Irish Poker Open 2019 On Course To Be A Record Breaker

Irish Poker Open 2019 On Course To Be A Record Breaker
© PA

The Irish Poker Open is the longest running No Limit Texas Hold’em poker tournament in Europe and second longest in the world after the World Series of Poker.

Down the years it has had more cosmetic changes than Rodrigo Alves. Growing too big for the Merrion Casino is has been staged at a number of plush central Dublin hotels, finally finding an enduring home at the Citywest Hotel and Golf complex on the outskirts of the city.

2006 was a key year with the competition, held in Jury’s Hotel, having a field cap of 350 players all paying €3,200 entry and benefitting from an added €50,000 in the €1 million guaranteed prize-pool.


The final table, staged at the nearby Royal Dublin Society arena, was broadcast live on both Sky Sports and the Irish state broadcaster RTE; ground-breaking stuff at the time.

Two years later 667 players stumped up a €4,500 entry fee seeking their share of a €3,000,000 guaranteed prize-pool. But as recession hit hard entry fees were lessened in order to keep field sizes healthy.

By 2013 the entry fee was halved (€2,250) and the field size was 505. Almost 100 fewer players took part in 2014. A foolhardy hike back up in entry fee (to €3,500) saw a further dip with 321entries in 2015.

Thankfully common sense prevailed in 2016 with 802 players affording a new entry fee of €1,150. This price tag remained in 2017 when a whopping 1,129 players took part and that was bettered 12 months ago when 1,340 entrants, from 68 countries, generated a prize-pool of €1.34 million.

Clearly a sensible common-denominator has been reached and this year’s Irish Open, which will start on April 17th with its €1,150 entry, could be the biggest ever in terms of participants.

History Lesson

It’s all a million miles from the competition’s humble beginnings which date back to 1980 when larger than life bookmaker Terry Rogers first staged the Irish Open as a No Limit Hold’em competition, a poker variant he saw for the first time in Las Vegas a year beforehand.

Colette Doherty, who still plays poker in Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Casino today, was the inaugural winner. She went on to contest that year’s World Series of Poker main event making her the first woman to play in poker’s Holy Grail. Doherty would win the Irish Open for a second time, in 1991.

Liam Flood, who directed the Irish Open for a number of years, also won the competition twice – in 1990 and 1996 – as did one of the tournament’s most noteworthy winners, Noel Furlong, who landed the 1999 World Series main event.

2019 Plans

JP McCann, one of the 2019 Irish Poker Open co-directors is more than hopeful last year’s record entry can be bettered.

“We are aiming for 1,500 players this year, that’s our target and I think we will be close to it,” he told

McCann’s optimism is buoyed by support from a number of online poker operators and online bookmakers who feature poker rooms.

“PartyPoker are amongst our sponsors and they are giving us terrific support guaranteeing 20 tickets per-week for ten weeks via online satellites and there should be a number of players who use their PartyPoker Live Dollars [loyalty points] to buy-in to the tournament directly.

“Paddy Power, former headline sponsor of the Irish Open, and Betfair Poker are also running weekly satellites as is the iPoker Network, their satellite prizes are full packages.

“Ultimately over a third of our total entry are likely to be playing for a share of the Irish Open’s €1 million guaranteed prize-pool after qualifying cheaply online.”

Irish Open Format

The Irish Open is the showpiece event of 28 individual tournaments over eight days of action. Eleven of these have been given ‘Championship’ status.

Three tournaments do have restricted entry: The Seniors, Ladies and the America’s Cup. The latter is a relatively new initiative, a competition that is exclusive to players from North, South and Central America.

Explaining how this tournament came about, McCann said: “In 2017 Griffin Benger won the Irish Open, he was one of just six visiting Canadian players.

“His success clearly struck a real interest in the competition as we had around 100 Canadian’s take part last year.

“With such numbers and growing interest from the rest of America we came up with this competition.

This year it will have added meaning as half of the registration fees and all of the staff tips are going to a foundation set up in memory of Gavin Smith, the renowned Canadian pro who passed away at the start of January.

“He was a very popular character who won some of poker’s biggest tournaments and its tragic he has left behind two young children.”