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I walked into the Eccentric’s Club in Dublin for the first time in the mid eighties. It wasn’t much to look at. Just a couple of floors over a shop in a building on the Northside, but that’s where tournament poker in Europe began. Irish bookmaker Terry Rogers had chanced upon the WSOP in Binion’s and seen the future. After getting lots of advice from Benny, he gathered together a colourful bunch of gamblers, founded the Eccentric’s Club, founded the Irish Open Poker Championship, and the rest is history.

The first person I met was Terry himself, and he introduced me to a lady called Colette Doherty. OMG. I had read in the newspaper how she had won the Irish Open and gone off to Vegas to play the WSOP alongside Donnacha O’Dea. Terry, of course, milked it. She had no sooner won the Open than Terry theatrically phoned Benny and asked him to reserve a seat for her in the Main Event. Jesus! It’s not like there was a queue.

Four female winners of the Irish Open

Incredibly the Eccentrics Club ,where two or three tables was the norm, produced a WSOP Main Event winner. And another five guys who made the final table. It also produced lady players who won four Irish Opens between them. Terry didn’t do things by halves! A few years after Colette’s win, popular novice player Irene Tier, coached by Colette’s son Peter, won a satellite (another copy of the Binion’s model) and beat Ireland’s finest to land The Irish Open. That might explain why women in Irish poker have always been treated as poker players first and women second. We learnt our lesson the hard way.

I got to know Colette well in the few years after I first met her. We both played a huge game in the Griffen Club that often ran for days, and we were usually the last two to leave. She told me how it all began. Colette being Colette, she jumped in at the deep end, joining the big private game Don O’Dea ran in the late 70s. She can’t tell the story without laughing. Some of the players thought the idea of a woman poker player highly amusing. To be fair, knowing Colette, she probably played the part to perfection. She won lots. Week after week. It took a while, but her opponents eventually figured it out. Beneath the classy feminine exterior beat the heart of a gladiator with the compassion of a contract killer.

In 91, I watched Colette join the elite group of players who’ve won the Open twice. She eliminated Andy Black in fifth place (I think Andy had J5 or J6), before winning the lot with AQ against Metal Micky’s A9. I can still remember the hangover from the celebration.

I’ve had a lot of laughs with Colette over the years from Dublin to London, to Vegas and Paris. One of the funniest happened on the second or third day of a self-dealt dealer’s choice game in The Griffen. We were down to playing three-handed. At one stage, the third player took a bathroom break. I asked Colette if she’d noticed the other player was cheating by announcing the bet but putting in too few chips when bluffing: “Of course I have, you plonker” she replied. “And if you open your big mouth, I will kill you!” I didn’t.

I’m delighted partypoker have decided to stage lady’s event at the Irish Open this year and thrilled Colette has agreed to play. It’ll keep her out of my game for a few hours!

Follow the Irish Open Action

The partypoker LIVE team are on the ground at the Irish Open reporting on all of the action taking place in the €1 million guaranteed Main Event, which runs from March 14-18th. You can read all of the updates via the My partypoker LIVE website.

Someone who is looking to win the 2018 Irish Open is Willow Connolly, whose mother Jenny Hegarty is a former Irish Open champion. Team partypoker’s Louise Butler wrote an article about Willow and interviewed her exclusively for the partypoker blog. You can read that article in full here.

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