A couple of weeks ago, the partypoker Grand Prix Tour came to Galway for the first time. My main concern was not the guarantee (that was not going to be a problem as we had the local Eglinton Club as a partner) but that the sheer expectation of great craic, based on the fun we had when party was last in town several years ago for the televised IPC, would be too much.

I needn’t have bothered as it turned out to be the same as any other visit to this mad city. A couple of days after hitting town, you begin to think everyone except you have been assured the world will end on Tuesday and is acting accordingly. Then Tuesday comes and nothing happens. Rinse and repeat.

All the usual suspects were there having a laugh. I was delighted to see ex European and Irish Open champ Alan Betson there. Alan was easily the funniest and arguably the most naturally talented Irish player I’ve ever played with. Back in the days when you had to figure it out or go bust, I learnt lots from going to the pub with Alan and Scott Gray and exchanging information. These days, they’d call it a study group. Back then, it was known by a more technical term. Piss up. Then one day, Alan just got bored and quit. Nice to see him back.

Of course, in the circumstances Alan stories were everywhere. First blog I ever wrote, or rather dictated to Jesse May, involved a taxi trip from Binions to McCarran airport we took with Alan. Alan was a little under the weather. Probably something he ate. The cab driver was hugely talented. He could talk non stop gibberish whilst drinking coffee without missing a beat. To be fair, he was very polite. He insisted on turning around and making eye contact with his back seat passengers whilst talking to them. I considered this a breach of health and safety common sense though I am prepared to admit it’s not my strongest suit. It wasn’t doing a lot for Alan’s hangover. Then our driver noticed that a taxi had been in an accident on the other side of the highway and had finished up facing the wrong way. He was wondering out loud what had happened. “Maybe he was drinking coffee and looking around at his back seat passengers” said Alan. That was the end of that.

My favourite Alan story also goes back to Binions. Alan was involved in a cash game in the middle of the night. There was a guy at the table who just couldn’t miss no matter how badly he played. He couldn’t or wouldn’t shut up and was winning nearly every pot and chirping. The lads were biting their tongues as they didn’t want to lose him till they got their money back. Finally, Alan cracked. The guy, desperate for a conversation topic, noticed that Alan was smoking a brand of cigarette he wasn’t familiar with. Alan politely explained that this brand was only made in Ireland. “Oh” said our man, “I didn’t know the Irish made anything”. That was it for Alan. “Well, we made enough Americans anyway. Didn’t we?” he replied. Game over.

A few years ago, I was sitting with Mike Sexton at the bar in The Bellagio sportsbook, watching The Lakers. Mike had been predicting the future of poker to me since 1996 and although I’d been sceptically amused initially, at this stage I was a believer that however unlikely his prophecy seemed, it was probably going to happen. On this occasion he was telling me about the dream that became partypoker. Mike was gushing with the ideas he had for the new brand. I believed everything he said except the bit about how he could survive 12 months in India which I thought was somewhere between highly unlikely and absolutely impossible. Thankfully, I was wrong. Again. And in September partypoker are bringing the Irish Poker Masters to Killarney, Ireland’s answer to Brigadoon.

If you love poker, breathtaking scenery, music, laughter and the craic it’s an absolute must. Check out partypoker for online satellites and promotions and spots like fitzwilliamcardclub.com and theeglinton.com for live satellites.See you there!

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