Nick O’Hara is one of the best known and most experienced tournament directors in Europe. He’s been running poker events for over 20 years and has also been a driving force behind the development of the market-leading kHold’em poker tournament software.
Nick first started running poker events back in 2004 while working as an adventure sports instructor. With little going on during the off-season, Nick decided to liven up the winter months by hosting a fun €25 + €5 poker tournament. To his surprise, more than 80 players turned up to the first event and Nick was soon running regular poker tournaments at The Angler’s Rest pub in Dublin and then other pubs around the city. He said: “It was crazy. The first night at my brother’s pub, we had 91 players. A few days later, we had 300. So I started organising tournaments at other pubs and before I knew it, I was running three tournaments a night, five nights a week all over Dublin – with hundreds of players at every single one. A lot of really well-known Irish players actually started their poker careers in my pub tournaments.
“It was all pretty basic back in the day. We ran the clock using old-fashioned overhead projectors and every level I would scrub out the old blinds with a cloth, and then hand-write in the new blinds. There was no software, you couldn’t even buy branded poker tables or baizes. We had off-the-shelf poker chips and I’d write up the denominations on pieces of paper and stick them on the walls.”
For around ten years, Nick combined his career in adventure sports with organising poker tournaments. He also started working at big international events such as PokerStars’ European Poker Tour, the UKIPTs, Unibet Opens and – from 2013 – the Irish Open. He became the Irish Open Tournament Director in 2015 when JP and Paul O’Reilly took over the event.
Nick also runs the International Poker Open which takes place in Dublin every Autumn. The Dublin-based father-of-two is also well-known for his work with kHold’em and was a key figure in developing the innovative software. Khold’em is now use at major tournaments worldwide.
Nick says the biggest challenge in running any poker tournament is preparation and planning and, in particular, estimating how many players will need to be seated – in every tournament and every cash game – for every hour of every day. He said: “Getting that right is crucial. If we get it wrong, we either don’t have enough tables or staff OR we have loads of empty tables – and staff standing around with nothing to do. It’s a very fine balance and something we’re really focusing on for this year’s tournament.”
Outside of work, Nick is still actively involved in adventure sports and is chair of his local Poulaphouca Paddlers kayaking club.