From the WSOP to the Irish Open…the legendary Hall of Famers who have graced both

I walked in the door of Binions Horseshoe Casino in Downtown Las Vegas with Scott Gray for the first time almost twenty four years ago. It changed my life.

The romance of the WSOP

To our left, an irate gentleman was telling the receptionist to call Jack to sort out a mix-up over his reservation. Scott told me the guy was the legend that is Doyle Brunson. Jesus! Jack was Jack Binion, a guy who had the rare ability to both have a vision and make it happen.

To our right was the poker area. Where Doyle, Stuey, Treetop and the lads became immortal. Where poker was way more than just a game. I bought into the whole romance of the thing straight away. They had me! I didn’t miss a single day of the WSOP for the next twenty years.

Scott and I were operating off a ropey bankroll, so we kept it in action 24/7. He played the day shift (10/25 PLO) and I played the graveyard. I never had so much fun in all my life. In the middle of it, I played the $1500 PLO bracelet event. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. It ended in tears four tables out, but what a buzz!

The Circuit brings the WSOP experience to the masses

I can remember Mike Sexton once saying every poker player should visit the WSOP at least once. Of course, he’s right. But it’s not always possible. A lot of good UK and European players have responsibilities that mean they can’t justify the expense or the vacation time to chase their dream in Vegas. Now, they don’t have to. In April the WSOP is coming to Dusk Till Dawn. With £1,000,000 gteed for a £1,100 buyin and satellites on partypoker and in DTD itself, everyone can get the WSOP experience without getting their feet wet. Fantastic!

On my first trip to Vegas, Scott introduced me to a guy called Dan Harrington who’d just won a marathon $2,500 event to win his first bracelet. He was complaining that Binions wouldn’t allow him to carry forward a main event seat he’d won till the following year as he was exhausted. Lucky for him. 5 days later he was World Champion. A guy called Mike Sexton, whom I was to meet and become good friends with the following year, also cashed. Again.

The magic of the Irish Open reaches far and wide

A few of the guys mentioned above were to add to the legend of Europe’s oldest NLH tournament, the Irish Open. Doyle arrived in Dublin one year with Todd and Max Pescatori, who got my admiration for turning up late for a WSOP final table because Italy were playing in the World Cup final (They won. So did Max). Doyle was fantastic and incredibly patient with his fans. He and I were wheeled out by the sponsors to meet the press. Doyle did all the talking. I had a ringside seat. It was great. A few years earlier, I had knocked Doyle out of the WSOP main event. It was no big deal. I had overheard Doyle complaining that he’d got his dates mixed up and that his college basketball pals were having a reunion that night in Vegas. He knocked himself out almost on purpose. During a break that day in Dublin, he told me what I already knew. That he wasn’t trying when I knocked him out. I was very impressed. What a competitor!

Mike has been a great supporter of and ambassador for Irish poker since the nineties. He loves the craic and the Irish swashbuckling style of play. I don’t think he’s done with us yet!

One year, the sponsors asked me to invite Dan to Dublin for the Open. He didn’t take a lot of persuading. He also came back four or five times for the craic. He loved it! One day, I asked him to join Jesse May and I in the commentary booth for half an hour. He did. And stayed all day. And then asked “What time tomorrow?”

It’s Hall of Famers like this who’ve helped to make the Irish Open great. I don’t know who’s coming this year. But I am for sure. And you can too by winning one of the 20 satellite seats that are guaranteed every Sunday on partypoker between now and Easter. See you there!

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