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Travels With the Camel

by Keith Hawkins |  Published: Jan 01, 2006


Outside the Shark Tank, Looking In …

I've been playing poker pretty much every day for 15 years, until two months ago, when I was forced to take a break. What was the reason? I am delighted to announce the birth of my first child, Jake, who arrived on Sept. 30 to terrorise your big blinds.

It was only while enjoying some quality time with him that I realised how important it is to take a break from poker and recharge your batteries now and again. I must admit, I had become stale. The break has done me the world of good, and I am ready to play some poker again, albeit quite a bit less than before the little fella was around.

So, what have I missed during my absence?

I'm certainly pleased I missed the reported chaos of the EPT in Barcelona, where the demand for seats far outstripped supply. The black market in tickets saw €4,000 seats sell for virtually double. What's more, to accommodate extra players, they used heads-up tables (designed for two players) and squeezed seven around them. All in all, it was an event best avoided.

I'm sad to have missed the EPT events at Baden (a venue I've never played, unfortunately, as it was subject to fantastic reports) and London. The Vic is my favourite place in the world to play poker. The staff is the best around, the tournaments have fantastic structures, and the atmosphere is electric. It's the first time I've missed a festival there for years. I won't miss many more!

However, for me, the big news on the circuit concerns televised poker. Autumn seems to have become the time for many European televised tournaments, such as the UK Open and the European Open. The distinguishing feature of most of these events is the crapshoot nature of the structures and the very high buy-ins.

This October, however, saw a welcome newcomer to the televised poker stakes. Not only did the William Hill Grand Prix feature superb, player-friendly structures (the heats took about nine hours to complete – no crapshoot there!), but William Hill also took the impressive step of adding more than £100,000 to the prize pool.

Television has done a lot for poker. It has brought a legion of new faces to the poker table and has opened the door for players to secure valuable sponsorship opportunities. Let's not forget, though, that poker players are also valuable to television. Televised poker is relatively cheap for broadcasters to produce, and all of the huge prize money has, thus far, been put up by the players themselves.

It was with great regret that I turned down my invitation to play in the William Hill Grand Prix. If I'm invited next year, I'll be sure to accept. I think, as players, we must support poker events where the operator is adding value. That's why my comeback event will be the Masterclassics in Amsterdam, where Holland Casinos will add €45,000 to the main event!


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