Fergal Nealon: Poker Pro Hand Delivering Supplies to Ukraine

Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 219

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Today’s guest on CPG is a former professional poker player who’s the founder of StoryTracks (A dynamic storytelling platform that showcases authentic & real experiences) as well as Rapid Response Ukraine, a humanitarian organization that delivers urgent medical supplies directly to the health department in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Some folks talk about action, other folks act. Fergal Nealon acts.

In the wake of the devastating war in Ukraine, Fergal created Rapid Response Ukraine has thus far raised over $120k (With the poker world contributing a healthy percentage of that total). You’re gonna learn all about what RRU is doing & where those funds are invested as well as hear an insane story about hand-delivering said medical supplies at the Ukrainian border.

Before we dive deeply into Rapid Response Ukraine, however, you’re also going to learn about how Fergal fell into the world of poker, why he moved on to running StoryTracks, and a genuinely heartbreaking story about his most painful poker session of all time.

If you’d like to donate to Rapid Response Ukraine, there will be a link you can click through in this episode’s description (Here is that link: https://www.idonate.ie/fundraiser/11431158_rapid-response-ukraine.html), as well as the showpage on ChasingPokerGreatness.com.

So now, without any further ado, I bring to you former poker professional & natural born storyteller Fergal Nealon.

Click any of the icons below to find the CPG pod on the platform of your choice. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy my conversation with Fergal Nealon on the Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast.

If this is your first time on the Chasing Poker Greatness website, be sure to check out our groundbreaking poker courses to help sharpen your strategy and profitably implement solid, data-proven solutions to your game today:

Transcription of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 219: Fergal Nealon

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Welcome welcome. Welcome my friends another episode of the chasing poker greatness podcast. As always, this is your host, the founder of chasing poker greatness.com Coach Brad Wilson, and today’s guest on CPG is a former professional poker player who is the founder of story tracks and dynamic storytelling platform that showcases authentic and real experiences as well as rapid response Ukraine, a humanitarian organization that delivers urgent medical supplies directly to the health department in Kharkov, Ukraine. Some folks talk about action other folks act, Fergal Nealon acts in the wake of the devastating war in Ukraine, federal created rapid response Ukraine and has thus far raised over $120,000 with the poker world contributing a healthy percentage of that total. And in today’s show, you’re going to learn all about what are you is doing and where those funds are invested as well as hear an insane story about hand delivering said medical supplies at the Ukrainian border. But before we dive deeply into rapid response, Ukraine, you’re also going to learn about how Fergal fell into the world of poker, why he moved on to running story tracks, and a genuinely heartbreaking story about his most painful poker session of all time. If you’d like to donate to rapid response Ukraine, there will be a link you can click through in this episode’s description, as well as the Show page on chasing poker greatness.com. And if you are a person of influence that feels compelled to join the cause of rapid response Ukraine, you can shoot me an email Brad at chasing poker greatness.com and I will forward you right along to Fergal and he can let you know where to help out. So now without any further ado, I bring to you a former poker professional and natural born storyteller. Fergal Nealon. Fergal Welcome to chasing poker greatness, sir, how you doing?

 

Fergal: Great. Thanks for having me, Brad.

 

Brad: It’s my pleasure. Shout out to Daraa for making this connection. typical way that we start out the chasing poker greatness podcast. Tell me about your journey through the world of poker. How old are you in? You know, what is your story look like?

 

Fergal: Yeah, I’m 43 years of age now. I started playing. It was back its was my late 20s I had to move back home. So I was in Dublin pursuing a career in film and television industry. And both my parents were unwell, and I was the only sibling still still in the country. So I moved back home to essentially become a full time carer for my folks. And and during that time, it was like evening times, once they were put down to bed I had had all this time free and I was I was single. And despite being Irish, I didn’t want to work drinking every night whatsoever and getting the car

 

Brad: can i take away your citizenship for such a state? We can edit this out if you need to.

Fergal: Know I’m very proud of that. And no, but like, I kind of wanted to do something. I figured look, I’m not just going to be nursing my folks, you know, I’m still still young. I’m still sort of hungry for for challenges in life. And and a friend at that time introduced me to the game of Texas Hold’em and took it from there, Brad, it was, I think was parody originally, I was playing like free rolls and I remember playing these like one or $3 ribeye things.

 

Brad: What year is this?

 

Fergal: Oh, I’d say it was like it was around 2008 or so. And it was sort of the last few years of the really good times. I got on board. So yeah, I think I think at one point I started doing well in these like sort of really micro things and and I bought a couple of books I bought the Harrington on Hold’em was the first one and then I there was a Phil Gordon’s Green Book and a blue book. And, and once I read these, I could I could sort of just crush these these sort of micros and win in my my local hometown Casino. And, and then I discovered satellites. And that’s where I would have got to know that the likes of diaries, when I discovered that I could actually win a tournament which would essentially give me a pass out of having to mine my folks for, you know, four days or something. And I could get up to Dublin or go over to the UK, Europe, and so on. I can even get to Las Vegas here and get away from home for two weeks. Like, and I was all over it, then you know, so I just, I just went all in and it was I was on the forums and on video sites, poker X factor that was the one I was on back then it was the first one I signed up for. And yeah, so satellites were my take on it. So it was just about grinding these and then just taking the T dollars or, or whatever. So I remember I think was the first year I got a one one into the main event in Las Vegas, and very areas may 1 Show playing or something. And it was a 14 grand package at the time, you could put you could take the money. If you remember something legally, they couldn’t buy a straight into torrents in America. They’re gonna give you the money, and then you’re trying to incentivize us to play it by saying, Look, if you come over, we’ll give you X, Y and Zed can actually play it. And so the first one I said, I wouldn’t have had to grant my name. And I said 14 grand, it’s gonna it’s gonna keep the money, you know? And I didn’t I think with the 14 with the first grand or the 14 or whatever, I managed to win another package. Yeah, you have to go. So then I ended up playing in. In the first main event I played. It was maybe it was, oh, no, I tell you it was it was the year after each get one whatever that was because he was at my buddy’s table. I think maybe Joe Carter wanted or someone like that was around 09 or 10 or something like that.

