Team Ireland Relishing Shot at IFMP World Title in Peru

Team Ireland Relishing Shot at IFMP World Title in Peru
© PA

As Joe Schmidt’s side continue to underwhelm at the Rugby World Cup, Ireland’s quest for a trophy in a team event on a global stage may be proving illusive in 2019, but all is not yet lost.

That’s because Team Ireland have booked themselves a ticket to a world final in December and it is in an official sport which few might consider as such – poker!

The International Federation of Match Poker, which was founded in Lausanne, Switzerland, in April 2009, is structured as an International Sports Federation and as such is recognized by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Securing provisional membership of the International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) in 2010, the goal of the IFMP is to promote the development of Match Poker worldwide and to secure its “recognition as a ‘mind sport’ based on strategic skill, played without any discrimination of race, sex and creed.”

The IFMP currently has 60 national member federations and its president, Patrick Nally, is often referred to as the “Founding Father of Sports Marketing”.

His impressive track record began in the 1970’s when he was instrumental in rewriting and restructuring the event format and commercial marketing rights of the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup.

What is Match Poker?

Match Poker is a non-gambling team sport incorporating regular Texas Hold’em and the competition format is as follows:

  • Teams are split onto different tables with one player from each team in each of the different seat positions.
  • All players start each hand with an equal number of chips and receive their cards on a digital device.
  • The same cards are dealt at all tables (hole cards and community cards). This means that every player in seat one (each from a different team) has identical cards. The same is true in every other seat.
  • This allows the best players and the best teams to be identified. Each team’s combined chips are compared after every hand and points allocated accordingly. Players reset their stacks and the next hand begins.
  • After a pre-determined number of hands the team with the most points wins. All action is recorded electronically, enabling real-time automated scoring, animated replay and detailed analysis.

And it is a format which has served the Irish players well. In 2017 the Irish team won the Nations Cup in Oxford, and they were runners-up when the event was staged again, in Ireland (akin to Eurovision, the winning country host the next event), during the spring of this year.

Last week the IFMP roadshow went to Ukraine where 13 teams were chasing a place in the world finals which will be staged in Lima, Peru, at the start of December.

Once again, the Irish team performed with distinction, quickly establishing their position within the top-3 nations and finishing second overall. Spain were the surprising winners, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Germany rounded out the top-6.


Team Spain celebrate their victory in Kiev. Pictures: IFMP

Silver a Bonus as Peru Was the Prize

“Naturally it was a case of ‘job done’ when we knew our team had booked their place to Peru. It was our primary objective and so the silver medal we collected was a real bonus,” Galway’s Fintan Gavin, who acts as team captain for the Irish squad, told

“There will be 15 or 16 teams at the world final. Asia will have a qualifier at the end of the month to decide which teams will represent that part of the world and, likewise, there is an ‘Americas’ qualifier in November.

“It’s rare in sport where you get an opportunity to be world champions and with the global popularity of poker along with the number of nations that have tried and failed to book a place in the IFMP world finals we feel honoured and excited to be part of the field.”

While only six players can compete at any one time, Gavin has pinpointed nine players he intends to take to Peru as part of his squad.