Why Scandinavians ADORE the Irish Open 

We’re deep into the 2024 Irish Open and it’s safe to say that the event’s been a slam dunk so far. The number of entries in all events has been amazing and are exceding those from the 2023 tournaments by a significant margin. For example, there were 136 entries in this year’s Ladies’ Event compared to 63 in 2023. It’s incredible to see more women in live poker tournaments, but no one would think otherwise with so many great ambassadors for women’s poker.

Lots of action at the Royal Dublin Society.

The charm of the Irish Open; is that it’s so much more than a week of poker. It’s one of the pinnacles for the global poker community to come together, share laughs and thoughts, enjoy each other’s company, and strengthen the bonds between players, staff, organizers, and overall poker entities.

One group of players that really appreciates the Irish Open are Scandinavians. The availability of live poker events in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark is limited at best, but demand is huge. The Irish Open is the perfect event for all Scandinavians to enjoy the experience of a lifetime and there’s been a decent number of “Scandis” at this year’s event. But what exactly makes the Irish Open such a popular event for Scandinavians? 

Franke Leads the Swedish Crowd to Dublin 

For Swedish residents, live poker events are few and far between and that doesn’t seem likely to improve in the near future. About a month ago, two out of Sweden’s three casinos had to shut down for as no longer financially viable. The only one remaining is in Stockholm with very limited opening hours and very few live poker tournaments. On a good night, there may be seven cash game tables running alongside a single tournament capped to around 40 players. 

Nevertheless, live poker in Sweden is big. Many “Vikings” travel abroad frequently to participate in various live poker events and the Irish Open is fast becoming one of their favorite stops. Of all the Swedish visitors here in Dublin, poker entrepreneur Martin “Franke” Von Zweigbergk might be the biggest Irish Poker Open fan. He’s a Friend of the Irish Open and has nothing but good words to say about the event: 

“I have been over to Ireland for the poker scene since 2014, which is also when I met JP (co-organiser of the Irish Open) and got to know him and his crew for the first time. In 2016 when he and Paul took over the full responsibility of this classical event, you could almost feel their vision of this friendly event. I also believe that was the first year I got to know Paul, but also other amazing Irish poker heroes like Karen Muir and Kevin Malone. This pack of four I truly see as private friends both off and on the felt; I guess JP is the only one I can still win money against.” 

As previously stated, Franke’s earned himself the title “Friend of the Irish Open” and he’s honored to have this ambassadorial role. Franke’s convinced the Irish Open is unique and he reminisces about the 2019 Main Event: 

“Another good memory is of course when I cashed in the Main Event, maybe 40th place or so, and even late in day 3 I am on Firaldo-level with the Guinness. I barrel high bets-bluff with rags pre-flop and on all streets. On the river, the opponent that correctly had called me with top pair week kicker went into Super Tank. I guess three minutes into his thinking process, facing my all-in shove, I fell asleep due to the many days of Craic and not to forget the many Guinness on Day 3…I mean, if your opponent falls asleep, then he must be confident and strong, right? So, the opponent tanked for another minute, folded incorrectly, and even showed the other players what he folded.  

The dealer pushes all the chips to me, and I don’t react… I didn’t move until someone poked me and told me to wake up. I shook off my sleep, looked at my hole cards, saw the monster chip stack, and showed my 2-3 off for the bluff of the century. Epic times.” 

Franke is far from being the only Swede at the Royal Dublin Society this year. There are around 20 players waving the blue/yellow flag, amongst them Hans Erlandsson who had a deep run in the EPT Paris 2024 Main Event about a month ago finishing 14th. In Thursday’s satellite, Erlandsson managed to come back from less than one big blind to win a €1,150 Main Event seat. 

Hans Erlandsson caught as he shows kings.

Even though Hans busted on Day 1C of the Main Event, there’s no doubt that he and all other Swedish poker players are having a great time in Dublin, participating in a live poker event on a scale we’re very unlikely ever to see on Swedish ground for years to come – maybe never. 

