I had dinner in London last week with the lovely Maria, who dealt the first hand of poker I played in the Eccentrics Club, and the legend that is Mr Micky Moran. Micky has been at lots of Irish Opens over the years, with the likes of Tall Alan and Mick “The Clock”. If these guys sound like they belong in a Runyon short story it’s because they do. He’d have been at even more Opens if Her Majesty’s Government didn’t fall out with him every now and again over trifling matters such as VAT but that’s another story.
The conversation got around to the time the Irish Open took place in the Griffen Club. There was carnage. The English introduced us to Omaha. The Irish hadn’t a clue how to play but it was love at first sight. By Monday, we still hadn’t figured it out but couldn’t afford to quit. Micky was supposed to know how to play Omaha but was suffering with the rest of us. He had been tipping waitresses 25 quid every time he’d had a cup of tea over the weekend, so by Monday there was always at least one waitress near at hand. Much to their dismay, Micky had stopped drinking tea. Eventually, one of them cracked and asked him if he’d like a cup. “I’d love one” he said, “but I can’t afford it.”
This year’s Irish Open will kick off without Liam Flood who’s presumably joined Terry Rogers wherever he’s spending eternity, so there’ll be a few Flood stories told in the bar even if Liam wouldn’t approve of people enjoying a pint. My favourite relates to Liam’s career as a racetrack bookmaker. Liam told me his Dad once told him that today was today and forget about yesterday. Liam took it to heart and if he lost 15k one day and then won 1500 the next he’d be perfectly happy “And that” he told me, “is why I’m not a bookmaker any more!”
I think Liam’s favourite Liam story involves the time he was picked to represent Ireland in the Poker Nations Cup. The previous time wed played (without Liam) we’d finished third but had so many late nights the team was out on its feet by the end of the week. I accept the blame for most of it. This time, I was captain and it wasn’t going to happen again. Everyone was on the same page which in an Irish context is positively mind boggling. On the first morning, I was first down for breakfast. Liam arrived soon after and hadn’t even got the sugar on his Rice Krispies before he’d told me O’Leary and Smyth had been on the beer the night before. Poor Liam just couldn’t help himself! When I finally stopped laughing I told him not to worry Everything was cool. He didn’t look too convinced!
The next morning, when Liam arrived I told him confidentially we had a disciplinary issue in the Irish team. He absolutely loved it. You’d think I’d just told him he’d won the lottery. He couldn’t wait to ask who was in trouble. I told him it was him. The hotel manager was looking for Liam’s credit card details so that they could fine him 120 quid for smoking in his room!