Irish Open

[SS] “Do you guys know what the second oldest still-running Texas Hold ‘Em event is?” Stan the Stat teased.

[RR] “After the World Series of Poker?” Roderick the Rock surmised.

[SS] “Yep.”

[RR] “I have no idea.”

[LL] “Isn’t it the Irish Open?” Leroy the Lion offered. “A bunch of the Irish guys at the pub tournament talk about it occasionally.”

[SS] “Right you are. Irish bookmaker Terry Rogers was in Las Vegas on a business trip when the 1979 World Series of Poker was happening and befriended Irish American Benny Binion. The Red Menace, Rogers’ nickname on account of his flaming hair, had already been running charity tournaments with ‘Gentleman’ Liam Flood at their Eccentrics Club,1 so the following year they transformed the events into the Irish Open, usually held each year on Easter weekend.2 The event became the Paddy Poker Irish Open in 2005 but is now back to being just the Irish Open.”

[SS] “The Main Event of the 32nd3 Irish Open begins today, with a €2,000+250 entry fee and will run for four days to crown a champion to add to this winners’ list.”

Irish Open Champions4

Year Winner Prize5 Entrants Cashed6 Runner-Up
1980 Colette Doherty $22,000 36 ? ?
1981 Sean Kelly ? ? ? ?
1982 Frank Conway ? ? ? ?
1983 Jimmy Langan ? ? ? ?
1984 Tony Byrne $25,578 ~36 ? Liam Flood
1985 Irene Tier ? ? ? Frank Mifsud
1986 Bryan McCarthy ? ? ? ?
1987 Noel Furlong ? ? ? ?
1988 Jimmy Langan ? ? ? ?
1989 Noel Furlong ? ? ? ?
1990 Liam Flood $19,646 ? ? ?
1991 Colette Doherty ? ? ? ?
1992 Noel Furlong ? ? ? ?
1993 Christy Smith ? ? ? ?
1994 Mickey Finn $22,110 39 9 George McKeever
1996 Liam Flood ? ? ? ?
1999 Liam Barker $26,067 76 13 Jenny Hegarty
2000 Alan Betson $26,443 79 12 Julian Gardner
2001 Jenny Hegarty $31,922 92 8 Paul Cryan
2002 Nick Beirne $18,521 67 9 Allan Gallagher
2003 Joe Beevers $54,971 105 9 Frank Callaghan
2004 Ivan Donaghy $80,068 107 9 Robert McGuirk
2005 John Falconer $189,421 170 18 Alan Betson
2006 Vincent Melinn $423,647 339 36 Ian Woodley
2007 Marty Smyth $867,546 708 72 Roland De Wolfe
2008 Neil Channing $1,263,261 667 72 Donal Norton
2009 Christer Johansson $793,882 700 72 Kara Scott
2010 James Mitchell $809,094 708 72 Paul Carr
2011 Niall Smyth $790,580 615 64 Surinder Sunar
2012 Kevin Vandersmissen $553,316 502 54 Thomas Beer
2013 Ian Simpson $339,604 505 54 Michael Farrelly
2014 Patrick Clarke $276,380 411 47 Dave Pollock
2015 Ioannis Triantafyllakis $226,684 321 36 Kevin Killeen
2016 Daniel Wilson $167,920 802 95 Michael Conaty
2017 Griffin Benger $212,000 1,129 135 Michael Mazilu

[SS] “Some interesting factoids from the event:”

  • After Colette Doherty won the first Irish Open in 1980, Rogers convinced her to enter the World Series of Poker Main Event even though she didn’t know how to play Texas Hold ‘Em (the Irish Open was 5-card stud that first year). She was the first woman and the first European to play in the WSOP Main Event but didn’t survive the first day when Bob Hooks upended her full house with a bigger boat. In 2000, she finished 12th in the WSOP $1,000+60 Women’s Championship (Limit Hold’em/7 Card Stud).
  • Two other women have won the Irish Open: Irene Tier in 1985 and Jenny Hegarty, who became the event’s oldest winner as a 72-year old grandmother in 2001! She had previously finished 2nd in 1999 and 8th in 1994.
  • Jimmy Langan became the first two-time champion in 1988. Noel Furlong joined him the next year, Doherty in 1991, and Liam Flood in 1996.3
  • Noel Furlong became the only three-time champion in 1992 and conquered the WSOP Main Event seven years later (fellow Irishmen Padraig Parkinson [3rd] and George McKeever [7th] also did well). Furlong also finished 2nd in his first Irish Open in 1984, 3rd in 2002, and 32nd in 2011; he also finished 6th in the WSOP Main Event in 1989. Rogers is credited with teaching Furlong how to play poker.
  • Julian Gardner was runner-up at both the 2000 Irish Open and the 2002 WSOP Main Events.
  • Englishman Neil Channing won the biggest first prize in the Irish Open in 2008, when the entry fee peaked at 4,200€+300, as he survived a field of 667 players to take home the event’s only million-dollar prize of $1,263,261 (801,400€).
  • The largest field, however, was a tie between 2007 and 2010, with 708 players, just eight more than in 2009. The 2007 event set a record for the largest Hold ‘Em tournament in Europe.
  • While the majority of the champions have been Irish, there have been three Americans (Kelly, Byrne, and Beirne), five Englishmen (Beevers, Falconer, Channing, Mitchell, and Simpson), a Swede (Johansson), and a Belgian (Vandersmissen).
  • The entry fee has jumped around even more than the venue, including 500£ in 1994, 250I£ in 1999, 700+70€ in 2002, a peak of 4,200+300€ in 2008, and a drop down from 3,200+300€ to the current 2,000+250€ in 2013.
  • In 2012, Ian Simpson finished fourth. The following year, he made it to heads up before finishing off Michael Farrelly in a mere three hands. Simpson then proposed successfully to his girlfriend, Emma Rodham. Not what you usually mean when you say someone has a trophy wife.

