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Paddy’s Corner

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Jul 01, 2013


Padraig ParkinsonThe Winning And Losing Of The European Nations Cup

As captain of the Irish poker team, I’d like to tell you that I spent the two hours before the final session of the recent International Federation of Poker Nations Cup poring over hand historys, discussing tactics and considering a possible substitution with my team mates.

But I didn’t.

Because A) I’d lost my team and B) the Manchester United match was on TV (maybe I’ve got A and B mixed up). What I was really doing was drinking beer with Jesse May and watching the football.

We got around to swapping Alan Betson stories of which there are dozens. One of our favourites concerned the early days of internet poker when a player was considered all-in for whatever he had in the pot if he was unfortunate enough to be disconnected in the course of a hand.

The only certainty in poker, as in the game of life, is that if you give people a chance to cheat, a certain number will consider it careless not to do so.

As a result, disconnections were a little more frequent than they should be and usually favoured the player who was disconnected. Alan had an account of his investigated after numerous complaints about him disconnecting. The investigator was baffled when he discovered that for once these disconnections were a mixture of profitable and costly for him which was not what they were expecting to find.

They advised Alan to talk to his internet provider and they duly sent a guy around to his house who found everything was fine. Just before he left, Alan opened the door of a fridge beside his computer to get himself a beer and his computer disconnected!

The technical guy quickly worked out that these two events were related and advised Alan to either quit drinking, or move the fridge. He moved the fridge.

If you think this has nothing to do with team poker, you’re wrong. It’s got everything to do with it and I’m going to tell you why. I’ve been involved in every Irish team that’s played a major international event for years now.

I’ve been both the problem and the problem solver. As a player, I’ve been guilty of keeping the team up half the night. As captain, I’ve been the first to impose a curfew.
Ok, I’m a hypocrite. What I have seen is that some guys up their game when playing for their country while others either crack under the pressure, shit on it or can’t leave their egos at the door and seek attention, not points.

This applies to the Irish at least as much as anyone. We have definitely underachieved. One of our number threw away the Paddy Power Poker Grand Slam a few years ago when we had it in the bag.

There have been other offences sometimes when you’d least expect them, but poker players are like that and you never know what’s going to happen ’til it happens. You could show six monkeys a couple of bunches of bananas in a cupboard and an empty fridge beside a laptop. With a little training, they’d ignore the fridge and head for the grub.

Substitute six poker players for the monkeys and at least one of them will look longingly towards the fridge. That’s why when Ireland play team poker, you don’t hear shouts of “Go Ireland” or “Go on you boys in green”, but will frequently hear a roar of “Stay away from that fucking fridge.”

Back In Cyprus

A good few years ago, Liam Flood and Dave O’Neill were in the bar in the Aviation Club in Paris. Flood was there pretending to be promoting the Irish Open and he brought Dave along to make himself look important.

The fact that Paris was full of Irish players and the French were sick of listening to people banging on about the Irish Open was irrelevant. If anyone could appreciate two guys doing one job which didn’t need to be done, it’s the French. Liam was at the bar bullshitting some guy, while Dave was having a beer with the lads. After a while, Liam shouted over to Dave, asking him what was the cheapest way of travelling from Paris to Vienna. “Walking”, Dave replied and carried on with his conversation. Some people found this funnier than others.

Picking an Irish team used to be pretty easy. Sober and solvent was enough to get you in. Solvent anyway! Nowadays, about 25 players think they should be in the team and most of them have a good case. I wish it was a 15 man team, as I think we could go that deep without weakening the team, but it’s not. So, I was relieved when I asked Mr Dermot Blain his opinion at an awards dinner in Paris (He won one. I didn’t. Ok, I wasn’t even fucking nominated.) and he came up with the same team I did. I was delighted to have a fall guy ready to throw under the bus if required.

It turned out that the only way to get to Cyprus within the budget we’d been given was to take Dave O’Neill’s advice and start walking. The second option involved a 12 hour journey which, if you don’t drink, is a proper pain in the ass, so it says a lot about the honour it is to play for your country that five (Eoghan ODea, Dermot Blain, Big MickG, Cat Taylor and me) out of the seven players selected in the original team showed up in Cyprus. The two who didn’t had good excuses.

Jason Tomkins was in Australia. There was a time when this wouldn’t have been a problem, as the English used to run a free shuttle for the Irish. All you had to do was steal a loaf of bread or a head of cabbage and you’d be on your way in no time. The day a Tory government suspended this junket was a sad day indeed for Ireland. Fucking Tories.
Luckily, Dara O’Kearney, a guy with a knowledge of duplicate competitions from playing bridge, was available to sub up and made history by being the first Irish player to do exactly what he was asked to do.

A few guys I asked to play had to cry off for genuine reasons like college exams, TV commitments, no passport and didn’t want to get one as that would mean he’d miss the U.S Masters and, most reasonable of all, “the wife wont let me go”. I won’t embarrass the last guy by naming him and wouldn’t be giving too much away by saying his surname rhymes with Navan. Navin even. He was a huge loss as a) he pulled out at the last minute and b) he’s Ireland’s champion drink buyer. It wasn’t too bad as it turned out drink was cheap, and better again Rob Taylor, a decent player in his own right was going to be there anyway so all was fine.

I would like to take a lot of the credit for our victory but can’t really. At a team meeting the night before the event, I outlined a plan I’d come up with that I thought would ensure our finishing comfortably in the top six, which was all that we needed to do to qualify for the World Championship.

Basically, it involved everyone playing a style that they as individuals would be happiest at. Nobody disagreed but maybe that was because I’d had a few drinks. It seemed to work the first day as we were well placed overnight. There was a change of tactics the next day that nobody told me about. Maybe it was because I’d said I’d step down as captain if we didn’t qualify and that was a higher priority.

Somehow or other we fell over the line anyway. It made me feel great to be Irish when I saw just how delighted the team were at winning fuck all. Did I mention there was no prize money? Spain and Cyprus also qualified and won the same prize money we did. Who said poker doesn’t reflect life?

It was great for Big MickG. He’d never won a trophy before and then won three in one day including Most Valuable Player. I hadn’t realised there was a cup and medals and stuff. This is my excuse for a speech that thankfully has not been preserved for posterity.

It was great to see the UK qualifying with us. Jesse May and I had a lot of fun slagging them off in the commentary during the final session, but the truth is most of their team have been friends of ours for years so we are allowed to take the piss. Barny Boatman, as proud a man as I’ve ever seen captaining his country, came up to Jesse’s commentary position and kindly explained all. He said he’d picked an experienced team as he felt they could operate efficiently as a team and discuss and formulate tactics without egos getting in the way and that that was exactly what had happened.

A few hours later, I was congratulating Barny on both his individual award and his team’s success, when he told me he’d just found out that two of his team mates had completely misunderstood the scoring system. You couldn’t make this stuff up!
The losing of the cup? After the celebration — my last beer for three months — the team all made it home safely. That’s more than I can say for the trophy. ♠

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