European Deepstack 2024: The Best of the Best in Irish Poker

A first win

Back in early 2008 I walked into a card club in Drogheda for the first ever European Deepstack wearing a suit and sunglasses. I had been playing poker for less than a year and this was my first big multi-day tournament. If I’m honest, I hadn’t much of a clue what I was doing. All my online play up to that point was limit cash: not exactly ideal preparation for a no limit Hold’em tournament where we started 1,000 big blinds deep.

It’s a bit of an understatement to say I ran well, as five days later I was holding a novelty cheque and being crowned European Deepstack champion. It was my first tournament win, my first Hendon mob, and I wrote my first ever poker blog about it.

the winner’s list has been a veritable who’s who of top Irish players

Since then, the winner’s list has been a veritable who’s who of top Irish players: Jason Tompkins announced himself on the scene by chopping it the following year with Francis “Wally” McCormack, and other winners down the years have included Cathal Shine, Patrick Clarke, Stephen Kehoe, and last year’s winner Tommy “Luckymo” Geleziunas.

I made a reasonable attempt at defending the title the following year with another deep run that ended just short of the final table. The following year I final tabled it again. As my career progressed to the point where I was playing European Poker Tours (EPT) (or more to the point making most of my money online from grinding satellites) I wasn’t able to play the event as it generally clashed with EPT Deauville. It was only when that event disappeared and Unibet started sponsoring the Deepstack that I returned to it.

Seniors growth

In recent years, GG Poker has taken over the sponsorship and the event has been expanded into the Dublin Poker Festival that kicks off with the Amateur Championship of Poker (ACOP) and also includes the Irish Seniors championship. The former is a very well structured 300 buyin event, while the latter is the best structured seniors event I’ve played outside of Vegas.

While numbers across the festival were down in general this year, by roughly 13%, the Seniors was the one event that bucked this trend, growing to a record 253 entrants. I’ve been banging the drum for years complaining that the poker industry is missing a trick chasing other demographics more vigorously than seniors, so it’s particularly heartening to see the organizers rewarded for their efforts putting on such a well structured event.

My campaign

I went into the 2024 edition of the festival in good form after a very good start to the year at the live felt that has propelled me (temporarily at least) to the top of the Irish GPI Player of the Year rankings (and Irish Mid Stakes Major rankings). I was determined to grind hard and play as many events as possible, and it went very well overall. I cashed both ACOP and the Seniors, and several side events, one of which I chopped three ways.

Day 1 was a real struggle early on at a very tough table

I therefore went into the European Deepstack Main Event confident. Day 1 was a real struggle early on at a very tough table that featured the defending champion, Des O’Leary, who came third in the ACOP, and Marc McDonnell. That table eventually broke, but my new table wasn’t exactly plain sailing as I found myself wedged between Bill Chen (who bagged up the chip lead with slightly more than Des who put in another formidable Day 1 performance), Chris Dowling, and newly crowned Irish Seniors champion Joe O’Neill.

I went back to the last session of play with less than a quarter of my starting stack remaining not very optimistic about surviving, already pretty much resigned I’d be back the following day to fire another bullet. Fortunately, I caught some heat and spun up to double starting stack, which felt like an acceptable reward for keeping my discipline for eight hours when nothing was working and I was just drifting down.

Day 2

Day 2 was very swingy for me in the early stages as I oscillated between 80k and 300k several times. At least I was in good company with my good friend John Farrell to my immediate left. John Is always good for morale and banter.

I found myself super short on the bubble, and at the break on the bubble my answer to the habitual question “How much you got?” (“Starting stack….and I’m in the big blind next hand so have to post half of it”) drew more laughs than sympathy. A few kinder souls pointed out that it was in this venue where the star of the forthcoming BBC documentary Niall “Firaldo” Farrell quipped that I was the master of short stack play and could “paint the Sistine chapel with two big blinds.”

I do pride myself on both my technical understanding of short stack play in ICM extreme situations, and having the discipline to just hang in there grimly for long periods when many succumb to the temptation to just flick them in and end the misery one way or another. I generally back myself to navigate fumes through a bubble no matter how long it might last, as I did on the marathon almost-four-hour-long bubble that drew the Sistine chapel quip from Firaldo.

I had some big hands cracked, but I survived to fight another day

This was a very different bubble, in that it didn’t last very long, and I doubled up a few times to emerge with a healthy stack. This dwindled late in the day when I had some big hands cracked, but I survived to fight another day.

