Poker

The finals of the European poker championships will be held at the Aviation Club de France, from 31 January to 8 February - the first time Europe-wide championships have ever been held. It promises to be an exciting week. The growing enthusiasm for the game is shown by the success of the European Poker Players' Association. The grandstand finale is thanks to the energy of Bruno Fitoussi, who is staging the event at his club in Paris, located on "the most beautiful avenue in the world," the Champs Elysees.

The finals will be contested by 18 players who have competed in championship events around the card-rooms of Europe during the past year. They include half a dozen British and Irish, and players from Hungary, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Holland, Finland, Belgium, France, Sweden, Israel and Tunisia - an impressive mix. "For the future," states Fitoussi, "can we not hope to see these Euro-Finals of poker becoming the biggest poker tournament in Europe, the equivalent this side of the Atlantic of the World Series of poker in Las Vegas?"

That is indeed the question. If television takes an interest, it could happen quickly. All the elements of an international network are in place. Only one country is lacking in support. I am sorry to say it is Britain. Not from the players' point of view, but in the casinos' promotion of tournaments.

The plan by the Grosvenor Victoria in Edgware Road, London, to reduce the size of its excellent card room to gain space for more gaming tables, is a blow. When this happens, the Vic will no longer have room to stage European-size tournaments. They will all go abroad. The Vic enjoys a reputation as the top poker club in Europe. It will continue to offer a lively card room, with perhaps eight or ten tables, but it risks losing its international sparkle.

The trouble for the casinos is that they are not allowed to charge for tournaments, as they can in every other country, or advertise poker. Their only poker revenue comes from an hourly charge from players in cash games, which is insignificant in comparison to what a roulette or a blackjack table can earn. One can hardly expect British casinos to run major tournaments, if they are going to lose money in the process. In Paris, as in Las Vegas, the players pay an entry fee in tournaments and dealers' tips take care of salaries. All the same, the value of poker and poker tournaments as a marketing tool should not be underestimated.

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