Padraig O’Neill – Interview

Padraig O’Neill – Interview

With the EPT Paris being underway (and thus kicking off the EPT 2024 season), we found it appropriate to have a chat with the latest European Poker Tour champion, Padraig O’Neill. He won the EPT Prague 2023 after an incredible comeback. PokerListings reporter Christoffer “Oystersh” Karlén gave O’Neill a call and had a talk about his Juicy Stakes collaboration, the EPT Paris, the Irish Poker Tour and much more. Enjoy!

Hello Padraig! How’s life been treating you since you won the EPT Prague? Has the feeling sunk in yet?

“It’s starting to settle in now, I meet a lot of people and they’re congratulating me and once the money hits as well it’s like okay, that’s real. It didn’t hit me at the time; it was something like an out-of-body experience I suppose. But yeah, I realize now.”

Tell us a little more about Padraig O’Neill. Who are you outside of the poker tables? Any particular hobbies that you enjoy on your spare time?

“Yeah, too many hobbies according to my wife. I play Gaelic Football, we train 2-3 times a week and sometimes play matches on the weekends. It’s fun but time consuming. I also play badminton once or twice a week in the winter, so that’s kind of what’s going on at the time. It keeps me fit.”

In fact, Padraig played football growing up but quit when he was 19 years old due to an injury. After a couple of months when the injury was healed, he didn’t feel an urge going back to football and instead started playing poker.

Padraig flew today (Monday 19th) to Paris and will compete in the EPT Paris. This time he’s collaborating with Juicy Stakes and they have some interesting things going on.

 “Juicy Stakes are going help me produce a vlog in Paris, which I’ve never done before. They also want to do some Instagram and Twitter live sessions, and I also believe we’ll be giving away some tickets for their events. I’m gonna wear the patch, do the vlog and hopefully get the Juicy Stakes name out there. I just logged on last night and they have a $5.000 GTD nightly tournament now, which is brand new. I think they’re growing and I like the site.”

How do you feel coming in to the EPT Paris? Do you have any expectations?

“I try to keep my expectations low, but I’m excited to play. I’ve played an okay amount online in the last month, I took a few weeks off but now I’ve started playing again. My win rate is good and I think I’m in the zone. I will try to play every hand as it comes.”

Do you prefer to play live or online?

“I think you need both. Online is important for me right now with the family, I need to be home. I used to travel three months a year, I can’t do that anymore, I can only select a couple of events. Online and live are two different things, of course you can win big in live poker when you go deep and I also feel like live is more softer. However, the variance is very high in live poker so you need online as well for the bread and butter.”

We talked a little bit more about Padraig’s family. He’s got a wife and a son who’s eight months old; Prague was his first trip abroad after becoming a father and it was surely a good time to get a good result. He also has a dog, which jumped up in his lap while we talked about this.

Are you playing any other tournaments apart from the Main Event in Paris?

“In Prague I couldn’t because I only had one bullet in one tournament – it was great! Of course I hope it will be the same in Paris, but if that doesn’t work out I will play the $3.000 Mystery Bounty. I will also try to play the $10.000 Event.”

Let’s talk a little bit about your poker career. Your first HendonMob result came back in August 2010, when you finished second at the Leinster Poker Championships. How and when did you start playing poker, and how long has poker been your main source of income?

“I started playing home games back in 2009 like once a week with friends from football. It then turned into twice a week and when I went back to college, that’s when I figured it all out. There was one guy at college who was always winning, he’s actually also a professional now, James “Jaynoo” Noonan. He was winning and I started watching poker videos on YouTube. Poker has been my main source of income since 2010. I took a shot when college finished for the summer and it worked out. Got lucky in the first few months so I kept going. A year or two after that I actually started to make some decent money playing poker.”

In college, Padraig studied history and geography but he isn’t 100 % certain on what he would be working with today if he wasn’t a poker professional. We both agree though that you have to work with something you’re passionate about.

You’ve been playing poker for a long time and your results are impressive. The game of poker is always evolving; what are the biggest improvements and adjustments you’ve made to your game recently?

“It has kind of changed every year. When I played live cash games, I needed to start playing tighter because the rake was high. When I then started playing online, I realized I need to play more hands. Around 2016 I started working with solvers and it took me a while to get a hang of it, it was probably my worst year, but after that, I came out a better poker player. It’s key though to always be open for new ideas and put in a couple hours of studying every week.”

It’s always interesting talking with professional poker players how much they play poker compared to how much they are studying. Padraig isn’t one of those guys who study 20 hours a week but maybe five, and he thinks it’s essential for him to elevate his game.

About a month ago, you reviewed the €10 MTT online. Even though it wasn’t you who played the tournament, what is the biggest mistake you see poker players do at the lower Buy-Ins?

“I haven’t played those stakes in a while, but my smallest game is not that much bigger. I guess you have two different types of players there: some players play 12 % of hands; those might be able to win at that level if they play aggressive, but it’s going to be hard to move up in stakes. Then, you have the players that play 30-40 % of hands who are far too loose and passive. All and all, I think players need to play more hands, but they need to be more comfortable playing them post-flop.”

The highlight of live poker in Ireland, the Irish Poker Open, is roughly one month away. You’ve previously cashed in the Main Event two times (2017 and 1018). Are you participating in this year’s event, and what are your expectations?

“Yes, I am going to go there and play for five or six nights. I am really looking forward to it; the Main Event has such good value. The structure is great for a being a €1 100 and hundreds of people qualify.”

We also talked about the Irish Poker Tour that’s definitely coming off strong in Ireland right now. The Main Event in the Irish Poker Tour stops has a €600 Buy-In and guarantees around €250.000. Padraig is giving a lot of cred to Irish poker legend Fintan Gavin and his burning poker passion for elevating the Irish Poker Tour. Padraig is also promoting the Irish Poker Tour and he hopes a lot of players will participate in the events.

Let’s round things off with a silly little question. Some poker players remembers certain hands they’ve played through the years. Whether a win, a bad beat, a big play or something else, is there any hand from your past that you will remember forever, and can you walk us through it?

“Haha, not really. Recently though there’s been a lot of people asking about the A 3 bluff on the EPT final table. When I play hands I always try to learn from them, and those are the hands that I usually remember. But no, there’s not a particular one that sticks out.

We can understand many people wanted to discuss that hand with Padraig. From the small Blind, Cheng Zhao raised to 250k with J 10 (Blinds 60k/120k). Padraig defended A 3 from the Big Blind and the flop came 10 2 5 . Zhao continued with a 400k bet and Padraig called with his ace high and gutshot straight draw.

The turn came 5 and Zhao now bet 600k. Padraig called the bet on the turn and the river came 8 . Zhao decided to go for the triple barrel and bet 825k. This is where Padraig decided to flex his muscles. The used a timebank extension of his own before raising Zhao all in. After some uncomfortable movement in his chair, Zhao eventually folded the best hand.

It was such a pleasure talking to Padraig O’Neill! He is such a humble guy and it will be very interesting to follow his EPT Paris adventure. Good luck, Padraig!

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