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A Little Hope Is Better Than Great Pity

by Padraig Parkinson |  Published: Nov 23, '22


After a bout of Covid Light and boredom, it was good to get back to the poker and craic, which is par for the course in Dublin’s Sporting Emporium. A couple of days later, I got a call from a guy from Loughrea who said he was the son of a cousin of mine. I believed him, because if I threw a stone in Loughrea the likelihood is I’d hit a blood relative, or at least an in-law. He invited me to attend a charity poker event a few days later as a “special guest”. I was wondering what special guest had pulled out leaving them stuck at the last minute but hey, an invite’s an invite.

I forgot about that when he told me the event was a fundraiser to help send a couple of lads to Kenya as part of a group of young people embarking on a historic mission with the aim of, over time, planting a million trees to help present and future generations. I loved the idea of our young people helping others in such a positive way whilst creating an awareness of the massive damage our generation have done to the planet through greed and stupidity. I think the whole thing comes under the umbrella of Warriors For Humanity, Self Help Africa, the GAA and people like that.

It struck me as ironic that older generations typically criticize the young while it’s the young who are valiantly trying to clean up the mess we have left them. You couldn’t make it up! Anyway, Mary and I were happy to head for Loughrea though to be honest it was less about altruism and more about us knowing the craic would be good, especially when we heard Pat Lawless would be running the show which practically guaranteed a good laugh, if nothing else.

We weren’t disappointed! The venue was An Crush Nua, a pub a few miles outside Loughrea. I was told several times what the name meant, but I forgot. I do remember it’s owned by a cousin, marketed by cousins, staffed by cousins but despite that and it being in the arsehole of nowhere, it seems popular with young people and on the night of our visit was hopping. Shows what I know! As usual, we got a very warm welcome in Loughrea. I don’t know why, but we liked it anyway.

Someone asked me about sports stars playing poker. I told the story about a World Series of Poker in the 2000’s when I was an ambassador for 888. Their marketing department had pulled off a bit of a coup by hiring boxing superstar Lennox Lewis to play the main event wearing their logo. I was asked to teach him a few basics to ensure they got a decent bang for their buck publicity wise. Fair enough. I showed up on the morning of the event to give him a lesson. He was lovely. Polite. Charismatic. Generous when I asked him to sign a couple of tee shirts for charity. But when I told him I was there to give him a poker lesson, he politely told me he didn’t need a lesson, as he knew how to play already. Grand. I had a coffee with him and wished him luck. A few minutes later, I met one of the 888 bosses. He asked why I wasn’t giving Lennox a lesson. I told him Lennox thought he didn’t need one. He said that he certainly did. I said “If you want to fucking tell him that, I’m happy to teach him." That was the end of that.

Over the years, I’ve introduced Poker Hall Of Famers Daniel Negreanu, Dan Harrington and Mike Sexton to the joys of Irish grassroots poker and they all absolutely loved it! They would have been right at home that night in An Crush Nua as a mixture of young lads and some older lads I had the craic with on previous visits combined to make it about as funny and good natured as it gets. They seemed to have inside information that the price of beer was going to go through the roof. They were certainly behaving as if that was the case. Mary was having a ball at the bar, although the raffle was a huge disappointment. It was like doing 6 lines in the lottery without getting one number up. I hope it was fixed as I’d hate to think I was that unlucky! Then, one of my cousins knocked me out fair and square. I didn’t mind, that but next day at lunchtime his Mammy was able to tell me what happened. What happens in An Crush Nua doesn’t stay in An Crush Nua!
Thanks lads for a fun night and fair play to you guys for walking the walk rather than just talking the talk.

On returning to Dublin and The Sporting Emporium, I got bad news. Dublin poker was recovering from the shocking and premature loss of one of her favourite sons when Noel Murphy had what I think was a massive heart attack while driving. Over a few phone calls, his heartbroken poker playing buddy Martin told me just what a great guy he was. I’m sure all of us who met this absolute gentleman around the poker table would agree. May he rest in peace. The next bad news was the sad sudden death of Billy Rogers. Billy was the son of Terry, the innovator who took tournament NLH from Binion’s to Europe. Those of us old enough to remember the young Billy when he was on the periphery of the Irish poker scene back in the day, will forever remember the smile and sense of fun that were his constant companions. His sad death is a reminder of just how lucky most of us are. Rest in Peace Billy.

I was delighted when Connie O’Sullivan, my comrade in arms from the hilarious partypoker Grand Prix Irish Tour, phoned to tell me that he’d be dropping into the Sporting Emporium to say hello. I hadn’t seen Connie since before lockdown and wondered how much hello was going to cost me. I didn’t really care as I was happy he’d survived what an ordinary mortal would consider a major health scare, but to Connie was just an inconvenience which interrupted his smoking for a couple of weeks. They don’t make them like that outside of Killarney any more.

Connie was in town to promote the upcoming Macau Poker Classic which the Macau Club in Cork is putting on as the centerpiece of a festival, which also involves Fintan Gavin’s Irish Poker Tour and Paddy Power Poker. The main event runs from 1st to 4th December and has a guaranteed prize-pool of €100K for a €1K entry fee. Connie started bullshitting about how many satellite qualifiers there was going to be, and value and that kind of thing, and I had agreed to go before I remembered your average Cork qualifier was like a piranha fish without the conscience. Oh well. The Cork lads are great craic anyway and Timmy O’Sullivan and the West Cork lads will probably be the icing on the cake. Anyway, it would be an opportunity to promote the Sporting Emporium and, in particular ,our iconic €300 End Of Month Tournament which, strangely enough, takes place on the last Thursday of every month and, stranger still, is mighty craic.

Connie joined the cash game and of course just had to tell the story of my first visit to his Cue Club in Killarney to promote the upcoming Partypoker Grand Prix Killarney. I travelled down from Dublin with a suitcase full of party freebies: hoodies, tee-shirts, that kind of thing. I met a guy on the train and we hit the beer so much I nearly missed my stop in Killarney and just about got off after grabbing my suitcase. Connie collected me and, after a few pints, we went to the club. Quite a crowd had gathered. Not to meet me of course but to view the goodies I’d brought. I opened the case with a flourish only to find it full of lady’s underwear. I’d grabbed the wrong suitcase whilst exiting the train. The poker players seemed quite pleased and I got the impression some of them hadn’t seen lady’s underwear, especially of the fancy variety, recently. Or maybe ever. Then my phone rang. It was the station master from Tralee, the final stop of the train I’d taken. He was standing beside an irate passenger who wanted her underwear. As did half the Killarney poker players. I handed the phone to Connie and got myself a beer. Is he never going to let that one go?

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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