Full Tilt Poker Galway Festival

Full Tilt Poker Galway Festival

Monday, 9 September 2013

Mick McCloskey reviews the action.

Galway City is no stranger to poker (and many other kinds of) festivals but the scale of this one was something to behold. The festival coincided with the legendary Galway Racing Festival, a potent mix of jump racing at the course and poker games in the local hotels. Local player and poker promoter Fintan Gavin figured that, with 60 events being held over two weeks, none of the local hotels could provide enough time or space for everything on one site. So, on the basis of the “build it and they will come” ethos, he and UKIPT supremo Kirsty Thompson decided that they would construct their own tented village on a vacant two-acre site down by the city docks.

The fact that the site had no utilities of any kind wasn’t going to deter the duo and, with the involvement of the new Full Tilt, the village was duly built. It was comprised of a reception area, a 700 capacity poker room, a central open-air space with tables and seating, a service and restroom area and a large bar and entertainment area with TV screens, pool tables and gaming consoles. The whole village remained open 24/7 and Full Tilt also provided a fully-branded luxury coach to ferry players around, complete with tables, cards and poker chips, of course. No half measures here. Everything was at “Full Tilt”.
Kirsty Thompson told me that another very valid reason for the village concept was that, under new laws in Ireland, no drinking would have been allowed in a hotel-based tournament area. No alcohol! What kind of Irish festival would that have been?

In a moment of inspired thinking, “Mad” Marty Wilson was hired to organise the nightly entertainment. The man is an absolute bundle of energy and fun and, as someone said, “could get a party going even if there were only two people in the bar”. Whatever they paid Marty, Full Tilt certainly got full value out of him. Marty had a huge part in making the festival what it was. Meanwhile, all the Full Tilt Ambassadors and Poker Stars Pros mixed freely and posed for pictures with anyone who wanted to approach them.

International Ambassadors Gus Hansen and Viktor “Isildur1” Blom were present, with only Tom Dwan missing from the line-up. An opening party was laid on, as well as a players’ party on the final weekend, complete with live music, free drinks, snacks, popcorn, candy floss and a chocolate fountain. At the official opening of the festival, the Galway City Mayor entrusted the keys of the city to Full Tilt Ambassador Gus Hansen for the duration of the event. I told you Galway has a long reputation as a gambling city!


Galway was actually the venue for the very first UKIPT event, in December 2009, and it was won by Irish poker legend Padraig Parkinson. Looking back at the results, it seems to have been something of a springboard for England’s Jake Cody, who registered only his second ever live tournament cash, according to the Hendon Mob Database. A month later he would take down the EPT Deauville for his first major title. The boy’s done good since then!

FTGF Parkinson

One of the first tournaments to take place in the new venue was a €1,100-entry star-studded UK versus Ireland Heads-up event. I was a bit worried about the eventual outcome of the match when I saw pictures of the pre-tournament team captains meeting with their vice captains. UK captain Jake Cody was pictured discussing tactics with his vice captain over a nice cup of tea, while Irish captain Fintan Gavin was snapped doing the same over two pints of a well-known black Irish brew with a nice creamy head!

My fears seem to have been well-founded when the last eight contained not one Irish player. All was not lost, however, as Denmark’s Gus Hansen, now a Monaco resident, who had been drafted in to help make up a deficit in the UK ranks, changed sides and became an honorary Irishman. Although the UK went on to win the contest on points, the individual winner was Ireland’s adopted son, Gus Hansen, so we can claim some sort of victory. Any excuse for a celebration. It’s an Irish thing, you know.

Interviewed afterwards, “Gus O’ Hansen”, draped in an Irish Tricolour and sporting an oversized novelty Leprechaun hat, put his victory down to “the luck of the Irish”.

FTGF Hansen

The UKIPT main event had a €1,100 buy in and Full Tilt had put a €1 million guarantee in place. When the final numbers were in, they came up 140 short of the guarantee, with a total of 860 players taking part over the two starting days. A total of 104 players got paid for their efforts.

The final table of eight convened at noon on the last day in a surreal atmosphere as the tented village was being dismantled and packed into trucks as they went about their business on the felt. In what was probably one of the fastest finals ever, the whole thing came to a conclusion in around four hours. The last remaining Irish player, Daragh Davey, finished in third spot for a very nice €80,400 payday, leaving an all-Scottish heads-up between Alan Gold and Paul Febers. The two agreed to chop the prize money and leave the title and €10,000 to play for.

After a very short heads up Alan Gold, who went into the final and the heads up as chip leader, emerged as the 2013 Galway UKIPT champion, taking home €187,494, while Paul walked away with €149,906. As an added bonus, Full Tilt qualifier Alan also won full package entries into the remaining legs of Season 4 UKIPT.

FTGF Final table

I managed to talk to 31-year-old Alan after his victory and asked about his background. He tells me he lives in Troon with his partner and two children, a three-year-old boy, Oscar, and a one year old girl, Olivia. He has been playing poker for around 10 years, full time for about seven or eight. He plays cash PLO from £1-£2 to £5-£10 with his main game being £3-£6. Unusually, Alan tells me that he started playing poker online rather than live. He had been doing some punting on Ladbrokes site and discovered the poker software on there. He has only been playing live tournaments since the start of the year, as he told me, laughing, “basically to give the missus a break as I am there all the time.” Maybe he should get out of the house more often with results like this.

“I feel amazing,” he told me. “I never expected to do it. I knew I could do it, but it’s great that this has happened.” He added that the money means a lot but he has no plans for it right now. “I’ve never really thought what to do if I had two hundred grand spare,” he says. He already owns his own house in Scotland but I’m sure his partner and kids might help him spend some of it.

Alan praised the whole set up in Galway, saying, “It was brilliant. I loved it.” Sentiments echoed by virtually all the players I talked to.

More of the same next year please, Full Tilt.

FTGF Winner

€1,000 UK vs Ireland Heads-Up Championship Results
1st: Gus Hansen - €16,151
2nd: David Nicholson - €10,767
4th: Kevin Williams - €4,486
4th: Max Silver - €4,486

Irish Poker Championships Results:
1st: Trevor Dineen - €39,450
2nd: Stephen O'Dwyer - €27,840
3rd: Marc MacDonnell - €18,560
4th: Ian Gascoigne - €11,600
5th: Tom Hall - €8,120
6th: Max Silver - €5,800
7th: Peter Murphy - €4,642

UKIPT Galway Results:
1st: Alan Gold - €187,494
2nd: Paul Febers - €149,906
3rd: Daragh Davey - €80,400
4th: Dimitri Pembroke - €62,000
5th: Damian Porebski - €45,300
6th: Ben Spragg - €30,210
7th: Christy Morkan - €22,310
8th: Jonathan Slater - €16,500
9th: Max Silver - €13,10

Tags: Mick McCloskey, Full Tilt Galway Festival, Alan Gold, Trevor Dineen, Gus Hansen, Jake Cody, Padraig Parkinson