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Poker Boom in Germany: The Sleeping Lion is Awake

by Michael Keiner |  Published: Aug 01, 2006


Finally – late, but not too late – the poker virus has also infected Germany. Three years ago, there were about 2,000 to 3,000 German online players. At the beginning of 2005, Eurosport started to broadcast EPT events, and a short time later, DSF (Deutsches Sportfernsehen) came up with some poker formats, as well. The audience was fascinated by the game, and in September 2005, there were about 80,000 online players. DSF reacted and bought more than 800(!) hours of poker formats for 2006, and in April of this year, more than 200,000 Germans were playing online. What a nice start up! There's no question that these figures had a major influence on live games, as well. The Spielbank Wiesbaden has hosted a weekly Monday tournament for more than 10 years, 80 percent Texas hold'em and the other 20 percent split between Omaha and seven-card stud. The buy-ins vary between €100 and €300, and they don't charge any entry fee. Until 2005, between 15 and 35 players were willing to play in these tournaments. Now, every single tournament is sold out, with more than 40 players on the waiting list. They expanded their capacity to 60 players and have reached that limit, still without any chance to satisfy the demands of the market.

One early result of the boom could be observed during the World Heads-Up Championship this year in May in Barcelona. In past years, most of the time I was the only German competitor in this event. This year, 10 Germans entered the tournament, eight made it to the second round, and one 22-year-old guy, George Danzer, was the real star of Barcelona. I ran into him in round three after I won my match against the "Marbella Kid," Paul Zimbler. Whenever I had the opportunity to watch George play during his previous heats, I did. I saw only solid poker, so George gets my full respect. During our two-and-a-half-hour battle, he was playing beautifully, dancing around and changing his style from one hand to the next. Even though the cards weren't in my favour, there was one point when I could have changed the whole direction of the match with one well-prepared bluff. While I was thinking, "This kid has alligator blood," I finally gave up on the bluff, because it would have cost me all of my chips and I wasn't sure enough that he would lay down his hand. So, he won the heat and made his way straight to the semifinals, destroying the famous Roberto Binelli in only 20 minutes. Among the last four players, George finally lost his match against Paul "Action" Jackson. Although George needs some more experience in playing big live tournaments, I'm quite sure that you will hear a lot about him in the future.

Currently, I'm trying to set up a German national team of four or five players to go to the big international events, fight for glory, and, of course, win the prize money. The members of the team are Katja Thater, a female poker pro from Hamburg, Andreas Krause from Stuttgart, Roland Specht from Frankfurt, and myself. It will be a big push for our market and will double the number of TV spectators if they see Germans at the final table of big tournaments. I'm in negotiations with some major global companies for a sponsorship contract, but nothing has been consummated yet. Hopefully, I can report success in my next column.

Michael Keiner is an independent German poker pro on the international tournament circuit. He maintains his own site at