Patrick Clarke, an online qualifier who won his seat via a €4 “cheap seats” satellite, has bested a total field of 411 runners to win this year’s €2,000 + €250 Paddy Power Poker Irish Open Main Event and a total of €250,000. The €50,000 over the tournament’s top prize of €200,000 comes courtesy of the Paddy Power Sole Survivor competition, which, in true movie-script style, went all the way to heads up. Online qualifiers finishing 2nd-6th highest (including runner-up Dave Pollock) receive entry into next year’s Irish Open Main Event. In total, 47 places were paid, with cashes going to the likes of Gerard Harraghy, Chris Dowling, Dave Masters and the Voice of Poker Jesse May.
Today’s final table, the culmination of four long days’ struggle over the green baize (or similar low-friction material), was streamed cards-up with a half hour delay, as the largest chunks of the €822,000 total prize pool were awarded. Nine players made it through Day 3, or “bubble day” as unfortunate 48th place finisher Konstantinos Tsikopoulos probably considers it. All of them got their moment of Rocky-style glory (complete with theme song) as they made their way to the ring – an actual boxing ring set up in the middle of the tournament floor – but only eight are considered official Irish Open finalists.
It was short stacked Dutchman Antoine Smits, having entered into the spirit of the whole weekend with infectious enthusiasm, who missed out on this extra accolade, but picked up €13,350 for 9th. His pocket tens ran into the pocket queens of chip leader Patrick Clarke. With his exit the card-reading table came into its own and the pressure of a large online viewership seeing their every move was on the final eight.
The final table line-up:
Seat 1: PATRICK CLARKE* – 2.8 million – chip leader
Seat 2: BARRY DONOVAN* – 1.5 million
Seat 3: DAVE POLLOCK* – 1.55 million
Seat 4: LIAM CHEVALIER – 1.7 million
Seat 5: THOMAS O’SHEA – 1.3 million
Seat 6: OLIVER LYNCH – 1 million
Seat 7: JONATHAN LUNDY* – 850k
Seat 8: MICHAEL GILLIGAN* – 800k
Clarke at this point had a half-million chip lead on his nearest rival Liam Chevalier, but neither player featured prominently in the first level of the final. It was action-enjoyers Barry Donovan and Dave Pollock who were the stack-builders (or at least shifters) during this period. The latter doubled up Oliver Lynch in an unavoidable A-K vs. Q-Q pre-flop scuffle, but got his stack back a few hands later, calling Thomas O’Shea’s preflop three-bet all in with Ac-Th. Pollock outraced O’Shea’s pocket eights, and set O’Shea on the start of a roller-coaster that would eventually bump him from the tournament in 4th place.
First to bust from the official final was Jon Lundy, victim of a preflop cooler as he open shoved his A-K offsuit right into the aces of Patrick Clarke. Lundy took €19,250 for 8th and gamely returned to the ring for publicity photos after he’d taken the slow walk from the ropes to the cash desk.
Remember the O’Shea roller-coaster? It surged upwards as he doubled through Liam Chevalier – the first of three life-saving doubles he was to experience on the final table. Chevalier now reached his Day 4 chip nadir but was to put in a spirited performance yet, encouraged by his enthusiastic rail who expressed all of the excitement he calmly suppressed (on the surface at any rate).
In the same low-stacked boat as Chevalier was Michael Gilligan, who, without the blessings of the deck, picked spots to move in and pick up chips but never built a lead-challenging stack. Oliver Lynch completed the shoving triumvirate and duly took his turn with the others moving in preflop, but those predicting a short stack to exit in 7th were mistaken.
Donovan and Clarke hit a monster flop that saw the two biggest stacks collide, combine, and come to rest in the hands of Clarke. That flop: Jc-Tc-9c. Donovan with Ks-Kc bet the flop, Clarke raised and that was it – all in, call. Clarke held pocket tens for a flopped set, and the crucial 3h-4s turn and river saw Donovan exit in 7th for €26,500.
It was back to spot-picking shove mode for Gilligan with his ten big blinds; he was eventually picked off by Patrick Clarke, who called him with A-8 (Gilligan with Q-T of clubs). A fun flop didn’t pan out for the all-in player, and Gilligan exited in 6th for €38,500.
Pollock took a break by himself for the next six hands, perhaps to hunt down the beer with which he returned (he equally would have had time to enjoy his own €1,000 arm-wrestling side event like the one High Rollers Mark Buckley and Calvin Anderson staged yesterday). Action stayed flopless until the elimination of Oliver Lynch in 5th (€54,500) where we got all five board cards for the price of his tournament life. His A-K was outdrawn by the Js-Ts of O’Shea, who’d made a big preflop open and then given his three-bet jamming opponent a spin.
At this point the O’Shea chip elevator stopped rising and went all the way back to the lobby (10bb). Blind on blind vs. Liam Chevalier, he hit an enticing flop (and picked up a draw to go with his top pair on the turn) but it was Chevalier whose two pair stayed ahead after the chips flew in to boost his stack over the 4 million mark. Though O’Shea made a small comeback at the expense of Pollock, he was the next to be eliminated, raise-calling all in with Qc-9c. Clarke, holding Ah-Tc, held up to bust O’Shea who collected €73,800 for his efforts.
It took over 30 hands to eliminate the next player – Liam Chevalier – in 3rd place (€97,500), after a pair-vs-pair preflop four-bet confrontation. After a brief break for the regaining of composure, Clarke and Pollock returned to battle one on one, Clarke with more than a 2:1 chip lead.
It wasn’t one-way traffic Clarke’s way in the final stages. In fact, when he finally took out Pollock flopping a higher pair, handing him the €130,500 second place prize, he said in his winner’s interview that he was being “grinded back heads up” but that, unfazed by the cameras, he, “Just played the way I always play!”
The Irish Open was, as always, more than its Main Event, with side events running alongside buzzing cash games. It was a good weekend for Farrells, with Niall Farrell winning €14,410 along with the Irish Open Mini (a €200 side event mirroring the Main but with half hour blind levels) and Ian Farrell taking down the €800 side event. Players in all events, from the Omaha to the €150 Scalps event, ranged from the seasoned veteran to those participating in their first live tournaments, but all had in common a love of the game in general, and this game in particular.
The party moves from the boxing ring to the bar. To quote the champion, as he gave a thumbs-up on camera to the people back home, “I need to get a drink, quick.”