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O'Dea a few hands away from taking top prize

HE'S known in poker circles as the 'Silent Assassin' -- and now just a few hands separate him from €6m.

Eoghan O'Dea (26), from Dalkey in Dublin, is one of the final nine competitors in the oldest and most prestigious poker tournament in the world, which has been taking place in Las Vegas over the last two weeks.

The young man, who has been a professional card player for six years, has been playing in the World Series of Poker in the Rio Hotel and Casino and yesterday made it down to what is dubbed the 'November Nine'.

Mr O'Dea and his eight fellow competitors beat off a field of 6,865 players who all entered the tournament with $10,000 each. They now have three months to practise at home before they faceeach other across the felt again for the final in November.

"I'm so happy to have made it this far; I haven't had a great year to date in poker but this more than makes up for it," Mr O'Dea said before hitting his bed in Las Vegas for a well-deserved rest.

The 2011 World Series of Poker is the third-largest poker event ever and started with 6,865 contestants who played more than half-a-million hands over the course of the competition. The massive field was eventually whittled down to 22 who then played each other to be part of the final nine -- ending in the early hours of yesterday morning.

He is now guaranteed a prize of $782,115 (€550,728) but may walk home with $8,711,956 (€6,134,285) should he take the top prize.

Stephen McLean, from Poker Ireland.ie, said there were between 25 and 30 poker professionals in Ireland who earned more than €250,000 a year.

"He (Eoghan) is the coolest customer you will ever meet -- a really competitive personality but nothing will faze him and he probably gets that from his father," he said.

It is not the first time success has hit the family on the poker tables as Eoghan's father is Donnacha 'The Don' O'Dea, a legendary figure on the card circuit who himself learnt the game from his actor father, Denis.

Donnacha, who represented Ireland in swimming in the 1968 Olympics and is the son of legendary Abbey Theatre actress Siobhan McKenna, sparked an interest in the game with his son when he brought home a computer game when Eoghan was 15.


"My father played poker and was supposedly called the best poker player in Ireland in his day. I got the bug from him and that is how I got involved," Donnacha said.

"Eoghan showed no interest when he was younger.

"Then I won a tournament in Vegas and one of the prizes was a computer game which simulates poker tournaments and I brought it back to him -- I thought he wouldn't be interested but he started playing on the computer.

"When he was 18, I brought him into a club in Dublin and it was £25 to play. I went to Doheny & Nesbitts for a few pints and when I went back, he was at the final table and he had won it.

"He got £2,000 for his £25. He had the buzz then and just seems to have a natural instinct for it."

Irish Independent