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Happenings in Europe

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Dec 31, 2008

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United Kingdom

Tournament Trail

It's been a great month for UK's online poker community, not least with Will Fry's amazing victory at the European Poker Tour in Budapest, himself a former regular in Nottingham's casinos (which also gave us Grosvenor UK Poker Tour winners Julian Thew and Sam Trickett). Fry though had (mostly) moved back to the online world but he was not the only one to fold up the laptop for a few days and try his luck live this month.

Down in Kent, there was the latest event in the GUKPT's lengthy calendar on the Isle (not literally) of Thanet at the brand new 'G' Casino. If you were like me though, you probably had no clue where Thanet was (north of Dover apparently, near Ramsgate, about two hours from London) and also you would assume that due to the unfamiliarity of the location, not so many people would turn up.

Added to this was the fact that the event clashed with the very popular 2008 International Poker Open with its meagre €150 buy-in and 1,000 + runners. All this combined, pointed to a lower than average turnout but such fears were confounded when a very creditable 226 runners turned up for the event, more than had previously turned up a month before to the arguably better located casino in Bolton.

The tournament itself was dominated by the online players, led in the form of Jamie 'Jambon' Brown, a regular 5/10 and 10/20 online player. After knocking out former World Series of Poker bracelet and GUKPT winner Praz Bansi in a boat vs bigger boat scenario, he proceeded to then bulldoze through the field from about 30 players left literally until he was heads-up against another online player Andrew 'Tufat' Teng who had earlier placed 126th in the WSOP main event this year. I remember this latter fact simply from his exit hand, where he was all-in with A-K against another player's kings, spiking an ace on the flop, only for the case king to rear its ugly head on the river.

Teng had a disadvantage in chips, but had a slight advantage in that he is more use to playing heads up whereas Brown is primarily a cash game specialist. The experience, not the chips, proved to be the key when Teng took over the chip lead before besting Brown with eights against fours to claim his first major victory.

Anthony ArlotMoving from the South East to the North East with the Gala Casinos British Poker Tour event on Teeside, the online kids were not having it all their own way as Leicester resident Anthony Arlot took the title ahead of a tough looking final table, including heads-up specialist Keith "The Camel" Hawkins as well as one of the "kids" Rick Trigg. The latter starting the final as the chip leader, eventually coming in 4th place. Arlot began the heads up battle against James O'Connell with a small chip deficit, but that was quickly overcome when he doubled up, rivering a Broadway straight with perfect timing as O'Connell had rivered two pair. Arlot eventually completed the victory when he picked off a big river bluff from his opponent with top pair to win the title.

New Government, New Law?

While the debate rages on in the US for poker players who are wondering if McCain or Obama would repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, over here the Tories recently announced their desire to change some of the UK's gambling laws which they as currently being relaxed. While their policy broadly covers casinos, one of the mentioned proposals would be a ban on people wanting to use credit cards to gamble or play poker online. This would affect an estimated third of UK poker players who use something like Mastercard or Visa to play online.

Apart from this, other ideas included in the Tories announcement were that foreign internet sites not being allowed to operate in the UK unless they proved that they were able to regulate themselves competently. Also there would be stricter guidelines on all advertising related to gambling or gaming. The proposals are clearly not as draconian as those implemented in the U.S., and similarly would probably not affect the online poker scene as much as the UIGEA did. However, it would be hard to deny that, if enforced, the revisions to the 2005 Gambling Act would have a significant impact on online poker within the UK.

Sam Clemens is one of the UK's leading live poker reporters.



Gibraltar

Tax Decision Affects Local Gaming Industry


Peter CaruanaGibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana recently ended months of speculation by announcing the government's decision on the future of corporate tax rates on the Rock. The existing tax regime had been harshly criticised by the European Commission for discriminating against local companies in favour of foreign investors. Under the newly announced regime, all companies, from the small family-run business to the large multinational gambling conglomerate would pay tax at the same level: a highly competitive 10 percent.

It was not hard to see why the Commission had described Gibraltar's tax regime as discriminatory. Whilst corporate tax rates for locally-based companies had dropped from 35 percent to 27 percent in recent years, some 8,500 "exempt" companies paid nothing more than a low fixed annual charge, regardless of their turnover. At present, most Gibraltar-based gaming firms enjoy this tax-exempt status and do not pay corporate tax but only a nominal gaming tax levied at a rate of 1 percent of the gaming yield. Gaming firms on the Rock had long been aware that this virtual 'no-tax' regime would be phased out by 2010. Whilst uncertainty existed over the exact level at which corporate tax would be set, experts had correctly predicted it would be somewhere in the region of 10 - 15 percent.

