Breaking Down the Action:
  • What’s On the Line for Dara?
  • Preparing for Victory
  • Reading His Own Advice

5 Minute Read

Dara O'Kearney in action for Unibet at the live poker felt.

Many of us dream of making the final table of a major tournament whether its live or online. If you’re playing in a live festival, then you’ve probably got yourself mentally prepared for a long stay at a festival or at the very least, you’re prepared to buy another plane ticket should you go deep. It’s a very different story online, however, where most tournaments last just one day.

Some, however, do not. As an online player, how do you prepare for a Day 2 of a tournament, when so much of your work in the event is done on Day 1? To find out, we’ve spoken to Unibet Poker pro and The Chip Race co-host Dara O’Kearney, who also contributes a huge amount to our own poker content creation as Gamble Online columnist.

What’s On the Line for Dara?

Overnight, Dara, or ‘Doked’ as he is known on 888poker, qualified for the $500,000 guaranteed XL Winter Series final table. Here’s how the current chipcounts stack up and Dara’s place in the list:

888poker XL Winter Series $500,000 Main Event

Place Player Country Chips
1st ‘bloodny’ Russia 17,490,705
2nd ‘D.Bogachev’ Russia 10,844,078
3rd ‘sergebezb’ Estonia 6,850,460
4th ‘Steve00085’ United Kingdom 6,167,321
5th Dara O’Kearney Ireland 5,734,509
6th ‘alexos888’ Canada 4,541,336
7th ‘chrissop14’ United Kingdom 3,425,337
8th ‘Marcmks16’ Sweden 3,110,958
9th ‘Eg1D1’ Lithuania 1,615,296

Dara’s focus when he begins an online Day 2 actually starts the night before, which kicks off with a good night’s sleep.

“The main point is I prioritise sleep as soon as possible after Day 1,” he told us. “I then try to go through my normal routine before I play which involves a run. I do a short, easy one on a big Day 2 really, just to get blood flowing. On the run I listen to a poker podcast to warm up my poker brain.”

Dara does, of course, co-present the award-winning The Chip Race, which this month made the four-podcast shortlist as one of those nominated for a 2021 Global Poker Award. Dara’s commitment to playing might mean he’s not in Vegas on February 18th, but his dedication on a Day 2 extends past a run and listening to his peers discuss the game. Having returned from an early run, he’s straight back out of the house again.

“I walk the dog after my run as a warm down, then eat a healthy breakfast of fruit, porridge, and one egg. I then meditate, before reviewing study notes or any other notes I took on players still in the event.”

Preparing for Victory

Last night, Dara’s preparations for the final table started when there were 18 players left, not nine.

“I watched both tables last night when there were two left,” he says, “I think I have a fair idea how most of my opponents play – or at least played yesterday!”

After looking at the previous night’s footage, it’s time for Dara to run some GTO simulations.

“I’ll run some sims to work out what kind of ranges I should be playing at the start based on starting stacks and player tendencies,” says the former ultra-runner. “I’ll prepare myself mentally for any bad stuff that might happen and think how I’d react to long periods of card death or a bad beat for half my stack first orbit, for example.”

Dara has previously added in a Day 2 final table into his regular nightly mix of events, which can run into a multi-tabling that any non-pros would find dizzying. That’s not his strategy nowadays, however.

“I’ll only be one tabling,” he confirms. I’ve made the mistake of playing a few other games on the side in the past and invariably after busting the big one – or even if you win it – you just want the session to be over. I don’t want to be one tabling The Big 11 for another four hours and if I do, I am definitely not playing my best!”

Reading His Own Advice

Lastly, and rather handily for a revered poker author, Dara has his own book to call on for support. The third in his and Barry Carter’s ‘The Poker Solved Series’, Endgame Poker Strategy:The ICM Book, specifically focuses on what to do when the decisions you make at the table count for more and more as the prizes escalate. Published in September last year, it’s already a smash hit. With 9th place in tonight’s Winter Series Main Event finale worth $6,122 and over ten times that up for grabs to the winner, it’s going to be crucial that he listens to his own highly valued advice if he wants to walk away the winner.

“Believe it or not, I do actually reread bits of Endgame Poker Strategy to refresh all the major concepts in my head.” He says. With that, we have to let Dara go. After all, with just hours until the event restarts and he’s eight players from the win, every second counts if you don’t want to come second.

Kicking off at 2.30pm Eastern Time, you can watch all the action on 888poker’s Twitch stream, called ‘888pokerTV’. Will Dara O’Kearney clinch another major online poker title and the $71,278 top prize? We can’t wait to find out!

Joseph Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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