 

Brad: What was that experience like having, you know, going from like 2k to winning a satellite, pocketing the 14 winning another one. And then you’re there playing in the most prestigious poker tournament in the world?

 

Fergal: Yeah, it was amazed and I was like, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be honest, you know, just looking around at all these guys they’ve seen on telly and I’d watched all the all the late night pokers and, and all the old bronze WSOP even seemed 100 Jad, you know, this is the boss, you know. And yeah, it was phenomenal, and met some great people and played the side events and just yeah, I’m literally while I’m talking I goosebumps thinking about back to those times. The I remember, actually was a funny one to my day one I had this guy who was directly to my left is called David Oppenheim, do you know David Oppenheim? I did? Yes. Yeah, he was a full tilt like Pro and he was a he’s a Kashkin beast. But anyway, he was

 

Brad: Well known is like one of the best mix game players that has ever lived at the very highest stakes. Yeah,

 

Fergal: Yeah, I don’t I don’t doubt it. Like, he showed up. Anyway, he showed up two hours later, it was empty seat. And I was worried about who’s just gonna stroll in two hours late. Who’s that cool to do this? Like when I was like, they’re like, half an hour early, like chomping at the bit. And he came in and he got something like, it was ridiculous, like, five hour massage. He was getting or something. And he just like, he was so cool. Like, he’s right beside me. I were involved in one part where I had like, I pockets anyway, and I didn’t know what the board was, but pockets might have been like, might have been a tiny board or something. Like, he got me to fall on the river anyway, and I did this like, Oh, I’ll show you if you show me David. You know, LMA he just turned around and he’s these mad piercing blue eyes like really blow blue eyes. And he just looks looks me dead in the eye like and he’s gone. You don’t have to show me you pocket. It’s like shit. What am I going to do against this guy? What I would do today to the guy who was raising me I’d met him there during the week. And he was like, sort of a bit of a he was a chest former chest top chest guy and and he was giving me like he was my sports psychologist on the radio license. What am I going to do against his Oppenheim guy? And he’s right, he’s gonna mince you up at these like, they won’t have like a target stack whatever it was back then. And so just make the pots really big, because that’s not what he’s gonna want to mess with. So I think I ended up for that and like just the next time like a eight nine or something and then and then and then he flattered me your position and then all of a sudden, like I just had to somehow had like a pot size back behind. And I just I just hit a middle pair something was ridiculous. I just shoved it all in. I just didn’t know I just freaked panic shoved it all in. And I just remember sweating and look at that 10 grand in the middle that’s $10,000 in the middle of that table like and any folded and I just went over and it was all the hype. I have my buddy the Ozzy guy and he’s like down bloodied. celebrate May 18, it’s not a bloody sprint relax

 

Brad: Your seven minutes into the main event.

 

Fergal: But once I got that out of the way, I just couldn’t stop shoving it all in. And I think I ended up being no one wanted to blame me so I ended up in I was definitely the top 10 After the two and I ended up on the on the bubble I went from like a quarter of million to like a million just because like there was one other guy is definitely back in the days it was just click and click and click and, and. And it was one guy wanted to be that guy that was going to crush the bubble. And again, I didn’t have to grant my name. And like I just I was covered by this guy. And I put everything in and showed the seven dudes off. And then the whole table. Here’s ridiculously is silly. Stop put the whole table. No, every time I breed it on a part. They’re just like, melted and folded away. They really obviously had a good table job to allow me to do that. I went up to over a million chips and Azure cooler than at the end of the day. And got booted out of it. But it was just amazing. Amazing.

 

Brad: Wow, that is quite quite the run. Yeah, must have been quite a good experience. Yeah, yeah. Is that the one that stands out the most in your memory?

 

Fergal: Yeah, that first one in particular was was great. I did another run in domain a couple years later, so cached it twice but it was all sort of I think it was 280 and 340 It’s like you know nothing really nothing major. But you know, I went out swinging both times like I wasn’t creeping into 248 or 380 internet and on a year sort of like that year I think was interesting because they didn’t know about swapping or selling or anything like that, you know, so it was just seized upon sort of stuff. And then it was only when it came back home that and I got involved with the was PokerStars that a great UK IPT circuit. Obviously PTS are getting started meeting the same other Irish and UK pros and then started finding out about the game and how to actually survive as a professional for so many years and that obviously involved you know, if you are running so well selling whatever you had to sell or making the right swaps and all that sort of stuff like so. So yeah, no, the World Series is sort of the first but then coming back home it was it was that sort of circuit UKIP, tease your Irish, open your EBTs and then just just grinded it out on on stars, mainly back then.

 

Brad: And I’m gonna take a little detour here, but you mentioned that you were working in the entertainment industry, pre poker when you moved in with your parents. Could you talk about working in the entertainment industry and what led you to there and knowing what I know that you know, your startup is called Story tracks, right? I just have to imagine that these two are related in some way. So any any more details about being involved in the entertainment industry? Why you felt compelled to go down that career path? And then yeah, where that took you?

