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Travels With the Camel

by Keith Hawkins |  Published: Jul 06, 2005


A Worrying Trend?
I played two tournaments in April, and there was a massive similarity between the Spring Festival at Grosvenor Luton and the Five-Star World Poker Classic at Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Now, you might look at me at bit askance when I tell you there is a similarity between Sin City (the vice, gambling, and fleshpot capital of the world) and Luton, England.

But checking out the results from the two tournaments, there is one surprising feature. There were 18 events spread between the two venues and, amazingly, every one of those 18 competitions was Texas hold'em. (Most were no-limit events, but Luton did push the boat out and offered a couple of pot-limit extravaganzas.)

Imagine Wimbledon with only a men's singles championship or the Olympics including just athletics. While they would still have the most popular element, both sporting festivals would lose a lot of their lustre by ignoring the more minority competitions.

You can hardly blame the casinos involved. They are in the business of making money, and as everyone now wants to play hold'em, the casinos are catering to the majority and therefore making more money in juice. Looking at the size of the fields for the Grand Challenge in Luton in January, the hold'em events all attracted well more than 100 players, while a paltry 49 runners showed up for the Omaha and seven-card stud events.

I suppose I should be pleased at the proliferation of hold'em tournaments. It is my game of choice and I love the freezeouts that are becoming more popular by the month.

The televised boom in poker must take some of the blame for the lack of support toward "other" events. Seemingly 99 percent of televised poker is no-limit hold'em, and, clearly, everyone wants to play the game that they see Devilfish and the Hendon Mob playing on TV.

Variety is the spice of life. I feel strongly that all the variants of poker should be kept alive. Lowball is a fascinating game. Omaha is far more complex than hold'em. And limit seven-card stud is very difficult to master.

So, I have made it my May resolution to play my part in keeping the minority events alive. If a festival I'm attending offers one of the lesser tournaments, I will attempt to play. And with the inclusion of my dead money, it must become a value for the money event, so perhaps you should play it, too!

World Series of Sickos!
For the first time, I took my laptop with me when I went to Vegas for the big Bellagio tournament last month. The reason? I wanted to keep up to date with Queens Park Rangers' stuttering playoff bid.

After a dispiriting beat in one of the tournaments, I retired to my room to drown my sorrows from the well stocked minibar.

I flicked up the laptop and for some reason felt inexorably drawn to Pokerstars. I sat down in a shorthanded limit hold'em game. A few of the names were instantly recognizable.

Hmm. After about 15 minutes, the realization hit me. In a sixhanded game, I knew for a fact that at least five of the players were staying at the very same hotel I was residing in.

How sick were we? Staying in the most luxurious casino/hotel in Vegas, with some of the best poker action in the world, the five of us were ensconced in our rooms playing Internet poker!

Sad. Very sad.

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 poker blog can be found at