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Indy Lifestyle Online
The luck of the Irish held up for Aidan Bennett, first-ever winner of the new title of European Poker Champion. He eliminated an array of international rivals in the final tournament, held at the Club d'Aviation in Paris last week. A worthy winner, he amply justified the prediction about his talent for the game in the players' auction: "Big occasion player. Aggressive and creative. Took Hold 'em event at the Amsterdam Masters last year. World Series experience. Capable of running over the table. Cannot be ignored."

And so it turned out. Eighteen players joined battle in the final, which was staged in an unusual format: alternate rounds of pot limit seven-card Stud with no-limit Hold 'em. These are two very different types of game, both in pace and style. Hold 'em is a shoot-from-the hip, all-action game. Seizing the initiative is the key to it. Stud requires a more analytical, card-reading approach, because so much more information about the hands is revealed.

"Aidan plays in a lot of gears," a friend explained. "He can play in a very easy, jokey way. Or he can stare down an opponent and frighten him half to death."

When the final came down to nine players, the game reverted to no-limit Hold 'em only. Three players were left in at the dinner break (which, as you would expect in Paris, is a serious five-course repast): Bennett from Dublin, fellow Irishman Mike Magee who plays in London, and Hungarian Tibor Tolnai, a big winner on the European circuit. Tolnai made his exit when he tried a "steal" with Q-10 and ran into Magee's A-K.

The heads-up encounter was settled when Bennett went over the top with an 8-8 against Magee's A-9 off-suit - near enough a 50-50 chance. There is always an element of luck in these shoot-outs. On the night, it went 37-year-old Bennett's way.

In a few jousts I have had in club games with the champion-to-be, what struck me most strongly was his aggressive betting and devil-take-it attitude when his play went wrong, as it quite often did. I recall in particular a hand of Omaha when it went right for him.

I raised with the fabulous hand of A-A-K-J and Bennett re-raised on something like 5-7-8-10, which figures to hit at least something on the flop.

Sure enough, he picked up two small pairs and went all-in. My flush draw (which kept me in) failed to hit and my aces stayed bare. Good players make their own luck.