I fell in love with the Irish Open approximately 18 seconds after walking in through the doors, of what on a normal day is just a huge funciton room out at City West Hotel. It had been transformed into a little poker player's paradise, complete with 24 hour bar. There was a little céilí going on right inside the door to the left, a group of drunk scandis playing shuffleboard to the right. It was 3pm on a Thursday. The pints were in full flow. There was so many familiar faces about, with everybody in such high spirits it was fantastic to catch up with all the faces I hadn't see in months/years. This was the Irish poker player's Christmas party. I've never really felt all that much party of the Irish community, but I had an instant feeling of regret that this was the 1st time I'd set foot inside the Irish Open for (mostly because I was never in the country but still), let alone actually played the main event. I was going to enjoy this and make the most of it regardless of how the tournament played out.
Seat 9 to start our adventure. Not ideal. Now, all I wanted was a good table draw to have a little bit of banter with who was about. There was a lot of headphone's and hoodies when I sat down and close to zero chat for the 1st 30 minutes. I also had a 30k stack at t150, so it had the feeling of a long day about it. Then the gentleman across from, Darren if I remember correctly, perked up and said he watched my stream. That seemed to ease everybody else up and I was back to enjoying my 1st Irish Open experience. Also got chatting to a very sound lad called Niall, who genuinely had to tell me his name about 5 times until he just said, the river, remember the river Nile. Got it. I chipped up to about 55k without a whole lot of anything happening. Making pairs in 3b pots and barreling in some decent spots. Then we proceeded to go card dead for about 4 hours. Playing close to zero pots until the last level of the day. At least in this time, Marc McDonnel informed me that you could order from the local Thai place, 'Lemon Grass' directly to your table. The beef in black bean sauce was absolutely delicious and possibly kept me out of trouble whilst the boredom was creeping in. With it being a re-entry, there was a very gambly feeling towards the end of day 1. I seen the SB limp/call a 17bb with 75ss and some other nonsense going around. So when I picked up AKs in the SB with about 40bb with about 30 mins on the clock, I felt we could be getting it in. A gentleman opened in early position playing 30 big blinds, following our re-raise out of the small blind, he beat me into the pot for the remainder of his chips. He had an 8 of hearts and a 7 of hearts. We hold and we're up to just under 70k after being patient for once in our lives in live poker. I won 4/5 of the last hands of the night, including when I misclick opened to 5,800 instead of 1,800, then having the gentleman Nick Abou Risk move all in for his last 12,000 with Ace-King, lucky I had two eights and was able to make the call without being too embarrassed. Win the flip, and bag 91,800 to bring into day 2. We would also be announcing our bets for the remainder of the tournament.
We finished up at around 1.30am, with the rest of the room in complete party mode, it was time for a few piiiiiiiiiiiiints. The atmosphere was just incredible. We took over one of the shuffle boards for a few hours, a game I'd never played before but is heaps of fun. I sucked pretty bad at the beginning, then after changing it up and using my left hand instead of the right I began to get the hang of it. The pints turned into G&T's. There was even a race, to see who could down a Smirnoff Ice the quickest, between myself and Marc McDonnell. I'd never attempted this, and was pretty sure I was drawing dead. However, I wanted to see how quick Marc could do it, as he was insisting there was no way anyone could beat him. He gave me a little head start, and still absolutely destroyed me. Point proven. €20 lost. GG. With the party showing no signs of slowing down come about 7am, I decided it was time for me to get out of there. I had to stream for 888 at 9pm on Friday night, and the thought of waking up in City West and rushing home the next evening wasn't filling me with too much joy. Little did I know, all the buses and trains were on strike that morning. Add that in with your standard morning traffic attempting to get into the city center and a taxi man who didn't even know were the Aviva Stadium was, it all added up to an absolute miserable taxi journey. Hannah was also delighted when i came knocking on the door at 8.30am without my keys. Successful night in my opinion.
Day 2 we were going to be playing down to the money. Again, I got a fantastic table draw. There was a gentleman in seat 3, who had the most classic American accent you could imagine. When Elena aka 'TheGroupie' sat down beside me, she thought he was just taking the piss out of American's but nope was just from the deeeeeeeep south in Tennnnaaaaaaaseeeee. Everything continued to go swimmingly, making my way from 90k to 140k without any big pots and very little show downs. Our 1st minor set back of the tournament was to come when we lost a flip for 90,000 chips. There was an open in early position, along with a call in middle position. I re-raised on the button with AK. The gentleman under the gun was having none of my shit and decided to put in 44,000 chips when the big blind was 1,000 with 88. He won the flip this time. Not too long after we got dealth the infamous Kevin Killeen's in first position. After opening, Elena directly to my left put in about 20,000 chips and the American from down south proceeded to rejam 40,000 chips with the A of clubs and the 9 of clubs. No good sir. Gimmmme them chips. Back up to 160,000 chips. This live tournament crack was easy. Just before the break I got moved table, Mr Max Silver with a mountain of chips and the day 1 chip leader on my left. Then a young guy playing every pot, who had final tabled the tournament and got 2nd last year to my friend Dan Wilson, Michael Conaty on my right. It wasn't exactly ideal, but I'd just tighten up and pick my spots was the plan.
