Shortly before Christmas, Daragh Davey and I set out in search of Atlantis. Not the mythical lost civilisation, but the casino in Carlow that was hosting a 60 max event (capped at 60 runners).
Despite being half my age, Daragh is a lot more organized and better at life generally than me, so he made all the travel and accommodation arrangements (booked train tickets and a hotel online basically). However, once we were on the train, we started acting more like our ages, with Daragh alarmingly transformed into pesky questioning kid. Are we there yet, Daddy? Is Athy really nearer to Dublin than Carlow? Where exactly is Carlow anyway?
He may be last season's UKIPT Player of the Year, but it turns out Young Master Davey's knowledge of basic Irish geography is very lacking. He claims the fact he was born in some part of London nobody ever claims to be from as an excuse, but since both parents were Irish and he moved back over half his life ago, I'm not buying it. At one point me he asked me what part of the country Carlow was in, and what counties it bordered. I think I could have gotten away with telling him it was North of Belfast, bordering Sligo, Kerry and Idaho. But I decided to be a good Dad for once and tell him the actual counties, even if I'm pretty sure he has no idea where those places are either.
An old lad gradually losing his marbles and a young lad with no sense of geography wandering around Carlow looking for a hotel might sound like a recipe for disaster, but I had a vague recollection of where the casino is from years ago, and Daragh knew the hotel he booked was nearby, and Google maps is a great oul invention all the same. As is his custom, Daragh had ballered out in mad fashion on the hotel. We are polar opposites in this regard. I'm in the "We might not spend any time there if we go deep and even if we do, once you close your eyes you could be anywhere" camp of miserliness. Daragh's more a "Let's book a suite in the Hilton for our 2 hour stopover in London" kinda guy. I knew this about him, but when he told me how much the room for the night was costing us, I started to wonder if he had mixed up County Carlow with Monte Carlo. But whatever, at least I had a luxurious peaceful night's sleep to look forward to if I bust.
Clues started to appear that this might not be the case. First clue was the hotel was in an actual shopping centre (that's a mall to you Americans). Second was when we checked in, they gave us a couple of tickets "to the nightclub".
The tournament itself was good fun if unprofitable. The locals were all great fun. Most of them seemed to realize the only real reason we were even there was we were chasing Irish Live ranking points (I need to cash to take over the number one slot, and Daragh needed to cash to get in the mix going into the last event in the Fitzwilliam). They didn't seem to hold this against us though. Several went as far as expressing support, even as they conspired to take all my chips. One local deserves special mention for his festive generosity. Strolling in just as play was starting, he decided to dispense with the formality of looking at his cards before announcing he was allin. Yes folks, that would be a blind shove for 200 big blinds in hand one of the biggest buyin tournament in Ireland that month. His random two undercards were looked up by a man lucky enough to find a jack with another jack. There was no Christmas miracle on 5th street, and our festive hero was free to spread cheer beyond the confines of the casino.
We were joined by Jason Tompkins, recently moved back from Australia to Athy, which really is on the way from Dublin to Carlow. All three of us were still in the hunt as the final table bubble approached. Unfortunately Jason got into a three way all in with queens which turned out to be the third best hand. I spent a short while in the seat he vacated before following him out the door. The blog gave a rather kind version of my bust out saying it involved me having a straight draw and a pair against top pair. However, the straight draw only appeared on the turn after all the money had gone in on the flop. I made what Kevin Killeen would dub a fine defend from the big blind off a shallow stack after the button raised. The plan was to check raise all in on any flop that gave me a pair or a decent draw, a plan that seemed reasonable against the villain in question who my friend Mick McCloskey would characterise as a young buck raising all sorts. The first card on the flop matched one of mine, but when my shove was snap called I started to think maybe I didn't have the best hand after all. I wasn't wrong, as my middle pair was in bad shape against his top and bottom two pair.
When I got back to the hotel, I learned the answer to a question that had niggled at me all day, "Why the nightclub tickets?" A rather large gentleman blocked my entrance. It seemed he understood his job description to be "Nightclub bouncer". The nightclub in question was literally right under our room, so instead of sleeping I spent the next few hours listening to while trying not to the kind of repetitive dance music that makes your brain want to crawl out your ear (puncturing your ear drum en route in an act of mercy killing) in search of a thicker skull farther away from the "music". Four hours of plotting vengeance on Daragh later, he arrived back looking sad and dejected after a series of random but nevertheless unfortunate events saw him slump from 1/6 to out in sixth. He looked so sad and fact is that after hanging out with him for a few years I've become very fond of him, so I abandoned my original plan to throttle him to the beat of the "music". But still, some sort of retribution seemed in order. My usual strategy in these spots is to subject him to one of my rambling Grandpa Simpsonesque "anecdotes" while ignoring his "you've already told me this one several thousand times" screams. But I decided to balance my retribution range in this case and went for a more nuanced line of subjecting the biggest hand he played (which involved a bet fold with an overpair on the river and being shown a bluff) to a game theory analysis, ignoring his screams of "I'm not in the mood for this right now".
A final word to the wise: if you do ever find yourself in Carlow and in an imaginatively named The Roadside Cafe (you can't miss it, it's at the side of the road and smells of really bad coffee), and you really must insist on a coffee despite the smell, and the menu offers a choice between White Coffee and Good Coffee, order the Good Coffee. I have my doubts over the name, but it certainly can't be any worse than the white shite.