Padraig Parkinson - When Irish Eyes Smiled
We’ve had the “Year of the Irish” before. The 96 clean sweep at the European Championship. The 99 Main Event. The 2008 1 2 3 4 in The Poker Million. But there’s a strong case to be made that, even without a bracelet so far, this year’s fighting WSOP showing by the likes of Cahill, Doke, O’Shea and Andy The New Black is right up there and will inspire even more of their countrymen to go fearlessly to Vegas to do their money like men.
That should scare the shit out anyone that gets in the way of the Irish juggernaut!
Recently at a pub tournament in Ireland, some guy asked me about Irish bracelet winners and I suddenly realised I was the world’s leading authority on this subject. A pretty sad claim to fame really. Ireland claim 6 bracelets and by some fluke I had a ringside seat for half of them and was floating around for the rest.
Furlong’s main event win was the most famous and has cost me years of sleep and a couple of billion in sponsorship. Over a coffee in Dublin a few months ago, he told me that in 82 he was walking his dogs in Killiney when he saw his pal Terry Rogers outside the Killiney Castle hotel, who explained to him that there was a bunch of guys with funny names like Chip, Doyle, Stuey, Slim and Puggy in town playing a poker game called Texas Holdem. Noel had never heard of holdem or Texas maybe but an hour later was relieving Puggy of his dough. The rest is history. All I have to say about the matter is that I wish he’d walked his fucking dogs somewhere else.
Gosneys is the bracelet everyone forgets about as Lawrence only spent the first month of his life in Ireland. I met him ouside the Rio one day and to be fair to him it was 5 minutes before he let it slip that he’d won a bracelet the previous night. We went to the Nugget to celebrate and had a great time flooring vodka and coke. He did anyway. He was flooring the vodka. I was flooring the coke.
I was walking through the Rio cardroom when Andy told me there was an Irish guy at that day’s final table. I took a quick look, saw nobody I knew, and assumed Andy was off his head. He wasn’t. The guy I didn’t know was Ciaran O’Leary but I made up for lost time by having a drink with him at the end of the series. This time I drank the vodka and the coke. So did my buddy Ciaran.
Alan Smurfitts was probably the funniest of the Irish bracelets. The event was the 1500 PLO and I can remember telling Scott Gray during a break that Alan had lost his mind and was somehow allowed to walk around inside the rail looking intently at what was going on everywhere. Scott told me that when you have as much money as Alan you can do whatever the fuck you like. Fair enough. It was only the next day when we were down to four tables that I realised that he had actually played the tournament and was still in the middle of the toughest last four tables I’d ever seen. He beat them all. I like Alan but I’d much prefer to see an Irish guy who needed the money win it. Like me for example!
The most popular bracelet winner was undoubtedly Marty Smyth. He nailed the 10k Omaha championship in front of the loudest and most goodnatured gallery Vegas has ever seen. In any sport. Helmuth was nearby at a pretty quiet final table playing for his umpteenth bracelet. I couldn’t resist dropping by to ask him if he wished he was Irish. Stupid question really. Karma prevailed as the security guys, who didn’t understand the Irish, were in a state of panic and wouldn’t let me rejoin team Marty. It was a little ironic as I was the only Irish guy within a 100 mile radius who wasn’t drinking anything stronger than water. Welcome to Vegas!
The bracelet I enjoyed most was Don O’Deas. The Don is these days best known for being Eoghan’s daddy but when I was a kid he was a big star as an Olympic swimmer. Shrewd judges of the sport claim that, with an East German coach, he could have swum across the Atlantic on under five hours but that’s ridiculous. Why would he want to do that?
Anyway, years later Don and I were in the last 22 of the WSOP 1500 PLO event. I was second in chips to Johnny Chan. The Don was less well positioned. Actually he was in deep shit stone last and unlikely to make the money (they were paying 18 places). I could hear Scott Gray and Pittsburg Pete discussing luncheon arrangements prior to sweating me at the following days final table. We were there all right. Sweating Donnacha as he took Chan out in a dour 3 hour struggle. Some of it anyway! Eventually, The Don was awarded a bracelet on which was engraved POT LUCK OMAHA. He loved it. After all, if you’ve won a WSOP bracelet you don’t need to read it to be reminded of just what you’ve achieved.