Unsung heroes of the 2023 Irish Open

In poker, as in most competitive sports, it’s the winners who snag the headlines – along with trophies, bragging rights and a professionally-taken winner pic. But at this year’s Irish Open, there were many players who quietly excelled in side events without ever being put in the spotlight.

Chief among this year’s unsung heroes was Nottingham player Wadey Ashraf who managed to cash in four different events during the week-long festival. He flew home to the UK having scored over €90k in winnings including final table appearances in both the Luxon Pay €5k High Roller and the €3k High Roller.

It was eventual champion Benny Glaser who ended Ashraf’s hopes in the €5k; Glaser shoved with aces, Ashraf re-shoved with KT and Glaser called. Glaser’s aces held up and Ashraf bowed out in third place for the princely sum of €49,795.

Ashraf had another near miss in the €3k High Roller, finishing fourth for €39,445. He was outlasted in that event by winner Cosmin Chis, runner-up Andrew Hulme and third-placed Michael Kane (more on Kane below)

Ashraf, who ran a chain of burger shops in Nottingham before turning to poker full-time a year ago, has been attending the Irish Open since 2011. The 51-year-old said: “It’s a great event. I really enjoy it. The atmosphere is great and it’s definitely a poker highlight of the year. It’s a very good community. Last year I was 1st, 2nd and 3rd in my first three events but this was definitely the most successful year I’ve had.”

Ukrainian player Vasyl Laba was the only other player who cashed four times at this year’s Irish Open and although his total winnings amount to a more modest €7,200, his haul did include finishing 80th in the Main Event and narrowly missing the final table in the very first event of the festival, the €350 NLH 6-Max.

More than 20 players cashed three times including Heads-Up champion Michael Kane. Kane amassed €55,100 at the festival thanks also to a cash in the Main Event and another in the Hendon Mob Championship. Austria’s Paul Jurgen Hofer, who was sixth in the €5k High Roller for €23,730, runner-up in the €1,100 NLH Mystery Bounty and also had a deep run in the APAT Irish Amateur Poker Championship. His haul amounted to €37,090, just slightly ahead of fellow triple-casher Jamie Wynne from Ireland, who was ninth in the Main Event, third in the Heads-Up and cashed in the APAT Irish Amateur Poker Championship (14th). His tally amounted to €36,480.

Nearly 80 players enjoyed two cashes at this year’s record-breaking festival with Benny Glaser enjoying the most spectacular double – taking down the €5k High Roller for €106,980 and then finishing tenth in the Main Event a few days later for a further €25,750.