Independent Pursuits: Poker

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The Independent Culture
HERE'S A date for next year. The Euro-Finals of Poker will be staged at the Aviation Club de France from February 6-14. It promises to be a really great week of poker, for enthusiasts at all levels.

First of all, the club, at 104 Avenue des Champs-Elysees, enjoys one of the most elegant settings you could imagine, overlooking the most famous boulevard of Paris. Second, Bruno Fitoussi, like a player-manager in the theatre, offers a wonderful mix of good cheer and good gambling. My theory is that poker rooms reflect, quite clearly, the personality of their managers. No names, but think of the card rooms you know.

Third, and most important, the week's programme is action-packed. Eight consecutive tournaments will have buy-ins ranging from 2,500 francs (about pounds 250), which most tournament players can take in their stride, up to 30,000 francs (pounds 3,000) for the Texas Hold 'em no limit event. Super-satellites, which are mass qualifying events, at 1,000 francs entry, will be held every day. "Our mission," says Fitoussi, "is to take poker tournaments in Europe to a higher level, one that includes corporate sponsorship and enhanced media and television coverage." This is the European counterpart to Mike Sexton's promotional efforts for the Tournament of Champions, to be held at the Orleans casino in Las Vegas next July 26-28. All tournament winners in Paris will qualify.

It is certainly a pity that the dear old Vic in the Edgware Road, which for years was seen as the top card room in Europe, is a non-starter on the new European circuit. Though still a home from home for Lo don poker players, its new card room is too small to stage such events.

Side action at the Aviation Cub during and between tournament play will also offer plenty of scope. The poker room has 13 tables, offering all the usual games. An amusing French twist is "Courchevel" - five-card Omaha with the first card of the flop turned face up before the initial round of betting. Table charges are high - 100 francs an hour in the smallest games; and tipping of dealers must be taken into account. On the other hand, the five-course dinner is a bargain.

And if you want to note down the dates, what better way than in the World Poker Diary. This is bigger and better than last year and includes much useful information for the travelling poker player. Buy it from Nic Szeremeta, 32 Byron Road, Torquay, Devon TQ1 4PH, price pounds 11 inc p&p, or on credit card via fax 01803 313013.