The Ladies event is one of the consistent fixtures on the Irish Open schedule and always attracts a substantial field. For some women, it’s a chance to try out live poker for the first time, for others it’s a chance to catch up with old mates.
This year’s Ladies Event at the Irish Open is taking place on Thursday, April 6 (Day 1b of the Main Event). The €250 buy-in tournament starts at 2pm and features a 15,000 starting stack and 30-minute clock.
Former teacher Annette O’Carroll is Ireland’s most successful female live tournament player and has been competing at the Irish Open for decades. She says the Ladies Event is one of the most challenging events on the schedule. She said: “It’s an absolute minefield. There’s such a huge variety of styles! Some people playing a mind game, some are playing just the two cards in front of them, and some people are going to see every flop. But the atmosphere is very jolly. There’s a real kind of goodwill attitude.
“Back in the day, a lot of players were the wives and girlfriends of poker players but now you get a lot of women who are involved in the poker industry and promoting the game. The conversation always turns to the subject of why there aren’t more women poker players. Well, that’s because women have to keep the show on the road at home! I’ve been lucky – I’ve always had a lot of freedom to play poker – and now I’m retired that’s given me the opportunity to travel and play poker overseas as well. But that’s impossible for a lot of women.”
UK-based American Deborah Worley Roberts is another well-known face at the Irish Open and always plays the Ladies Event if she can. She said: “What’s great about the Irish Open is that the organisers don’t schedule the Ladies Event in competition with another big side event – or even the Main Event. There’s often an assumption that women just aren’t going to be playing the bigger events so it doesn’t matter when you schedule their tournament – that’s just rude!!! The Irish Open are very respectful – they don’t dumb the tournament down and it doesn’t clash with anything else!
“What I’d like to see now is more of the women who play Ladies Events having a go in other tournaments too – I’d like to see more of them make that crossover into mainstream poker.” Worley-Roberts, whose biggest ever live cash was her runner-up finish at the WSOP Ladies Championship in 2017, is an ardent supporter of Ladies Events. She said: “I’ll be honest, part of that is because they do tend to have a softer field. If they stopped Ladies Events tomorrow, I’d be pretty sad about it!”
Another player who will definitely be attending this year’s event is triple-casher Rachel Heneghan. Heneghan, who is Head of Marketing at DTD LIVE in Nottingham, has played the last three live Ladies Events at the Irish Open and has a sensational record so far. She won her first one – in 2018 – and made the final table in the next two. She said: “The Irish Open Ladies Event is definitely one of the nicest Ladies Events that I’ve played. It’s really friendly and there is always a lot of familiar faces. Everyone is very welcoming.”
Heneghan attends the Irish Open with her partner Steve Warburton, one of the UK’s top live poker players. Warburton, who has amassed more than $2.3 million in live tournament winnings, won the Irish Open High Roller in 2017 after beating Chris Dowling heads-up. Heneghan added: “Usually I only play the Ladies Event but I have played the Main Event a couple of times. The Irish Open is fantastic. Everyone is there for a laugh. Yes, it’s a serious poker tournament – and there’s a lot of money on the line – but everyone also embraces the fun Irish element of it as well.”
Worley-Roberts is also a huge Irish Open fan. She said: “Going to Dublin is always awesome, I think also the whole camaraderie of it is amazing. The cash games are mental, the music is great, the chance to see everyone … it makes losing easier!”
Last year there were 51 entries in the event with Lithuania’s Migle Kriksciunaite scooping €3,345 after beating Ireland’s Grace Hession heads-up. The total prize pool was €10,940.
Interview with last year’s winner
Picture credits: Mickey May