Interview With Padraig 'PadraigParky' Parkinson

11 months ago
Interview With Padraig 'PadraigParky' Parkinson
24 Mar

When you ask an Irishman a question, don’t expect a one-word answer! Team partypoker’s Padraig 'PadraigParky' Parkinson is definitely an Irishman, and the Dublin pro is an interviewer’s dream – an absolute font of tales and stories from the world of poker.

PokerTube caught up with the man who didn’t miss a day of the World Series of Poker in 19 years to find out why Ireland punches above its weight in poker, who makes his own testimonial home game and why partypoker’s ‘mouth and ears’ are so important for the game he loves!

Q: You’ve been around ‘a while’: what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in poker over the years?

I started playing club poker in Dublin's Eccentric Club which was founded by Irish bookmaker Terry Rogers. Terry introduced NLH tournaments to Europe after seeing the light on a visit to Binions. It wasn’t much really. Just a couple of rooms above a shop beside a pub on the Northside. One of the most amazing and practically unknown facts in poker history is that that little club has produced six WSOP Main Event final tableists. Six!!! 

Thirtysomething years later I’m in the Bahamas playing the Caribbean Poker Party with zillions in prize money. I didn’t win there and didn’t win the Irish Open back in the Eccentrics Club either. So I guess not much has changed really! 

In the 80s and 90s your opponents were likely to have come to the game via the bookies shop, the snooker club or the pub. Or all three! Nowadays they are more likely to have come from a study group, the gym or that shop that sells the man bags these lads carry their stuff around in these days. 

At the top level it’s a lot more serious but that’s not to say the fun has gone out of the game. You just have to look a bit harder for it. If you’re looking, Ireland wouldn’t be the worst place to start!

The huge change that doesn’t really get talked about is that TV has promoted the NLH version of the game at the expense of all others at both tournament and ring game level. Not a change for the better in my opinion. The variety made the game more skillful and way more craic.

Q: The partypoker link – tell us how that came about?

I have had a cordial relationship with partypoker for a long time. In 2002 I helped Mike Sexton to persuade my roommate Scott Gray to wear their hat at the WSOP Main Event final table. The fee was one beer. (I think I got stuck with the bill). I haven’t heard the end of it since!

Over the years I did quite a bit of TV commentary with Jesse May on partypoker sponsored events. What fun they were! When partypoker decided to sponsor and televise the Irish Poker Championship in Galway they asked me to recruit big names from outside Ireland to play the event. Galway. New Year party. Not a hard sell. 

Easiest guy to get on board was The Devilfish. I told him I could fix it for him to play a few numbers with the band every night. There was no stopping him. First night he sang a couple of songs and then continued to play electric guitar with the band. I told the band leader they could lose The Fish whenever they liked. He told me it was no problem. They had turned down his guitar ages ago!

Several years later when partypoker were on the offensive and interested in again involving themselves in the Irish market I told them that in my opinion the players who are the life and soul of Irish poker, the grassroots who love the game, had been neglected for years and would get behind a player friendly site if they were talked to face to face in their own clubs, festivals and pubs around the country. 

partypoker bought into it so much so that they guaranteed €250k for a €120 buy-in in the venue to beat all venues, the magical Killarney. No pressure so! Thankfully the Irish grassroots players loved it being about them. It took a lot more work than I thought but it was also great fun. The Irish players did us proud and we made an unlikely guarantee. That’s the Irish for you!

Q: Ireland seem to punch above their weight in poker terms – why is that?

Micky Finn, an Irish American poker player, was of the opinion the Irish were good at poker because they’d spent centuries having to lie to the English. Maybe. But for sure the Irish are better at poker games where imagination and bluff are more important than technique.

Q: Late Night Poker, WSOP, Irish Open, etc - which event has given you most enjoyment over the years and why?

LNP was ground breaking, iconic, cool and great fun. But it was what it was. A made for TV shootout.

The Irish Open is in my DNA. I’ve possibly lost more Irish Opens than anyone else. Though I did get rivered for it! I was involved in both the TV end and its promotion in the US for years and watched it become among Europe’s finest. I would love to see it climb back up the pecking order and read Rob Yong's views on championship events being freezeouts with interest. I think making the Irish Open a level playing field would help greatly to restore it to its former glory. It has a big advantage in that at its best, it’s fantastic craic.

