Poker in Europe continues to flourish. Two spring festival tournaments have just finished, at the Aviation Club in Paris and the Concord Club in Vienna. In April the European circuit continues at the Hit Casino Park in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, before moving on to the Concord in Vienna, 6- 13 June, and Aviation Club in Paris, 13-21 June.

Anyone who wants to can enter one of the qualifying tournaments for the 1998 European Championship, either Hold 'em or Seven-card stud, simply by signing on on the night. There are also plenty of cash games on offer, for players who want an amusing night out playing low-level stakes. In the second half of the year, ranking events will be held in Paris, Vienna, Baden (Austria), Germany, Amsterdam and Helsinki.

And what about London, you may ask. Alas and alack! As with most things European, like joining the single currency, we come in late and last. It was the same with the European football cup, if you remember that far back. The Stakis group, to its credit, ran a tournament last month in the Isle of Man (where the local gaming board is supportive of new initiatives). It attracted some 40 players, mainly from the North of England and the Midlands.

Roy Houghton, manager of the card room at the very lively Stakis Regency in London, is hoping to stage a major European tournament on the Isle of Man next October. There is room for 25 to 30 tables in the main room. All the conditions, including a splendid sea view, he says, are right.

The celebrated Grosvenor Victoria in Edgware Road, London, where poker tournaments in recent years have been such a huge success thanks to the manager, Bill Slate, is remodelling its card room in May. The management's plan is to bring in four more casino games, such as blackjack or casino stud, any one of which will probably generate more revenue than all the poker games put together. In future, the Vic will not have the space to stage a major European tournament, though happily its poker room will continue, with half-a-dozen tables in action.

Sooner or later an enterprising card room will seize the opportunity to establish itself as the premier card club in Europe. It looks as though the effervescent Bruno Fitoussi of the Aviation Club in Paris has the game well in hand. The no-limit 5,000 francs Hold 'em event in the club's recent spring tournament attracted more than 50 entrants and 40 buy-ins.

And despite the fine example set recently by Tony Blair, you don't even have to speak French! "Raise!" is international.