partypoker and I are to go our separate ways. Amicably. We will still collaborate on the charity ventures we have been involved with such as Poker For The Homeless and the suicide charity Pieta House as before, and for this and what’s gone before all involved are hugely grateful.

The first few years of our association were very hard work, late late nights and tremendous craic. It started with a series of discussions with Rob about bringing the Grand Prix Tour to Ireland. I told him the Irish grass roots players would rush to support a big event aimed at them if they were only asked properly. That meant me visiting them in their own playing environment, explaining what we were doing and asking for their help as we tried to create something special. Rob believed me!

He and Kev picked up Fintan and I in Dublin in a helicopter and off we headed to Killarney. I’d rather have walked but didn’t want to look like a pussy! Pretty soon, Killarney was a goer. €250k for €120 buy in. No pressure! Fintan was to look after remote Day 1s and I was to crisscross the country telling the grassroots Irish players this was going to be all about them, not the big names. They loved it!

Remote Day 1s hit target and we hit 250k much to the surprise of a lot of people. It was a truly magical weekend. In a few months, party had gone from having few active accounts to becoming big players in the battle for hearts and minds in Ireland. A battle I was convinced we would win.

Next up, was Cork. Fintan had by now gone his own way and I was joined in running the GP tour by Mr Poker in the Southwest, Connie and Northern Poker’s Seamus. I was playing a lot in Dublin and also all around the Midlands, where my pal David Fitzgerald was ferrying me around for the love of the game. He didn’t mind the craic either! So geographically, we had Ireland locked up.

Cork was great! The players got to meet Tom, Charlie, Colette etc. which helped enormously with the community angle. And the players party was top drawer. party was sexy and everyone wanted in. It was poker with a smile.

I smiled most when I heard of Nicky Power’s antics. He and a friend were out and about having a few scoops. You know the way it goes. They tried to have yet another few and were told they had had enough. If it was my pub, I’d have locked the doors and sold tickets. He’s great entertainment. These people asked him to leave. The rumour that Cork people are smart was spread by Cork people. It’s a lie. It’s the West Cork people that are smart!

Nicky and his companion headed out. Nicky thought it’d be smart to bribe bouncers on bar/club doors €50 to let them in. Bouncers didn’t agree. Obviously, they were locals! He tried one last guy who immediately refused his bribe. Nicky asked why. Guy said he was standing outside a newsagent! You couldn’t make it up!

That was it. The partypoker Irish Grand Prix battle plan had been established. Words like community and retention come to mind.

It was fun and hugely successful as events in Dublin, Galway, Cork and Killarney again and also Athlone kept the laughter going. The only tiny hiccup was when we narrowly missed a gte in Killarney.

Mickey May’s excellent photos don’t lie. The players were having a ball. Colette was fantastic. She dealt with all the players queries, made the parties fun, enthusiastically helped me with the charity events and taught me the meaning of 24/7.

A couple of events stood out for vastly different reasons. A Dublin GP took place shortly after my little sister took her own life. The kindness of the Irish players was incredible. For that, I can’t thank them enough.

The Athlone GP was brilliant. Eyebrows were raised when we gted 50k in The Midlands. I wasn’t in the least worried as we had a secret weapon. David Fitzgerald, a man I met in St Mels stadium that famous day in 1976 when Athlone Town beat the mighty AC Milan 0-0, had been taking me around every nook and cranny in The Midlands for two years introducing me to every poker player he could find. He did well. Prize pool was 80k! and these players were like kids on Christmas morning.

The laughs continued. I was sitting reading the paper in a bar at lunchtime, close to the venue for GP in Galway. I love Galway poker! A local guy came in and announced that an American tourist had just asked him if all of this island was surrounded by water. OMG.

One time, Eamonn, who drove me around for the craic quite often, Willo and I went to Skibbereen in West Cork to play a Killarney satellite that my man Tim O’Sullivan had organised in Annie Mays pub. It was hilarious. What craic! Next day, we headed for Dublin.

We stopped in Clonakilty at 3p.m. to get food. Clonakilty is famous for three things. Black pudding. The assassination of Michael Collins. And it’s the only place in Ireland Jessie May had a winning poker night in.

We entered a hotel I had spent a night in on a previous poker visit. In the hallway, a girl politely informed Eamonn that the kitchen was closed and the chef about to go home. At the same time, the manager greeted me, asked how the poker was going and said if we wanted lunch the chef would be happy to stay on. Half an hour later, we were tucking into a lovely stew. The chef came out from the kitchen to talk to us.

He started with “Hi Padraig. How is it going? I heard you won a ticket for Killarney last night.” You couldn’t make it up!

I would like to thank Rob for giving me the opportunity to test my theory, all the staff at party for their help and humour, Emma for her patience and kindness on sad days and of course Colette.

Thanks also to the poker operators from all over Ireland for their help, support, hospitality and especially the craic.

Finally, thanks to the grassroots of Irish poker for being simply the best.

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