Friday, 24th May 2024 17:56
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What makes a truly great live poker festival? 

As you ponder that question, your mind probably jumps to an event where you enjoyed some success. What made it great was the fact you left better off than when you arrived.

For Chris Dowling, one such event would be the Irish Open. Not only does it bring together the entire Irish poker community in his hometown of Dublin, but he almost won it once, finishing third in 2017 for €75,000. He’s also enjoyed great results in side events over the years. “I get to sleep in my own bed,” he tells us. “That probably has something to do with it.”

But what about those of you reading who have never been to a big live event? For your first time, it’s not just about the poker. It’s about the experience. The vibe. The people you meet and the fun you can have.

Dowling is an Irish Open Ambassador

As Dowling and anyone who has ever attended the legendary Irish Open can attest, there’s a whole lot more going on there away from the tables that make it a must-visit event for any poker fan. Dowling’s so passionate about it that he’s been an official Irish Open Ambassador since December 2022. 

Following the announcement of the Irish Open Online – in which each winner will receive a full package to the live Irish Open – we caught up with Dowling at EPT Paris to find out what exactly makes the event special, and why you should consider it for your first major tournament.


At the time of our conversation, Chris Dowling has a big stack in front of him in the EPT Paris Main Event. He’s hoping to better a fantastic performance in Paris last year, where he final tabled the France Poker Series (FPS) Main Event – finishing fifth for €76,050 – and made two very deep runs in side events.

“Last year I hardly left the hotel from the time I registered my first tournament,” he remembers. “I just kept making Day 2’s. This year so far has been quite the opposite!”

Dowling on Day 2 of EPT Paris 2024

He might have been short of runs in Paris this year, but he’s not been short of conversation. His Irish Open patches have proved to be a fantastic icebreaker. 

“When you sit at a table with the patch on, it’s pretty common for people to ask about it straight away,” he says. “People recognise the event because it’s so famous. I get a lot of people saying they came once a few years ago and loved it and want to come back.”

The 2024 schedule has something for players of all bankrolls. Outside of the €1,150 buy-in, €1 million guaranteed Main Event, there’s also a €200 mini version with a staggering €500K in the prize pool, plus many other affordable side events.

One of the things about the 2024 edition Dowling has been bigging up to people thinking of attending is the improved schedule. “There are more big events and more PLO events, which I think is a good addition,” he says. 

Dowling is a PLO cash game player and no limit hold’em tournament player. He used to avoid PLO tournaments, but not anymore. “I used to think they were boring,” he says. “But since big blind antes have been added they’re really enjoyable now.”

While no limit hold’em remains the most popular game on the schedule, the Irish Open 2024 schedule boasts two PLO Mystery Bounty events, a 6-Max Championship, and several other PLO side events.

You can view the full Irish Open schedule here.

But as we mentioned, there’s so much to enjoy at the Irish Open away from the tables.


We’re told that this year there will be 5-a-side football games, darts tournaments, and even sumo wrestling. The Fellas will also be recording an episode of their podcast on site.

Plus, Team Pros Benjamin “Spraggy” Spragg and Fintan “easywithaces” Hand will be going head-to-head in an England vs Ireland battle, inviting attendees to get in on the fun.

“It’s a cliche, but it’s a good fun event and there’s a lot of emphasis on what’s going on away from the tables,” says Dowling. 

“If you’re going to make it your first major tournament, I couldn’t recommend it enough. There are some great tournaments around Europe and the Irish Open is right up there with the very best of them. I know I represent the brand, but you won’t find any poker players who say any different.”


Steeped in history, the Irish Open is also one of the most legendary events on the poker calendar. It’s the longest-running no limit hold’em tournament outside of Las Vegas, with a history dating back more than 42 years.

It firmly established itself on the world stage in 1984, when 25 American players–including the legends Stu Ungar, Chip Reese and Doyle Brunson–made the journey to Dublin. That tournament was televised, the interest was huge, and the Irish Open hasn’t slowed down since.

“Some great characters have won it over the years, and some well-known top-class players — Steve O’Dwyer comes to mind,” says Dowling.

O’Dwyer took down the title in 2022, adding the trophy to his cabinet which includes just about every poker title you can think of.

Irish Open 2022 champ Steve O’Dwyer has won just about everything in poker

“We’re in this game to make money, but when you’re talking about the trophy cabinet, you’ve got bracelets, EPT titles, WPT titles…but the Irish Open holds its own with all of those events, for sure,” says Dowling.

The Irish Open 2024 – sponsored by PokerStars and Paddy Power – runs from March 25 – April 1 and takes place at the prestigious Royal Dublin Society in (you guessed it) Dublin, Ireland.

There’s a whopping €1 million guaranteed in the prize pool of the €1,150 buy-in Irish Open Main Event, plus High Roller events with both €3,000 and €5,000 buy-ins.

Click here for more details.




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