Farrell Enjoying Dublin While Hosting Firaldo Irish Leaderboard

We decided to have a pint this afternoon with Scottish poker legend Niall “Firaldo” Farrell. Surprisingly, I was the only one to order a Guinness as Firaldo was on the H20 grind after three fearless days of partying and poker. Firaldo, who likely needs no introduction to most poker enthusiasts, is one of only a few players with a live triple crown – with titles at the WSOP, EPT, and WPT. But before that, he was a beast online with more than $4 million in online cashes to go along with his nearly $7 million earned on the live poker circuit.

Firaldo, or perhaps Fearaldo today, has transformed into a bit of a family man with a four-year-old son at home and needs to be selective about when he is on the road instead of pre-pandemic times when he was living out of a suitcase. He described the Irish Poker Open as more important than even the World Series of Poker and a “can’t miss” event. The Scottish poker beast created the Firaldo Irish Open Leaderboard at the start of this year’s festival after getting inspiration from TD Teresa Nousiainen’s Team Competition in Tallinn, another place he loves to visit.

Going at it Hard from the Start

Niall Farrell

Farrell is here in Dublin with a small contingent of friends including the likes of 2022 Main Event runner-up Kyle Maguire (pictured above with Firaldo), EPT Deauville champion Jake Cody, former Irish Open commentator Andrew “Picasso” Hedley, and others in what he describes as a “big family.”

However, Maguire is known for stepping it up a notch and going at it harder than most people can keep up with from the start. This is the main reason Firaldo’s drink of choice today will be water instead of the usual suds from the tap and also the reason he now has a roommate in Maguire as his friend crashed the opening night in Firaldo’s spare bed and had his hotel room canceled after failing to check in at a reasonable time.

To say Firaldo has been having a blast might be the understatement of the 2024 Irish Poker Open at the Royal Dublin Society. He has more than covered his bar tab with two cashes in side events and advanced to Day 2 of the Main Event yesterday with a healthy stack after parlaying his 30,000 in chips into 142,500 during Thursday’s Day 1b – a performance which has earned him a day off today.

The partying (other than today) has been what you expect from Firaldo with drinks always nearby whether at the table or breaking away from the cards. He has taken note of the records being broken in the side events and is certain the same will happen in the Main Event.

“It’s been great,” Firaldo said about the first few days. “I have seen a lot of people that I haven’t seen for a while. I also met many new people, especially a lot of North Americans who are in attendance this year a lot more than normal. So I think everything’s massive as well. So yeah, it’s been great. And the poker, poker.

Fun Firaldo Irish Leaderboard Heating Up

Firaldo’s fun leaderboard rewards both performance at the poker tables along with performing well in non-poker activities including a Guinness (or non-alcoholic) drinking competition, horse wagering, and a karaoke contest judged by an independent panel.

Players were certainly into the poker portion with Ferdia O’Connell interrupting our interview just to find out if he officially advanced to the final four. O’Connell was second on the leaderboard only behind The Chip Race podcast co-host David Lappin with Rec Poker’s Jim Reid and PokerStars Team Pro Benjamin “Spraggy” Spragg also making the cut. The finalists are thrilled with their Spragging bragging rights over those that didn’t perform as well including bubble boy Marc MacDonald, Ian Drake, Jamie Nixon, Glenn Keogh, The Hendon Mob’s Roland Boothby, Kevin O’Donnell, Katie Swift, Oliver Braddock, Marc Roovers, and Dan Turner.

The poker portion of the contest was judged simply on the cashes players earned in a variety of events over the first few days excluding the €5,000 Luxon Pay High Roller, the €250 Ladies Event, and the capped €350 Heads-Up affair. Farrell confirmed that bounties collected in Mystery Bounty tournaments did count but also claimed that Spraggy was a luck box benefitting from a big mystery bounty prize to advance to the final four.

“Listen, nothing in life is fair in my mind,” said about the current standings. “Some people might say that Spraggy might not have the poker skill to make it through on pure skill. He appears to have snuck in front simply by getting a large prize in a random envelope.”

Players are having fun in the competition as are the bystanders. It was accessible to any poker player thanks to the nosebleed event being excluded and good banter between the players.

Initially, the leaderboard top prize was a choice of either two hours of coaching or a free bar tab on Sunday, paid for by Firaldo. However, PokerStars stepped it up in a huge way and are adding a Silver Pass valued at $2,500 to the winner and a €1,100 UKIPT Marbella Main Event seat to the runner-up. Paddy Power and others have also contributed gear to the leaderboard.

Firaldo has subsequently rejigged the prize offering – third-place will now get the coaching/bar tab option and Firaldo will likely reward the fourth-place finish as well – what he has already dubbed the “Spraggy Spot” – with a bar tab. The winner will also have the contest named after him and the Lappin Leaderboard does have a nice sound but he will have his work cut out for him with others equally as hungry for their Spragging rights.

Tomorrow night will be a big one for the final four and we have seen several practice the first step in the Guinness competition. This is more difficult than it sounds as most of the crew can finish a drink quickly if put to the task. Instead, they need to take one gulp and get as close as possible to the first line in the cup.

Shortly after, Farrell will hand each player €10 to gamble on the horses. The player that wins the most or loses the least will be crowned the champion of the ponies. The contest rounds off with the Karaoke Competition on Saturday night. Points will be awarded from 4 to the winner down to 1 point for the last-place finisher in each event.

“What about a tie,” we asked Firaldo.

“Well, I honestly haven’t thought too much about that yet, but you bring up a good point,” Firaldo admitted. “Spoof is quite a popular game in these parts and would be the perfect tie-breaker whether it is two tied in the top spot or more.”

Balancing Being a Dad and Travel

Firaldo is a man who has all the love for everyone in the world. He will make time for a pint for anyone but he is doing his best to be fresh for the big Leaderboard finale on Saturday.

Living out of a suitcase is no longer an option with a four-year-old boy at home, so he needs to be very selective in his trip planning. That being said, the Irish Poker Open will remain on his calendar for years due to the camaraderie and fun that players have while competing for substantial often life-changing prizes.

“It was tough to even say goodbye to my family,” said Firaldo. “I told my son that I would be earning some pennies and shared he would get a toy when he asked further about the pennies. It was heart-breaking in a way as moments later he came back with his collected pennies and said now you don’t need to go.”

The shift in lifestyle has brought Firaldo mostly back to the online felts where he got his break wet before becoming the international legend he is known as today. He is playing selectively a handful of online events three to four nights a week. He also said he moved down stakes some – while he has not worked on his game much, many others have. Firaldo’s “moving down” is still high stakes for most of us – he’s comfortable still playing $1,000 buy-in online events, just not the nosebleed $5k tournaments.

Firaldo said one adjustment he had to make is that his notes were no longer valued and most regular players have gotten better than when he was on the full grind. He credited his close friend Sam Grafton for scouting his opponents rather than relying on dated information.

That being said, Firaldo has two more trips planned in the near future to the Mediterranean Poker Party in Cyprus and poker’s largest summer camp at the World Series of Poker where he will be hunting for his second bracelet. While his family won’t be traveling with him on either trip, at least his son should be happy and miss his Dad less as he will go to his wife’s home country of Lithuania to enjoy the beautiful nature that the Baltic country has to afford.

We wish your friend and mine Niall “Firaldo” Farrell the best of luck the rest of the way.

  • Photos courtesy of Irish Poker Open photographer Mickey May.