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Travels With the Camel

by Keith Hawkins |  Published: Feb 01, 2006


November was probably the most important month on the European poker schedule. The two most prestigious tournaments on the tour, the Masterclassics of Poker at Amsterdam and the Monte Carlo Millions, both took place as the year came to a close. The huge fields and massive prize money available at both of those events serve to confirm that the seemingly never-ending boom in poker continues apace.

A thought struck me, however. If a player decided to enter both events, and maybe sneaked off to Paris and Walsall for their main events, too, the total cost of entries would have been a swoon-inducing €33,241.75. Throw in travel expenses, hotels, satellites, and a bit of side action, and if a player was cold-decked all month, he could have found himself in a €40,000 hole – a sobering thought.

I don't want to preach here. I know lots of young guys have made fortunes in Internet poker, and 40 grand is a mere gnat's bite in their bankrolls. However, you can't tell me that everyone playing in all the big events in Europe – and across the world – can afford it. In 2004, I lost a lot of money. Thankfully, 2005 was kinder to me and I am financially sound again. If you don't learn from your mistakes, you are a fool, and I hope I've learnt from mine.

Playing against sponsored players and independently wealthy businessmen in the biggest poker tournaments is financially unsustainable for the vast majority of players. For sure, it is worth taking shots at the big time when there is a lot of dead money or added value, such as at the Masterclassics. Yet, as I travel across Europe, I see seemingly hundreds of young guys queuing up to play in the biggest tournaments. Where are they getting the money? Such huge amounts are being won and lost these days, and there are bound to be casualties.

The most important skill required to be a successful poker player is talent. Some of the young prodigies who are around today play a thousand times better than I did at their age. You can learn to play well so much quicker, thanks to Internet poker. What that doesn't mean, though, is that most of the young players don't need to serve their apprenticeship in smaller, live tournaments before they have a chance of winning a major event.

Talent is not the only skill needed to become a winning tournament player. You also need to have good game selection skills, and the ability to avoid going on tilt and chasing your losses.

I worry that many of the young players around at the moment will get into deep financial trouble and have to give up poker if they don't score a huge result. Don't let it happen to you. Be smart, play events within your financial capability, and slowly build your bankroll.

The major tournaments will still be there in five years' time when you and your game are ready to take them on. Be careful, don't be the dead money. Your wallet, if nothing else, will thank me for that advice!


At every tournament I have been to for the last 12 months, one topic of conversation seems to crop up whenever tongues are loosened by a beverage or three.

Virtually all poker players seem convinced the time is right to launch a professional poker association that could represent players in negotiations with television companies for added money in tournaments, get special deals for hotels and airfares for the traveling players, organize a standard rulebook for poker that could be used in major tournaments across Europe, and a multitude of other matters.

The one stumbling block to setting up such an organization is finding the right people to run it. Poker players are notoriously lazy (me included!), and the figurehead for a players association would have to be trusted and respected by everyone, and have the drive and commitment to see it succeed.

If anyone knows if the right individual exists, please let me know. I will be first in the queue to join!

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 blog can be found at