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Value for the Money

by Lucy Rokach |  Published: May 01, 2007

It's a constant amazement to me how poker players flock to venues that are hosting prestigious tournaments without giving a moment's thought to expenses, value, and so forth. Now, some of you already may have tuned out at the prospect of considering these very mundane matters, but I promise you, you ignore them at your own peril, and so jeopardise your long-term survival in our poker jungle.

Take, for example, the European Poker Tour event held in Copenhagen in January of this year. It was sold out weeks before the off, which was great for the organisers, the host casino, and all Internet qualifiers who didn't have to shell out any money except for beer and cigarettes; or, maybe it was not so great even for this bunch if they were lucky enough to draw prize money from the event. Why? Well, as you went to collect your very hard-earned winnings, you were quietly asked to donate an extra 7 percent as a tip for the dealers: This was in addition to the 4 percent government tax that you also had to find! Having refused (or otherwise) to give any more money to the dealers, you mooch over to find a cash game. You win your first juicy pot (minus the €28 maximum rake) and toss the dealer a handsome tip.

"Sorry, sir, but you owe me another €100. There is a compulsory 1 percent tip for the dealer out of every pot."

If you're smart, you'll pay up and leave town. Sit there any longer, and the dealers (aka the casino) will get richer as you get poorer. No one can beat that rake. It's no wonder the "Scandis" are flooding the Net; how can they afford to play in their home brick-and-mortar casinos?

Would you also play in a tournament in which the registration fee costs two-thirds of the buy-in? Only if you're Bill Gates and bored, or you've lost what few marbles you had left. Well, I'm sorry to announce that in my hometown of Stoke-on-Trent, there are definitely quite a few of the latter, as they are regularly forking out a £2 "session" fee (that's what Grosvenor casinos have renamed registration fees, to avoid falling afoul of the Gaming Board) for a £3 competition! But the strange thing is that all of these competitions continue to be oversubscribed. It must be the water, so I'm switching to Evian immediately, if not sooner, in case it's catching.

At the other end of the tournament spectrum, Blue Square (Grosvenor's parent company) is adding £13,000 to every one of the 10 legs in its UK Poker Tour; £10,000 is added prize money to the winner, and £3,000 is an automatic entry into the final to be held in the Vic later in the year. Now, that's value. And if television stardom is your thing, start qualifying, as the final table of each leg is going to get filmed and aired on a mainstream channel. Also great value is the Master Classics of Poker, held in Amsterdam in November. Last year, they added €60,000 to the prize money and seats to the World Series of Poker, and there was no juice on the entry fee to the main event.

If that's too rich for you, how about Mansion Poker's nightly $100,000-guaranteed no-limit hold'em competition? It's a $100 freezeout with a 15-minute clock, and they have been adding around $50,000 every night for the last three weeks. How long that's going to last, I have no idea, but that's phenomenal value as far as I'm concerned, and you don't even have to get out of bed for it!

So, come on, players, start using your head and vote with your feet. Say no to rapacious venues and events. Just because everyone you know wants to be a lemming, there's no reason for you to join them, unless, of course, you enjoy jumping off cliffs into deep, unchartered waters. If organisers are adding money, there's value. If, on the other hand, they treat you as a fat hole in the wall, stay away or you won't stay fat for very much longer. spade

Lucy has been playing poker for 20 years and has won more than $1 million in tournament prize money all over the world. She prefers playing pot-limit Omaha and pot-limit seven-card stud eight-or-better.