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Player Profile - Noel Furlong

Noel Furlong is a World Champion, a gracious ambassador for poker in his native Ireland, a successful tournament player and even more successful businessman. But back when he was first playing, he had to be wheedled, cajoled, even bought plane tickets by his good friend and mentor the late Terry Rogers to get him out to Vegas. It is Rogers’ influence which steered Noel Furlong (and a hefty handful of Irish players) towards the big comps out in the States, and he worked tirelessly to promote poker both in Ireland and the USA.

Born in Dublin, Noel’s start in the poker world came in Terry’s clubs and at events he was running, centred around the Irish Open which has come to be as popular as its early proponents hoped. He has consistently returned to play the Irish Open events (well, they are local, after all), at which he has had considerable success over the years, most recently winning the €300 No-limit event in 2002, and coming 3rd in the €700 No-limit the same year.

Terry Rogers, was himself was held in high esteem by any number of Irish poker players as well as anyone involved in bookmaking for his colourful personality and extraordinary head for figures. He must have been proud of his protégé of sorts; on his first foray into the World Series Main Event Noel Furlong made the final, coming sixth and winning $52,850.

His final Main Event hand which clinched the 1999 bracelet was against Alan Goehring. They both held pocket pairs: sixes for Alan and fives for Noel, who limped in and was rewarded with a check. Even more rewarding was the perfect flop for him of Q Q 5 – the betting took off on the turn and the title was his. Nowadays even that first place prize of $1,000,000 which he took in 1999 is a fraction of the money up for grabs in the multi-start-day extravaganza the World Series has become, but it was a huge prize for a poker player back then. Even for a carpet distribution magnate (yes, that’s his business) that was hardly pocket change, although, unusually for such a popular figure, he has neither the time nor the inclination to go pro.

Most of the poker Noel Furlong plays is World Series poker. One gets the impression that small buy-in comps just don’t hold his attention. But $10,000 is enough to keep him focused, and after the best part of 20 years’ on-off experience, his game looks to have improved from when he admittedly had an unusually fortunate start to his poker career. He has mainly focused on the game of the moment, No-limit hold’em, although in 2004 he finished 11th in the Gaming Club World Poker Championship, a Pot limit event. He’s been televised too, including an appearance on that TV forerunner Late Night Poker, and his dapper appearance and unfailingly gentlemanly attitude make him a highly recognisable figure, even if his shy manner around publicity and infrequent appearances on the poker circuit paint him as a bit of a recluse.

His eloquently self-deprecating manner of speaking might lead you to believe that luck has played a bigger part in his poker success than it really has, although he admits that recently he’s felt comfortable playing with the big guns like Erik Seidel and Huck Seed, for whom he has great respect. He’ll say he lacks the patience and ability to play cash, and his forays into poker are all of the tournament variety. It sounds like his greatest asset in the game is his read of opponents, if the price is right to tempt him into a tournament in the first place and away from his business or his keen side interest in horse training.
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