The biggest pot I played in terms of big blinds in the tournament was to go down just after the break, one which would propel me into the chiplead. The chipleader from day one limps in 1st position, another 2 players come along for the limp and I've two 7s on the button. I'm playing 200k at big blind 2k. I'll have a cheeky limp along and attempt to flop a set here for sure. Max, who I'd have been having a good chat with, decides he's not having this and makes it 17,500 chips from the Big Blind. Chipleader calls pretty quickly, the two other players get out of the way and I feel it'd be rude not to make this a party of 3. Like you do every time you have a pair in your hand during live poker, I prayed to all of the gods I don't believe in for a '7' to appear on this flop that was about to be dealt. 9 - 7 - 5 without a flush draw. There is an absolute party going on in my head right now. Max checks, which I still feel he could with some overpairs but most likely not. Then our friend is 1st position picks up five 5k chips and fires them over the line. I would like to call dealer. Max gets out of the way and we have ourselves a pot about 110k in it. The turn is an Ace to which puts a flush draw on the board. The aggresor bets into us again. This time 30k. I feel like I've got a lock on the hand at this point. So we elect to just keep calling and hope for a blow up from him on the river. The river is another 9. Which completes our boaty mc boaterson. The pots at 160k and we get bet into yet again, this time for 75,000 chips. I have 125,000 chips more. There could be an arguement made for just calling, but as played, I felt we had to wager the remainder of our betting discs. If I wasn't 100% sure, my mind was made up, when I reached for chips and our opponent done a fake pump as if he was about to turn over his cards. OUT SOOOOON. We raised all in, and after a heavy stare down and a few minutes deliberation, he folded and we raked it what at the time I'm pretty sure was a chip lead pot.
I'm afraid of making this post too tedious, but I'm writing a blog on a poker tournament, so I'm not really sure how else to go about it. Going to keep talking about a few hands. Our next big pot was with 160 players left and 135 getting paid. I have 420 (blaaaaaaze it) thousand chip, with the big blind being 5,000 chips. I open A4 of spades into 6 opponents. With the Big Blind, Mr.Conaty (he actually asked me how much I had when he covers, which I feel I should have considered more later in this hand) choosing to take it to the streets. Let's see a flop. We see a T55 flop with two spades giving me the nut flush draw. When checked to, I decide to go ahead and bet and Michael quickly calls. The turn is an off-suit ten. Making it a double-paired board of TT55. Michael checks and I'm going to be checking all of my hands here. So onto the river we go, and we get a super interesting river here, a third 10. So at least I've got a full house now. 55TTT. Michael decides to bet pot, about 40,000 chips. I'd so far stayed out of his way for the most part, showing down trips against him once and turning up with no weak holdings. So I felt this was a decent spot for me to make a bluff on the river. I felt we'd get 3bet bluffed on the river 0% of the time, so there was going to be a lot of auto folds from his broad way and A high hands that continued on the flop and choose to bluff this river, and on top of that bet calling 66-JJ wouldn't be the most enjoyable. We counted out 125,000 chips and no sooner had we placed them over the line, did we hear 'call' in that Cavan accent down the other end of the table. I meekly tabled my hand, and Michael showed his two eights for a better full house than the one on the board and scooped a pretty huge pot coming up to the bubble. The day had been setting up to be a very fun bubble situation for us, but now it was looking likely we'd be on the grind to get that min cash locked up 1st.
