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Sole Survivor: Irish Poker Festival

by Niall Smyth |  Published: Feb 01, 2012


I was going to start off with a good whine as I like to do from time to time but thought it would be more appropriate to congratulate Eoghan O’Dea on a great year in general but especially on his magnificent yet unfortunate sixth-place finish in the WSOP main event (see feature in this issue).

He is a true gentleman and a great ambassador for Irish poker. I know he has inspired me to stop being so lazy and play more and I doubt I’m the only one, so this result should be great for the Irish poker community in general. So well done again and thanks because that was the most exciting final table I’ve ever watched… well until your exit.

The Irish Winter Festival happened on the October Bank Holiday weekend and I have to say I thought it was a great success. The lads in Paddy Power do a great job of bringing new and fun events, like the blind man’s bluff and beer pong championship while also running a great main event and side games.

Unfortunately my plea to make the beer pong a three-day event and run the main as an all-in or fold tournament were turned down. Oh well, maybe next year.

Day 1 started off well for me and I was chipping up nicely for the first couple of hours, the only hand that really stood out was against a guy who seemed intent on playing hands with me and who also as the saying goes was “keeping me honest”. So when I hit a flush on the river I went for maximum value and got paid (always nice).

The strangest hand of the day didn’t even involve me. I had been moved table, so I have five hands on it, when the guy under the gun open ships for 80 big blinds and Nicky Power ended up calling with A-K suited. The under the gun guy has A-A and I’m just thinking “wtf”. I hadn’t seen a play like that since I stopped playing $1 tournaments… about nine months ago!

Nicky was short and card dead for most of the day so can’t blame the call, I think I’d have trouble folding in that spot even if he showed me because I’d think I was hallucinating.

After six levels it’s onto the feature table and cue some run good, some questionable plays that worked out, and people not wanting to play many hands. My stack jumped from around 50,000 to 120,000. There were two hands that really stand out in my memory. The first hand I call with K-T suited from the big blind from an active early position raiser. The flop comes Q-9-2 and it goes check, bet, call.

The turn brings a 9 — I think it’s a good card to represent if I want to win this without hitting so I bet over half pot and am practically insta-called. Now I know sometimes a quick call can be weak but sometimes it’s a one fingered salute saying “I’m not folding unless you shoot me” type call. Well wouldn’t you know it I bink the jack on the river. I give it the old “think for three minutes and overbet the river” and get snapped off again for a very nice sized pot.

The next hand happened near the end of the second last level, the reason I mention this is that my plan was to try to run over the table for the last level and it was against Marc Foggin who was second in chips at the table, a very good active player who I wanted to quieten.

I raised the button with A-J and he makes the call from the small blind. The flop comes T-9-2 (all hearts). He check-raises me on the flop and I decided to call just to see what he’ll do on the turn. I have no hearts in my hand. He leads out the turn, a lot of the time I’m done with the hand here but he still has a very healthy stack and could still be semi-bluffing so I put in a good size raise and after a good 10-minute deliberation he ends up shoving and I insta-muck, he’d later tell me he had a set.

I ended the day on about 120,000, generally happy with my play and had folded A-K, Q-Q, and J-J preflop — these were all big achievements for me as I hate to fold and I was right on two counts, got the jacks wrong and in the process also butchered the hand.
It was onto the bar after this; After a long day of cards like that I need to unwind or I won’t sleep. There were six of us up from County Clare. Well as often happens a few pints turned into a few too many and it was about six in the morning.

I’d told Conor he could crash on our floor so we headed up to the room, while laying out a few sheets on the floor I remembered seeing a couch in a lobby on our floor so we went back to borrow the cushions just for the night, this idea quickly snowballed into us taking the big three-seater couch and making it a permanent fixture in our room for the weekend.

My apologies to the Burlington if you missed it but it was well looked after in fact I’d go as far to say as it hasn’t had that much action in a long time.
Part II to follow… ♠

Niall Smyth is the 2011 Irish Open champion and Sole Survivor winner. He took down €550,000 for the former and €100,000 for the latter and has taken a year’s leave from his job to concentrate on poker.