Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wagner's theory of Irish efficiency

Wagner in Paris

In the early 90s I found myself in Paris as an IT consultant on a pan European project for a large American oil company that had their headquarters there. It was a challenging project, and one of the biggest challenges was the sheer number of different nationalities and work cultures involved.

I was the first Irishman brought in, but by the end there were more Irish working on the project than any other nationality. The English muttered darkly that our American boss was showing favouritism to the land of his ancestors. The French would raise their eyebrows and mutter “putain, encore un ivrogne irlandais“ every time a new Paddy was hired. The other nationalities saw no difference between Irish and English.

I liked our American leader, Mr Wagner, a lot. He had that refreshing no bullshit straight to the chase ethos so many Americans have. He had no technical knowledge of relevance to the project, but he was a great manager and judge of people. He knew who would tell him the truth, who would deliver what was asked, who would just waste his time and whose complaints to heed (and whose to ignore). Socially, he was aloof, very much an American abroad. He found it hard to separate work from play, he hated European sports with a passion, and he spoke no French. He interacted socially only with the Irish, coming along with us to the Irish pub (or bar as he called it) and pretending to care whenever Ireland played football (or soccer as he called it).

As the number of Irish on the project grew, I wondered if the English were right. On the face of it, Wagner didn’t seem like an Irish name, and he came from a part of the States few Irish had ventured. So I asked him jokingly one Friday afternoon over a beer if what the English were saying was true.

“No. I’m Wasp through and through. I never even set foot in an Irish bar before I got to Paris”
“Well the English think you’re prejudiced in our favour”
“Heh, I’m not prejudiced, I’m ......I’m .....postjudiced. I arrived here with all the usual American prejudice. English nobility. German efficiency. French flair. Italian ruthlessness. Irish drunken fighting idiots. That’s why I didn’t hire one of you lot until well over a year into the project"
“I’m honoured to have been the first drunken fighting idiot on the team”
“What I’ve learned though is there most certainly are national stereotypes: just not the ones I expected”
“Put it like this. If I ask the English on Monday morning to do something by 5 pm Friday, they’ll spend the rest of the day, and probably most of Tuesday arguing among themselves about who is in charge, who is second in command, the whole goddamn hierarchy. I’ll spend a lot of Wednesday and Thursday listening to guys not happy with their position complaining about their boss and the long hours he’s making them work. They’ll be there til 10 pm every night, and they will deliver something resembling what I asked for, which I’ll now have to get the Irish to fix”
“If I ask the French, they’ll spend the entire week arguing among themselves, and at 5 on Friday they’ll come to tell me what I wanted was either impossible or stupid, or both, and wish me a good weekend. If I ask the Italians they’ll spend the whole week arguing and threatening to resign. It’ll be chaos until a few minutes to 5 on Friday, at which point everything will somehow fall into place and the job will be done. If I ask the Germans they’ll spend the first few days arguing about and writing up detailed procedures, which they’ll insist I read and sign off on. They will get the job done but I’ll be hearing about it all week”
“And the Irish?
“From the outside, you guys will seem to be spending the week sitting around telling each other stories and jokes and going off to the pub every afternoon. But the job will be done the quickest smartest way with no fuss or drama. You’ll tell me Friday morning it’s finished, and then you’ll piss off to the pub. The French, English and Germans will complain to me that you drunken idiots are always in the pub while they’re slaving away”

At the time Ireland was the poor man of Europe, but Wagner boldly predicted that that would change. As such, e was the first person I knew to predict the Celtic Tiger, and when I met him in Vegas last year (now retired to Florida) he asked me how Ireland was these days (he worked there for a few years after Paris). When I told him it was booming again and we had the 4th highest HDI in the world (remarkable for a small island on the periphery of Europe with almost no natural resources), he smiled and reminded me he had predicted it all.

Back to Dublin

Over the past two and a half decades, I've seen many successful examples of Wagner's theory on Irish efficiency. I've seen RyanAir grow from a "no way that can work" startup to the largest airline in Europe (by fleet size), and numerous tech startups that have dominated the world. Every time I hear about an Irish success story, I think of Wagner's words to me 25 years ago. Most recently, the success of Unibet Open Dublin brought him back into my mind.

