may never get back there with a chance to win that tournament again like I had that year, so I was obviously very disappointed. I understood the magnitude of winning it. I think Marty Smyth who went on to win it — it was his first real result — has proven that it is a huge tournament to win, and Neil Channing since then has proven that too, much more so than one of your run of the mill EPTs.”

No Regrets
The saying “like water off a duck’s back” springs to mind when speaking with Power. His easy-going, laid-back attitude is truly contagious and his love for life is clearly evident. When asked if he would do anything differently at the final table, he says, “When we were sevenhanded there was nearly two percent of the total chips in play before there was a bet, so it was literally a crapshoot. It was a turbo 10 big blind tournament and it was pretty crazy when you think there was a couple million quid in play. At sevenhanded Roland de Wolfe wanted to do a deal and chop the money based on chips, because it was a crapshoot. So it was literally whoever ran the best on the day that was going to win it. No offense to Marty but he obviously ran the best that day.

“I pushed pocket twos for 10 big blinds from the small blind, Roland called me in the big blind with A-4 and spiked a 4, but not pushing pocket twos from the position I was in would have been a mistake, so I can’t really have any regrets about the game.”

Not one to give up, and not the diva type, Power bounced straight back to dominating the Irish poker scene. Things would be different for him after this achievement however. “I was definitely more recognised as a player around Ireland,” he says. “I think it had a lot to do with the way the Irish Open coverage went out on RTÉ that year — it was nearly live poker, it was like match of the day. They got huge numbers watching it. I think a lot of people started playing poker in Ireland because of the coverage of the Irish Open in 2007.”

Home is Where Success is
Nicky Power’s list of cashes are all from Ireland, with the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas being the only exception. Not a big fan of the European circuit, Power does however play in England from time to time, but without much success so far. He says, “I’ve only really played about six events over there, so it’s a very small sample size. I honestly believe it comes down to simply being card dead at those times. The impression people gave me was that the tournaments in England were harder than the tournaments in Ireland. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with this.”

Power may be a staple of Irish poker, but outside of Ireland, it’s a different story — the further he goes, the less familiar to the poker world he becomes. This can be boiled down to his dislike for two things — traveling and, most importantly, fame. Power just doesn’t get the celebrity factor that often comes with being a popular professional player. He says, “To be honest I’ve never really bought into this poker superstar business. For me professional poker players are guys who are lucky enough to find a way to make an easy living playing the game and doing what they enjoy. I don’t get all the adoration that goes with big name poker players.”

In fact, the Irishman has a very original, yet refreshing, way of looking at what he does for a living. “I’ve never claimed to be a professional poker player, “ he says smiling. “I’ve always just said it’s my current way of avoiding work. I’m in my early 40’s now, if I was in my early 20’s like the lads, I’d probably want to be playing higher and higher all the time. I’m quite happy making 80 grand a year from poker, living comfortably, and doing what I want to do. I don’t want to really burst the world as such, like the young guys coming through seem to want to do.”

Adding Power to Team Boylepoker
Do not mistake Power’s contentment with lack of ambition however as behind it all, he is just like many others, with his sights set on a WSOP bracelet, the ultimate award in poker according to the fun-loving pro. This year he will make more attempts at winning one in Vegas, but this time with the backing of Power recently joined the Boylepoker team and is looking forward to representing the site alongside players who over the years have also become his friends. “I’m hoping to establish a good relationship with Boyles, and I’m hoping to provide value for money, that’s my main goal. How I can do that is attracting players, getting results, being myself and carrying myself well at tournaments. I’d like to think that it’s not just me taking tournament entry fees from Boyles and returning nothing, I’d like to think at the end of the year, they would say, ‘Well Nicky added value for the money we’ve laid out on him over the year’”.

He adds, “When I was approached to be part of Team Boylepoker alongside the other players that were there, it honestly felt like getting picked to play poker for Ireland or something like that, it’s a huge compliment for me. We all get along really well and there’s a real team spirit, which is excellent.”

When Power sits down at an international event, his tablemates may not know him very well, but rest assured, as soon as it’s time to move on, it’s a totally different story. “When I play poker, I enjoy myself, I like to interact with people,” he says. “If you’re sitting at a table for hours, I can’t see any problem with having a bit of fun with those people.” Whether because of his game or his personality, odds are Power will make some sort of impression. “I’d like to think I’m known as a pretty decent nice guy who likes the craic,” he says, “But I’d like to think I’m respected as a poker player as well.”

When asked what his biggest poker accomplishment was so far, the Boylepoker pro said, “Making a good living out of the game for the last five years. When I think back now of how clueless I was when I packed in the job to go full-time, it’s pretty amazing, and I’d imagine a couple of stages along the way it was just blind luck that I didn’t go broke. I’ve made a good living out of the game for the past five years, which I think is a fair achievement.”

After talking to Nicky Power, it was hard not to ponder on what a professional poker player really is. Is it someone who is known in every corner of the poker world, whose name attracts customers and face adorns websites and books? Is it someone who struck the jackpot in a major tournament and can now be found in every event the length and breadth of the globe? Or could the term be applied simply to a person who constantly makes a good living from the game, and promotes a healthy attitude towards it and its players. Opinions will vary but all of the above are role models and ambassadors whether they/we like it or not. Nicky Power represents those players who fly under the radar but happily chip away successfully at something they love and enjoy. And that is definitely a role model the poker world could do with more of. Spade Suit

The name Nicky Power may not be known worldwide, but a hand he was involved in is. He tells Card Player all about it.

Nick Power“Three tables out in the Irish Open, Roland de Wolfe is the chip leader and he comes to my table. We were guaranteed €10,000 at this stage, and he asks me what do I do and is €10,000 a lot of money to me? I tell him I’m a part-time teacher and €10,000 is absolutely huge, but if I could get the €14,000 which is the next stage up, I’d be able to change the car and bring the family on holiday. Over the next half an hour, Roland raises on numerous occasions and I go all in on top of him. Basically, Roland thinks I have the nuts every time and folds. The fourth or fifth time this happens, Roland raises, I shove all in again, and out of the corner of my eye I see that while the dealer is mucking everyone else’s cards, he mucks mine as well. Roland obviously hasn’t seen this so I cover the area where my cards were with my hands. Roland goes into the tank for four or five minutes.

The guy beside Roland, Terry McDaid had seen this happening, he stands up from the table and puts his hands on his head and starts pacing the floor. I try to avoid eye contact with him. After about four minutes, Roland tells me I look very weak. I tell him to fold his small pocket pair; he’s only going to look stupid. He folds and I get awarded the pot.

Roland was stunned at the time but in fairness to him he did say, “Wow! What would have happened?” I said I thought I would have had to play the board so he would more than likely get the pot. He said that if that happened he would have had to give me 10 percent of his action anyway.

About two hours later, Liam Flood comes over and gives me an official warning that I can’t be going all in without any cards and to not do it again or I’ll be thrown out of the tournament.

It went down in The Racing Post’s publication, The 500 Greatest Gambles and Gamblers, as the greatest bluff in the history of poker, which I’m quite proud of.” Spade Suit