Five of the Best Ever Irish Poker Players
For a small island, Ireland has a lot to offer when it comes to the story of poker. After all, it was the Irish who were credited with bringing poker to Europe.
Ireland has had card clubs since the 1970s as well as poker festivals in hotels, pubs and even purpose-built tents ever since.
The Emerald Isle is also home to the world famous Irish Open, the longest running poker festival in Europe. It’s also the second longest running poker festival in the world after the World Series of Poker.
Along the way, Ireland has also produced a lot of very fine poker players too. Bracelet winners, TV tournament winners, sponsored pros, commentators, columnists and plenty of big online winners as well.
Below, we take a look at some of the top poker players Ireland has given us over the years.
Most famous for almost winning the 2005 World Series of Poker main event, Black held over one third of the chips in play at the final table before ultimately finishing in fifth place. But it was this near-miss, broadcast to a massive poker audience on ESPN, that launched Andy Black’s poker career.
A coveted sponsorship deal quickly followed for the Belfast native and with it came the opportunity to travel the globe and play at the world’s most prestigious poker tournaments.
Since then, Black has become Ireland’s most successful poker player having amassed nearly $5,000,000 in tournament earnings.
A victory in the star-studded made-for-TV Premier League Poker tournament in 2008 earned Black $250,000 and the most significant title of his career.
Other titles won include the Amateur Championship of Poker (ACOP), as well as a victory at a pot limit Omaha event at the Irish Open.
Interestingly, Black is also known as the Monk, having spent five years in a Buddhist environment.
Marty Smyth currently sits in second place when it comes to lifetime earnings at poker tournaments by Irish players and it’s no surprise with some of the big titles he’s won during his career.
Winner of the Poker Million, the Irish Open, a World Series of Poker championship bracelet and a World Open title, he’s had a poker career that nobody in Ireland could eclipse.
With nearly $4 million in lifetime earnings, Smyth has amassed a lot of money from a relatively small number of tournament cashes. When his successes came, they came big and nobody in Ireland can boast as many six-figure plus wins as Marty Smyth can.
A keen sports bettor, Smyth hasn’t played as much poker in recent years but this quiet spoken man from Belfast is somebody you don’t take lightly when he sits down at a poker table and he has the bulging trophy cabinet to prove it.
One of the most famous poker players from Ireland, Donnacha O’Dea is a World Series of Poker bracelet winning player from Dublin.
Having swam for Ireland at the 1968 Olympics, O’Dea is no stranger to competitive action. He became the first Irishman to swim 100 meters in under a minute. He’s also the son of successful stage and screen actress Siobhán McKenna.
On the felt, O’Dea is most famous for beating Johnny Chan heads-up to win a pot limit Omaha bracelet at the 1998 World Series of Poker. He’s also come close to winning the main event too, having finished sixth in 1983 and ninth in 1991.
In 2004, O’Dea won a staging of the Poker Million, a hugely popular TV poker tournament shown on Sky Sports. One of only nine winners of the tournament, he earned $350,000 for his first-place finish.
No conversation of top Irish poker talent would be complete without also mentioning Donnacha O’Dea’s son, Eoghan O’Dea.
He also made the final table of the World Series of Poker main event just like his dad, but much more recently, with his appearance in 2011. This in turn made Eoghan and Donnacha the first father and son duo to make a WSOP main event final table.
Making the November nine was a far tougher task in 2011 too with nearly 7,000 entrants that year. His ultimate sixth place finish netted him over $1.7 million in prize money.
With no shortage of poker wisdom to lean on from an early age, it’s no surprise to see Eoghan O’Dea become the sensational Irish player that he is. He has actually surpassed his father’s lifetime poker earnings now too and sits in third place all-time in Ireland with over $3 million in lifetime earnings.
More recently, Eoghan beat out 2,000 players to win a WSOP online bracelet event in August 2020 along with over $100,000 in prize money.
Dara O'Kearney’s first ever recorded cash was actually a victory at the 2008 European Deepstack Poker Championship along with €47,000 in prize money. Since that cash, O’Kearney has gone on to cash nearly 200 times at tournaments around the world as well as earning over $1,000,000 in prize money.
He’s also had a stellar online poker career where his earnings have now surpassed $3.5 million.
An ultra marathon runner, O’Kearney has won significant titles in the world of athletics too including a 2006 victory at the New York Road Runners 60K.
Having started off writing a poker blog, O’Kearney has since become a published author on the subject of poker. His books include a focus on satellite tournaments as well as progressive knockouts.
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