We are now 5 spots off the bubble and we played our most controversial hand of the tournament. I'd just folded twice to 3 bets in the previous orbit, when I was once again facing a re-raise pre-flop. I had the ladies, the qwons, two red Queens. Looking back I think I probably should have folded. However, we get it in and we are up against the American Airlines. We lose and our left with 115,000 chips with the big blind now being 6,000. No hassle, we'll just sit into the money and go for a spin when the bubble bursts. Next hand we get dealt the snowmen with 6 players to act. I feel this needs to be a fold, as we can just sit into the money. Action takes place and we find ourselves about to be dealt another hand, when the player who won with the AA realises he's been left 50,000 chips short. The floor gets called, and I'm informed I'll need to pay the player the chips. I'm not looking to angle anybody at this point, but I'm a little upset as I would have shoved the 8-8 I had last hand if I knew I would only have 60,000 chips rather than 115,000 chips. The tournament director asks me do I want the supervisor to be called over, and this is where I made a mistake. Nick O'Hara is the best tournament director in the business, I wasn't looking to angle anyone and he would have just given the correct ruling. However, the tournament director seemed adamant they were correct. I'm not a person looking for conflict, even though in this case, it would have meant for some valuable stalling on the bubble if I was indeed going to be left with 10 blinds rather 20. The more I think about it, what if the dealer had just counted his chips wrong initially, and not mine? What if I busted the very next hand, if I'd decided to shove them 8s. How would they ever have sorted that. There's no way they could have ruled I needed to hand the chips back over, although I never actually got a chance to ask about it officially yet. Lesson learned. Get the man or woman with the most experience who has the final say when there's so much at stake and you need a ruling in a controversial spot. I do ladder into the money, one hand after shoving 55, I funnily enough get 8-8 again. It's been opened in early position by a gentleman who is just saying to me as I look down at my cards 'You probably could have got that ruling in your favor, but at least your morals are in the right place. Maybe karma will be on your side'. I laugh and reply 'I don't believe in that, so maybe you'll get to bust me now'. After I shove my 90,000 chips, he quickly calls and tables two Queens. ARE YOU SHITTING ME. The two exact hands involved in all the drama. We see a flop of Q-T-4 and a few people give me the sympathetic nod to say good game, unlucky man. I don't budge for a second. We see a Jack turn for a sweat, it's never easy. We can make a straight with a 9 now. I'm relaxed on the outside but on the inside I'm channeling every little bit of energy you can imagine - "9,9,9,9,9,9,9". BANG. 9 ball corner pocket. We're still in this. I give a little chuckle and say 'Karma aye???'. 3 hands later we're in the big blind and look down at AK, and managed to get it vs the gentleman who had the AA vs us on the bubble. This time he has QQ. The ladies just can't keep up with. We get it in for 30 big blinds each, I flop an Ace. We're going to day 3 with 343,000 chips. The dreams alive. . We wouldn't be all in again until we exited the tournament
Day 3 aye. I'd never done this before. It was my 1st live tournament since the UKIPT was in Dublin the previous February. I got a pretty good table. I was second in chips, with our buddy Mr.Conaty on our right with the chip lead. I was feeling confident, that as long as we didn't punt off our chips we had a chance to make a decent run at this tournament. The day started off pretty well, I won a bunch of small pots. My table was playing like a dream. I stayed out of Michael's way, and he stayed out of my way for the most part. I chipped up to 625k after the 1st level of the day, making that 875k through the next hour. No big pots along the way. I felt so comfortable. The plan but more hope was just to not get coolered. 1st level back after the break, I flop a flush in a 3bet pot and suddenly have over a milly. Not going to lie. It felt pretty fucking cool having all these chips. 100 big blinds, deep in one of the most prestigious poker tournaments in the world, in your home town. What sort of person would you need to be, to not enjoy that? It was at this point Andreas Olympios got moved to my table. We'd had a few pints together on the Thursday night, and he was a good friends with Steve Warburton. It was my first time meeting the two lads, who were absolute gents. However, he wasn't the man I wanted on my left on an incredibly soft table. particularly when he picked up a huge pot off Michael Conaty to go over the 1 million chips also. We played together for a while, Andreas even teaching me how to stack my chips correclty, before we got moved tables and went on break.
