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Jesse May Visits The Sporting Emporium

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: May 17, '22


About a decade ago, Scott Gray and I set out on a two week tour to play poker with the Irish grassroots players who are the heartbeat of the game here. It’s always tremendous craic.

Tim O’Sullivan invited us to visit the pub game in Clonakilty, in West Cork. He got more than he bargained for when we showed up with a TV crew and The Voice Of Poker, Jesse May. We think we broke a record because Jesse paid over €200 for his flight from Denmark to play a €30 event! He drank about half his bodyweight and nearly won the thing. The punters loved him. In an interview over breakfast the next day, he shook his head and said he’d never woken up in Ireland before with more money in his pocket than he’d started the previous day with!

When I got involved as poker ambassador for The Sporting Emporium, it was inevitable that he’d pay us a visit. He did, and was kind enough to write about Irish poker and his trip, as only he can. It goes like this :

_I had enormous craic playing poker the other night at @SportEmporium. I was reminded of the very first time I ever played poker in Ireland. Which was the same night I first met the man who’s taught me more about poker than anyone else. That was the night I met Padraig Parkinson. It was the fall of 2000 and I was broke. Specifically, I was the kind of broke where you are not only broke but also have no prospects, so you pretty much are up for anything no matter what. Which is why when Liam Flood called to offer me a free buy-in to the main event at the Autumn Festival at the Merrion club in Dublin and all I had to do was write an article for a poker magazine, I was on my way.

The Merrion Club was an old Dublin townhouse that had a sign out front telling about the famous poet who had lived there in the 17th century, quite narrow and quite high with big twisting staircases and high ceilings and lots of wood.

The tournament started and I was sitting there for a while terrified out of my skull. I was terrified because Noel Furlong was sitting on my left. He had just won the World Series the year before and I’d been told that he might be the most fearless poker player that’s ever been.

There’s a certain kind of tournament poker player that when something goes wrong, they always have the two jacks and I don’t want to go into why, but it’s a fact and unfortunately it says a lot more about the poker player than it does about the jacks.
At that time, I was exactly that kind of poker player and so of course, the first hand I played in Ireland, I had the jacks.

I got dealt the two jacks and raised it up under the gun and Noel Furlong 3-bet me. European champion Alan Betson was on Noel’s left and he immediately came over the top of Noel. And on Alan Betson’s left was Aidan Bennet, who I had never seen nor heard of before.

I’m not sure if I actually cried or I just wanted to. I didn’t even think twice about mucking the jacks, but Noel Furlong called like a shot. And Aidan Bennet had the situation read as perfectly as could be because his A-8 suited was miles ahead of Furlong’s Ace-six. And that was my first ever hand of Irish poker.

Mercifully, the dinner break came soon afterwards. Kevin O’Connell, who I had become friendly with the year before during the filming of the first season of Late Night Poker, took one look at me and literally grabbed me by collar and said : “Come with me.” Which I did. Because honestly who wanted to eat turkey and ham in the basement when the pub was across the street and on the corner? Kevin O’Connell wasted no time. Within minutes, I’d had my first pint of Guiness and my first shot of Paddy’s.

Pretty much the entire field spent the dinner break in the pub and by the time we went back into the Merrion Club, while I still had no shot at winning the tournament, a few things had improved. I was no longer terrified of the table, and I loved Irish Poker.
That camaraderie had me for good. No matter who you were and where you’d been. If you loved the game and treated it with respect, Irish Poker welcomed you with open arms.

It was only a few hours later that I was knocked out and on the rail. I was standing in a room on the ground floor of the Merrion Club when in walked Padraig Parkinson. My first memory of Padraig is him walking up to me and he had six arms and each of them was carrying a pint.

He was talking a mile a minute like we’d known each other all of our lives, and to be honest maybe we had. Padraig led me out into the Dublin night, which was a sea of Guinness, pubs, and talk about poker. And that began a friendship which has lasted a lifetime.

There’s a lot of things I admire about Padraig, but his love for the game stands even apart. And though I hadn’t seen him since before the pandemic, walking into his poker club in Dublin last week felt like coming home. There’s a nice buzz, there’s a regular game, and as long as you treat everyone with respect you will be eternally welcome. If you thought live poker was dead, think again. @padraigpoker is hosting Irish Poker nightly in Dublin at @SportEmporium._

To be honest, I have never met anyone who can write or lie like Jesse May.

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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