The changing poker landscape has greatly affected the routines of players around the world. Pros and recreational players alike have adjusted by moving more of their poker action online.
Irish player Padraig O’Neill is one of those and has added even more online card playing to his schedule in recent months. That brought big dividends on Oct. 12 when he won the €1,100 Unibet Open Online for an €80,000 payday.
The 31-year-old would normally spend about three months of the year playing in live tournaments. Now with the major live tournament scene mostly shut down, that’s not possible.
Instead, O’Neill hits the virtual tables four or five nights a week with 99% of his action in multi-table tournaments. No doubt he’s hoping more big scores are heading his way.
Taking down a record event at Unibet Poker
The €1,100 event in October was part of the Unibet Online Series 9 and was the biggest tournament in the site’s history. The two-day tournament featured a €250,000 guarantee and ultimately produced 357 entries for a €406,350 prize pool.
For O’Neill, his big score came after locking up a seat in a €50 satellite and then running it up. It was quite a return on investment.
“This was my biggest score so far,” O’Neill told USPoker. “After swaps I’ve had one or two similar scores before, but this felt bigger. Closing out a big multi-table tournament always feels good.”
Luck seemed to be rolling his way as O’Neill particularly remembers handing a few players some coolers. Some excellent instincts at the final table also paid off.
“I folded one river versus the chip leader with eight players left, which was a tough spot,” he says. “They had set me all-in. I hadn’t seen him/her doing anything too crazy up to that point so folded a pretty big hand.
“I believe the guys over at The Chip Race podcast are doing one of their strategy pieces on it and I probably won’t like the results but will hopefully learn something.”
No matter how that particular hand would have turned out, O’Neill’s work certainly paid off.
Poker student to full-time pro
No stranger to poker success, O’Neill has almost $350,000 in live tournament winnings as well as significant online scores. He’s originally from the town of Drumlish, Ireland, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of Dublin.
Like many modern poker players, university life proved to be O’Neill’s foray into poker. He first played a couple times with a roommate in college. That evolved into a weekly appearance in a home game and a student union game the following year.
“I remember the home game going to two days a week at one stage and starting to find it boring,” he says, “but I must have snapped out of it, as here I am a decade later.”
While O’Neill hasn’t been able to play in a casino in recent months, pandemic poker has been especially good. However, feeling some real cards and chips in his hands would be great.
“With all the prize pools inflated, someone has to run well and fortunately I’ve been the lucky mid-stakes guy to do that,” he says. “I am looking forward to live poker returning. Getting out of the house in any capacity will be welcomed. I’ve attended the World Series of Poker since 2012 and hope to get back out there.”
That event has also been delayed until the fall and no new dates have been announced. But like many, O’Neill is ready for his return to Las Vegas.
Finding success at the Unibet virtual tables
Like many online platforms, Unibet has seen record turnouts and growing prize pools in recent months. The site caters to more recreational players and features many lower and mid-stakes offerings.
Players can even change their usernames as many as three times per day and poker tracking software is banned. The site tries to live up to its motto: “By players, for players.”
Players at Unibet won’t find just smaller-stakes action however. There are also some larger buy-in events as well during some of the platform’s major series. What does O’Neill like about playing at Unibet compared to some other sites?
First, the tournament structures are great, he says. The smaller fields are also nice for players looking to finish up an event at a reasonable time. O’Neill also likes how players are treated.
“I can also say from experience that the support has been top notch,” he says. “No waiting three months for an email response.”
Away from poker, O’Neill enjoys running, swimming, and cycling. Reading and numerous podcasts also take up much of his time. He has an interest in history and is also now engaged. What’s next for Unibet’s newest champion?
“I just want to keep motivated,” he says, “and will play in the few dozen MTT series we’ll undoubtedly have in the next few months.”
Similar results as the Unibet Open Online would be nice and should certainly serve as some motivation.
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Photos of O’Neill playing at tables courtesy WPT