Games: Poker

The estimable Bruno Fitoussi staged his most successful ever week of poker tournaments at the Aviation Club de France in Paris last week. This elegant establishment on the Champs Elysees is rapidly becoming a home from home for British players. Door-to-door, via Eurostar, three hours and a taxi ride. It is a civilised spot - "We always take a break for dinner," Fitoussi explained. "No French poker tournament would ever be played without stopping for a proper dinner!"

Quite right, too - and he has also introduced the excellent facility of non-smoking tables, which even in tournaments can apply at least for the first hour or two. My impression of French players is that they may play less well, but they do behave rather better, than their British counterparts. Play starts at 4pm and goes on until 6am.

Two variations of hold 'em and Omaha are played at the Club d'Aviation which are new to British players. Courchevel is 5-card Omaha, with the first card of the flop turned face-up before the betting. If you hold, for example, Q-J-9-8-6 and a 10 or a 7 pops up, it would be encouraging. If, on the other hand, an ace is the exposed card, you may not fancy pushing a hand with a pair of kings in it.

Aviation seems to be a club speciality. It is 4-card hold 'em, with one discard before the flop, and a second discard after the flop. A-K-9-8 could be preferable to A-K-Q-J, where you might have to throw away cards you need on the flop. This variation is not to the purist's taste, but seems like a good idea to spice up home games.

French and English poker terms are more or less interchangeable in the club but here is a basic glossary:

Call - Suivi;

Raise - either Pot or state the amount;

Straight - Suite or Quinte;

Flush - Couleur;

Full house - Full;

Four of a kind - Carre.

The next major hold 'em tournament is on 18 and 19 October. Bonne chance!

And finally, speaking of civilised pleasures, an exhibition of the most marvellous painter of gambling in the history of art, Georges de La Tour (1593-1652), has just opened at the Grand Palais. Definitely not to be missed.

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