It was 5 a.m. We were playing the final table of the Fitzwilliam end of month tournament. Someone was talking about Peter Campbell who had died and was to be buried that morning. In the middle of this, I got dealt pocket fives. In Peter’s Skerries poker game in Joe May’s bar, two fives are called The Campbells. I often thought of asking Peter why this was his signature hand but never did. Just in case he decided to tell me. After I’d raised a guy asked if I’d call a shove. You’d better believe I would. I couldn’t face Peter when I join him in the big game in the sky and tell him I folded The Campbells on the day Irish poker said goodbye to one of the good guys.
And he was one of the good guys. I barely knew him until I moved back to Dublin a couple of years ago. I somehow had involved myself in the partypoker project to bring the Grand Prix tour to the Irish grassroots and Peter liked the idea. When Peter liked something, he liked talking about it. On the phone. Forever. I was one of the many Irish players on Peter’s list. Everyone moaned about how long he would bang on about nothing. Everyone answered the phone when he rang. Funniest conversation I had on the topic was with one of the dealers at Peter’s charity event last Christmas. He told me he loved Peter, but admitted that on more than one occasion whilst more than an hour into a conversation with him he had rung his own doorbell to get off the hook. I understood. But Peter didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk and played GP tournaments all over the country, bringing lots of players with him.
Peter was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and after fighting the good fight was given the all clear later that year. He organised a fundraiser just after Christmas that year in Skerries for the Irish Cancer Society, which turned into the best fun of the year. The craic in the bar was unreal. In the middle of it all, Barny Gribben seemed determined to drink his own body weight in Hophouse 13. He may well have succeeded. With the notable and rather surprising exception of myself, the players from the bar didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory in the tournament, but in fairness livened up the cash game quite considerably.
In the middle of it all, there was a bit of a panic. The trophy Peter had bought for the tournament winner had vanished. Peter was on his hands and knees crawling under tables rooting amongst bags and coats looking for it. I wasn’t sure that would have met with the approval of his oncologist, but then again he wasn’t there. Anyway, it didn’t work. The trophy was gone. No one knew what had happened. Almost no one actually. When I got knocked out, the only witness to the theft told me Barny was the culprit. She had seen him wrap it in his coat, say goodnight to everyone and leg it. Barny? Impossible. I couldn’t believe it. Then I remembered the beer. I couldn’t stop laughing so we left. Not my problem. In the middle of the night, a picture of the thief posing with the trophy by the sea appeared on social media. He was giving the finger to the camera. That was Barny’s answer to his friends who said he never won anything at poker. Beer can do wonderful things! I couldn’t help thinking of the time Peter undoubtedly put into practice his speech for the presentation. That’s poker! To be fair to Peter, he laughed as much as anyone when the dust settled.
Twelve months later, we were in Skerries again. Barny couldn’t make it, so the trophy was relatively safe. There wasn’t a party either. Peter’s cancer had come back and this time there was no way out. He had joined us from his hospital bed though you never would have guessed. He was in flying form. I guess when you’ve made your living on the high seas, it’s not too easy to phase you. We had a great laugh. Peter made the final table but couldn’t play it as he had to return to hospital. He finished fifth. I phoned him next day and said he’d probably not have done as well if he was actually there. I won’t repeat what he said!
People talk about courage at the poker table. Don’t make me laugh. Courage is what we saw from Peter after he realised he was drawing dead. See you later, Peter.
Next up for me is WSOP-Circuit event at Dusk till Dawn followed by partypoker sponsored Irish Open with the POWERFEST online in between! Some $5k PLO action in here on Thursdays and here are the details of a great promo where you can win a percentage of some of the partypoker pros’ winnings!
Over a decade ago Jesse May talked me into writing a magazine article by just telling a story or giving my thoughts on the poker world as though I was talking to a guy in a bar. I didn’t need to practice. This is the result…