I was enjoying having a bit of banter with the Irish Open reporters, so when I went on break with 1.2 million in chips, I was sitting with Chris Dowling, who had over 2 million and I starting get tweets from friends who were congratulating me on my chip lead with 40 players left. Nice troll guys, nice troll. Apparently it was an innocent mistake to report me as the chipleader. I'm not buying it. There was a small bit of hope, that being such a live fish when it came to counting the chips, I actually did somehow have over 3 million in chips. Not to be. Of the 40 players left, 6 of us had just had dinner with each other and knew each other quite well socially, we had a few giggles about how the final table could end up looking and set the line at 2.5 of us to make it. My table seemed pretty good overall. I had David Clarkson (who Andreas had told me over dinner was an aggressive thinking reg, who had played the 2k high roller a few days previously) and Andreas across the table from me which wasn't ideal but it wasn't the end of the world. An interesting dynamic developed over the next few levels with myself and David. He seemed somewhat intent on going after me. A few spots led to the pot that would have me confirmed as chip leader. In the space of about 15 hands, David put me in the cage from the Big Blind, re-raising my open and with my holding A9o I passed and moved on. I opened in 1st position and David elected to put some pressure on one position off the button. I wasn't 100% sure how I was being perceived by David at this point, but I assumed on the weaker side. So with KQ offsuit I decided to make a stand, making quite a large 4th bet, after a tank and some deliberation David mucked his hand and let me have this one. I then defended my big blind vs his open and flopped trips on 99T flushdraw wih J9o. There was a bet on the flop and it was checked through on a 4 turn. The river brought an A, so the final board 99T-4-A. I probably got a little bit carried away and decided to overbet the pot. Looking back, with how I feel he probably perceived me, he probably didn't think I was capable of doing this with anything other than the goods. So was probably a mistake. He made the fold anyway and we moved on. This all set up the next hand, I opened with a pretty looking Ace and Ten of hearts. David elected to call from the small blind and Andreas got out of the way in the Big Blind and we were heads up to the flop. David had about 2.2 million chips and I covered with the big blind being 30,000 chips. We got a flop of Jd-7c-Qh. I felt even though this is generally a good board for the person calling from the small blind, I felt I had a lot more stronger hands than David. He never had JJ or QQ with our dynamic I felt and AQ was even questionable. So when I continued for about 65% of the pot and David raised to 215,000, it was out of the question for me to fold. His only two value hands felt like 77 or JQ for a set or two pair. And with my gut-shot to the best straight possible, and the potential to hit running hearts for the best flush. We were going to be seeing a turn. The turn was super interesting. The ten of clubs. Even though in David's shoes I'm going to be rarely checking raising this board, one hand that I thought at this point that could make some sense was 98 suited and to a lesser extent K9 suited, which would now be a straight. However, I was never giving credit to David for ever having Ace King, so our ranges looked like I was the only one who could have the nuts. David bets 385,000 chips into a pot of just over half a million chips. I had a feeling I was still good and David was just full of shit at this point. I wasn't 100% sure what he was doing this with but it just didn't really add up in my head. I decided that I was going to call and if David went for a smaller sizing on the river, I would turn my hand into a bluff and shove over his bet. The river was the three of spades. Giving us a final board of Jd-7c-Qh - Tc - 3s. After a lilttle tank David elected to check. I'd won. This was my hand. He'd given up. But then.... I felt he would bet/fold or at least bet decided with hands such as 77/JJ/QQ/QJ (even though I felt it unlikely he had most of these) and never check a straight. Then instead of just checking, I got a little paranoid he might have check raised AQ for value on the flop and went super thin on the turn. Or maybe he'd check raised some random Jack on the flop. It's not something I would do, but I would rarely check raise this board. I felt I was getting called close to never, but I elected to bet just in case. I wouldn't have been able to handle it if he showed down some random Jack. This might be a little silly in hindsight, but even if he has AQ/QJ or 77, it's going to be a horrible spot for him with how I feel he perceives me. I also didn't feel I was opening myself up to being check raised ever, because of what I mentioned about our ranges and how I was the only one who should have the nut straight here. I bet about 70% pot, which was 750,000. David quickly folded, and latter told me he had T8 suited. He also said he would have shoved the 1.5x pot on the river, rather than ever bet fold if he elected to go with the bluff. Even though my spidy senses would have been tingling and I would have felt like he was full of shit, especially when he overbets this spot. I doubt it's a call I would have been capable of making on the river. Who knows. We had 4,000,000 chips. That would be good for final table average. Time to dream of lifting that trophy in our sharmrock suit.
We didn't really have too many upsets over the course of the next few hours. I played a big pot against an older gentleman that tried to bluff me on a 664 - T - K board when I had the Anna Kournikova (moment of appreciation for what a tennis player she was) aka the Ace-King. We even managed to flop another set with the two's that never lose when Andreas opened from first position. I called on the button and the big blind came along for a spin. A cheeky little deuce in the window (the feeling of flopping a set will never get old, but deep in a live tournament is genuinely orgasmic) followed by a 5 and a 7, was an above average flop to say the least. The big blind checked over to Andreas, who fired out a bet. With only one option, we of course were going to see a turn. SCRAP THAT. The big blind instantly moved the remainder of his chips. With Andreas quickly getting out of the way, and the big blind seeing the bad news. His 87 of hearts was drawing dead by the turn. His bustout would mean were redrawing seats for the last three tables. Continuing the good banter I had with the Irish Open reporters, I sent them a Conor McGregor inspired tweet - 'Out played a kid by flopping a set. 5m at t40k. Doubt me now @Irish_PokerOpen ... they all doubted me... every single one of them. #maclife'. I was having so much fun. I was chip leading a tournament I almost wasn't going to play. In my home town. With 200,000 euro for 1st. AND I WAS FLOPPING FUCKING SETS. I was going to enjoy this moment. Not much happened for a few hours. I had Griffin and Michael Conaty on my right with plenty of chips, so I wasn't getting as many open spots. Without too much drama we were suddenly doing another re-draw for the last two tables. I had 4.3 million chips with the big blind being 50,000. Some fucking buzz.
