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I went to Paris in 1996 for two weeks. I stayed 19 years. So was a little concerned when I went there recently to promote the partypoker LIVE Irish Poker Masters (€1,000,000 Gtd for €1,150 buyin) but much to the relief of the French, I got home safe. The Irish not so much.

When I first hit Paris, Bruno Fitoussi was in the early stages of turning the Aviation Club into Europe’s leading poker room whilst dragging French poker into the twentieth century. Not an easy task, but he did it and in the middle of it finished second to Freddie Deeb in the WSOP Players Championship and got a few Hall Of Fame nominations. He has recently been appointed a partypoker ambassador. All in all, I considered him suitably qualified for the job of helping me to interest French players in supporting our Irish events. If it works, it’s down to me. If not, I can always blame Bruno.

Coincidentally I met and had dinner with Jeff Duvall in London the following week. Jeff, The Devilfish and I were all in Paris in the summer of 98. The Fish was in fine form and immediately spotted that one of the French guys bore an uncanny resemblance to British serial killer Fred West. Every couple of days, The Fish would chat away to his new pal Fred who didn’t speak a word of English but would sit there grinning anyway. Which made him look even more like Fred West. A few of the French lads who did speak English asked me what The Fish was saying. I told them I didn’t know either. It was easier that way and not a mile away from the truth!

Over dinner in London with Rory Liffey, Jeff told us he had gone bust in Paris within days of hitting town, borrowed a monkey from The Fish to play a tournament, won it and spun his bankroll up to 100K within a few months. We didn’t believe him. We were fine with the 100K bit. It was the extracting of the monkey from The Fish that was the problem.

I don’t know many major events Jeff and I have played and forgotten since then but we both had a clear memory of one we lost that summer. We had been watching the World Cup both live and on TV. Tickets for the Brazil v France final were selling at a zillion each so we were thrilled when the ACF announced they had a ticket and were putting it up as the prize in a £100 tournament on the eve of the game. Jeff was a man of principle.

A Man Of Principle

When just a kid, he had a ticket to the 66 final in Wembley but gave it away in disgust when his hero Jimmy Greaves wasn’t selected to play for the English team. Having heard that story, I told a friend of mine that if I won the ticket in the ACF I was going to give it to Jeff. , Jeff and I finished up in the final three players. The third guy was a recreational player who played infrequently and pretty badly. He also didn’t want to go to the match, so obviously he took out the two of us in a manner that still had us shaking our heads twenty years after the event. Jeff told me I’d been doubly unlucky as he thought I wanted to go to the match more than he did, so he was going to give me his ticket if he won! You couldn’t make it up!

After London, I headed home and straight away did a four day trip around the South. My friend Eamonn insisted he have the job of driving me around as he loves the craic on the road in Ireland as much as I do. He surpassed himself in Skibbereen when he told the local lads that he and I had been invited to meet the pope during his visit to the Capuchin centre in Dublin, where Ireland’s living saint Brother Kevin feeds the homeless every day. It was of course complete horseshit. Considering the tall stories we’ve been listening to from the Skibb lads over the last couple of years, I considered it quite a good effort!

The best wine was saved till last. In Dungarvan, on the last night of our mini tour, a guy told us about an incident that occurred at a tournament in Cork a couple of years back. A player was playing very aggressively trying to build a big stack or bust. He achieved the former and then explained that the reason he’d been playing a little crazy was that he had to slip away for an hour or so to go to work and needed a big stack so he’d have chips when he got back. When asked what he worked at he said he was a stripper. One of the lads was intrigued and asked him how far he actually went with his stripping. He replied that if the money was right he’d be prepared to go as far as Galway. OMG!!!

I was delighted when partypoker generously agreed to sponsor the charity event at the Killarney festival this year again. The beneficiaries are Brother Kevin and Pieta House, who do such great work in suicide prevention and helping those left behind. My little sister joined the victims of the horrific suicide epidemic in Ireland a few months ago, so any support you can give us will be even more appreciated than ever.

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