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Poker in the Netherlands

by Anthon-Pieter Wink |  Published: Mar 01, 2006


Poker is booming here in the Netherlands. My 87-year-old grandmother recognized Phil Ivey recently as "that polite, well-mannered young man who plays cards so well," when she was watching the weekly Sunday afternoon poker show on television in her nursing home. "Why can't you be like that?" she asked me. Why not, indeed, Granny?

You can't flip through a magazine without coming across the faces of our country's heroes of the green felt: Noah Boeken, Rolf Slotboom, Marcel Lüske, and Rob Hollink. Mainstream magazines have responded to the interest in poker, and they all have run articles on these top players and their lives.

On the Internet, you can find Dutch information sites, strategy forums, and professional Dutch poker players' blogs, all of which attract thousands of visitors a day. Pokerinfo is one of the main information sites here, and we will be giving Card Player Europe readers a monthly update on all things Dutch. This includes legal issues and performances by Dutch players, established or up-and-coming, whether they're playing in the Netherlands itself or abroad.

There are 100,000 poker players in the Netherlands, and only one organization with a legal right to run poker games – Holland Casino (HC). Somewhat belatedly, some might say, HC is picking up on the poker explosion and is opening cardrooms in most of its 12 establishments, in addition to the cash games and tournaments that have been available in Holland Casino Amsterdam for years.

HC's monopoly, however, might soon be history. The word on the street is that the European Court of Justice does not think highly of HC's sole right to run casinos. HC is closely linked to the Dutch government, and its profits go directly into the Dutch treasury. Its reasoning, among other things, is that the monopoly allows the state to control gambling addiction, but it seems to have bartered away its rights by an excessive marketing campaign. Some may argue that inviting all Dutch citizens of legal age to visit the casinos is not technically a measure of limiting gambling addiction. So, awaiting an appeal, cardrooms might soon be popping up like tulips from the soil.

Until that time, poker players can go out and play live ring games or low-stakes tournaments every night of the week in one of the many home games that are running in all major cities of the Netherlands. Not surprisingly, most are in students' houses. Who else has enough time to play hours a week and is always looking for some extra cash? As a student myself, this gives me great hopes for the future. Granny, you just might be pleasantly surprised!

Anthon-Pieter Wink writes for