I think I got the better table draw. 5 of us would go on to make the offical final table though. I had Vamshi and Sameer (who was staying with Doke) on my left, who were both quite short. I had Mr.Chris Dowling with the chiplead and over 5 million chips across the way from me and also Mihail on my right. Chris lost a decent sized pot with AA, when Vamshi flatted a re-raise preflop off a shortish stack and managed to flop a set of sixes. There was no getting away from it for Chris. That gave me the chiplead before our first little set back in quite a while. There wasn't many big all ins all tournament for me. I had the KK > AK > A9 for a decent one early on day 2. But I wasn't involved in a lot of coolers for the most part. Mihail limped utg playing 7 handed with 14 left with 12 big blinds. In hindsight, I'm not sure if my raise call was great. I however, elected to make it 4 big blinds with the intention of calling if he was limp re-raising all in. He flipped over Ace-King and considering the man got second in the tournament I think it's safe to say you know how this story ends. Apart from Chris, the table was playing very tight overall, he was showing no regard for me being in the big blind. Opening hands such as K3 off suit and Q5 off suit in the cut off on my big blind. Maybe Chris felt I would be scared of not final tabling such a huge live tournament considering my lack of live experience. However, I felt so comfortable. There wasn't a single hint of nerves and I felt I would be able to get some decent spots to pick up chips off Chris in position moving forward. Was I targeting him? Not even in the slightest, however, if he was open this wide on my big blind, you could be 100% sure he was opening this wide, and probably wider on the tighter players at the table's big blinds. So I felt there would be some spots he wouldn't be able to defend enough to re-raises preflop. One such moment ended up being the moment that swung the momentum hugely in my favour for the last few hours of the day. Chris opened and I looked down at King-Jack offsuit on the button. With how wide Chris was opening you could probably make some arguments for flatting and keeping in a bunch of dominated hands. This time we decided to go for the raise it, about 3 times to size of Chris's initial raise. Chris called, and I'm not 100% sure what the sizings were. I don't have anything written down about it. Anyway, the flop came 7-7-6 without a flushdraw. Chris checks to me, and I decide to continue our story and fire out a bet. After not too much deliberation Chris decides that we're going to the turn. A 3, which doesn't bring any back door flush draws. We have a rainbow board of 7-7-6-3. I felt if I checked the turn, I essentially lost the hand. Chris would bluff me on the river with his hands such as 89/T8s etc and with a mixture of A highs and pocket pairs in his hand, I wasn't going to feel very comfortable going for a bet/check/bet line, only to be looked up too often by hands like 88 or whatever. Chris 100% could have a 7 here, or even a flopped full house. With that said, I felt I had more 7s than Chris, but my problem was I wasn't sure if Chris though this. The one thing I felt I had going for me was, there wasn't too many draws that were going to brick and I didn't think Chris felt I would blast off in this spot with complete air. So I decided that I was pretty sure I was going to bet and rip it in on the river. Would I be happy doing it? Fuck no. The last words Kev had said to me on the phone was 'Fintan, just don't bluff your tournament off mate'. Like I said, I can't remember my exact sizing, but I bet setting up a river shove, albeit a lil over pot I think was left. Let me preface this next sentence, I am not one for live reads and doubt I'm capable of any. I previously mentioned I hadn't played a live tournament in about 15 months. However, the longer Chris looked at me, the more comfortable I felt and I was 100% firing the river. I felt he was trying to figure out if I was completely full of shit. Could he have been doing this on purpose and be sitting there with a full-house? 100%. Chris is a far better and more experienced live player than me. Would I look stupid if I fired it into the nuts? Yep you can check that box too. But nothing like getting your fintPunts out deep in a live tournament with €200,000 for 1st. Chris eventually folds and made a remark about how I was lucky he didn't have a boat. I then picked up a few more small pots off Chris, flopping strong 1 pair hands and two pair defending the big blind. The next hour or so was a dream. I went from about 4 million chips, to a tournament peak of 7 million. There was 10 left and I had 20% of the chips in play. I didn't want anybody to bust. I was able to open any two cards and it was beauitful. I even folded a few hands to rejams that were probably slight calls because I wanted to continue playing 5 handed for as long as possible.
At 04.20 (BLAZE IT) in the morning Antony Wickert busted Francis Hogan and we would be joining for an unofficial nine-handed Final Table. Everybody was happy and having a little celebration. I was devastated. Griffin had chips, Michael had chips and this guy I'd yet to play with Wickert had a mountain of chips. There was no way I was going to get to continue this nonsense once we formed as a nine. The plan was to continue to play tonight until we whittled it down to an official 8. The table draw was to be done, before were giving a 10 minute break. I had a little pray to the gods I don't believe in not for the 1st time in this tournament that I'd get a good table draw.
