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PokerStars Festival Dublin: No stopping McGinty as two-day charge ends on podium top

Absolutely nothing is ever certain in tournament poker, at least not until the final card is turned. But around about 5pm yesterday, which was Day 2 of the €1,100 PokerStars Festival Dublin Main Event, Gary McGinty emerged from the pack of players still involved and began a rampage that was apparently unstoppable.

At a little after 10pm tonight, McGinty's juggernaut finally halted--but only because it had reached its final destination. That was the top step of the podium. McGinty, 29, laid all to waste and secured his maiden major tournament title, worth €91,808.

"You played brilliantly," said Jim O'Callaghan, the last player knocked out by McGinty. That was a pretty accurate assessment. There were one or two slight hiccups on the final day, as other rivals briefly challenged. But essentially McGinty never faltered through about 14 hours of play.

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Gary McGinty: Winner!

"It's fantastic," he said. "There were parts of the day where it was a grind, for sure, but I ran pretty well and I'm happy with how I played. I won some nice all-ins and I've got the trophy now, and that's all that matters."

McGinty's payday came about after a four-handed deal, in which he secured himself the biggest portion of a near equal split. He then re-started the one-way traffic to secure the extra €13,000 players had left on the side.

O'Callaghan was a short stack when only nine were left, and at one point wandered over to the table where there were eight medals laid out for the final table players. He admitted that he was the favourite to miss out on the jewellery. But he then went on a charge of his own and got himself heads up. There was no shame at all in falling to McGinty. At least 20 other players had.

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Jim O'Callaghan: Gracious second place

Returning today to the Regency Hotel with 16 players still in contention, all already in the money, the first phase of the day's plan was to hit a final table. With McGinty the big stack overnight, the onus was on him to keep up where he left off and trim the field some more.

No problem. Within a few minutes, McGinty won a race with A♦K♠ against Sacha Lebreton's 9♠9♦, and a very similar coup ended Andrew Grimason's tournament in 15th when McGinty's A♦K♥ won another flip against pocket sevens.

McGinty was able to sit back as Virgilio Dicicco and Florian Duta hit the rail, but stepped out of the shadows again with pocket nines to beat Sean Bradley, then made a flush with A♥2♥ to end Padhraic Mulligan's day.

The only other player to secure more than one elimination was Sean Prendiville, who saw off Edoardo Poggiali and, eventually, Noel McMahon. McMahon's elimination in ninth set the official final table, and also put him in touching distance of McGinty at the top.

They lined up like this for the final, with the Irish contingent by far the strongest at their home event:

Seat 1: James O'Callaghan (Ireland) - 1.775 million
Seat 2: Ivan Tononi (Italy) - 525,000
Seat 3: Mick Graydon (Ireland) - 1.220 million
Seat 4: Gary McGinty (Ireland) - 5 million
Seat 5: Sean Prendiville (Ireland) - 3.325 million
Seat 6: Alex Bretherton (UK) - 775,000
Seat 7: Antonio Merone (Italy) - 1.635 million
Seat 8: Declan Connolly (Ireland) - 2.015 million

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Final eight in Dublin: l-r Antonio Merone, Declan Connolly, Ivan Tononi, Gary McGinty, Mick Graydon, Sean Prendiville, Alex Bretherton, Jim O'Callaghan

The entire tournament took place in good spirits all week, with plenty of table chat and some of the region's most dogged competitors showing their skills on the main stage. But while the dogged competitors were still in attendance at the final, chit-chat all but halted as the big money loomed into view.

The poker itself also lost none of its quality, even if the elimination hands tended to play themselves. Alexander Bretherton's A♦K♠ lost to Antonio Merone's T♣T♠, then Mick Graydon's A♠K♠ lost to Merone's Q♣Q♥. Anybody in the room would have got their chips in in exactly the same fashion.

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Alex Bretherton: Eighth for €14,530

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Mick Graydon - Seventh for €20,980

There was also nothing at all wrong with Declan Connolly's shove from the small blind with K♣T♠. Nothing except the fact that O'Callaghan had found A♣A♥ in the big blind, called and knocked Connolly out.

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Declan Connolly: Sixth for €28,110

Ivan Tononi was short stack when they went five handed, but survived through the dinner break and then doubled up a couple of times to get back into contention. But then he took a stab at knocking out Prendiville, whose stack had slipped below 1 million, but Prendiville doubled up when he hit a queen, holding A♣Q♠, to beat Tononi's 9♣9♦.

Tononi was back then under threat and, when the shoe was on the other foot, lost the last of his chips with 4♦4♥ to Prendiville's A♥8♥. The back-and-forth, which ended in a prize of €35,780 for Tononi, was the prompt for the other players to look at their stacks (which were now remarkably even) look at each other, and then ask to look at the numbers.

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Ivan Tononi - Fifth for €35,780

Four-handed deals don't tend to happen very often. There always seems to be at least one person who wants more and others who are unprepared to give up a chunk. However, the stacks were so even--McGinty, in first, had 4.6 million and Prendiville, in fourth, had 3.27 million--with only 14 big blinds separating them all, that this one happened very quickly.

O'Callaghan and Prendiville almost immediately said they would agree to an ICM chop, then O'Callaghan said to McGinty: "Are you OK with ICM Gary?"

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Deal discussions in Dublin

McGinty maybe thought about hard-balling, but didn't let on. He swiftly said, "Yeah." And after the Italian tournament staff explained the situation to Merone, he was on board too. They shook hands on the following:

Leaving €13,000 to play for, McGinty would get €78,808, Merone €78,554, O'Callaghan €74,797 and Prendiville €71,116. It was then all about the trophy.

Although, as mentioned, the stacks were pretty even, Prendiville's was marginally the shortest and he ended up on the rail first of the final four after a pretty thrilling three-hand burst.

First, he lost a huge pot to O'Callaghan when the latter had A♥2♥ on a board of A♦8♠6♠2♠A♠. Prendiville then sat out the next hand, which featured McGinty jamming all-in on the river with the board reading 8♥9♠T♦6♣4♣. Merone, who was facing a decision for his tournament, muttered something about a seven (he may even have said that he had one) but after a good three minutes, folded.

If he was simply hoping to stay alive and let others bust, it was a smart move because Prendiville was out on the very next hand. McGinty jammed again this time pre-flop from the small blind, and Prendiville called all-in from the big blind.

McGinty had A♠T♥ and stayed good against Prendiville's A♥7♠. Prendiville headed away with the €71,161 he had already locked up.

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Sean Prendiville: Fourth for €71,161

Even though he survived the pot against McGinty earlier, Merone did't last very much longer. Shortly after Prendiville's departure, he got the last of his chips in with Q♥T♥ and never hit his three-outer to beat McGinty's A♣Q♣.

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Antonio Merone - third for €78,554

McGinty had a five-to-one chip lead heads up, and O'Callaghan admitted that he was the massive underdog. He quickly got his last 2.6 million chips in the middle with Q♠6♣ and McGinty called with K♣J♥.

That ended it all in McGinty's favour and sent him leaping into his crowd in jubilation.

Dates: September 29 - October 1, 2017
Buy in: €1,100
Prize pool: €679,000
Entries: 544 (including 148 re-entries)

PositionNameCountryPayout
1Gary McGintyIreland€91,808*
2Jim O'CalaghanIreland€74,797*
3Antonio MeroneItaly€78,554*
4Sean PrendivilleIreland€71,161*
5Ivan TononiItaly€35,780
6Declan ConnollyIreland€28,110
7Mick GraydonIreland€20,980
8Alexander BrethertonUK€14,530
*denotes four-way deal

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