Thrown together at very short notice, Nick O'Hara and Brian Lannon did an amazing job pulling it all in place for the return of Unibet to our shores for the first time in seven years. There were understandable concerns over the venue (the Regency/Bonnington is a major turn off for many locals) but it was dressed up better than I could ever have imagined for the poker. The TV table (sadly lacking from many Irish events these days) added a real sense of occasion, McGettigan's is a great addition, and the event itself was impeccably run.

I arrived back from the Bahamas (that trip will be the subject of my next blog) Tuesday not having slept in over 24 hours. I did manage to grab a few hours sleep before the team dinner in The Church. Afterwards, the talented Elena Kask took this photo of Mrs Doke and I, both happy to be home.

The first event I played (but not for very long) was the tag team. I was lucky enough to be drawn with Instagram superstar STPeach, and managed to keep my perfect record of always being the one to bust the team every time I partner with a beautiful lady.

The next event I played was the High Roller. I was pretty card dead day one, but somehow bagged up the chiplead, mainly due to one massive hand. New Unibet Finland pro, Tuomo Niskanen, opened in the hijack to 900.

I considered flatting aces playing just over 25k but Tuomo is so aggressive I figured 3 bet get in was the best plan. To my surprise Keith Brennan 4 bet from the small blind, so now I'm loving life, and that's even before Tuomo shoved. After I reshoved Keith tanked before sigh flicking it in with kings. My aces held (Tuomo had ace king), as Benny Glaser and Espen Jorstad (both of whom were at the table) joked "You know it's an old nit when they tank kings".

I don't think I won a single pot on day 2 and ended up busting well before the money. I went back to the hotel (we were staying in the Skylon) for a run (my only of the week) before coming back to do some commentary on the DSO final table, rail Daiva who was playing Day 1A of the main, and most importantly of all, bring her coffee.

I played 1B, and was at a tough table all day, featuring John Keown (fresh from chopping the DSO), Jason Tompkins, an American Andrew Brokos lookalike called Jayson and several other strong local players.

John was joking with a foreign lady at the table that she was at a table of Irish legends when the third of fourth best tournament director in the room Kenny Hallaert appeared.

"Yes, a table of Irish legends.....and Dara O'Kearney"

Thanks Kenny. Here's a picture of Kenny doing what he does best.

I was happy to bag up just over double starting stack, below average but still competitive, for day 2.

Day 2 was something of a rollercoaster. I made a great start when I doubled up and bust the formidable Phil Huxley. I open AK utg, John Farrell flatted in the next seat, and Phil considered his options with KQo and just over twenty big blinds before shoving. I reshoved and held, but from there on barely won a pot and as I was moved to the feature table near the bubble, survival was the priority. Thankfully the bubble didn't last too long and I squeaked through. A few hands later, I shoved ATo into John Farrell's AQo. A few people watching the stream were surprised i wasn't sweating the result more: instead I seem to be casually chatting to Andy Black beside me. What was actually happening was I was giving Andy the address for the livestream: once I saw what I was up against I figured this was probably my last hand so wanted him to have it before I left. As I said before, having a full livestream is a very attractive selling point to Irish players, and even someone like Andy seemed genuinely excited to be able to tell his missus she could tune in.

After my bustout I did another commentary stint and signed up to do the night shift with Henry Kilbane so everyone else could go to the party. You never really know how you're going to gel with someone on commentary til you try it but it felt very natural and easy with Henry. I got lots of positive feedback from Irish players after who tuned in, so well done Henry. Shoutout to the Twitch chat too who were great fun: most of them were there for eventual winner Paul Jux Holderness (congratulations to him) who it turns out is a YouTube sensation. I was a little sceptical at first as it's not a world I know much (or anything) about but he's clearly a big deal and his fans were great fun.

My roommate for the week Mick McCloskey was still in at the end of play. It was too late to head to the party, and it ended just in time to see Emelie Svenningsson win the Ladies event. The event itself was a massive success, attracting more runners than the Ladies at the Irish Open this year and almost double what the Ladies in Killarney got. Daiva has done a great job drawing in ladies of all levels: personally I always root for the grinders and the workers, and Emelie falls in that camp, putting in volume online and working on her game (she even bought my satellite webinar).