[LL] “And not the usual ring game for a poker player.”

[RR] “Nor winning a hand.”

[SS] “Speaking of winning hands… Information is very scarce before 2007, but here are all of the winning hands since then:”

Irish Open Final Hands Since 20074

Year Winner Hand Value Runner-Up Hand Value Board
2007 Marty Smyth K♥9♥ Flush,
Ace King-high
Roland De Wolfe T♥3♥ Flush,
Ace Ten-high
2008 Neil Channing A♣9♥ Three Aces Donal Norton 5♠5♣ Two Pairs,
Aces and 5s
2009 Christer Johansson K♣3♥ Pair of Kings Kara Scott J♣9♥ Pair of Jacks J♦7♠K♦Q♠A♦
2010 James Mitchell A♥8♥ Full House,
8s over Jacks
Paul Carr Q♠5♦ Two Pairs,
Jacks and 8s
2011 Niall Smyth Q♣5♠ Two Pairs,
5s and 3s
Surinder Sunar A♣9♠ Pair of 3s T♥3♣3♦2♦5♥
2012 Kevin Vandersmissen 9♦7♣ Three 9s Thomas Beer A♣K♥ Pair of 9s 9♠4♥3♣8♦9♥
2013 Ian Simpson 4♦3♦ Flush,
Michael Farrelly 7♦4♠ Straight,
2014 Patrick Clarke K♦8♦ Pair of Kings Dave Pollock Q♠7♣ Pair of 7s K♠7♠2♥4♥J♥
2015 Ioannis Triantafyllakis Q♠T♦ Two Pairs,
Qs and 7s
Kevin Killeen A♠2♣ Pair of 7s 7♣4♣Q♦7♥3♥
2016 Daniel Wilson A♣K♣ Two Pairs,
Aces and 6s
Michael Conaty 9♥9♣ Two Pairs,
9s and 6s
2017 Griffin Benger K♥8♦ Two Pairs,
8s and 2s,
King kicker
Michael Mazilu T♣8♠ Two Pairs,
8s and 2s,
Ten kicker

[RR] “Was that the Kara Scott, from the poker shows on TV?”

[SS] “Indeed. She won over four hundred thousand dollars for the best result of her poker career.”


  1. The Irish Open stayed at the Eccentrics Club until 1996. After Rogers passed away in 1999, it moved to the Merrion Casino Club, which remained its home until 2005. The event then bounced around to Jury’s Ballsbridge Hotel in 2006, the Burlington Hotel in 2007, and Citywest Hotel in 2008 and 2009, before returning to the Burlington for good in 2010. The Burlington was renamed the Double Tree by Hilton in 2014. All of the sites have been in Dublin.
  2. The Irish Open’s Main Event has started on Good Friday, or the day before or after, every year that I know of except 2002, when it was held on June 1.
  3. The Irish Open wasn’t held in 1995, 1997, or 1998. Some sources give Charlie Power as the 1995 winner, but Hendon lists that event as the Real Irish Open on March 1, 1995, a small-buyin event (just 50£) with only a 2,500£ first prize (furthermore, Good Friday wasn’t until April 14 in 1995). Other sources say Mickey Finn won his second title in 1998, but with no details like first prize, field size, or his heads-up opponent; Liam Flood himself said there was no event in 1998. That makes this the 32nd event, not the 33rd.
  4. 2014 winners and final hands added on April 26, 2014. 2015 winners and final hands added on April 8, 2015. 2016 winners and final hands added on May 13, 2016. With the entry fee lowered to 1,025+125€, the number of entries jumped from 321 to a record 802. 2017 winners and final hands added on April 4, 2017.
  5. All prizes are given in approximate dollar equivalents. Actual prizes were in pounds until 1994 or 1996, in Irish pounds until 2001, and in euros since.
  6. The number of players who cashed is higher than usual from 1994 to 2002 because the tournament allowed one or two rebuys in those years (e.g., there were 11 rebuys in 2000 and 22 in 2001).

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