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Paddy’s Corner

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Aug 01, 2010


The Truth About Santa Claus

I’m fed up with people asking me about Santa Claus. A few months ago, my picture appeared all over the place with a whole bunch of chips, the king and queen of hearts, a trophy, half a pint of Guinness, and a Santa Claus that was about a metre tall. The first three explain themselves. I finally got lucky and dogged a few guys to win the Irish Poker Championship. I have no idea who owned the Guinness but Santa Claus was the mystery.

The Santa Claus thing started on New Year’s Day a few years ago in Galway. For a number of years, my poker friends from all around the world were in the habit of celebrating the New Year in Galway, in the west of Ireland. We had a friend who was in a two-person band who did a gig in the Quays bar every New Year’s Eve. We think it used to be very good but we’re not sure because things tended to get out of hand before it started. One of the finer traditions was that the designated driver was the first guy to get drunk, but that’s Galway for you.

I got a phone call from a friend of mine on New Year’s Eve one year. This guy owed me a favour, and a bunch of money as well, and he told me to have as much money as I possibly could on a horse that was running at Uttoxeter the next day. So, I was a little preoccupied, wondering how to get as much money onto the horse without the bookie telling me to fuck off. We went for breakfast on New Year’s Day with Jesse May and another bunch of desperados, and as we were paying the bill, I got a bit of inspiration. There was a Santa Claus beside the cash register that was almost as big as I am. So I borrowed him for the day. I didn’t really borrow him, because there wasn’t anybody to ask if it would be ok, so I took him anyway. I’m sure they didn’t mind.

Santa Claus and I then went to the bookies and I put him up on the counter and opened up a copy of the Racing Post. I then started going through the list of races that day and kept asking Santa Claus if he fancied anything. There was a large crowd there that seemed to think that this was eccentric behaviour, but it was Galway after all. Any kid would tell you that Santa is a great letter writer and reader but as a conversationalist, he’s a waste of space. When I finally went to the Uttoxeter page, I had Santa Claus jumping up and down on the counter in a frenzy of excitement, pointing at a horse in the 2.50. I asked him if he was sure and he jumped up and down to signify that he was quite happy with his selection. So I whipped out almost every penny I had in the world out of my pocket and indicated to the bookie that Santa and I would like to have a large bet. He looked at me like I was a complete nutter and took the bet without any qualms whatsoever.

Santa and I then headed off to the pub to watch the football and the racing. Santa was in the form of his life and even though he wouldn’t drink the White Russians everybody was buying him, he seemed quite happy when Manchester United came from behind to beat Birmingham and our horse won by about half the length of the track. He didn’t eat much at the celebration dinner, we figured maybe he wanted to go home, so I took him back to the restaurant and explained that he’d followed us out of there that morning. I don’t think they believed me.

A few weeks later, a cousin of mine was in the manager’s office in the hotel we’d been staying in, having the craic with his pal the manager, when the drug squad arrived. They wanted to see some TV footage from New Year’s Day as some drug dealers had been in town and they were interested in knowing who they’d been talking to. As they were going through the tape, they seemed quite mystified as to why a guy with an extra large Santa Claus under his arm was ordering drink for both of them at the bar. My cousin had to explain that this was quite normal behaviour in the family.

Last year, when an aunt of mine died and my nieces and nephews were cleaning the house, they decided to give me a slightly more portable Santa Claus, so I could stop stealing them. So, he appeared as the good luck charm at the final table in Galway. Unfortunately, we have no idea what happened to all the money. The trophy is lost. And Santa Claus broke his neck during the celebration. We still don’t know what happened to the pint of Guinness. Spade Suit

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. Visit to read about Padraig Parkinson’s adventures in blog and on twitter during this year’s World Series of Poker.