1 Chris Dowling - 2,675,000
2 Michael Conaty - 3,755,000
3 Mihail Mazilu - 1,905,000
4 Griffin Benger - 4,845,000
5 Antony Wickert - 8,650,000
6 Sameer Singh - 2,035,000
7 Michael Fletcher - 2,160,000
8 Vamshi Vandanapu - 1,445,000
9 Fintan Hand - 6,380,000
Ok. We were stuck in seat 9 but it definitely could have been worse. Having Chris and Michael on my left definitely wouldn't be ideal if they managed to get chips, however with the stacks I felt they'd need to play tight enough. Griff was far enough away to not be too much trouble and after quickly looking up Anthony's hendon mob, it seemed he was playing far higher buy in than he normally would, so potentially wouldn't be applying enough pressure with this huge stack. At this stage my twitter was bopping off like crazy, however my battery wasn't holding up. After Nick O'Hara being the TD that goes above and beyond that he is, getting me a portable charger and my piece of shit phone not being compatible with it, I decided to ask the people working for the Irish Open reporting team. After all it was them I also wanted to continue to have the banter with, while also keeping the fans updated. The two girls who were doing the reporting of hands weren't about when I went to the desk, so I asked the woman who would end up interviewing me very politely if it would be possible to give them my charger and phone for a little bit, before I could even get the end of my sentence out she dismissed me insanely rudely and turned to her colleague and continued her conversation. It was a long day, maybe drunk Irish and Norweigans had being bothering her for the evening, maybe she didn't realise I was still in the tournament due to it being on break. I was a bit shocked. Not that hard to share a little bit of electricity is it. Anyway. The fans would have to wait for the updates.
The unoffical final table started off pretty well for me. I chipped up slightly, then in the second orbit Griffin opened on my big blind and I decided to apply some pressure with 6-3 of diamonds. I made a quite large re-raise, after eyeing me up slightly Griff mucked. I was definitely not going to battle the most experienced and decorated player at the final table. That being said, he was going to feel far superior to everyone left in the field, and attempt to run over the table. So I felt we would be able to pick a few timed spots to put him in the cage. Griff was always going to excel at a table which would not play back at him. Was he about to start 4-bet bluffing me with the way stacks were? I really didn't think so. I also 'bluffed' Anthony with what was potentially and probably the best hand after flatting from small blind with two red jacks. The flop came Tc-4c-5h or something along those lines. He bet, I called. Turn was the Q of clubs. Checked to the river. The rive brought a 4th low club. With the Queen of clubs on the board, I really felt if Anthony had the A of clubs he would just have to barrel on this board on the turn. I would have very few combinations of flushes and not many off suit hands that could continue vs a turn barrel. So I elected to 'bluff' the river basically to stop him bluffing me. If he didn't have the A of clubs, it meant I could have AK/AQ/AJ with it. So it was going to be hard for him to call, but if I checked I felt I was getting bluffed a huge % of the time. He folded and would peak at almost 8 million chips. I WAS GOING TO WIN THE IRISH OPEN. How could I not. I ended up giving Antony some chips back with QQ on a 6-2-J-9-J board vs his AA. I felt I made a bad call in this hand, but at the same was thinking how lucky I was that I couldn't ever get it in here due to ICM and at many stages of the tournament this would have been the end for me.
Played seemed to drag on for an eternity. We just couldn't lose a player and apparently due things in place with the TV table, we would have to restart at 2pm. Nick was doing his up most with the people behind the scenes to come to their sense so that we wouldn't be dealing with 8 zombies in the morning. Eventually at 5.40am, Nick told us we would come back as 9 tomorrow, playing down to 8 before we were on the 'offical' final table. We were on the fucking final table. Whoever got 9th wasn't having that taking away from them in my opinion. The very last hand of the night, Griff opened under the gun and tripple barreled a KQQ-7-4 run out, putting Vamshi all on the river. Vamshi tanked for a few minutes before eventually finding the fold. I don't see a world in which this was a bluff by Griff. But you never know. We bagged up. I had a touch under 7 million chips, with Griff leading the way on 8 million and Antony in the middle of the 2 of us with 7.5. After that, the next biggest stack was Vamshi with 2.4 million going back to the big blind being 120,000 chips. I had my eyes set on first place firmly, but we were in great shape to get minimum of top 3 I realised as Nick done one final confirmation of every bodies chips. I had a quick chat with Andreas, who admittedly had a few pints on him, but he said he was going to ask for a swap earlier in the day, but he had 2.3m and I had 2.8m he thought it might be a bit cheeky. I probably would have went for it, having a little laugh with him but feeling good that a player who's had a lot more success than me, played with us all day and wanted to swap. A quick chat with the three Ste's, Malone, Woody and Warburton and I was out of there. With it being Sunday night/Monday morning there was a severe lack of taxi's 30 mins standing around was ended when a sound young chap let me get in the taxi that he rightly should have been getting. I got home at around 6.30am and set the alarm for noon. I struggle getting to sleep at the best of times, with the adrenaline crash when we got home, it was close to impossible to nod off.
