Ireland is a country with great sporting heritage. Examples of this include Carl Frampton, a multiple world title winner who’s been undefeated in 23 fights, and Robbie Keane, the country’s top goal scorer in international association football.
Other famous names include Roy Keane, Conor McGregor and Tony McCoy, all of whom have seen huge successes in their careers.
Ireland is not short of great poker players either, with over 6,000 players listed in the Hendon Mob Poker Database. Almost 20 of these players have won over $1 million in their poker careers, with several closer to joining them.
Despite the huge number of successful poker players from Ireland, the country hasn’t been a consistent host of live poker tournaments in recent years. The UK and Ireland Poker Tour, which held a round in Dublin, last ran in 2016 and hasn’t returned.
Here is a look at two of Ireland’s greatest poker players.
1 – Andy Black
Born in Belfast in Northern Ireland, Black has played poker most of his life but began playing the game seriously while he was at Trinity College in Dublin where he studied law.
Just like the majority of students, Black had found a way to game the system and played poker at Griffin Casino to take advantage of the free food and hot drinks.
He entered the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event for the first time in 1997, suffering a loss by the tournament winner Stu Ungar.
The following year, Black returned to compete again, but this time, with a camera crew in tow, hoping to capture his victorious comeback.
However, this wasn’t meant to be, and instead, the crew documented another defeat, after which Black went to live in an English Buddhist monastery for five years, earning him the nickname “The Monk.”
A few years away did him some good, as in 2005, he finished fifth in the WSOP Main Event, pocketing $1.75 million.
That started a chain of other successful tournaments, including his 2008 victory of the Premier League Poker II tournament. Thanks to these wins, he is Ireland’s most successful poker player.
2 – Marty Smyth
Marty has earned the reputation of being one of poker’s nice guys, but this has not stopped him from becoming Ireland’s second most successful poker player.
He took up the game by playing small stake games with his university friends and began playing Omaha and Texas Hold ‘em in a Dublin casino in his early 20s.
After taking up poker professionally, Smyth has been successful in winning numerous tournaments, including the Irish Open in 2007 and the WSOP Omaha World Championship in 2008.
He also took sixth place in the 2006 Poker Million event, pocketing $100,000 in prize money. These successes have seen him nominated for two awards and have allowed him to sign a sponsorship deal with an Irish poker brand.
Black and Smyth are the country’s two most successful poker players, but others also deserve honorable mentions, including Eoghan O’Dea, who is the son of Irish poker legend Donnacha O’Dea.
Eoghan currently sits third in the list of most successful Irish poker players ahead of his father who is ranked eighth.