Full house expected as Poker Open pot hits €4m

THE RICHEST sporting event of 2008 in Ireland will play out this weekend. But instead of golf clubs or rugby gear it is more likely to involve stetson-wearing, cigar-chomping, coffee-swigging men and women who pride themselves on never breaking a sweat while “playing”.

Originally started in 1980 by bookmaker Terry Rogers to fill the social gap left by the closure of pubs on Good Friday, sponsorship of the Irish Poker Open has since been taken over by Paddy Power and this year prize money of up to €4 million will be on offer over the course of the bank holiday weekend.

A record total of about 900 punters are expected to shoehorn themselves into the Citywest Hotel in Dublin for the Paddy Power Irish Poker Open. Some are paying €4,500 for the privilege of taking part, others have won their way through via various satellite tournaments and online qualifiers.

Rarely does an event have two opening days but the numbers taking part in this have deemed it necessary to start half the players yesterday and the rest today.

Tomorrow, or “moving day” as a lot of the big guns will put it, will be the second for those left in play while pokeristas still standing (or sitting) by Monday evening’s climax will have battled through dozens of hours of deals.

The pot has been guaranteed at €3m by Paddy Power bookmakers and 715 participants would have been necessary to make up the prize money, but with up to 900 on the tables, the figure is likely to climb as high as €4m. That is up significantly from last year’s €2.3m fund.

The winner will go home with about €1m in cash.

The legend, within the poker circuit at any rate, that is Doyle Brunson from Texas will be one of the star attractions when the TV cameras come out tomorrow, in all his stetsoned and cowboy-booted glory.

One of the biggest names on the Las Vegas poker scene, Brunson is making his first visit to Ireland in about 20 years.

Former Irish international turned professional gambler Tony Cascarino is another to take his place among the tables, as is retired Leinster and Ireland rugby prop Reggie Corrigan.

Others taking part include legendary gambler — and former world poker champion — Noel Furlong as well as Pádraig Parkinson, Andy Black and Donnchadh O’Dea from the Irish poker schools.

Defending champion Marty Smyth from Belfast has returned to try and retain his crown, while Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott will be familiar to viewers of TV’s Late Night Poker.

The Hendon Mob, also familiar to poker-watchers, have also travelled across the Irish Sea, including one of the pre-tournament favourites Ram Vaswani.

Unusually for a poker tournament, highlights of the Irish Open will be broadcast as it happens, rather than months later as is normally the case.

* www.irishpokeropen.com

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