2024 Irish Open Main Event finalists

From 3,233 entries, the Irish Open Main Event has been whittled down to just nine players over the course of the festival. They took their seats at the final table to battle it out for the life-changing top prize of €415,615.

Stephen Groom was the chip leader at the start of the final table with 17,725,000, closely tailed by Hiep Ninh in second.  We caught up with most of the final table players before play resumed.

Seat 1 – Mark Johnston, Northern Ireland – 9,375,000

Mark Johnston is a 21-year-old poker pro from Northern Ireland who started playing poker at a young age. He’s currently in his second gap year at university and now considers himself a pro player. “I’m mainly a cash game player, I’ve done well in cash.”

Johnston plays poker most days, although he “only started playing the live tournament events around September/October time.”

Despite being relatively new to the scene, he’s a confident player who comes to the final table with an average stack.

Seat 2 – David Tous, Spain – 12,925,000

David Tous is a 31-year-old poker pro from Andorra. He started off playing poker at university with friends and, after a few months, had improved his game to such a degree that he was winning on a regular basis.

Only a couple of weeks ago, David finished 13th in EPT Paris for €76,300, his best live cash to date. He’s no stranger to live poker events and his Hendon Mob results date back to 2014 when he also finished 13th in the Estrellas Main Event during EPT Barcelona. Tous also once won $150,000 playing a SCOOP event.

He’s really enjoyed his first Irish Open visit. “It’s a perfect event. It’s my first time and I’m coming back for sure.” David started the final table with 12,925,000 in chips.

Seat 3 – Hiep Ninh, Ireland – 17,675,000

Before this year’s Irish Open, Hiep Ninh’s previous biggest reported cash was €11,810 for a fifth-place finish at the 2022 Dublin Poker Festival, as well as a few more results locally around Ireland. Hiep Ninh came to the final table as the chip leader and is already set for his biggest live score and perhaps a huge six-figure score.

Seat 4 – Stephen Groom, UK – 17,725,000

Stephen Groom is a 33-year-old software engineer from North East England who discovered poker at a young age watching high-stakes poker on TV.

“We graduated playing pub games, some of us went further than others, and some fell out of love with it. I never gave the game up so I’ve been playing now for 15 years.”

Groom once won $18,000 on Stars but when it comes to his best result, in his own words, “I think we’re looking at it. It’s my first time at the Irish Open and it certainly won’t be the last”.  Groom is mostly a cash game player, but he came to the final table second in chips and with a decent chance of taking it all the way.

Seat 5 – Oliver Boyce, Ireland – 10,200,000

Oliver Boyce is soon turning 50 and looking forward to qualifying for the seniors event next year. He’s an experienced player who’s been at it all his life. He said: “I started playing poker with my granny when I was five or six. Donegal families play poker all the time. And I’m still playing now all these years later” Boyce doesn’t play too often now. “I played a lot 20 years ago. I had a great run before the boom and during the boom, I had a great run but when my daughter was born 16 years ago I kind of cut it all out again as I didn’t have the energy or time.”

Despite rarely finding little time to play, he’s had decent wins that include two UK titles, a World Series Mini in Dublin, the World Speed Poker championship, and a major Sunday title online.

Boyce is a veteran of the Irish Open and first played the event over 20 years ago. “It’s an amazing event. This year it’s very clear it’s an international event. It’s 60% of people from outside the country, which is amazing! It’s great to see so many high-ranked players here playing a 1k event.”

Outside of poker, Boyce is a consultant for a big tech company. “That’s why this is only a bit of fun.” Bit of fun it might be, but Boyce came to the final table with an average stack and a chance of earning a huge score.

Seat 6 – Tero Laurila, Finland – 7,525,000

Tero Laurila, 38, from Finland, is a full-time player who started playing poker in 2005. He said: “I play often – as much as possible. Mostly live games and PLO cash game is my main game.”

 Laurila’s best results came back in the day. “I was fourth in the PokerStars WCOOP Main Event for $126,000 in 2006. Last year I won another Main Event in Barcelona. So, that’s my best result in live games.” Laurila enjoys the atmosphere at the Irish Open and how well everything is organized. “It’s the best series I have been to.”

Seat 7 – Vidmantas Beliauskas, Lithuania/Ireland – 6,675,000

Vidmantas Beliauskas is originally from Lithuania and now lives in Ireland – at least, that’s the assumption given that all his results are from Irish poker events, including his top score, €13,300 for second place in an event at the Killarney Poker Festival. He came to the final table second to last in chips but still had plenty to play with as he looked to lock up a serious sum of money.

Seat 8 – Georgis Tsouloftas, Cyprus – 10,250,000

34-year-old Cypriot poker player Georgios Tsouloftas comes into the final with an impressive poker C.V, notably a big $260k score in the 2022 $3k Merit Main Event on home soil. Hailing from Limassol in Cyprus, Tsouloftas remembers a hero call with TJ for his tournament life that proved a crucial hand in his run to the final.

Well-placed in chips for today’s final, Tsouloftas has had a very positive experience here at the RDS. “It’s been lovely, the organisation is very structured. Everyone is very friendly and happy. I really like it.” Tsouloftas came into the final table in fourth place and, when asked if he could win, he said with a small smile that suggested confidence, “I have a chance…”

Seat 9 – Adrian Thorne, Ireland – 4,650,000

Adrian Thorne, 30, is an Irish poker player who’s right at home, literally, given Dublin is his hometown. Expect some vocal support on the rail! Adrian survived a thorny moment early in the tournament, holding kings versus queens and aces. It looked like his Main Event might have been done but a king in the window breathed fresh life into his challenge and helped propel him to the final table.

Thorne comes into the final set for his biggest live score (his previous best being just €2k) and, unsurprisingly, has had great impressions of the Irish Open so far. “It’s the first time I’ve been but I really like it.”  Despite coming into the final as the short stack, Thorne isn’t going to let that dampen his hopes. “If I get the cards, I can win!”