 

Fergal: Yeah, it was. I think certainly, storytelling was something that that I always I always liked, whether it was visual storytelling, or are the great Irish tradition of oral storytelling. Yeah, it was something my father was very into he was he was involved in immediate himself and and so it was just naturally drawn to it. And so it was film and television I was working in in in Dublin at the time but obviously when it came back home there was just nothing happened and you had to be you know, you had to be in Dublin that’s where everything was been made. So there was nothing happening back home. So it was something actually the first time I revisited true poker was was true Daraa and David’s own podcast hope you don’t mind me mentioning it here the guys in the in the

 

Brad: We don’t talk about that. It is temporary. This is basically Voldemort on this podcast

 

Fergal: Data piece anyway where they were doing their thing with well known poker players and they said Listen, guys, can we not? We should try and focus on the grassroots like the the ordinary recreational players because there’s so many good characters there. So I went out in the first series, I think it was I think was the first series we had and sort of capture some of the characters of the Irish game. And, and it was around that time I’m sort of looking at moving back out of moving away from poker and looking at something different kinda kind of fell to run its course. So, so yeah, so So then we went in and did a course in software systems and entrepreneurship. And, and through that, that that led us to our became story tracks the startup was it’s about capturing local stories and pinning them to locations. And then reselling it to tourism, tourism operators. Yeah. So. So yeah, obviously, it’s about capturing the butcher, the baker, candlestick maker, not just a famous person voiceover or not just historical facts about a place but real stories, real people.

 

Brad: Absolutely. And that’s, you know, personally, the stuff that I love, and it’s very near and dear to my heart, because, you know, we all have stories, right? Like, just every human being that lives a life has memories, they have stories to tell. And to me, it’s quite sad that some of these stories kind of disappear. And then they’re just lost forever. So that’s a Yeah, that’s a really great idea for a startup. And really, I think, very noble work, capturing the stories, because it is quite important. And you mentioned, you know, poker had run its course, how long were you in the poker space? I guess? How long did it take for poker to run its course? And what was the what was the catalyst there?

 

Fergal: Yeah, I was, like the, I think it was the first few years was just exciting. And to be honest, that just has nothing better to do straight up, you know. And then I was enjoying it, I was enjoying the strategy, I was enjoying the gameplay, and then I was making money out of it. So you know, it just, it just sort of had everything at that time. And then also, I absolutely love the people you’d meet on tour, just just the sort of Mavericks that are attracted to the game, you know that there’s always as you we were just talking about characters and stories, and you just one poker table is just full of them, just millions and millions of stories waiting to be Unhatched. And I really enjoy that about the game. And I think I think the first few years, I certainly had probably the last grade online years, and I managed to just hit some good scores out of those, those first few years that that, that obviously probably everyone gets this if it happens to them, but you just think, Okay, I’ve only started and I’ve hit all these good scores, then next year, it’s going to double in the year after that it’s trivial and that sort of stuff. But what it didn’t, you know, obviously, Black Friday is and again, the game got much, much tougher. And and then then I settled down a bit and had had a baby girl. And I think that was the real catalyst. That was when sort of you you know, for the first time I started thinking about job security and things like that. Real life stuff. So yeah, that was really careless. I tried it for about six months when we go and it just just wasn’t working. wasn’t conducive to family life. So I was like, right, okay, let’s, let’s get out of something.

 

Brad: So you started a startup?

 

Fergal: I tell you what, Brad, this is true. The startup is way more of a gamble. Yeah, exactly. anymore. But yeah, it’s, it kind of made sense. Like, honestly, I think, like, there’s so many crossovers from, from the world of poker, that work with startup world, so many crossovers. And even though I was like, at this stage, I was 38. And common from the poker background, I didn’t really feel it wasn’t gonna be easy for me to go back and sort of like, hostel with the, the young intern straight out of college that were young and hungry. And, you know, I hadn’t worked for anyone for like, you know, over 10 years, like, so. Like, the startup sort of made a lot more sense to me like that I could still be my own boss, like was in the poker world. And then just, you know, just just hustling another way, in a in a sort of business networking way. And, and, and, yeah, so. So that was good. Like, we got, we got what we did really well there a couple of years, and it’s a travel tech startups so and COVID just just knocked the stuffing out of us, you know, nobody was traveling. And the timing was pretty unfortunate, because we were sort of early revenue generation phase. And so the unfortunate actually fortunate off was waves we hadn’t taken on investment that was sort of would be would have been a real, you know, hanging over our head George Joran COVID. So, so we’ve survived. And now we’re looking at an app pushing on now again, so hopefully am there’s any wealthy investors there to want to get into the next big thing and travel and then

 

Brad: Yeah, the man the travel industry in COVID. It’s like, just, you know, black swan event, right? It’s similar to Black Friday and poker, just devastating. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You mentioned a lot of lessons and overlap in poker and startup, what what would you say? Maybe the most valuable lessons that you learned from poker that you’ve applied to your startup? Yeah, well,

 

Fergal: It’s always that one about, you know, not been results orientated. As we used to say, in poker, you know, did you make the right move? Was it the right play? Is it is it plus Evie, in the long term, all those type of things? Because? Because with the startup, you’re you’re, you’re constantly like COVID, for example, do you remain it’s it has just variants, that’s just another swing around about generating and and you know, you’ve no control over over market forces, just like you’ve no control over. You know, what the dealer chose out on that flop turn and river like, so. So yeah, that added certainly the biggest one, just keep making the right moves. And your time will come?

 

Brad: Yeah. And I mean, that can be a lot of times easier said than done, you know, with the pressures of life and responsibility. Poker is a great teacher in that way of just find a good decision, make a good decision, one foot in front of the other, make another good decision, do the best that you can try to learn based on what you learned if you make a misstep, and just keep progressing forward. Because otherwise, you know, there is no other alternative, right? Especially when you get whacked, as you did through COVID. I guess the alternative is just like give up, you know, but I will assume you’re not much of a quitter.

