Dara O’Kearney: Speak up!

Dara O’Kearney goes into the commentary box at the Irish Open to look at the importance of speech play when you’re in a tough spot

Like most Irish poker players, the Irish Open is near the top of the list of tournaments I would most like to win. Since I started playing in 2008, I’ve dutifully turned up every Easter weekend at Europe’s oldest poker tourney hoping this will be my year. And every Easter Monday I’ve left disappointed. It’s fair to say that I have hardly set the Irish Open alight with my performances. In fact, I’ve never even cashed. I think the first year I played it I was the second person out. A couple of other early exits, a Day 2 with a small stack and one near bubble experience, that’s about the sum of it so far.

The one advantage of an early exit is it frees you up to do other things, and the social atmosphere surrounding the Open is second to none. Mike Sexton ruffled a few feathers when he visited our shores a few years ago and characterised the typical Irish player as someone who likes to bluff off all his chips so he can tell everyone about it in the bar later. In truth, that was a pretty solid read on the part of Mr. Sexton. This year, the bar on Day 1 started to resemble a loser’s support group as the day wore on and almost every well known Irish player found himself in there being asked, “What? You’re bust too?”. I did my bit to support the view that all the best players were in the bar and all the donkeys were playing Day 2 by bagging up some chips at the end of the night.

It’s good to talk

I’ve also had some very enjoyable stints in the live stream commentary box at the Irish Open, alongside the likes of Jesse May, Emmet Kennedy and Neil Channing. With Neil I commentated on most of the final table the year Niall Smyth won, and all of his epic heads-up battle with Surindar Sunar.

This year I found myself in the commentary box at the start of the final table alongside anchor Emmet Kennedy and my close friend Daragh Davey. The first notable hand started when Tommy O’Shea opened the cutoff from a relatively short stack. Jon Lundy, an accomplished online player, peeled from the small blind and the Q-3-5 rainbow flop went check/check. Lundy led the turn, the Six of diamonds, and Tommy called quickly. The Five of diamonds completed a possible diamond flush and Lundy led again, with a relatively small bet that Daragh felt might be a blocker with a fairly marginal hand. It could also be a cheap bluff on a board with a lot of missed straight draws, or a come hither bet with a monster designed to look like a blocker and induce further action.

After considering his options for a while, Tommy made a fairly small raise relative to the pot, easing the chips into the middle. Lundy looked pained and went deep into the tank. It was clear he actually had some sort of hand and had to consider now if Tommy was bluffing in a spot where Lundy’s hand looked marginal at best. After a while, Lundy did something clever that not enough young online players do in these spots: he engaged Tommy in conversation to try to get a read. Tommy looked and acted very relaxed throughout the exchange, enough to convince his opponent he was near the top of his range. Lundy eventually passed, showing K-Q for top pair, good kicker.

A cliffhanger

Many online players would argue that Lundy is so near the top of his range here (both myself and Daragh were surprised by how strong his hand was) that he should not have passed, getting such a good price on the call. However, I believe this was an excellent (and correct) fold arrived at after considering not just the betting information at his disposal, but also the physical read he elicited.

What happened next was also interesting. Tommy offered to show one card and the Seven of diamonds was turned over, a card consistent with the view that Tommy had made a very strong hand on the river (a flush, a straight or possibly trips). What happened next though was even more interesting. Tune in next month for all the details…

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