Day 3

I came back shortest of the 15 survivors for the last day and was card dead throughout the first session which saw my stack dwindle further, much to the amusement of Andy Black who popped over regularly to make sure “you still have less than ten big blinds and aren’t getting ideas above your station.” We did lose five players in that session, so we came back on the final table bubble, which I wasn’t exactly a favorite to make with just three big blinds and under the gun. We could have already been on the final table several times: Carl Cullen needed and caught a two outer to chop and stay alive, and the other shorties kept doubling when they got all in.

I doubled first hand with QJ Suited against Carl’s priced in J7.  Then I picked up KQ in the big blind next hand and an aggressive Davide Raschella opened the button. One shove and a call later I was a little disappointed to find myself in a flip, and then a lot disappointed not to win and be right back in the mix. But it wasn’t to be so I bust in tenth.

A while back I was very surprised that a gentleman who had been exceptionally friendly to me at the table made a series of what looked like spite calls every time I shoved. When I eventually bust to one of them, he explained he kept calling because he wanted a mention in my blog. Since that day my stated policy is never to mention the name of the person I bust to, as I don’t need to be incentivizing people to bust me any more than they are already. It would however be churlish to omit David’s given he not only went on to come third in the event, but he was following up a second place finish in the ACOP.

And still the champion… LuckyLuckyMoMo

In one of the greatest achievements of all time in Irish poker, last year’s champion Tommy “LuckyMo” Geleziunas successfully defended his title, becoming the first two time winner. Shoutout too to the ever consistent Carl Cullen who he defeated headsup.

My star student Ray Wheatley returned to the felt after a period away with a vengeance. After he took down the 300 side event, he told me he’d rather die than play live again before the Irish Open. So imagine my surprise just five minutes later when I’d see him late regging the 290 side. A few hours later he is headsup going for a rather unique double. It wasn’t to be on this occasion, but it was an incredible and well deserved performance from the Wicklow man who takes the game more seriously and works harder than many pros I know. Ray recently went back on the meat after six years of vegetarianism and we had good fun jokingly ascribing his results to this, with Conal Prendergast dubbing him Ray Meatley, and his run a meater.

Numbers down

As mentioned already, numbers were down significantly across the board with the exception of the Seniors. With live poker generally booming, I was a little sad to see one of my favourite events of the year decline. Some pointed to the decision to reduce the click on Day 1 to thirty minutes, but this remains one of the best structured events on the calendar. Others expressed surprise that the switch to much bigger sponsors led to a decline rather than an increase in numbers, but while the self proclaimed biggest online poker site in the world is genuinely thriving on the virtual felt, its ground game when it comes to live events is still lagging behind most competitors.

The decision to move the tournamnet a week nearer to the Irish Open and into the same month (and same pay cheque) may have been a mistake, and it is likely some players decided to keep their money for this week’s 100 for 100 Irish Poker Tour Paddy’s Day event. The lack of a livestream also makes the event feel a little less prestigious. That said, I know live streams are expensive, and therefore not feasible for modest buyin events like this one, unless the sponsor is willing to foot the bill (as Unibet did in the past).

I would be very sad to see an event that has such a special place in my heart decline further

Hopefully, this year’s drop in numbers is a blip rather than a trend, as I would be very sad to see an event that has such a special place in my heart decline further.

Oh Ramona

Whole numbers may have been down, but the standards of dealing and floor staff were as high as ever. Like most events they withhold part of the buyins for dealers, but I still always tip on top to recognize the top notch staff across the board, from the three World Series of Poker trained Americans Shawn, Brandon, and Jenna who travel over for the event, to the top class dealers both local, local based, and international.

I personally would pay extra to have my favourite dealer Ramona deal every table I am on. The Irish-based Latvian is Tournament Director for the Irish Poker Tour (the best thing about busting IPT events is that she always expresses genuine sympathy), and is generally the dealer chosen to deal the biggest final tables like the Irish Open. Not only is she world class at her job (there’s never any doubt who the action is on when she’s dealing, and she maintains a serious but friendly atmosphere at the table, cutting off any likely issues that might arise), but she’s also one of the funniest people I know in the poker world, with the driest wit delivered with Baltic deadpan to make it even funnier.

This weekend I was in seat 2. The player between us was on his phone as she started to deal. She caught his gaze and said:

“Stop texting Dara.”

When he expressed confusion (for the record he obviously wasn’t texting me, it was the set up line for a joke) she explained:

“Every table is the same. People on their phone, and when I look they’re texting Dara a hand looking for coaching.”

In a time when some powerful forces are trying to stir up xenophobia with nonsense narratives, I think it’s important to acknowledge how much richer not just the Irish poker scene is but the economy and culture in general for the infusion of smart hard working people like Ramona and her husband Martin.

The post European Deepstack 2024: The Best of the Best in Irish Poker appeared first on Vegas Slots Online News.

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