 

Fergal: No, no, no, no,no, we’ll let you get to a point where it’s like, gosh, I’m gone beyond the point of return here, you know, we got to get something out of this. And it’s like that thing as well about, you know, not being afraid to fail at it and take it on something new, like, you know, and that was able to carry it with something new. And, you know, and same with the startup like so. And I do believe that I see. I see guys, I know from circuit for years, that, that they’re just if you can survive in poker in certainly, certainly in these times. And then delta, you can do anything like you really can do you know, to business where all that sort of stuff is, is a lot easier, like so you can see that guy is grinding away for you. You put that much effort into something and what the equivalent is in America, but you know, you could have like, degrees and PhDs or you could be working in NASA, obviously, the obvious when people say trade, and honestly, like the brands and takes to survive, and in a game of poker, more so today will get you anywhere in life, particularly, particularly if you can string a few sentences together and communicate with people on a human level.

 

Brad: That’s pretty ironic that that’s the part of the sentence that got garbled out Yeah. So, you know, segwaying, from you know, the startup world, you have launched rapid response Ukraine, right. So could you tell the listener about rapid response Ukraine, where the idea came from? And you know, all the all the details?

 

Fergal: Yes, yeah. Yeah. glad you mentioned that. Thanks, Brad. And one of my developers, for story tracks is from Kharkiv. Actually, a couple of them are based in Kharkiv, which is on the east there of Ukraine. It’s right by the Russian border. And I talked to him like literally the day before the Russians invaded. And I said listen to art or something Stern, is everything all right? And he Nazir, his name was he goes, Yes, no problem. It’s just it’s just mediators have been around for ages. There’s nothing going to happen. And then literally, the next day, he was fleeing was pregnant wife and bombs falling all around him. And it was like, you know, it was, it was scary. He got to the Romanian border. So he couldn’t leave the country. Because he was he was he was over 18 But I said to him, Are you safe? And he said, Yes, I’m safe. And then I said, Well, how can how can we help? And then it literally just snowballed from there. He put me into a WhatsApp group because basically, you hear a lot of stories about these Ukrainians that are picking up the AK 40 sevens and, and being the Warriors which is great if that’s your thing, but You know, he’s a computer guy and his wife was pregnant at home and he wants to use his skills as as best he can for the country. So, so he started connecting medical requesters, which would be like the the heads of medical departments in in different cities, to Western Western potential donors or suppliers. So I said, located in Oregon, a to Romania on a really small scale, raised a couple of 1000, or many doctors delivered him some goods he has to Kharkiv. And I said, well look at this, you know, we can try and do the same to Poland. And there’s a lot of Polish people in my own town slog on this book, and maybe we can train harness and network and get stuff over to you so so we got into the watsapp group and the head of the Health Department. I don’t know why zero told them I was but I’m certainly no humanitarian background is as we’ve discussed, and so when I got sent pictures of certain types of incubators, they needed different types of medicines and like this was double dutch to me brand so then then, I think a day later, we had actually came on and said, Listen, guys, we’ve we’ve run out of body bags, we don’t even have enough bags to bury our dead people with dignity. So that just really struck home, obviously, this sort of visceral image. And, and I knew a guy I knew I knew a funeral director locally that could help with this and help me source them somehow. And so I talked to David mcgoun, The funeral director, and, and he donated a pallet was like 5000 euros or $7,000 worth or so of, of poly bags. And, and that was our mission, get the body bags to the border. That was our little mission or on our movie slogan, and it was all exciting. And then we put it out on social media, and people came with pharmaceutical goods. And

 

Brad: How did you? How did you feel through, you know, when learning about the conflict when learning that Russia invaded Ukraine, joining the watsapp hearing that they don’t even have enough body bags to bury their dead?

 

Fergal: Yeah, yeah, that was the one that really hit home. And it just I don’t know, it’s, it stirred something in me that just didn’t stop was like, I was on autopilot. It wasn’t like, like, are we doing this or that there was no decisions to be made here. Like, you know, it was just like, listen, we have to do something, I can do something here that’s do it. I think the main thing Brad was it was like, I contacted a friend of mine who’s ex very high up in the Red Cross. And I said, initially, we were going to drive a truck over and bring as much as we could and he explained to me that he was inhaling before and a lot of people calm and that the meanwhile but they end up clogging up supply lines and then they become a burden on the ground there and they have to be trained and all this and underneath the need accommodation that that might be taken from refugees. So so we figured the best way we could do it was was fly into Shesha which is like an hour from the border and pack out max out our Ryanair luggage with as many body bags as we can by meds underground and and by pharmaceutical supplies in the ground. So we we hooked up with a Polish doctor who got us the scripts and now when I say we this is where it gets interesting from from the poker point of view. Because Because out of like I quit the game pretty much when cold turkey five years ago. And then like the first one I ran was like one of my buddies at home who runs the local casino, the Adelaide casino, and Mark Walsh and I picked up the phone and straightaway he’s like yeah, okay, let’s book The flights. We’re doing it. And then JP McCann, who runs the Irish open festival just saw this on Facebook but he was doing he dipped into his pocket and said this and while you’re out there, you know do some good with this money. And then I said to JP, listen, I said JP, you know so many dealers, I’m sure you have people in Poland that could we might need someone there to drive us and translate a fixer on the ground as such. And JP hooked me up with Marcin who he knows like from I think pokeo In Poland Marcion was involved in and he’s former on game and he’s he’s high up as a CCO in sports betting company now out of Malta. So like Marcin Metis off the plane playing at this stage, we I’d be friendly with the editor of The Sunday Times here in Ireland and I convinced her to send a journalist with us. And so it was funny before we just just to roll back to before the flight. We got so much gear with to triage it into as much Ryanair luggage as they did allow us you know, and we pushed it a little bit knowing that they wouldn’t say no. But in this casino in town we’re like, was the local priest and Doctors and people that have never been into casino and probably smarter. They’re all getting stuck in and bagging the bags and standard on bags to get the get the goods in. And so we all end up over there. And we’re met by Marcin, and we, you know, we literally collected the drugs in like a hotel car park type thing, you know, that was that was just just as needs Marston more times. And we got ourselves over the border. Now, while we were on our way to the border, we met a young Irish guy at the last petrol station before the Ukrainian border. And he he heard my accent, he said, Hey, you Irish, you know, as if, as if we were meeting in a bar in Manhattan or something, you know? And I said, Yeah, where are you from? I said slavery was on tip. He hadn’t in a war, you know, as if you commented his other barrier, you know. And we found out that he was with a couple other guys that were been brought by the embassy in, in the Netherlands that they’d signed up, and they were being brought in to fight the Caribbean and another lad, for Palestine. Anyway,

