Noel went to local all-Irish schools where they didn’t speak English, instead every subject was studied through the medium of Irish, which basically is a dead language, just as Latin is. He left college at 17 and never attended university. Noel’s father owned a large snooker hall, it was ideal to turn into a carpet barn, so when he retired Noel converted it into one. He started out with a carpet shop, and now he has a large distribution business that does $100 million a year, with two manufacturing plants, one making carpet and the other making yarn to weave the carpets.
Noel got started playing poker in 1984 when he wandered into the Killiney Castle Hotel, where Terry Rogers was running a big tournament. He sat down in a cash game and won despite not knowing how to play poker very well. He then began playing at the Eccentric Club, which Terry founded to promote the Irish Open tournaments. The first time Noel played in the Irish Open, he finished second he then went on to win it three times, and finished second twice and third once in the late ‘80s and early ’90s. Noel was first dragged to Las Vegas by Terry in 1989 and got to the final table of the championship event, purely by luck. He was the chip leader at one point and by his own admission should have done better, but finished in sixth place. After several other visits and 10 years he claimed the title in 1999.
A man of impeccable manners and appearance he is not a professional poker player, he even doesn’t know how to play cash games. Somewhat of a recluse over the past eight or nine years he has never had a business card in his life, he has never had an answering machine on his phone and doesn’t even have a mobile phone. An equestrian enthusiast, so to speak, he trains thoroughbreds.
Noel’s winning WSOP hand:
Alan Goehring held an edge here with 66, but after Noel limped and Alan didn’t raise, the flop fell QQ5 delivering a full house that would be Noels winning hand. After the turn brought nothing with a 2 Alan checked, Noel raised, Alan re-raised, then Noel moved all in. The trap was set and Alan walked right into it. An 8 came on the river and Noel’s flopped full house won him the world championship.
In his own words:
“I worked hard, but it was 99 percent luck”