James Mitchell - Irish Open Champion 2010
Monday, 7 March 2011
We asked James how winning Europe’s oldest and best-loved tournament rearranged his perspective.
What are your abiding memories of the tournament last year?
Well, I wasn't even planning on going. I hadn't been doing great in tournaments prior to it and the cash games at the Vic were really good at the time. The only reason I ended up making the trip was because I got food poisoning and threw up in the middle of the Vic. I thought I would save face by taking a few days’ leave, so I booked a flight to Dublin.
I didn't have a great start to the tournament, going down to 5k chips early doors. I ended up getting it in against some Irish nutcase on a king-high board with K-J. Somehow he'd limp-called A-K pre and I was in a lot of trouble. I started the tournament as I wished to continue and had the first of my many suck-out victims. The rest of Day 1 saw me chip up nicely and actually play well for a change, and I managed to finish pretty high up the chip counts. Day 2 was more of the same.
The real key pot for me came on Day 3, where I had a big stack and I 3-bet Q-Q from the BB against a Norwegian guy who had me covered. The flop was low with two spades and I bet. He now made a big shove. When he flat-called my 3-bet I didn't think he was trapping me because it was a really good spot to 4-bet, as it wasn’t the first time we had 3- and 4-bet each other. He was also unlikely to shove a set – instead, I would expect him to make a small raise or flat. I called the all in pretty quick and was up against A?J?. It was an astronomical pot. When I won it, I had over final table average with 40 players left.
I was a little unlucky in a few pots and had a big dry spell through the last few tables. I still managed to maintain my stack but didn't build on my lead, reaching the final table with a bit over an average stack. In the final I played sloppy and made some mistakes but my luck had turned again and some outdraws went my way. It's still a bit of a blur really.
Has winning the paddypowerpoker.com Irish Open changed your life?
Life hasn't changed too much; I still live in Wimbledon, still haven't got round to getting a driving license, still get the Tube and things like that. One difference was I could play a few more high buy-in tournaments and be comfortable playing in some bigger cash games. From time to time, people recognise me, although these people tend to be middle-aged men in poker rooms. Probably not a plus.
What is it that makes this tournament different from other tournaments?
It is a very prestigious tournament. There’s a lot of history, a lot of big name winners. It also gets a lot better TV and media coverage than most other big tournaments. It's shown on Sky Sports in the UK and features heavily in the Irish media. Winning it is probably a bigger deal for a UK or Irish player than an EPT.
What about the standard of play?
Ireland has a real mix of players, similar to the UK. There are some strong Irish players, but fortunately, in a field of 700-plus players, they are few and far between. You see a lot of satellite qualifiers in the Irish Open and also a decent amount of players there for the craic.
Will you be defending your title this year?
Yeah, pretty sure I'll be going.
Will you try to qualify on Paddy Power so you can get the added value of the Sole Survivor promo?
It seems like a really good promotion. Last year’s Sole Survivor Rob Sherwood is a friend of mine and I was happy to see him win it last year. It's nice to see poker players being treated to some added value.
You had a great year in 2010. What would you like to achieve in 2011?
Tournament poker isn't really a great game to be setting goals and targets. I'd like to win a few more big tournaments, but that's more of a pipe dream. We can't all be Sam Trickett. I do plan on playing a lot more live cash than last year, though. Definitely didn't put enough volume in.
Give us a tournament tip…
I see too many people paying off old live players who never bluff. You need to be quick at recognising the players who will play creatively and those who are sitting back waiting for the goods. Even if you have a very active image, you don't need to compensate for this by 4-bet-shoving against some middle-aged guy who is playing like his life is on the line. When you open A-Q and a woman shoves 20BB, you should probably fold [That’s a bit sexist – Ed.]. Also, when you get 3-bet small by one of these players they've almost always got a monster. Basically my tip is to believe guys over the age of 40 a lot more; they tend to raise only with the nuts and call with their marginal hands.
The Irish Open descends on the Burlington Hotel in Dublin from 22 to 25 April. Qualify through paddypowerpoker.com to be eligible for the Sole Survivor promotion. The last paddypowerpoker.com qualifier standing at the Irish Open will receive a whopping €100,000 in extra prize money.