The Holland casino in Amsterdam, curving over a broad canal, 10 minutes from the city centre, is a brilliant operation, far more colourful than any London casino. Under a huge glowing dome, the games radiate like the spokes of a wheel: roulette with a single zero, blackjack, mini punto banco (the most profitable game for the house), Sic Bo the Chinese dice game, even a Big Wheel as in the old western saloons (but beware: the edge against the player is 11 per cent). Plus 350 slot machines including progressive jackpots.

Slick advertising encourages punters to think of a visit to the casino as a night on the town, rather than just a gamble. The accent is on entertainment. The Amsterdam casino attracts 4,000 people on a good night.

The poker room consists of five tables playing limit raise Hold 'em, 10-20 or 20-40 guilders. At around Fl2.5 to the pound, this is high enough for most club players. The house rake is 5 per cent. This means that in a 20-40 game, averaging 40 pots of Fl200 an hour, the house takes upwards of Fl400. In addition, players are more or less obliged to tip the dealer, which means another Fl200 out of the game. So if nine players sit down with Fl1,000 each (which is a reasonable starting stake) and play for five hours, the house will take out Fl3,000 (one third of their money), equivalent to pounds 1,200, regardless of the players' wins or losses.

This is both greedy and foolish, because it is bound to destroy the game. By contrast, in a (roughly equivalent) pounds 100 game at a British casino, where players pay table money of pounds 7 an hour, the house rake over five hours would be pounds 315, out of which - because tips are prohibited - come the dealers' wages. Adapting the old rhyme, I must say, with regret:

In matters of poker

The fault of the Dutch

Is tipping too often

And taxing too much.

However, the good news is that the Amsterdam casino is holding its Master Classics poker tournament from 6-11 November, on the standard American model of a fixed buy-in, plus modest entry fee. Last time, prize money totalled pounds 130,000 and a good time, I am assured, was had by all.