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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
European Poker
by Nic Szeremeta

There are mixed messages coming from the poker fraternity on the European side of the pond. On the one hand there are screams of pain from tournament devotees that the ever increasing buy-ins are getting out of hand, and this is the reason for falling fields in some card room competitions. On the other hand when the Grosvenor Victoria Casino, London aka the “Vic,” put on an £s32,500 no-limit Hold’em event during its European Championships week in July a bigger than expected field of 133 turned out, producing a massive pool of £s3,332,500. Not surprisingly many of Europe’s lead-ing tournament players turned out for a shot. Even former WSOP champion Dan Harrington came across from the USA to take a seat.

With so much poker talent in evidence the poker fairy could not resist the opportunity of having a bit of fun. The first prize of £s3,120,000 (no deals) went to a virtual unknown, T. Sambrook of England. Who? It was certainly something to do with post-WSOP bankroll trauma that the tournaments in May and June saw their numbers decline. The Irish Open in Dublin, Ireland, the Torneo di Poker in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, and the Quartermillion at the Grosvenor, Walsall, England all had lower fields than in previous runnings. But the organizers can hardly have expected much else; they were all scheduled at exactly the same time!

The Ladbrokes Casino World Heads Up Poker Championships at the Concord Card Casino, Vienna in June likewise saw its numbers take a sharp dip. This may have had something to do with the fact that most of the Americans decided to stay at home and there was a rival event in Baden-Baden, Germany that didn’t help. An added annoyance was that the other major card room in the Austrian capital, Poker World, deliberately scheduled a “spoiler” series of tournaments at the same time and even had the nerve to send a shuttle bus across town to the Concord to pick up players. Cooperation? You must be kidding! Nevertheless the World Heads Up Organization scored a notable first. The sponsorship from Ladbrokes enabled the organization to employ a TV production company and an hour-long highlights program received several airings on the Sky Sports channels. A news clip of Russian Kirill Gerasimov winning the title made it on to Transworld Sport and was broadcast in 120 countries.

There is cooperation in some parts though. The boys in the Baltic region and Russia are busily supporting and promoting each other’s poker happenings, and there is considerable player traffic between Sweden, Finland, Russia and the growing poker scene in Tallinn, Estonia. A good example of the synergy being created there is the joint venture between the Olympia Casino, St. Petersburg and Casino RAY, Helsinki. In the first couple of weeks in December back-to-back tournaments are scheduled, first in Russia’s second largest city and then across the Baltic to the Finnish capital for the annual Helsinki Freezeout. The deal between the two independent poker operators is that they will run a joint “overall best player” competition with players being able to score at both events. Not only that, but the Russian end of the partnership is going to provide coach or train transport to get the St. Petersburg patrons across to Helsinki. It makes a pleasant change from poker rooms trying to carve each other up.

This story was first published in the October - November 2002 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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