Kyte Keeps Coming Back 

Next to Sweden is Norway and the Scandinavian poker fever runs hot there as well. The biggest proof of this is the Norwegian Government’s National Championships which attracts around 3,500 unique players every year. Sadly, this is the only regulated poker event in Norway and the country doesn’t have a single casino. 

Because of this, having Ireland pretty close is a blessing in the sky for all Norwegian poker players. One of the most distinguished Norwegians here is Jon Kyte, who finished second in EPT Prague last December when the title went to Irishman Padraig O’Neill. 

Jon Kyte focused during Day 1C of the Main Event.

Kyte, who has a very impressive poker resumé, values the Irish Open and he keeps coming back to Dublin for the event: 

“I really love the Irish Open. The turnout is great. The staff is awesome as always and it’s really nicely organized. This is my 6th time going; been going every year since I started playing poker except last year.” 

The poker bonds between Norway and Ireland go way back. The Norwegian Poker Federation’s version of the Norwegian Championships used to run in conjunction with the Irish Open. As such, Norwegians are no stranger to the Irish capital and it has become something of a “poker playground” for many of them. 

Simen Gulbrandsen, Lars Petter Sommer, Birger Larsen, and Andreas Wiborg are among Kyte’s fellow countrymen who will join the the EPT Prague 2023 runner-up in a bid to take an Irish Open trophy home to Scandinavia. Considering they have the biggest National event in Europe there’s no question about it: the Norwegians love live poker, and the Irish Open welcomes them with open arms. 

Bengtsén’s Debut – a Joyful Experience

Across the sea there’s Denmark – and the chances to enjoy regular live poker are no better there than Norway . As such, they’re also looking for nearby European live poker events and more and more of them are visiting the Irish Open. 

Jannik Bengtsén is one of several Danes who are first-time Irish Open participants and was off to a roaring start when he made the semi-finals – and cashed – in this year’s Heads-Up Event. Even though he lost to Irish Open 2023 Main Event champion David Docherty, he has fallen in love with the Irish Open: 

“This is my first year. I’ve been playing in maybe 30 different venues over the years, and this is definitely in the top three in Europe – maybe even the best one. Everything is really nice. Irish people are really nice, the whole setup is really nice. It’s a good mix of players, some are really good.” 

Dane Jannik Bengtsén grinding on in the Main Event.

Bengtsén has been playing poker for 15 years, and he used to play professionally. Nowadays he’s solely playing live and he thinks the Irish Open is rolling back the years in a kind of way: 

“I played a couple of the satellites; they were so fun. Everyone’s drinking, everyone’s having a laugh… it’s basically how poker was 50 years ago. Obviously, there’s a ton of English pros as well, it’s a really nice mix.” 

Bengtsén hasn’t seen too many other Danes at this year’s event, but Nicklas Dehli, Martin Christensen, and Patrick Sörensen are all here enjoying the event. It’s been nothing but a great experience and Bengtsén wants to give a shoutout to the staff: 

“One thing I would like to point out is that all the dealers so far have been on point, and that’s not a given for all poker events. Usually, all the PokerStars Events are great but on other events, the standard can be worse. It makes all the difference to have good dealers

I’m coming back again here definitely. It’s a great event, it’s close, the hotels are nearby the venue…everything’s super nice. I’m coming back again here definitely.” 

The Perfect Stop for Scandinavians

To sum it up, it’s evident that the Scandinavian live poker scene leaves a lot to ask for. Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes are all on the hunt for great live poker events to attend. Considering what we’ve heard from Franke, Kyte, and Bengtsén, it’s safe to say their quest may well be over. The trip to Dublin is not much longer than two hours and the Irish Open is certainly a well-appreciated event by the Scandinavians. Presumably, we’ll see even more of them next year. In the long history of the Irish Open – it’s Europe’s longest-running poker tournament – Sweden’s Christer Johansson is the only Scandinavian Main Event winner after lifting the trophy back in 2009. Will we see a new Scandinavian lift the trophy this year? Let’s hope so!
Pics by Mickey May