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Paddy’s Corner

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Nov 01, 2010


Late Night Poker

At one stage, I was seriously considering changing my name by deed poll to “The last remaining passenger” as I had a habit of arriving in airports at the last minute, but on a recent Monday morning I was more than two hours early for my flight from Dublin to Cardiff because there was no way I was going to risk missing this one as I was due to play my heat of Late Night Poker later that day.

The plane was one of those small ones that get tossed around at the slightest hint of turbulence but that didn’t bother me. What did cause me some concern was when the air hostess was directing me to my seat and told me it was on the right when it was actually on the left. I hoped that with such a small crew, she wasn’t helping out with the navigation. A few minutes later, I got a shock when the pilot was making the usual announcements and he turned out to be a female. I had a quick panic attack but all was well when I turned around and saw the hostess at the back of the plane, and her lips weren’t moving. It reminded me of a story of years back, involving Irish poker player Brian McCarthy.

He was hanging out in the studio of his brother’s local radio station one morning. The morning show was supposed to involve phone-ins but on that particular morning nobody was phoning in, which makes a phone-in show quite difficult but Brian sorted that one out.
One of the main news stories of the day was that Aer Lingus, the Irish airline, had just qualified the first women pilots in its history. Brian got on an outside line, phoned the station, and went on a five-minute rant about women being allowed to fly planes. He said, “At the very least, you should be informed when booking your flight that a girl was driving.” Ireland being Ireland, the listeners never stopped to think that he might have been joking and the phone lines were jammed for two days.

We were staying in the Celtic Manor Hotel, which is to host the upcoming Ryder Cup. The hotel was lovely but if the golfers were thinking of having something as complicated as a burger for lunch, they should order it at breakfast time and it should be served around the time they get back from their round of golf.

I was scheduled to play the second heat of the day, which was due to start at about 5 p.m. Unfortunately, it didn’t start until 8 p.m. as the earlier heat was the longest in the history of Late Night Poker. I was drawn with James Akenhead (World Series of Poker main event finalist last year), Roberto Romanello (well-known to TV poker addicts and a good laugh at the table), America’s Michael Gracz, another American called Beth, and an Internet qualifier whose name I’ve forgotten but I had been told in advance that he was a very highly regarded online tournament player.

I’d never played with James before but I knew quite a lot about Roberto’s game, both from playing with him and several times seeing every hand he played from the commentary box at events like 888 UK Open, which is quite an advantage. I had played with Michael at a final table in Atlantic City and know him quite well from chatting to him on the U.S. tour. I have a pretty good idea of his playing style, but then again, that one works both ways.

I’m not allowed to reveal the result until it goes on air but I can tell you that at one stage Roberto was in a bit of trouble and only had one big chip left, which was in behind his smaller denomination chips, so just for the laugh, I asked the dealer if she could ask Mr Romanello to put his big chip out where we could see it. Roberto just laughed and told me that that comment might well come back to haunt me. It did!

Wild Cards

Unfortunately from a TV point of view, most of the fun in my Late Night Poker heat took place during the break rather than at the table. Michael Gracz is yet another poker player to be bitten by the golfing bug, but unlike a lot of other poker players, he seems to be in love with the game rather than just viewing it as an alternative to roulette.

He seemed to be of the opinion that the USA had very little chance against Europe in the Ryder Cup. Inevitably, the conversation turned to a debate about whether the Americans should select Tiger Woods as a wild card, given his current poor form. Michael certainly didn’t sit on the fence on this one and said that in his opinion the team would have a much better chance if they selected Arnold Palmer instead.

For more on the history of Late Night Poker check out ♠

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. For more on the history of Late Night Poker check out