Irish Open 2016: Q&A with tournament owner Paul O’Reilly

It’s the oldest poker tournament in Europe and it’s back! We quiz head honcho Paul O’Reilly about the tourney that puts the craic into poker

PokerPlayer: After last year we heard rumours the 2015 Irish Open was going to be the last one. How did you come to be involved in resurrecting it in 2016?

I’ve been working with Paddy Power for ten years, operating the event for them. Last year the buy-in went up and numbers went down, and they just decided they weren’t going to do it anymore. That being said Paddy
Power Poker brought the Irish Open to another level and made the event a ‘must play’ in the poker calendar. I’ve now teamed up with my old friend JP McCann and we hope to maintain and hopefully improve the level that Paddy Power brought the Irish Open up to.

Was it an easy decision to take it over?

I’ve got a real soft spot for it because I’ve been involved with it for so long and I knew where it should be going – to a more affordable buy-in. There’s an awful lot of recreational players around the country who want to play the Irish Open but can’t afford the big buy-in.

It’s a tricky balancing act to get right…

It is but the satellites for this year’s event are €100 and you can win a package for €2,500, which includes ights, spending money, parties, buy-in and accommodation. They would have been six or seven grand with a €3,500 buy-in. Locals can’t afford that.

You’ve put a €500k guarantee on it – how many runners are you expecting?

It’s a re-entry event and we think we’ll do 700 – although we’d like to do 700 individuals. We’re hoping before we even open the doors that we’ll have 400 runners. We’re going to attract a good mix of recreational and amateur players that might well get the bigger players thinking it’s not going to be the hardest tournament in the world to win. I wouldn’t underestimate how good some of the local players are though. We’ve had big names like [Neil] Channing and Marty Smyth win it, but there have been other lads that have qualified for €10 and got through a good eld to win.

It’s not like an EPT field where the average recreational player doesn’t stand much of a chance…

I believe that everyone who sits down at the Irish Open has a chance of winning it. You never know – you could walk out of the room the Irish Open champion with a couple of hundred grand in your back pocket. It’s the mix of players that makes the event as good as it is, and there’s great banter at the table. The Irish Open is like a home game for €1,000, with more beer.

What was the thinking behind expanding it?

We wanted to have something for everyone. We’re doing eight days with six championship events like the Mini Irish Open, in addition to the Main. The Mini is a €250 buy-in with the same structure as the Main Event so people get the feeling of playing the big one. There’s a high roller event that Coral are sponsoring, a six-max event, an Omaha event and a couple of quirky tournaments in there. There are 32 events in total.

What’s been your favourite moment from the Irish Open so far?

The final table with Paul Carr and James Mitchell [in 2010]. You had Paul Carr’s friends from Limerick and James Mitchell’s friends from London, people from two completely different backgrounds. There was one particular hand, one turn of a card that cost Paul the Irish Open. After that card came I remember thinking that was horribly unlucky. There have been so many people that I would have liked to see win it, or at least make the final table.I was also happy to see Neil Channing take it down.

If someone hasn’t been before what can they expect?

The Irish Open is always loud – there’s people calling for drinks, there’s a lot of slagging for fun, but there’s never any trouble. This year there’s music on every night, a DJ, we’ve got beer pong and rodeo simulators, with Mad Marty Wilson and Padraig Parkinson as hosts. You’re there on Wednesday and then suddenly it’s Monday. It’s just the way it goes.

So you’re saying people should open themselves up for a ride, wherever that takes them – hopefully to the trophy?

The bars will be open, the music will be playing and the craic will be mighty. And in the middle of all that there’s some poker and the chance to be Irish Open champion. I know people who want this title more than a WPT. The Irish really don’t want to see it going out of the country. And I know a lot of people who want to take it away.

The 2016 Irish Poker Open runs March 21-28 at the Citywest Hotel. You can get more info including details on all the satellites at

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