 

Brad: what are they? Are they mercenaries? I’m not exactly 

 

Fergal: Yeah, this foreign Legion. But, you know, there was a lot of them, we saw a lot of the trend, we saw Americans we saw English, which a lot of them, and obviously look so good intention, guys. But like we, you know, we realized on the journey board or when Dean, his name was that he had no military experience. He had no mobile phone, he had no boots, you know, he was completely unprepared. So we managed to get him to turn around, essentially, and join us for the time being on our mission. And because the journalist was there, and he wrote it beautifully, it made the front page of The Sunday Times. And and then this gave us the platform. So ended up on national television, in Ireland here in RT, sort of a prime time show for six and a half minutes talking about rapid response Ukraine. So this gave us the plan 50,000 off the back of the show. And, and just last week, or two weeks go off the back of the Irish open, we’re up to 110,000. Wow, which has been great. So now we’re on we’re on our seventh and eighth deliveries and deliveries are getting more and more efficient, we get more value for about and, and it’s just sort of snowballed from there. And but like, from, from conception to the actual action of it in terms of going over and who needed to help us go and over. And true. Like the Irish open. Couple of weeks ago, we raise 45,000 euros in the six days of the Irish open. So the poker community has been re chewed out about from from start to finish.



Brad: Yeah, and I mean, that kind of jives with my experience of the poker community as well. Even though we get some bad press, whenever there’s a need. We tend to help and whenever there’s like these problems, you know, whether they be logistical or financial, you know, the poker community has very high level problem solvers. And that’s a major benefit to these types of things. 

 

Fergal: Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re right. And I think problem solvers are people that people that are willing to take direct action. You know, what I will without the nurses knowing that, like, what we’re doing, we’re doing it because the Red Cross, and UNICEF can’t get to that appeal sites, unfortunately, at the moment, their hands are tied. So so we deliver the medicines over the border, and they go to like truck drivers, rally drivers, they literally take back roads, like the French Resistance, and get get it where it’s needed. And that’s needed at the moment, unfortunately, like so. So, so you know, each each, each bit of funding we get goes direct to supplying these medicines, there is no admin, there’s no wages, nothing like that. So even our flights, T shirts we use at the Irish open, everything is out of our own pockets. So So I think you get the respect from the poker community for that as well, because like you said, they’re the bright smart thinkers. So people people realize, okay, you know, I don’t want my money going to some, some, you know, heavy administrative fees and things like that, like, they respect the sort of direct action that we are taking,

 

Brad: Yeah, that they want to solve problems and not deal with bureaucratic red tape.

 

Fergal: Yeah, exactly.

 

Brad: How, how is your, your buddy doing in the Ukraine? How are you know, the people that were kind of the catalyst to solving this issue? How are they doing? How are they? How are they holding up?

 

Fergal: Yeah, he’s okay. He’s still where he is on the Romanian border. And him and subsequently, the other volunteers we’ve worked in for us, we we have a guy per diem who’s in a warehouse and above, we have the drivers like, by by working alongside us. We write official letters saying they’re working with our humanitarian organization, they deliver the goods, we get letters from the heads of the health department’s tankiness for receiving these goods. This chain actually protects these guys from being sent in front of Russian tanks if you get me. So, you know, it’s sort of the best possible thing that can be doing right now. Not only are they up in the country, what they’re they’re protecting themselves from, from from been put on the front line, you know,

 

Brad: And what’s the feeling being there on the border for the folks who are on the other side of the border? What What was that experience? Like? 

 

Fergal: I’m sorry, can you can you? Can you?

 

Brad: Well, when you’re on the border to delivering the supplies, what’s the experience like you know, being there on the border to Ukraine, giving the supplies to people who are then going into the country?

 

Fergal: Yeah, gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah. So we crossed over at at nighttime, it’s pretty late by the time we got there. Myself Marcin mark and and this young lad Dean now getting into Ukraine from from the Polish aid to Ukraine side was was fairly easy. We showed the letters of requests we had and there wasn’t a problem there. Obviously our Polish driver helped. But like a scribe the border there was it was almost like a like a, like a closed down disbanded, petrol forecourt and just just sort of desolate, apart from the soldiers knocking around, but it was fairly smooth sailing gone through there. It wasn’t lines of traffic or anything. There was one point where we were told that our driver wanted the Ukrainians to come out to us because he didn’t want to go in to the Ukraine as such. So we’re in this sort of border channel. And he’s blinking his lights. And the Ukrainian guys are maybe 100 meters away, and they’re blinking their lights. They couldn’t come out you see, because they were the cause of the conscription. So they had to stay firmly on this Ukrainian side.

