2009 saw Irish passion rising high as usual, with a busy year of gambling action, industry awards, player success and, still fresh in our minds, a footballing fiasco that still has us fuming.
State of the Industry
Ernst & Young's annual report into the online gaming sector indicated a bright future for the UK industry. As with Ireland and the rest of the world, the economy may still be gloomy but the gambling industry's swift and innovative response is starting to pay off.
One example of a buoyant market is the online bingo sector which is enjoying a popular revival. This timeless gaming pursuit is wowing both new and older generations with its flashy, chat-focused, big prized online presence. Bingo rooms, such as JackpotCity Bingo are creating an online stir with their big money games.
Sports Betting Bonanza
Sometimes big sportsbetting events capture the imagination of the Irish public and, back in March, Paddy Power reported that the country had gone rugby mad - with more bets placed on the Six Nations and Grand Slam decider than any other rugby match in their history.
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For the second year running, Bluff Europe Magazine voted Dublin the Best European Poker Venue. The city hosts a variety of card clubs and tournaments and was noted for its passion for the game and superior table banter! Dublin beat local rival London, who came in second place. London was noted for the massive rise of its pub poker, perhaps a phenomenon that may cross the water.
In online poker, 2008 PartyPoker Irish Champ, Jude Ainsworth reigned victorious at the 2009 PokerStars Spring Champion, winning close to a massive million dollars. The talented Ainsworth is always a fair bet for success, getting to the final in 40% of the tournaments he enters and never having walked away with less than his original buy-in.
Ireland's controversial exit from the World Cup qualifiers left a sour taste in the mouths of football fans. The team exited the qualifiers via a handball incident that hit the back of the net for Thierry Henri. The subsequent furor and FIFA appeal for a place in the finals fell on deaf ears leaving the team and a nation full of ardent fans to watch the World Cup spectacle thinking, 'what if..?'
..and National Pride
The pride of Irish fans was evident as the national rugby team remained unbeaten throughout the autumn international season. The season ended on a high, with a 15-10 win over the South African world champions at Croke Park.
Hollywood star, Charlize Theron shocked FIFA officials during the rehearsal for the recent World Cup draw. Theron, who has a long term Irish boyfriend and is a big fan of the Irish team, decided to have some fun at the expense of the FIFA bigwigs. During the dress rehearsal for the draw she plucked out a ball and read out, "Ireland". The FIFA officials went a little pale but Theron later assured them it was merely a lark.
From Hollywood stars to poker celebs. Online poker giant, PokerStars has signed up its first Irish player in new sponsorship deal. Jude Ainsworth has an impressive record of success, winning over $1.5 million at the poker table.
The William Hill Irish Sports Book of the Year was awarded to Dónal Óg Cusack's autobiography, 'Come What May'. The veteran Cork hurling goalkeeper relates his life on and off the pitch and gives his no-holds-barred views on hurling rivals, such as Kilkenny.
Finally, a four-legged celebrity.. Sea the Stars was named Horse of the Year 2009 at the Horse Racing Awards in Dublin. During a year in which Irish flat horses have dominated the major European races, Sea the Stars shone bright and received an incredible 100% of the votes.
The Year Ahead
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Ireland will open up their defense of the RBS 6 Nations title in February with a home game against Italy. The 2010 tournament is a little special as it celebrates the centenary of the first ever Championship between the original five members.
2009 has been a busy year for bettors but 2010 could be even better!