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Parkinson: Galway Races, A Tumble And Fairplay

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Jul 12, '19


I received a call from the hospital yesterday. They had a date available, August 2nd, for my heart procedure. I told the girl that didn’t work for me, as it clashed with the Galway Races. The girl seemed to think I wasn’t playing with the full deck. Then again, she’s probably never been in Galway during Race Week, or she’d understand it’s quite simply a celebration of being alive (and the craic is relentless). It’s like St Patrick’s day on speed. Every single day.

Back in the day when the Warwick Hotel was the main spot for poker during Race Week, gamblers from all over the country showed up eager for action. Road gamblers, farmers, milkmen, women with handbags full of dough. It was like a movie. In the middle of it was Dennis Winters, the best draw poker player in Ireland and maybe the world. At first sight, you might think this guy had had lots of electric shock treatment that had gone horribly wrong, but you’d have been so wrong. He worked the room like a true pro, cashing cheques, laying bets on the horses, telling jokes, ordering cups of tea for wives and Fanta orange for kids.

When the dust settled, he’d always be in the best game, talking nonstop until there was complete confusion. Confusion was Dennis’s comfort zone, where he did his best work. You’d never accuse him of not giving his victims value for money. They always came back. That’s where the genius came into it.

After a few days with these characters, the bizarre becomes the norm. But there were always a few highlights. The legend that is two times Irish champion Colette Doherty was in a 7 Stud game there one night. The locals didn’t believe a woman could play. Jesus!

Colette had the cold heart and efficiency of a contract killer. Still does. In one hand, she had QQ showing. After the last card was dealt she still just had QQ, but bet anyway. Her opponent, a wealthy farmer called. Colette said “you win, I have only two queens.” The guy mucked his hand. When asked why he called when he couldn’t possibly win, he said “I just wanted to scare her.” That’s Galway for you!

Years later, the action has changed. The draw players exist only in bar stories. The Eglinton is now where it’s at with tournaments every evening and cash games around the clock. Wednesday and Thursday are crazy as the horse racing takes place in the afternoon so that by 9 PM the average punter is out of his or her mind.

One night, a chap rocked up much the worse for wear. I don’t know how he got up the stairs, but I know how he got down them. The staff are very good at dealing with drunks. No surprises there. Most of them are part time drunks themselves. But this guy was impossible and threatened the nicest guy in the place. That was it. He was escorted to the door and fell a lot of the way down the stairs (that’s not the record but that’s another story). Once out in the street, he reported the incident to two cops, claiming he was pushed.

I had a grandstand view as I was out for a smoke. With the busy night that was in it, the cops were not in the mood to listen to a load of crap from this guy, but I guess they had to do something. So one guy was taking a statement while the other guy went into the club to question potential witnesses, half of whom could barely see. The other half could barely talk. Then God intervened. A young lady walked up the street and saw the guy who’d taken the stairs a little awkwardly talking to the cop. She shouted “Jesus, Johnny, you’ve done it again. Every time you go out for a few pints, it’s the same. Can you not go out just once without getting into trouble?” The cop closed his notebook and radioed his colleague to tell him their work here was done. You couldn’t make it up! See you in Galway.

Recently, there’s been much discussion about Rob Yong’s fairplay initiative. I think the idea is the online sites and brick and mortar casinos pool information on cheating, collusion, etc. to make the poker world safer and fairer for everyone. Makes sense to me. And it saves time. Last year; I met a guy at the partypoker Caribbean event who I hadn’t seen since he emigrated to Canada, over 30 years ago. He told me that a guy had been cheating in a game we played in 32 years ago! Unbelievably, I was in a pub in Dublin a couple of nights ago, when a guy who doesn’t play told me most of the players in that game were cheating. If they were, they weren’t very good at it! That’s how long it takes for news on cheats to spread in Ireland. Thankfully, Rob’s guys will be quicker than that.

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.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


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