The Daddy

A number of poker players refer to me by affectionate names rather than my given name. Andy Wool calls me the grandfather of Irish poker, a not so subtle jibe at my age. Many others use Doke or some variation thereof. But my absolute favourite is Carl Cullen, who simply calls me “the Daddy.” I know I can’t set foot in a poker tournament in Ireland without hearing the shout of “the Daddy” in his warm Dublin working class accent, and if I’m deep in a tournament in Ireland, I’ll hear “g’wan the Daddy” either from the rail or another table. Sometimes this draws a question from a confused foreign visitor as to whether Carl is actually my son, to which I generally reply with pride: “But of course.”

Carl is one of those bright working class lads who uses their innate intelligence to make poker a profitable pastime. It’s a brand of street poker that is born not of solver work or training videos, but astute observation mixed with intelligent reflection and a deep understanding of people and their tendencies.

His popularity and poker prowess is wider than Tallaght though

A quick glance at his Hendon Mob shows an unusually high number of outright wins in his local club in Tallaght, where he is a popular regular. His popularity and poker prowess is wider than Tallaght though. He was second in the finale side event at the Irish Poker Masters in Killarney in 2018, for over €7,000 ($7,528). The following year, a win in a turbo side at the Norwegian Championships netted him a further €6,000 ($6,452). Other four figures scores that year followed with a 4th place finish in an Irish Open side event, a number of wins in the now sadly defunct Fitzwilliam Card club, and a victory in the International Poker Open (IPO) Mini Main.

A bout of brain fog

When I spoke to him at the first Irish Open after the pandemic, he told me he was struggling with brain fog associated with long COVID, having contracted the virus several times. It’s clearly a threat he continues to take seriously to the day, being the last mask standing in Irish poker rooms, something which has attracted none of the blowback which Ike Hatton, Alex O’Brien and others have had to endure elsewhere. As his brain fog cleared, he started to notch up results again, final tabling the ACOP Main Event, and then getting his first five figure score with a 5th place showing in the IPO Main Event. He ended 2022 with another second place finish, in the IPT Main Event in Dublin. After a quiet first half in 2023, he kicked into gear in the second half of the year, notching up another second in an IPT PLO side event, a 4th place finish in Killarney, a cash in a World Series of Poker (WSOP) circuit event in San Remo, but perhaps made the biggest splash when he stone bubbled the €3,000 ($3,226) Main Event at the inaugural Irish Poker Festival and the photo of him sportingly offering a hand shake to his vanquisher, the soon-to-be EPT champion Padraig “Smidge” O’Neill, went viral.

he put up a new high score of over €27,000 ($29,035) when he lost headsup

In the European Deepstack Main Event in March he put up a new high score of over €27,000 ($29,035) when he lost headsup to back to back champion Tommy “LuckyMo” Geleziunas. The following month he notched up another 5th place finish in an Irish Open side event.

With 14 left in the Monster Main Event, I was at home grinding online virtually railing one of my students, Aidan Quinlan, who was a big chip leader. Carl was, I think, the shortest at that point, but when another student asked me who I thought the biggest threat to Aidan was, I instantly nominated Carl because of his end game composure, experience and track record.

So it ultimately proved. When deal talks broke out with four left, Carl was a big chipleader. A deal was finally brokered with three left, locking up a €26,500 ($28,498) score for Carl. They played on for some money and the trophy and ultimately shortie, another popular stalwart of the Irish poker scene, Peter Burnett, emerged victorious.

My Monster campaign

In years to come, I will probably remember my own campaign at the festival as a series of frustrating bubbles and near bubbles. I did manage to cash the Main Event but that was the only cash of the festival for me.

Some of my students fared better. As mentioned above, Aidan Quinlan continued his recent heater, riding a rollercoaster from short stack to chipleader and back before ultimately disembarking in 4th. Aidan has shown commendable mental resilience after the disappointing end to his Irish Open campaign. At the time I told him to put what had happened behind him and move on, but he has done so in a way few players could, and he can look forward to his first WSOP campaign with confidence.

Keith Touhey got himself into a four way chop in the MonsterStack netting him €5,000 ($5,377).

Final shoutouts

Some other winners of note include Stephan Campbell, who achieved a new lifetime best score when he took down the opening APATB event. Stephan is part of a young talented crew based around Simon Wilson.

the very popular Steven Bartley (affectionately known as Stork because of his stature) won two events

Joe Carey followed up his mini Irish Open win last month with a victory in the High Roller, and popular Englishman Dan Blake who is a regular feature on the tour won a turbo side event. Patrick Eagers won the PLO high roller event in which Irish legend Padraig Parkinson was third, while the very popular Steven Bartley (affectionately known as Stork because of his stature) won two events, a PLO event and the Mystery Bounty.

When I spoke to him at the start of the latter final table he told me he was going to win, and he was true to his word, and there was no more ecstatic winner at the festival. The Super High Roller was chopped between OG Andy Black and one of the brightest young talents in the game, Johnny McCullagh, who took the trophy. Finally, a shoutout to English visitor Vanessa Webley who followed up a string of results in Malta with two final tables at the festival, taking third in the MonsterStack side event, and second in the LPPL Open.

Overall the festival was a massive, guarantee-smashing event, with the Main Event attracting 1858 entries, an increase on last year’s 1796. This festival is likely to grow and grow.

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