Sunday was mostly about railing Mick, and other socialising. His hand histories are always interesting to say the least:
“So this guy opening all sorts open and I call 99”
“What positions Mick?”
Long pause during which Mick looks annoyed like it's a stupid question....
“He’s in the cutoff and I’m button”
“What are the stacks?”
Mick looks really annoyed with this stupid line of questioning.
“No fucking clue. Flop is Q56 and I check”
“You're the button????”
“I was a blind”

(All good photos in this blog courtesy of Tambet and Elena Kask. All the bad ones like this are mine)

When I got up that morning I sent various friends "What are you up to today?" messages, including Alan Widmann.

A few hours later, Alan duly shipped the last event of the weekend, to his obvious delight. It was his first win in a live tournament. Alan works tremendously hard on his very popular Twitch stream and YouTube channel (anyone who thinks that isn't hard work really doesn't understand how much of a grind people like Alan, Sco and Djarii put in), but also makes the time to work on his poker and grind as much as he can online, so I was delighted to see his effort pay off, as were the rest of the Unibet team. A great finish to a great festival.

Afterwards, there was some backslapping for McCloskey who came fifth in the end, and he was going around telling everyone that would listen (and that could decipher his accent) that maybe he should be the Irish ambassador having final tabled the last two Unibet sponsored events here. I'm not sure the Unibet budget could afford the amount of drink vouchers he'd need.

I was pretty shattered by now so after hanging out with whoever didn't have an early flight the next day, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. During the week, I did an interview with blogger extraordinaire Christian Zetzsche, the first part of which has already appeared (I think the plan is to make it a three parter). I told Christian that I'm having my best ever year online and the plan is to finish strong on that front. Also check out Christian's excellent piece on Freddie Bergmann.

The last time the Unibet Open came to Dublin, I think only 6 Irish played it (and I staked two of the others, so effectively half of the buyins were mine), which might explain why it took 7 years for them to come back. With this event being organised at such short notice, and a lot of locals not to crazy about the venue, I was very worried we could see something of a repeat with a low local turnout. So I was thrilled that so many Irish players did turn up and play. We ended up exceeding all expectations: 99 more than the last Unibet Open Dublin, 86 more than Malta, and even ten more than London.

It was also great to see so many foreign friends make the trip, many to play a buyin level they normally wouldn't travel for. Andy Hills and his lovely girlfriend couldn't play the main due to other commitments, but came midweek for some side events. George Devine and his lovely wife could only come for the weekend side events. A special shoutout to all the people who took the time to come and say how much they enjoyed the Chip Race and the blog, and how they'd been deciding factors in getting them to travel. Jack Sinclair and his wife Feargus (who shipped the superstack) also made the trip: two top lads to hang out with. KevMath was also making his first appearance on our shores: what a legend, and he left having secured his first Irish flag. And what can I say about the son-in-law I never had Timmy and his partner in crime David Docherty (who did a great stint in the commentary box when he correctly deduced the bubble must have burst when I shoved ATo) except it's always great to see them.

Also a special shoutout to the tireless Unibet live events crew. Live events head Nataly has assembled an all female crew that is the best in the business and underlines that when Unibet talks about QueenRules, it doesn't just apply to players. Mai, Kasia and new girl Sophie were a closeknit team working their socks off to make sure everything was perfect. Special shoutout to Shirley Ang, who doesn't work for Unibet but comes in for every event to bully, cajole, persuade and (very occasionally) charm the ambassadors to do what's needed, make sure the livestream is top class, pick feature tables, and sort whatever shit arises out. Nobody works harder at a poker event than Shirley whether she's there as a blogger or a coordinator: she's a perfectionist who can't stand sloppiness or half measures and will make sure everyone does their best. She's also essentially the sweeper or libero of the operation: if someone messes up, Shirley will step in to clean up. Terrifying, terrific and effective all at once, one of my favourite images of the week was her literally dragging Lappin by the arm through the poker room to make him do her bidding.

All the Irish I spoke to afterwards were glowing in their praise and hopeful we wouldn't have to wait another seven years. After the event, I was talking to Nataly about how well it had gone. She said
"I guess we have to come back?"
"Be rude not to"
"A crime not to!"



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