Poker: Fixing limits helps play

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AMSTERDAM now has something else to offer besides canals, bicycles, its infamous night-life and the Rembrandt museum - an abundance of poker.

Holland Casinos, which presents its first poker tournament this week, offers action every night. The regular cash games are limit poker, seven card stud and Texas Hold 'em, with fixed raises.

This particular style of play offers tourists and low-budget players a better deal, in my view, than the pot limit games of some London card clubs, which have been known to prove quite costly for newcomers.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Seven card stud ----------------------------------------------------------------- cards (xx) x x x x (x) bets 20 20 40 40 40 -----------------------------------------------------------------

Limit poker means that the bets and raises go in fixed amounts, at each betting round, instead of changing card by card, dependent on how much money a player has up front.

Admittedly pot limit is much more in the true spirit of the game of poker, when a player can set himself in for his entire stack, in order to run a big bluff or terrify the opposition.

At limit poker the basic idea is to give everyone the same chance, by protecting weaker or poorer players from huge swings in the stakes.

From the card clubs' point of view, limit games are simpler, faster and easier to 'rake' - cut the pot in table charges. But in British casinos however, pot limit is very much the tradition.

'We were very strongly influenced by the American approach to the market in settling our format,' says Holland Casinos' manager Ron Poul.

'In the year since we opened it has proved very successful.' Games start at the 5 to 10 guilders level (about pounds 1.80 to pounds 3.60) and rise through 10 - 20, 20 - 40 up to 100 - 200, with a very occasional 500 - 100 guilder game at the top end.

Most popular is the 20 - 40 guilder (pounds 7- ounds 14) Hold 'em game. A complete hand (leaving out of account any raises) would total 120 guilders (pounds 43) - big enough for most players.

----------------------------------------------------------------- Texas Hold 'em ----------------------------------------------------------------- cards (xx) xxx x x bets 20 20 40 40 -----------------------------------------------------------------

The Amsterdam casino, which is located in the Lido complex, also has 50 tables for casino games and 350 slot machines.

One might not think of the sensible burghers of Amsterdam as wild gamblers, but according to Mr Poul they have taken to poker in a big way, along with a fair sprinkling of foreign players.

The betting structure at fixed stakes is obviously less exciting than at pot limit, but the fact that the top professional players in Las Vegas play it (typically at dollars 300 - dollars 600 levels) shows that it can be a very tough game.

Maybe some British clubs should think about it.