Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Kissing Cousins

by Lucy Rokach |  Published: Jul 06, 2005


We've just returned from a four-week stint in America, starting off with the cruise and finishing with Bellagio. The trip confirmed my long-standing belief that the average poker player from across the pond is better than his European equivalent. I'm not even sure that the best we have to offer is quite up to par. All the more remarkable, then, were some of the results at Bellagio. Mark Boudewijn and Harry Demetriou were first and second, respectively, in the $1,500 no-limit hold'em event, Marcel Lüske and Cecilia Nordenstam were first and fifth in the $2,000, Ram Vaswani third in the $5,000, Ken Lennard first in the $2,500, Anthony Lellouche third in the $3,000, and Joe Grech second in the $5,000.

I know that poker has been popular in America for longer than in Europe, and maybe that's the reason there is greater depth to their poker fraternity. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it's something to do with the American psyche, lifestyle, dream, or whatever you want to call it. Americans want the money, and they want all of it. Even when they have succeeded, they're prepared to risk it all to climb even higher peaks. They have to corner the market. I'm not suggesting that we Europeans lack ambition or are not competitive, but I think that Americans hunger for material success more than we do, and therefore are more committed and focused than we Europeans are.

Nothing illustrates this better than tournaments held at the Aviation Club in Paris. At around 10:30 p.m., the competitions stop for an hour and half so that everyone can dine in the restaurant. Can you imagine that happening in Las Vegas? Yes, there is an hour dinner break there, but it's after eight or nine hours of play and you are herded to the buffet to grab fuel quickly. This is unlike Paris, where the dinner break comes just two hours after the start of play and where you are also given time to enjoy and digest your dinner in good company. It's a question of emphasis. I've been in Helsinki, where on the last day of the festival that starts at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, whoever won a decent pot in the cash games bought a round of drinks for everyone at the table. Needless to say, win or lose, come the evening, everyone was having a thoroughly good time. In Dublin, everyone congregates at the local pub before, during, and after the competition. In London, when everyone used to stay at the Metropole Hotel, we would all meet at the bar at 4 o'clock in the morning and still be there four or five hours later – playing backgammon, joking, drinking, or all three. In charge of entertainment there would be either Devilfish or Cesare Poggi (a wonderful concert pianist), or perhaps Peter Doherty would be wowing us with his amazing magic tricks, and as usual, the Irish contingent provided all the "craic." It's not that I'm waxing lyrical about the European lifestyle in preference to the American way; I'm just trying to point out the difference between the two. I may be generalising, but I do think that our cousins take their poker much more seriously. During festivals, very rarely will you see our cousins socialising like we do; they've come to work, not to play, and whereas Europeans will mix the two, the Americans don't seem to want to.

The other factor that I think makes the Americans stronger players is their familiarity with big money. On a regular basis, they play bigger in their cash games, win more, and have much larger bankrolls than their European counterparts. The poker pool in the States is much bigger and richer, so even average professional players have more money than we do. When it comes to tournaments, that means they're not fazed by the big buy-ins. Winning and losing tens of thousands every day results in them playing their biggest, most prestigious tournaments quite fast. For most of us, a $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000 entry fee represents a lot of hard-won money. Consequently we treat our chips with more respect, and so we don't acquire the big stacks to the same extent that our cousins do.

Finally, in the last few years, $10,000 tournaments have mushroomed in the United States. They are no big deal anymore over there. Hop on a plane, and within four hours, you're at the venue – and if it's an early bath, there's no problem getting home. For Europeans, though, it's almost like planning an expedition; jet-setting backward and forward is out of the question. So, in my humble opinion, our American cousins are tougher adversaries because they're wealthier, they play bigger, and they are more driven.

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.