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My Second Godfather

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: May 12, '09

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My commitment to the live radio show The Poker Show meant I couldn’t travel to Dublin to pay my respects to Tony Mahon, owner of the 78 Club in Dublin, who passed away in his sleep last week. Tony may not be fast-tracked for sainthood but he did a lot for me so maybe I should have gone anyway. In the early-ish nineties, I went for a pint with Tony’s son, Barry, who told me the club was trying to revive its poker room and asked if Scott Gray and I would support it.

I said we would of course, except there was a slight problem in that we’d just gone broke. In fact, if I had paid for two more drinks I would have had to walk home. Barry bought the drinks, so I got the bus, which put me into Con Houlihan’s definition of failure, “a 30-year-old on a bus”. I wasn’t a failure for long, because the next day Barry phoned to say that Tony had OK’d a £4,000 credit limit for us in the club.

The club announced it would set up a daytime game at weekends so at 10 o’clock the next Saturday morning I was in business. Six of us kicked off an Omaha game and I phoned Scott to tell him to get his ass in gear. When Scott arrived, he took one look at the game and thought it must be a set-up because it was full of 78 staff, Barry, and me, and was pretty crazy. He called for some chips and sat down behind them reading the Racing Post, waiting for the real players to join in, putting in the blinds when required and having a little chuckle to himself every now and again.

When the game broke up a couple of hours later, he was amazed when he found out we were playing for keeps and delighted that we were up £400. As a gesture of good faith, we left £200 on deposit and took the other £200 as walk around money, which we rolled up to £2,000 over the weekend. This was a bigger result than we thought because there wasn’t another game in the club for more than a year but the £200 was enough and we’ve been living off it ever since. Thanks Tony.

That wasn’t the only time Tony bailed me out. Some time later, I got barred from the Jackpot Club. This was a bit of a surprise as I was on very good behaviour at the time and my only crime was winning too much money from their casino customers. They refused to give a reason because there wasn’t one, and despite several punters pleading my case, the furthest we got was a general statement that my exclusion from the club was not written in stone. Thanks very much, that was a big help.

I went to talk to Tony and Barry again and they offered Scott, Frank McGuigan, and myself the poker franchise in their club. We got a game going a few nights a week, which was of course way tougher than the game in the Jackpot because a lot of the good players supported us. It worked so well that a few months later I could again play anywhere I liked. But not before one of the funniest hands I’ve ever seen occurred.
Barry loved poker and spent a bit more time in the game than he should have considering he should have been managing the club when he was upstairs, banging away in the game. Tony put his foot down and barred Barry from the game. It worked very well for about two weeks but Barry turned up one night and decided he was going to play. We did try to remind him that Tony wouldn’t be too pleased, with him or with us, but he said it was his club and he’d do whatever the fuck he liked. He did. It generally involved playing 90 percent of the pots and digging a big hole, which he somehow managed to get out of and even hit the front, which left him looking somewhat relieved. He looked a little less relieved a few minutes later, when we got word that Tony was on the premises.

Barry showed great initiative and swapped seats with Lord James, who was dealing, just before Tony appeared upstairs. The first hand he dealt, Lord James called a raise and was huffing and puffing when the only other guy with a really big stack reraised. It didn’t take an IQ of 200 to work out that James had aces. The only guy at the table who hadn’t worked it out was the other big stack, who came out firing at him after an ace hit the flop.

It was now a competition between James and Barry to see who could go a deeper shade of purple. Lord James just called, hoping against hope that the guy would hit his flush and he could throw his hand away because he didn’t want to put all Barry’s chips into the pot. A blank came on the turn, so the guy bet again and James reluctantly moved all-in. At this stage, everyone was laughing, except Barry, James, and Tony (who was the only one who didn’t know what was going on). The guy called and hit whatever he needed on the river and threw Barry a £25 tip, which Barry had to thank him for. Tony looked pleased to see his lad doing so well.

Padraig is currently involved with Jesse May in hosting Irish Pub Poker Tours for medium-sized corporate groups. For info you can contact him on Twitter @padraigpoker.

 
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