"Big home game party" – the Canadians who love the craic at the Irish Poker Open

Friends of the Irish Poker Open
Mo Afdhal
Posted on: March 07, 2024 14:00 PST

Every year, a group of Canadians – poker players the lot of them – take flight from their home country and head to Dublin, Ireland to compete in the Irish Poker Open (IO). It's an annual pilgrimage that many of the group look forward to all year and wouldn't pass up for anything.

For these Canadians, the poker at the IO is just part of the appeal. There's also the camaraderie and positive environment; to borrow a term from the Irish, good craic.

For ElizabethBennettMartin, her yearly trip to Dublin is just as much about time spent with friends as it is the poker. And what started as a fun trip with her poker friends has now grown to a mass movement of Canadian poker fanatics, all sharing the same love for the IO and its welcoming, enjoyable environment.

"In 2016, myself and three girlfriends, we all decided that we wanted to go to Ireland to play poker," Martin told PokerOrg, "I have an Irish background and it was always on my bucket list. So, we made plans and we went to Ireland for two weeks. We played in the Irish Poker Open and had a fantastic time - I ended up coming runner-up in the Mini Irish Open."

Since Martin's retirement from the legal world in 2023, she and her friend Kim Kilroy, part of the Rec.Poker team, travel to events all around the world to play poker. But for 'Killer K' and 'Lucky Lizzie' there's nowhere quite like the IO in Dublin.

The IO fever spreads

That first experience in Dublin sparked in Martin a desire to share her affection for the IO with her fellow Canadians.

Martin told us, "After our first year in 2016, we started promoting the hell out of Ireland, telling everybody, 'You have to go there, it's so much fun.' We were four Canadians our first year and the next year we had, I would say, close to 40 Canadians and some of our American friends."

In 2017, fellow Canadian and poker professional GriffinBenger won the IO Championship title, along with the €200,000 top prize. On the final table, he had quite the rail backing him as he battled for the win. Martin told us, "I think in the year Griffin Benger won the Main Event there were close to 100 of us - Americans and Canadians."

TimSilman and BrianMorgan were two such fellow Canucks to catch the IO fever around that time. Silman told us, "The word just kind of spread. If I'm not mistaken, the first year I went was 2016 or 2017, just by hearing, 'Hey, not only is it a great tournament, but it's a great experience.' And I've seen that happen over the last number of years I've been going."

Much like Martin, Silman looks forward to the IO more than any other event on the calendar. As he puts it, "This is the one I look forward to the most every year. One of the guys that goes with us says, 'It's the world's best home game' - that captures it really well. It's like a big home game party."

And it's a party that's getting bigger all the time. "The group of Canadians is growing rapidly, every year," Silman said. "I would think it's going to be well over 200-250 Canadians participating this year."

Player experience prioritized

One particular aspect of the IO that Silman highlighted was the organizers' emphasis on creating a welcoming environment for players of all calibers, from top-level professionals to the purely recreational player just looking to have a good time.

Silman told us, "They just put so much effort into player experience - there's always something to do, even at the venue. There's multiple lounges, live entertainment going on. There's food, there's drinks, there's always a party somewhere. Beer pong tournaments, shuffle board tournaments. All the things you don't see at other festivals."

The idea that the IO feels more like a home game is one that Morgan can get behind as well. His personal connection to Ireland stems from its similarities to his home province of Newfoundland. Morgan told us, "When I went to Ireland for the first time - the people, the scenery, even the accent's not far off - I felt like I was back in Newfoundland, where my family's from. Initially, that was the biggest thing for me and then just being there, being around the people. I think I met 30 people that first trip, some of them I still talk to today.

"It's not like a WSOP event where it's so serious. The Irish Open is so friendly, they encourage people to have a good time. The atmosphere of being there is what makes me want to go back."

The Irish Poker Open takes place at the Royal Dublin Society, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, from March 25 to April 1.

The €1m GTD Main Event is a four-day event with a €1,150 buy-in and four starting flights, starting March 27. Head to the Irish Poker Open site for more details, including a full tournament schedule.