The €500,000 guaranteed partypoker LIVE Grand Prix Irish Open was a huge success. Over thirteen separate start days, with seven played at the welcoming Citywest Hotel, four online, and even a couple in Cork and Galway, a fantastic event was played out in a cracking atmosphere that will live long in the memory for all those involved.
Day 1A at the Citywest on Wednesday attracted 64 players, and it was Brendan Byrne who topped 16 survivors at close of play, bagging up 975,000 chips. Dean Dempsey was the first man to take advantage of the last level being set at exactly ten hands on each table rather than 20 minutes, working out exactly how much he would have to pay in blinds and antes and securing his spot in Day 2 (and locking up a €400 min-cash!) with just a single 5,000 chip in front of him at the end of the day. To put that in perspective, the blinds finished at 8,000/16,000. He wouldn’t be the last, as a number of micro-stacks clung on to make Day 2 throughout the week and secure some cash for their efforts.
Later that day, Day 1B was a slightly larger affair, with 80 entrants getting involved in the fun. It was Daragh Mooney who came through with the most chips, with 1,200,000. Thursday’s Day 1C was larger still, attracting 84 players to the felt. Samuel Baneham put on a clinic in aggressive poker, keeping himself near the top of the counts throughout the day and finishing on top with 1,190,000 to lead 17 more players into Day 2.
Day 1D saw 87 players enter, with 21 of them booking their places back at the Citywest on Saturday for Day 2. Gerry McArdle took through 1,090,000 to finish as Day 1D chip leader. On Friday, the tournament really cranked up a notch, with a massive field of 199 players entering the fray in Day 1E. Martin Duffy led the 51 survivors, bagging up 890,000.
Day 1F, later that Friday, saw by far the biggest opening flight of the tournament, with 321 entrants firing their €220 bullets into the mix. Martin Olali took the overall chip lead in the tournament with a virtuoso display to finish with a massive stack of 1,780,000 chips in front of him. Including Olali, 75 players made it through the eighteen 20-minute levels to advance to Day 2.
The very last opening flight took place on Saturday morning at the, in poker terms, ridiculously early hour of 10:00. A last chance for players to book a place in Day 2, the turbo event saw a further 159 entrants take to the felt, with 50 of them sticking around long enough to progress to Day 2 later on the Saturday. Marc Shepherd led the Day 1G survivors with just under a million in chips at close of play.
In the four online opening flights, 641 entrants in total ponied up the €220 required for a seat at the virtual felt. The number making it to Day 2 was 134, but a few of them did so twice thanks to the unique format of the Grand Prix, which allowed players to advance from multiple Day 1s, taking their biggest stack through. In the end, 121 online players came back for Day 2. A small number of qualifiers from Day 1s held in Galway and Cork also turned up for Day 2, adding to the jamboree feel of the event when the various Day 1 survivors combined.
And so it came to pass that a grand total of 405 players secured pay days of at least €400 by making it through the various opening flights, but with no-shows and some players making it through with multiple stacks, 361 came back to battle it out on Day 2 to fight for the €61,750 up top.
The venue of the tournament was excellent, really lending itself to staging large-field tournament poker. The cavernous Citywest suite was an impressive sight, with tables as far as the eye could see, and the atmosphere in the tournament room was one of giddy excitement all week. A well-stocked bar kept players fed and watered, and the shuffleboard tables in the lobby proved very popular. Big screens showing the rugby also went down well, as a big crowd watched Ireland sweep away the Scots before the serious business of Day 2 got under way on Saturday.
Day 2 was played at a ferocious pace, with the high-octane poker hardly letting up for a second throughout the day. Due to the unique tournament format, the field was peppered with short stacks who wasted no time in attempting to double up or go home. More than a third of the Day 2 field busted within the first hour, with cries of ‘Seat Open!’ filling the air constantly throughout the day as the field was thinned further and further. Among those securing cashes was Team partypoker Ambassador Padraig Parkinson, who eventually fell in 99th.
After another epic and explosively entertaining day of poker, 19 players survived the carnage to advance to Day 3. Leading them was Christopher Canning, who bagged up 20,320,000, while partypoker LIVE regular Luis Schneider sat in second place. The Brazilian-German came into the tournament fresh from final tabling back-to-back partypokerLIVE Grand Prix Mini events in Dublin and Athlone, and looked good for another very deep run.
On Day 3, it didn’t take long for a final table to be reached, with the average stack hovering at around 25 big blinds for much of the day. Schneider fell first on Day 3, before the official final table lineup was set when Tomas Galkus busted in 9th.
Shaun Hegarty was the first to be eliminated by Martin Burke, who was the chip leader for most of the final table, and Burke seemed almost unstoppable as he went on to bust Mantas Misevicius in 7th (€8,000). Cristopher Canning went in 6th (€10,000) before Kevin O’Malley hit the rail in 5th for €12,000, though O’Malley did win a €2,000 package to a partypoker LIVE event of his choice, after making the final table with a golden chip for being one of the first 50 players to advance through an online Day 1.
With four players left, the stacks tightened and the pace of play slowed right down, despite the dizzying blind levels. A four handed-deal was made, with the winner set to take home €43,550, with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed finishers earning €30,500. With a deal made, Robert Finlay quickly fell in 4th before Burke was eliminated in 3rd. The heads up battle between Laurence O’Kane and Mick Graydon was brief, before O’Kane finally finished Graydon off, calling his opponent’s shove with and holding against Graydon’s through the runout.
So it was Laurence O’Kane who won the €500,000 guaranteed partypoker LIVE Grand Prix at the Irish Open for €43,550, after seeing off a mammoth field of 1,712. It was quite some return on the €220 entry for a gentleman who said he only plays poker “as a hobby, just for fun!”
Despite securing the Grand Prix title and the huge silver trophy, O’Kane will remain a self-confessed enthusiastic poker amateur, and said that he would be at a meeting at one of his construction companies at 10am on Monday. He credited his victory to his careful style of play- saying of his opponents: "I play tight – but I know that they play loose!"
The Grand Prix Irish Open will be remembered not only for the entertaining poker on show, not just for having a deserving winner, not simply for the cracking venue; but most importantly, for being played in an excellent, cheerful spirit, with a fun and relaxed atmosphere throughout the week. It was a pleasure to be there. We can’t wait for the next one!
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- Rich Salt