After 3 hours sleep, I went about digging out my shamrock suit. I'm a man of my word and I was fully intent on continuing to enjoy this experience. Who knows if I'll ever be in a similar situation again. After my girlfriend Hannah cooked me a delicious breakfast for the third day in a row, I hoped in taxi with the intention of going to gather this trophy and a rake load of cash. The taxi man had an absolute nightmare, he got lost taking turns wrong galore. I'd left early enough that I wasn't worried and even though my patience got tested a little, I felt I was getting my bad beats out of the way early in the day. I was the first to arrive of the final tablist's (no idea if that's a word). The suit got a pretty good reaction, especially as I had tweeted in the taxi that I couldn't do it to my Mum, as the final table would be shown on national television the following week. I'm not sure if this is when the nerves were meant to hit me, but I felt completely calm and ready to win as soon as I sat down. I took down a pot early on, cracking a joke that nobody could take away from me, I'd won a pot on the officially final table - Griff was quick to snap back that it wasn't the official final table until they called your name. Little did I know sitting there with 60 big blinds, I wouldn't manage to win a single hand when the cards went up and we were down to 8. The last pot I would win would be when Vamshi opened the cut-off off 22 big blinds into myself, Chris and Michael. Having played with him the night before I was sure he'd be opening a little too wide into these stacks, so when I looked down at two black sevens I was all in. He folded pretty quickly and we scooped in chips for the final time in the Irish open. I knew Griff was going to make life difficult for me if he got the chance, so I avoided opening in spots where I thought he would have easy three bets. We played two pots on the unofficial final table, once I opened two eights under the gun, he called the cut-off. I checked a K-Q-4 board with a flush draw. He followed suit, the turn was a Jack. Didn't feel like a great spot to start putting chips in the pot, so when I checked and Griff bet I quickly folded my hand. The next one, I made a loose open with an offsuit Jack-Ten under the gun. Both of the blinds were quite short, around 15 blinds each which made it a toughish spot to put me in the cage. Griffin didn't get the memo and he put me in it and threw away the key. If I knew how things were going to play out, I of course would have played back here. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I felt I'd get a better spot and let it go. My plan again wasn't to play back at Griffin for the sake of it, but if I had a good hand to 4bet I would have done so. I felt he would be 3-betting a pretty polarized range, and even though I couldn't really 4-bet call much in this spot, he wasn't going to have many hands that would feel comfortable calling a huge 4-bet with. He wasn't going to be 3-betting me with pocket Tens or King-Queen suited. It would be nutted hands, and suited one and two gappers, off-suit broadways and maybe some suited aces. Was he going to be able to run over the table? For sure. Was he about to 5-bet all in vs my under the gun 4bet with Ace-five suited? I really didn't think so. Unfortunately I wouldn't get another spot. I called an all in versus Sameer's cut-off shove for about 8 big blinds. It was my A-9 against his T9 suited. This was it, knock out a player and keep the momentum going the right way. Sameer is an absolute gent, but I was firmly hoping to send him to the rail right now. He flopped a flush draw (I was screaming in my head, begging to hold), and rivered an offsuit Ten (fuck you poker gods). It was definitely a blow, one I felt I could recover from but not ideal. After a little while longer, Michael Fletcher lost a flip with his pocket nines versus our buddy Michael Conaty's King-Ten suited. This was it. The official final table.