 

Brad: What’s the conscription?

 

Fergal: So if they’re if you’re over 18 and under 65 Then you’ve got to stay in the country to be available for for call up to the army.

 

Brad: Gotcha. Okay, got it.

 

Fergal: So, so yeah, so so they’re blinking their lights were blinking lights and I think the main thing at the time because it was very early days, it was only the second week of the war. And it was just you know, obviously we’ve seen millions flee in the country. So the main concern for the driver was that it would it would take us days to get back out if we went in you can’t just reverse to a border crossing you can’t just pull up or anything and so anyway, we all decided look we’re not leaving the medicines here we come this far we’re going over to the guys and even though all of us have promised our partners at home no no we won’t be going into the Ukraine don’t worry about that love Yeah, we are we all ended up is that right? We’re not leaving the meds and and we went over and we met Taurus and Alex they were just just guys just our own age. And and yeah, we’re extremely grateful we we transferred over to goods we got pictures taken and we hugged it out then funny enough actually remember Alec said to me locally said thanks a million for this and and can you please can you please look after our women and children when they get when they’re out of the country? So you know because they’re their children, promoters wives that had had left for for Western Europe and I think it’s really important for these guys to know that they weren’t just safe but that that the kids were happy you know that are distracted as they could be so that was a real you know thinking point for all of us like that you know it’s no good just put them into a camp somewhere let’s let’s kind of get them swimming lessons and you know, gymnastics and get them into schools and all that sort of nice stuff that the kids want to be doing.

 

Brad: Yeah, quite a quite a heartbreaking scene.

 

Fergal: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, the guys you know what they were they were real like they were just delighted to be getting the meds and they were proud are so so proud. You know, as the Slava Ukrainians this cry like Glory to Ukraine and and we’re just saw like, the definitely wasn’t a fear in them. And it’s kind of the first time we saw something like a swatch all those I love all more movies and Banner, broader stuff. And I’d always go, how can people actually do that? How could a human being actually just, you know, run across the train shirt, jump out of the airplanes or whatever. But you can actually see it there. When you get into that sort of collective situation. You could see how people get caught up in this, you know, and get get get very passionate motivated by it. We turned around anyway, we managed to find, we managed to find a gauge because we looked down at the road after we passed over the goods, we looked out on the road, if we’d gone out to the public road, it was literally cars as far as you could see, trying to get overboard at Poland. And then we just saw a gauge. And one of the guys got out and open the gate, which is really brave. Considering all the soldiers around, we just open the gate, we managed to kind of somehow pull up. And we’re heading back to Poland. But we’re like 500 meters from the Polish border. And we sort of snuck into the queue. And it took us it was minus four degrees, and it was snowing. And it took it took us six hours to move that 500 meters. Wow. And it was literally behind us those cars, as far as you could see. Could be 5k could have been 10. Good and all but you know, and we’re looking at the women and children just just standing outside the ones that had been left off. My boss has had to just stand outside to go over by Fortune, where they’re comfortable four by four, you know? Yeah, but I suppose the scenes there of those women children, and maybe it was just because they got that fire. But like not one kid was crying or winch and not one it was stoic would be the word I’d use. Just extremely stoic, just very silent. very orderly. Yeah. Resilient.

 

Brad: Yeah. I mean, it speaks a lot to you get the Ukrainians resolve and their resistance to the invasion, you know? Because initially, I know that Russia thought it would be somewhat of a, an easy conquest, which has not turned out to be the case. And now I’m not exactly sure how long it’s been, you know, the war has been going. It’s been months now, though. And appears as if, yeah. appears as if you know, Ukraine is holding ground and yeah, they’re, it’s hard. I guess it’s a lesson for the word, authoritative dictators. Like it’s hard to go into somebody’s homeland and take their home from them. I mean, if you expect it, they’re not going to fight. Of course, they’re going to fight they’re going to resist.

 

Fergal: Yeah, for sure.

 

Brad: So I’m not exactly sure how to how to segue out of that experience. It’s so such a debt, just heartbreaking and terrible, terrible event. I’m very grateful for folks like yourself, who had an opportunity and took it to help and be of assistance to the Ukrainian people. That’s really incredible. And personally, I’m grateful. I’m moving back into into poker. You know, I have some lightning round questions. And we’ll hit those lightning round questions. And then segue to call to action, where the folks listening to the chasing poker greatest podcast can assist in everything that you’re doing for Ukraine. So from here if you could gift, a poker book to all the players in the world, what book Would you recommend and I said poker book but I misspoke. It doesn’t have to necessarily be about poker, it could be you know stoicism, life whatever it is that you think would benefit the poker community at large.

 

Fergal: Yeah, there’s one that actually had a profound effect on me earlier on this year just just before the whole rapid response kicked off I read a book that’s fairly well known called The Power of Now you come across that it’s like it’s about just being in the present and it was it was big in America a few years ago I think golfer that a thing on it and it’s supposes borders and wrapped up for Western Western eyes and ears but um, this is really interesting. I thought the power now and it and I remember actually was Carl Anderson, poker player Ken Anderson.

 

Brad: I don’t I don’t

 

Fergal: Carl was a beast he was topic toxify frightens for years. Cow I don’t know what the absolute gentleman and it was he came over to shop and one year and he had I noticed on his watch it’s it didn’t have any hands on his watch her numbers I’ve just said now. I was intrigued by it. And he said look, it’s all about being in the present moment and not the past just brings your regrets and, and sadness and and and thinking about the future future can create anxiety and fear. So it’s all about being like really present and then when when you are present, whether it’s in conversations with people or whether it’s your work, you can find this this flow state that sort of hinders on stage. So So yeah, that really hit home and in in retrospect, I could see that really working well at a at a poker table.

