Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Travels With the Camel

by Keith Hawkins |  Published: Sep 01, 2005


The Future's So Bright That I've Gotta Wear Shades!
As I write this, it's World Series of Poker time once again. For the poker player, it marks the end of the playing year, and, more often than not, it is the month that makes or breaks the financial year.

It is a time for contemplation. How has your year been? What do you need to change or improve in your game? It is also the time to look at how poker has changed, and what the outlook for the future is.

I'm just back from my first trip of the year to the World Series. I never stay for the duration; for me, seven weeks in Vegas is just too long, and the temptation posed by the dice tables would be impossible to resist. All things being equal, however, I'll return for the main event.

This year's World Series is a revelation. I've never been more positive about the future of poker. The fields are just phenomenal. They are eclipsing records for prize money day by day. The organisation at the Rio is a huge task, and, on the whole, all involved are doing a great job.

For a traditionalist like me, there are some disappointments. The "buzz" of the WSOP isn't quite the same, now that the event isn't in the hallowed halls of Binion's Horseshoe. The camaraderie among European challengers isn't what it was, either, as there is no bar within a mile (literally!) of the convention centre in which to share laughs, bad-beat stories, successes, and - most importantly - a beer or five. At the moment, anyway, it doesn't quite feel like the World Series. Maybe this will change by the time the main event rolls around, but right now it just feels like a very, very big poker tournament.

As far as poker overall is concerned, though, it is impossible not to be energised. The massive amount of new blood injected into poker has to be good for the game. Most of these "new" players seem to be either respectable businessmen or young guys, fresh out of college. Both of these groups help to dilute the percentage of "bad apples"; the minority of cheats, liars, scammers, and nippers who have long infested the game and made it unattractive to outsiders. In fact, in all the hours I played at the Rio, I came across only one player who could be described as objectionable, and even he seemed in fine humour when I played at his table. This is good on many levels. It helps to make poker a respectable participation event, and growing numbers of people will be encouraged to play. This should succeed in making poker more mainstream, which in turn will appeal to advertisers outside the narrow fields we have at the moment. It also means that the very act of playing is enjoyable. Who wants to spend hour upon hour bickering and scowling?

Secondly, for the dedicated player, these huge fields are thrilling. You can win hundreds of thousands of dollars for a relatively small outlay. Of course, while some of the newcomers will turn out to be excellent players, a large proportion will be, to a greater or lesser extent, dead money.

Finally, the global appeal of poker is great news. Hometown champions from all over the world have gathered at the Rio, showing just how popular poker has become everywhere. I played with guys from such far-flung places as Kuwait, Bolivia, Australia, Bangladesh, and Iraq. It was wonderful.

However, there is still some way to go before we have a perfect game.

Here are just a few changes that I think the players urgently need:

1. Standardised rules. It is ridiculous that rules differ from casino to casino, and from country to country. It is imperative that a standardised rulebook is enforced across the world, so that a player knows where he stands, whatever happens.

2. Added money to tournaments. The Professional Poker Tour is a great start, but I believe it's time to go further. Some of the figures being bandied about at the Rio as to how much ESPN is paying for exclusive coverage of the WSOP are just staggering. How much of that money is going back to the players? Zero! Indeed, we are paying (in the form of juice) to provide entertainment for the viewers at home. Imagine Tiger Woods paying to play a PGA tour event or Ronnie O'Sullivan reaching into his pocket to take part in a snooker tournament. Unthinkable, right?

3. A committee of players should be formed to protect players' rights. We should have input into the scheduling of poker tournaments, payout structures, playing conditions, and a whole gamut of other important considerations. A players association is more desperately needed than ever before. Who will take the lead?

I know it sounds like I'm moaning, but I'm really not. The World Series is a fantastic event and I can't wait to go back. I just want everything to be perfect so that everyone - the casinos, advertisers, players, and sponsors - can benefit from the ever-increasing poker boom.

Keith "The Camel" Hawkins is a well-known presence on the European poker scene, as he travels to most of the major tournaments from his home in Darlington. Poker is his work, but Keith's passion is Queens Park Rangers. Keith's regular poker blog can be found at