Our names were called one by one, with mine being last as I was in seat 8. I asked the camera man should I do the 'Billy strut' yet again Conor McGregor inspired. He laughed saying that I wouldn't. All I was thinking was, look at my suit mate, of course I will. I've never practiced doing this, I just decided to go for it. Some people were more complimentary than others on the technique. But fuck it, maybe if I had of won it would have made the TV cut and McGregor would have loved it and he'd have come on the sesh with me to celebrate the wins. You never know. I was having a lot of fun on the table, my Dad was there. My Mum and Hannah were going to come up in the next hour or so. I'd asked them to try and relax if they did come up. The two of them lose their shit watching sports, so I actually was a little apprehensive about how excited they may get on the rail. I wasn't checking my tweets or messages at this point, but I was checking my phone to see of any hands of note had gone down. When we resumed a big pot went down with Michael and Griff. Michael went with a read and unfortunately ran into one of the hands Griff could call with. Some noted how awkward the man hug was I gave him as he left the table, but he was a genuine nice lad and I felt sorry for him blasting it off. I've fintPunted far too many tournaments with a live audience to not feel sympathy in that spot. We were down to 7 and another level passed without me getting to play a single hand. The only other time I had being this card dead in the tournament was for 3 levels straight on the end of day 1, the antes and blinds were a little more forgiving at that point though. We went on another break and Griff was in control of the final table now. I was sitting 3/7 with 4 million chips, with the big blind about to be 200,000 with a 30,000 ante. I still felt pretty calm, Griff was going to be opening so wide that I would surely get some super easy rejams on him. With how wide he was opening, I was was able to rejam insanely wide. Unfortunately the spot would never come. I was having a chat with Chris, he was joking about how we could basically swap positions if I was to double him up. After our chat, I felt Chris was going to be open shoving by far the widest of the players remaining. I'd also checked my phone and seen he'd rejammed K4o for 12 big blinds vs Griff's early position open. Some people were questioning this, but I'm pretty sure if you ran the numbers with how wide Griff is opening vs what he calls here vs a big blind re-shove it's probably fine. Nobody else was making that shove on the table vs Griffin either.
I folded for about another half level when I got dealt Queen-Jack off with Chris, Mihail, Griff and Antony to open into. I had 3.5 million chips at big blind 200k. I had 17bb and by far and away the best spot I'd been giving so far at the final table. I felt it was too much of a punt sitting 3/7 to open rip into the two chipleaders, so I was contemplating a raise fold. I just didn't know if everyone had got the information and knew that up until this point, I had being so tight due to the fact I had being dealt absolute dog shit. Or they thought maybe I had frozen up and was playing insanely tight on the final table. If there was no hole-cards I would have 100% opened in this. With Chris being trigger happy on my left and the two chipleaders, I eventually decided to pass. I also panicked that I usually act very quickly and now here I was tanking, maybe my stall could be picked up on by Griff as a genuine decision. Of course maybe I'm sitting there with TT-QQ, unsure if I should open rip or raise call. But it's hard to get them exact hands. If I could take any spot back it would definitely be this one. That's how stuck for spots we were. A few hands later, Chris would shove in first position. I was in the big blind with Ace-Ten off. I asked for a count and I've watched it back, Chris clearly says 2.3 million. I'm not sure what happened, I don't know if I misheard him or if I said in my head, that means 2.1 more million to call or maybe for the first time the final table got the better of me. I tanked for what felt like forever, but watching it back wasn't very long at all. I thought I was calling ten big blinds, with Chris shoving under the gun and in last position I felt he would be shoving this spot too wide. I felt he had every Ax hand, along with every pair and every broadway. Definitely 89 sooted and better. Maybe even 87. I made the called and Chris tabled AJ suited. Chris flopped a Jack and turned me dead. I was suddenly last in chips and I felt like I'd absolutely fucked it. Very next hand I got Ace-9 suited in vs Ace-Ten off against Antony. And that was that. I wanted the groud to swallow me up. I felt I'd let everybody down and absolutely fucked it.
The woman who wouldn't charge my phone the night before, came over to me to ask for an interview. I was clearly absolutely devastated and told my Dad I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I wasn't even aware this is what she did, however, I knew I'd zero choice but to do the interview or I'd look like a terrible loser. I did call her out on being rude the night before, and proceeded to recap what had just happened, sending my genuine best wishes to Chris, hoping he'd get the job done. I firstly wanted to keep the trophy in Ireland, but secondly I've only played with Chris a handful of times, he's always being a gent and he's good friends with a lot of my buddies. Unfortunately he would go onto get third and my second choice to lift the trophy in Griffim got the job done. Capping a pretty incredible 12 months for him poker wise.
I said my goodbyes and got out of the venue really quickly. If I had of taking a bad beat, I would have been able to hang around and have celebratory pints in this now silly feeling shamrock suit. However, giving the fact I'd committed ICM suicide, I couldn't handle the thought of everybody asking me how I bust for the next few hours. I watched the coverage of the final table on the way home, in the hand I folded the Queen-Jack in after a long think, Chris shoved Ten-Six off in the cut-off for almost ten big blinds. I felt a little bit better and more confident my read was right. Was it enough to make the call I did? Maybe not. But I'm not going to dwell on the past and beat myself up about it. We all make mistakes. I'd cashed for €20,000 and had a fucking fantastic time. JP and Nick deserve a lot of credit for making the whole festival so much fun. A few people expect me to want to play a lot more live poker now that I've tasted some success, I can't be 100%, but it's very unlikely to happen. One thing I know for 100%, if I'm in a position to do so, I will definitely be playing the Irish Open again next year. It was a pleasure.