Nights closing in? Check. Trees bereft of leaves? Check. Chilly, windswept evenings in the heart of Dublin? Check. Then it must be time for the annual Fitzwilliam Festival of Poker. Filling the November poker void between Halloween and Christmas, the festival once again proved to be a meeting place for friends both old and new and an opportunity to resume fierce rivalries over the baize tables of Dublin’s favourite card room and casino.

Anchored to the last week in November, the Fitzwilliam Winter Festival is a long-established mainstay of the Irish live poker calendar and always offers the warmest of welcomes in tandem with a schedule tailor-made for the discerning poker player, with enhanced starting stacks and extended blinds throughout. The two blue-chip Freezeout tournaments (Thursday’s €270 and the two-day €540 Main Event) always attract a diverse and vocal crowd of poker purists.

Although not strictly a Festival event, Tuesday’s €55 Double Chance Freezeout was the perfect Festival appetizer: A monster field of 130 runners – with rolled-up sleeves and knuckles cracked- contested a €6,100 prize pool with club favourite Paul McCaffrey scooping top spot and a Main Event ticket.

Wednesday’s €50 Super Satellite produced ten further Main Event tickets from a field of 50 hopefuls and with Main Event pre-qualifiers hitting 35 confirmed entrants, optimism was high for a successful showpiece tournament.

Thursday hosted the monthly €270 Freezeout – Ireland’s biggest monthly tournament attracting 121 players from all four provinces. An extended structure added phenomenal value and provided a fascinating tussle with former winner John Cahill ending up with the largest stack, netting the lion’s share of the €30,100 prize pool.

Friday’s €165 Deepstack Scalps proved popular with 67 ardent bounty hunters and when the dust settled, Remus Matache was crowned King of the Scalpers, scooping €3000 of the €8500 pool.

And so, down to serious business: Saturday’s deep and steep €540 Main Event featured 77 combatants, a 30,000 starting stack and 45 minute blinds. After eight hours of studied and intense competition, the field was whittled down to the final three tables, consisting of confident club regulars, calculating professionals and the odd chancer. Resuming on…

…Sunday, with hopes high and the blinds even higher, the 27 remaining players duelled fiercely and fearlessly until Keith Brennan was crowned the ultimate winner and back-to-back Main Event champion. Like Brazil in 1970, if he wins it next year we’ll let him keep the trophy. €13500 for first place is not to be sniffed at either.

The €110 Round-of-Each Big Bash (also Sunday) completed the schedule with Darrin Melwani displaying the best split Hold’em/Omaha skills for a share of the €3400 prize pool.

Overall, a marvellously successful 5-day event and we look forward to reconfirming old friendships and forging new next year. For information, follow our news feeds on Facebook and Twitter or visit us at

Adam Wells


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