Thursday, 1 April 2010


By Mick McCloskey

The island of Ireland is a fairly small place, in global terms, with a total population smaller than that of any one of a number of large cities in the UK. I’m not going to get into the politics or rights or wrongs of the situation here but, for better or worse, the island is divided into two parts, the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and Northern Ireland (NI). As I write a column about poker, that’s what we are going to look at in a bit more detail.

ROI has a long history of running poker tournaments with the Irish Open dating back to 1981. Even in those early days, the tournament could attract a decent amount of visiting players from the UK and even from the USA. Fast forward to the early part of this century and the growth in poker meant that player numbers had started to outgrow the traditional tournament venues. Hence the tournaments started to be moved into large hotel function rooms, with travelling players staying in the same hotels. The ambience and atmosphere thus created meant that the tournament experience was combined with a great social experience, pretty much unlike anywhere else outside of the WSOP experience at Binion’s Horseshoe. In both places, you had most of the players staying, playing, eating and drinking in the same venue over a number of days and it was a great way of meeting and getting to know fellow poker players. The word of this experience filtered down to smaller tournaments and the organisers of events that were able to offer good value, well structured tournaments began attracting more and more overseas players. In the last year I would estimate that the number of visitors, mostly from continental Europe, could be numbered in thousands rather than hundreds. All these visitors have helped to maintain a vibrant poker industry in ROI, directly creating jobs for dealers and floor people. All these visitors need to get here so the airline industry benefits as well as other transport providers. These visitors also need hotel rooms as well as food, drink and entertainment while they are here. All this has benefits for the Irish tourism industry as well as the economy in general. And it is not just the benefit of overseas visitors. Many people from other parts of Ireland and NI tend to stay in the same hotels for the duration of the tournament, normally a stay of 3 to 4 nights. The craic at these events is usually top class.

In NI such large tournaments are outlawed. Even people trying to organise something smaller, on a local basis, are liable to be, and have been, raided and shut down by heavily armed police. Enough said.



There could be a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. That is if enough poker players can tear themselves away from the felt or their computer screens for a few minutes. The Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland has undertaken a review of the existing gaming laws and are seeking submissions from interested parties. This is your chance to make your voices heard in the quest for legal poker in NI. Log onto the DSD website for contact details or write to them at,
Social Policy Unit
Department for Social Development ( NI )
Level 1, James House
2/4 Cromac Avenue
Gasworks Business Park


This is certainly one of the good value, well structured tournaments I referred to in my headline article above. J.P. McCann is one of Ireland’s most respected and innovative tournament directors and, apart from running his own events, is now in demand to work at other high profile events at home and abroad, including events on the European Poker Tour.
The first time I covered this event in 2008, I noted that, when the main event got down to five handed, the average chip stack was a healthy 55 big blinds. JP has, I hear, further refined his tournament structures to provide plenty of play, repeating blinds levels if necessary, throughout his tournaments and not just at the final table.
The three day main event has a buy-in of €750 (75 reg. included) and has a starting stack of 20,000 with 60 minute blinds for ten levels, increasing to 75 minute blind levels after that. The action takes place in the Maldron Hotel, Tallaght, on the outskirts of Dublin, and kicks off with a super satellite on Thursday 6th May. The main event starts on 7th May. The tournament capacity has been capped at 350 and I can tell you there are already seats booked by European visitors. If you want to be part of this great weekend, I would advise you to book early and pay a deposit to hold your seat. For further details contact JP on ++353 8764 48132 or log onto Online satellites for seats in the main event are currently running on


This countrywide tour, now under new management, holds its grand final at the Dolmen Hotel, Carlow, from 22nd to 25th April. The buy-in for the main event is €1,000 + 100 and it starts on Friday 23rd April. There will be a €100 + 20 super satellite on Thursday 22nd. Online satellites for main event seats are currently running on For full details log onto

If you have any news, views or events, you can contact me by email to

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