 

Brad: Yeah, Eckhart Tolle power of now has shockingly been suggested or recommended by multiple people on this podcast. So yeah, not just not just you and cow, I think there’s a lot of benefit to staying present living in the present moment. As we said before, you know, controlling the controllables

 

Fergal: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

 

Brad: The one of the major lessons that you know, I’ve taken away from poker and in my own life. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about poker, what would you change? Difficult question, because, because you’ve been out of it for a few years.

 

Fergal:  Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, I’d say this with the caveat that that I was out of the fear so so things could have changed. I think certainly the certainly the live scene have passed me online as well. But I one word Eagle Eagle. Yeah, I think it was a lot of ego. A lot of who had badges and who didn’t and who was friendly with the people who, who really wanted to be friendly with who wasn’t and all that sort of silly stuff. You know,

 

Brad: I got some bad bad news from you for you Fergal. Yeah, it hasn’t changed. It’s still the same.

 

Fergal: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot of clicks. And it was always a lot of clicks when it was around the game. And you know, it wasn’t a fan of that.

 

Brad: Yeah. If you could wreck the billboard. Every poker players got to drive past on the way to the cardroom. What’s your billboard? Say?

 

Fergal: Supposed to be quickfire? Isn’t it? Gotcha. Sorry, I can’t I’m just gonna blank on that one.

 

Brad: Right. Well, we’ll circle back we’ll do a Yeah. Yeah. When you think about joy in your career playing cards, what’s the first memory that comes to your mind?

 

Fergal: Yeah, I remember that. The first the first Vegas there was a because because they didn’t have much of a role but I was in a tree 100 satellite to the main event. So you’re gonna get a lot of people to get there and hear this massive satellite. And it was it was I don’t know it was 30 something left or how many seats two hours and your body just in the other corner room. I just heard this ole ole ole which was just absolutely had to be Irish, but I had no idea the Irish poker community at the time, you know, and and then I just managed to have enough chips that I could literally run down and see what was happening and it was just this scene, which turned out to be Mary Smith when the PLO Breslin and Iris flags and just just everyone going crazy and yeah, it was like and then undoubtedly, Record under him like went in there. When when in 10k. And just just bring it back to me auto bedroom and spraying it all over the bed like pancake. Glass is just Yeah, is good

 

Brad: To good memory to get the memory. Now the opposite question because one of the catalysts for me making the podcast was knowing that, you know, poker is a game with ups and downs, and you don’t just wake up one day and find yourself at a final table, right? It takes some culmination, it’s a long process to eventually have success in this world. sustainable success. When you when you think about pain in your career playing cards, what’s the first memory that comes to mind?

 

Fergal: Yeah, that’s a tough one for me. Like, I know what it is. I just, I’m just not sure if I want to say it. Yeah. So yeah, I told you that I started playing cards, because my father was was unwell. And my mother was unwell. And I was I was looking after him. And, and, and yeah, so I want to take it to any pt. And I think it was London or somewhere like, that might have been a 5k ticket. But it was, you know, it was a bigger package, it was like seven and a half package altogether, or whatever. And maybe 10 was likely yours, maybe it’s a 10k dollar package. I don’t know. Anyway, I want an EBT package. And, you know, I didn’t really want to go because I wasn’t sure. And I was the only one kind of minding him and just wasn’t sure things worry. And also I got a cancer stares it out, it was so tough. I didn’t write letters and all and show doctor’s notes. And I got off that one. And then there was another one in Prague. And, and same thing in any event that I did pull the strings and talk to people I knew I opened a company really high up and finally got off. And it’s a great, but you have to play the next one. Or you’re just losing your money. And then, and then the next one was Dhaval. And at that stage, like the doctors were saying he was he was he was fine, you know, and he was even stable and not too soon or whatever. So So I I told his were like, he would say to me if using this full buy, don’t be stupid, don’t leave like 10 grand or whatever it is, don’t don’t leave that money just disappear. Like you know, just just go out and do what you have to do. So I went out, and I was staying with my Irish friends and I got through like a true day one normal kind of stack or whatever. And I was doing well. I can turn the terrible night before for 10 sort of the night before midday too. And then it was just in the middle of Oh, I’d lost me my phone got stolen in Paris. My form was robbed on the subway. And that doesn’t make that important part of the story because literally somewhere a couple hours into day two this guy in Deauville came down with a he was wearing a Dicky ball like now from a hotel has been Dickie ball on him and a full proper suit. And he just handed me a notes then call home. You know, and then like that, that was literally that guy who was telling me that my dad passed, I just knew straight away, you know, I didn’t have my phone and who’s gonna go to that pottery. And so I knew what it was and, and, and I walked away from the table. And I just, you know, called home and was like, you know, I burst into tears in the middle of like the beauty door was it was one of the biggest in Europe because it was huge in France, you know, media everywhere. It’s right by the beach. So I just went out onto the beach. And you know, and I just couldn’t I couldn’t handle and I went back to my hotel room I couldn’t handle and the strangest thing happened is that I just went back to the table. I just weird. I just sort of wanted to go back to something that that I knew or some you know, it’s hard to explain but I’ve been really chatty before that all day and I just disappeared for like two hours and lost 60k maybe out of a 200k stack or something like that. And I just put on my shades and put on my headphones and a guy there asked me if I was okay. I said no. And I got you know the proxy to tears and so yeah, that was just like an actually at the table. Who is this guy? Jack Paradis he was like this. He’s a well known French singer. So the cameras were literally on our table all day. It’d be like, I don’t know like a Tony Bennett of France or something like this type of crooner guy, you know. And to the cameras are there all day so it’s like, you know, I was like, privately morning in this most public setting. And then this, I didn’t want to play I didn’t want to think about hands or Play cards, I just wanted to be there. So, you know, I just, if I did play a hand, like if I’d like I’ve literally just tapped in and or something. But if I played it, I just at some stage, I just put all the chips and I didn’t care, I didn’t care if I got knocked out, I’d be happy to get knocked out. I was trying to figure out when we flight was how quick I could get back home, all that sort of stuff. So I really didn’t care. So I ended up with this massive stack. And, and, and then that was the conversation then. And it was like, you know, just the next day after it finished, because I just had to get home as soon as possible the next day. And it was it was the conversation about about right, can I just walk away now and is my stack enough to make the money and this sort of stuff because I really didn’t want to I had a chat with a good friend of mine and stars. And, you know, she was like, Look, I’ll keep the media off your table. And we we came up with the plan that the best idea was like I just I just sit down for an hour and just introduce sit down and pass pass pass and just defend the art blind or whatever, just just, you know, just tread water and then just make the money and give it to charity and whatever I could. So that was that was the plan and it was funny because she said the the French guy ended up on my table the same day that same Jacques Brel again. Now we’re on the bubble, and he is an even bigger stack. And he could not understand why the media worked out his table, not one camera with nears table because this girl was overall the median stars and she just put a blackout on our table. And he kept like, anytime we’d lose or win a party be like Oh Allah, Allah, Allah Allah. And that was it. I said, I wouldn’t play one hand, but I just couldn’t help it against this guy. And I just slow playing lights, flatter jacks or whatever. I don’t know, I want a really big pot of money. He was like, and then and then as soon as the money was made, I just walked away, but like that, that was that was the real painful moment because like, you know, I, you know, I’ll always regret not not being there. And when he passed, you know, and, and being where I was and being so far away. And yeah, so that was my most painful moment. And in Bulger,

