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England's Neil Channing, 2008 Irish Open Champion, headsup at the final table with Ireland's Donal Norton (right)

Poker players deal themselves in for Irish Open

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England's Neil Channing, 2008 Irish Open Champion, headsup at the final table with Ireland's Donal Norton (right)

It's nothing for wave-riding Irish surfers to worry about, but the nation is experiencing a serious shark problem.

Card sharks, that is. Poker players from around the world are swarming into Dublin to compete for up to €2 million at the continent's most famous and longest-running annual poker game, the Irish Open.

Despite hard economic times and the fact that for many people, their disposable income has already been disposed of by just paying their monthly bills, the Irish Open is doing just fine. More than 600 players are expected to pay €3,500 entry fee for a chance to lose, or win, even more.

“We have more players paid up and registered for the main event at this point than we have ever had at this stage,” says Paul Burke of Paddy Power Poker, the bookmaker and Internet gambling site sponsoring the Open.

The Irish Open has a special "freeze-out" format, meaning that entrants pay a fixed amount in return for a stack of chips that they will add to or lose, meaning their elimination from the event, over the course of the weekend.

The surving ten ten players will compete at the final table of the tournament on Monday afternoon.

Those who finish in the top 10 percent will get a refund of their €3,500 entry fee.

Although most seats are taken, Burke said that the worldwide recession had an impact.

“We had to work much harder to get the numbers this year, because a lot of poker player don't have the same disposable income they had this time last year. If we get 600 players we'll be doing very well against the prevailing economic wind.”

Burke said many gamblers made it to the event by playing poker competitions on the Internet.

Three former world poker champions are in Dublin, hoping for repeat performances: Dubliner Noel Furlong, American poker author Dan Harrington and his countryman Jamie Gold, who scooped $12 million when he won the world championships in 2006.

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