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Slow Down, You Move Too Fast!

by Lucy Rokach |  Published: Jan 01, 2006


Once upon a time, poker players used to be at least street-smart, if not actually clever. However, it seems that mass hysteria has overwhelmed the vast majority of the poker-playing community, and people are running around like headless chickens, entering any old crapshoot in which TV is involved.

There can be only one end result: The promoters will get a whole lot richer, while the poker players will get a whole lot poorer.

If you think you can play poker, why would you want to reduce your already slim edge further by entering tournaments that have such a fast structure that any novice plucked from the street can win, simply by pushing his chips in and getting lucky? Isn't poker supposed to be about mind games?

Take the European Poker Tour (EPT) events, for example. Great idea, but this season's competitions just look like very expensive rolls at the craps table. Why are European poker players paying a lot of money to sign waivers so that third parties can make money from them, while in return, losing any say in what happens during the tournament? The EPT is not the only culprit. In July, the Paris World Poker Tour final was turned into a farce. Imagine you have parted company with 10,000 euros, the clock is nice and slow, and you've finally made it to the magic televised six. Everything starts off as it should, and everyone's happy – everyone, that is, apart from the TV company, which decides that the final has gone on for far too long, it's costing too much money, and the cameramen are tired. No problem; the management kindly shrinks the clock to 30 minutes to accommodate the guys pointing the lenses.

Hang on a minute! What about the players? Didn't they jump up and down, screaming blue murder? Did they not at least voice some complaint? Apparently some did, but to no avail. You would think that the six would have gone on strike. After all, how can they have a show without the stars? Does this happen in America? I don't think so. Can you imagine Tiger Woods or David Beckham paying their own entries, and then being exploited by organisers who also rake the pot? Well, that's what happening to you, guys.

Some years back, when Mickey Finn, Matthias Ronnacher, Lothar Landau, and others set up the EPPA (European Poker Players Association), they established a poker circuit in Europe by laying down strict criteria for participating cardrooms. Tournaments had to have a slow clock, be freezeouts, and have a reasonable entry fee to be awarded ranking points. Did the cardrooms comply? You bet they did. Nowadays, any old tournament is ranking, the management does what it pleases, and the players file in like lambs, queuing up to be fleeced – which. of course, they are! I am pleased that Holland Casinos has stayed out of the television loop. Adele Bruyn does an excellent job with the organisation and structures, the casino adds $75,000 to the main tournament, and no juice is collected for either the big event or its one-table feeder satellites.

It's not all doom and gloom, of course. There have been some very positive developments with online sites hosting tournaments, to which they've added huge sums of money. The World Poker Exchange added $600,000, although I think that was by accident rather than design. Ladbrokes added a larger amount to its Poker Million, and, just recently, William Hill added a quarter of a million dollars to its televised event. What's more, the William Hill tournament had a sensible clock. Each level was 40 minutes, there was no hike in the blinds, and no running antes. This was poker as it should be.

There's a time and place for fast and furious, and it's not during the high-profile events. Left to me, all festivals that wanted ranking points would have to publicize their structures at least one month in advance, so that players could make informed decisions about whether to attend or not. Furthermore, no structures could be changed once a competition had started without all of the remaining players' consent. If a sponsor is adding a lot of money and wants its tournament to be a crapshoot, fine. For the most part, however, there is no added money, so why are European poker players putting up with this? Is it that the new players don't know any better, and think this is how it's always been? Or, is it a carry-over from Internet "turbo" tournaments, and the new players only know how to "ram and jam," so they're quite happy to see the whole process speeded up in live situations? Slow down, guys, you move way too fast.

Lucy "Golden Ovaries" Rokach has long been one of the most successful tournament players in Europe, with 14 major European titles to her name in the last five years alone. She hails from the Midlands in the UK, but can usually be found on the European tournament trail.