I fell in love with the WSOP the first time I walked into Binions. For almost 20 years I never missed a day and loved every one of them. The history, the romance of the whole thing. The walking in the footsteps of the legends of the game. It changed my life. And my lifestyle. I liked it so much I totally quit drinking and exercised every day from January 1st every year until I got knocked out of the WSOP Main Event. 

I probably owe the WSOP my life. Then again they probably owe me a bracelet or two. I guess that makes us about even! 

Q: What do you think of the Devilfish documentary just out on partypoker TV? 

I thought it was brilliant. So easy to get wrong but they nailed it. Obviously very well researched as Barny, Simon, Rob, Marcel, Duthie, etc told it exactly as they and others saw it. Barny's insight into Dave's reading of situations and opponents was spot on. I loved the way the documentary flowed so naturally. Often the truth is the best story.

Q: What do you think/hope fellow players would say in a documentary about you? 

A bunch of lies interspersed with the odd joke would be excellent.

Q: Are you still learning new things about poker as the years go by? If so, how?

Yes. Painfully. Is there another way?

Q: Who from all the players you’ve met do you invite to your full ring testimonial poker table?

Mike Sexton. If Carlsberg did ambassadors.....

Stuey [Ungar]. Simply the best.

Phil Helmuth. A go to source of entertainment if we get bored.

Barry Greenstein. I love his wit.

Jesse May. I couldn’t disappoint him by leaving him out. He’d absolutely love this setup.

The Devilfish [Dave Ulliott]. Funny when he’s winning. Hilarious when he’s losing.

Tony G. Funny for first four beers. Hilarious for next four. A nightmare for all subsequent beers. Perfect.

Nolan Dalla. No better man to tell the tale.

Simon Trumper. If only to pxxx off Barry G. These guys have history! 

Mike The Mouth. Why not? We’ve gone this far.

Q: And who is most likely to win?

The audience. 

Q: What do you think partypoker bring to the game that others don’t?

One mouth but two ears.

Q: Design your own perfect partypoker tournament – what does it look like?

It’s there already. It’d be sad if it wasn’t!

Q: What is the most memorable/ridiculous/amazing poker experience you’ve had?

The most amazing happened a couple of years ago in partypoker's first visit to Killarney. We were attempting to get the grassroots of Irish poker onside by guaranteeing a €250k prizepool for a buy-in of just €120. And we were starting from scratch. Somehow or other I ended up travelling Ireland night after night talking to players in clubs and pubs trying to convince people that this was about them. 

I had a friend called Fitzy who thought driving me around the place was good craic. It takes all kinds. One night he took me to a pub game in a place called Mountmellick. Weird people. About 2 a.m I made a speech about Killarney, remote Day1s and stuff like that. A couple of dozen guys stood there looking at me as though I was speaking Russian. 

After a while I asked if there were any questions. One guy, who had a brochure in his hand, asked if he could take the magazine home. I told him he could take the lot if he liked or words to that effect. And for the first time I just gave up. This was going nowhere. I mean nowhere. I contented myself with abusing Fitzy all the way home for timewasting. I got over it. 

About three weeks later I was standing around having the craic in Killarney when Fitzy appeared at my side and pointed to five guys who were sitting around a table. They were five lads who’d been in the pub in Mountmellick. I have been around enough not to get gobsmacked easily but these guys took the biscuit

Q: How much money would you have to be offered to give up poker?

Not a lot😁

Q: Outside of poker, what brings you most enjoyment in life?

If the company is good fun I don’t really care what’s going on. Though watching Manchester United playing attacking football while Mourinho sleeps with the fishes is hard to beat.

Q: partypoker makes you ‘boss for a day’ – what happens?

Easy. First I’d instruct people to find a way to stop players using software to get information on their opponents and make it 'proper' poker again where you do the observation and information gathering yourself. Then I’d instruct people to bring the WSOPE to Ireland and keep it there. Then I’d go for lunch and not come back. A good day’s work!

From Dublin to Vegas and back again, something tells me the Padraig Parkinson story has a long way to run yet – and with it a craic you’ll only find on the Emerald Isle!

With the Irish Open less than a month away, you could be joining Padraig and a host of other partypoker pros in Dublin – the chance to satellite your way to the €1million GTD Main Event starting here.

You can keep up to date with Padraig's blog pieces on his blog here.

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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