 

Brad: Yeah. That’s quite quite the story. And it’s been been a while my condolences and thanks for it. Yeah, you know, it’s making decisions with imperfect information. And, yeah, that’s a brutal one, on that note, we’re gonna, I think we’re gonna wrap up.

 

Fergal: And it’s like, forced you to try and segue.

 

Brad: There’s, there’s, there’s no no smooth segue from here. That’s it, folks. Have a good day. Boom. So

 

Fergal: So will we do a call to action on rapid response?

 

Brad: Yeah, let’s, let’s talk about that. You know, the, the project is near and dear to your heart. where can folks go?

 

Fergal: Yeah, so look, the easiest way is to donate at rapid response ukraine.com. Because what we have now is we’ve we’ve a supply line, where we buy off junior doctors in Romania, who are able to buy it not only is Romania, like half the price in Western Europe, but they’re able to buy it at wholesale. And we have medical requests coming in from five or six different war torn cities, right down to south and east. They are updating these medical requests weekly into the top 10 Priority drugs. And then we can purchase these at wholesale prices and bring them across the border and get them there really quickly. as needed. So we can do this for the larger organizations like UNICEF and Red Cross count. And every penny goes towards this cause not towards wages or main. So that’s one is simple donation, rapid response ukraine.com. The second one, as mentioned in Germany, Irish open, we got we made 45,000 That’s good enough for us or not, Ron is sort of like between 15 and 20k of weak on these medical purchases. So and that’s enough like to say we’ve sort of de risked the load, we’re not putting a huge amount on on one load. But it’s enough to make it work the guy’s wild to travel to these areas with the gods. So so what we got at the Irish open is good enough for three weeks. And then we’re also getting a lot of supplies donated so that the Lord’s are actually a lot more valuable. And you know, we got supplies donated from from help from the health services in Ireland. So look, if people have connections to medical supplies, medical supply companies Great, great. It’s not just cash money, but those type of connections be magic. Also, why we made the Irish open, which is really an honor conversation here but I’d really open open or He’s up to the potential in the poker community. An order World Series is coming up. I have a great fondness for the series. As mentioned earlier, I would love to get a pitch a stand in, I think it’s happened in Belize and Paris this year, but at the World Series, so someone has connections with her is there that could that could somehow help us get getting our pitch there. That would be absolutely phenomenal. Because I’m sure if we made 45 In a week, we could do a hell of a lot more at the at the World Series of Poker. So. So that will be great if someone could reach out to me on that as rapidresponse ukraine@gmail.com

 

Brad: Awesome, man. Yeah. And hopefully, I’m fairly confident that you’ll get put in touch with the right person in in this space. I think the story, everything’s just too compelling and make sense. There’s this massive need that hopefully, Bally’s and the WSOP will be able to assist.

 

Fergal: Yeah, thanks, Brad. And just like, you know, we’re not going to be there shaking buckets and people’s faces, it’s not going to be there’s not going to be hard pressure look, I’ve been a player before I know what that’s like trying to dodge dodge guys go in there and did to play poker. But, you know, if we just once we have a stand, it’s just people can approach us and we can explain to them what we’re doing. We give out a lucky chip. And you know, if people want to come back and help us out, that’s great. But it’s more sort of networking and a much softer sales. So you know, we’d be delighted to have a patient in Vegas.

 

Brad: Awesome, and well, hopefully that happens keep me up to date Fergal and it’s been great. having you on the program been great hearing your story, learning more about you your cause and where you come from. And hopefully, you know, we could run it back in a year or so and touch base again on how things how things have gone.

 

Fergal: Brilliant Brad. Thanks very much and best of luck with the JSON book regrets.

 

Brad: Thanks, man. Have a good day.


Fergal: Take care.

Thanks for reading this transcript of Chasing Poker Greatness Podcast Episode 219: Fergal Nealon

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