Mr Caruana unexpectedly made the announcement to dignitaries and finance centre representatives during a Gibraltar Day event held at the plush new "Gibraltar House" in London. It was widely expected that a decision on the new corporate tax regime would be delayed until 2010 and the government had been criticised for their procrastination to date. The details of the new rate and their implementation date were crucial to large businesses that require a greater degree of certainty for tax planning purposes. Whilst no date has yet been decided for the implementation of the new rate, the announcement was nevertheless welcomed by the Gibraltar's Chamber of Commerce. Speaking to local journalists, the Chamber's president Nicky Russo explained how it boosted Gibraltar's appeal as a finance centre, placing it in more direct competition with other low-tax jurisdictions.

However not everyone was so positive about the change, particularly the uncertainty which remains over when the new rate will kick in. In the view of opposition spokesman for Financial Services Fabian Picardo, the finance and gaming industries need a positive and rapid resolution to this uncertainty. Added to this is the question whether the rate is sufficiently competitive on a global scale. There is some comfort in the fact that locally-based gaming firms such as PartyGaming and 888 have both spoken of their long-term commitment to Gibraltar over recent months. Nevertheless it goes without saying that an unfavourable corporate tax decision would surely have encouraged many of these firms to seek out better deals in other low-tax jurisdictions. Whilst a mass pull-out of Gibraltar-based gaming firms from the Rock would not be completely disastrous, there is no doubt that such a move would cause some harm to Gibraltar's economy.

This author however, believes that Gibraltar has far more to offer than merely a low-tax regime in a Mediterranean clime. Gibraltar is well positioned at the heart of the EU and over and above a well developed telecommunications infrastructure, is also able to provide a highly-educated, English-speaking workforce which many other e-gaming jurisdictions cannot offer. Also one cannot ignore the convenience factor of staying loyal to Gibraltar; after all, the effort and expense of moving an entire gaming operation half way across the world may not be worth the 2 to 3 percent tax saving that such a move would provide.

Setting these factors momentarily to one side, it should be noted that Gibraltar would be best advised not to rest on its laurels. A corporate tax rate of 10 percent may be sufficient to maintain the competitiveness of key gaming industry players and keep them loyal to Gibraltar for the time being. However one should not understate the importance of maintaining a stable and transparent tax structure in the years to come. Gaming industry representatives are yet to publically comment on the new tax regime, however we hope to find out exactly what this new rate of corporate tax will mean to the industry in the coming months.

Tristan Cano lives and writes about the gaming industry in Gibraltar.



Ireland

Irish Poker Championship Returns

The first major poker tournament of 2009, the €2,000 buy-in PartyPoker.com Irish Poker Championship, takes place from January 2 to 5, at the Radisson SAS hotel in Galway.

The main Galway event is to be televised on RTÉ and is expected to attract up to 400 players creating an estimated prize pool of almost €800,000.

Thor HansenThe PartyPoker.com Irish Poker Championship has already attracted a lot of interest and among those who have confirmed they will be involved are Mike Sexton, Kenna James, Thor Hansen, Donnacha O'Dea, Marty Smyth, Padraig Parkinson, Neil Channing, Scott Gray, as well as 2008 IPC champion Jude Ainsworth.

Online qualifiers are up and running on PartyPoker.com.

European Poker Open

For those of us who get bored over Christmas when everything seems to shut down there's good news on the poker front. Leprechaun Poker has announced details of its European Poker Open which takes place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dublin from December 27 to 29.

The 500 capacity event has a buy in of $250 + $25 and offers a guaranteed prize pool of €50,000. To participate players must register through LeprechaunPoker.com.

Players can secure discounted hotel rates at the nearby Holiday Inn or the Crowne Plaza by using the code Leprechaun Poker when booking.

New Online Video Training Site Launched

Marty SmythA new online poker video training site with something of an Irish flavour was launched in November. PokerSwat.com has signed up Irishmen Marty Smyth, Card Player strategist Daragh Thomas, and Dave Murray as well as online luminaries such as James "Andy McLEOD" Obst, Christoffer "-NoName-" Egemo Hansen, Aurangzeb "Ozzy87" Sheikh, Terje "Terken89" Augdal , Alec "Traheho" Torelli, and Soren Kongsgaard.

The site launched with 50 online videos and features including structured training programs for all levels of poker players, more than 30 videos added every month with at least 10 videos in each membership level, a minimum of 10 PLO videos produced each month, video content produced on both US friendly and European only poker rooms, and a host of community features including chat rooms, blogs, forums, and video uploads.

There are three membership levels: Platinum with a monthly fee of $24.99 and a signup fee of $49.99 gives access to all video content in the library. Gold with a monthly fee of $19.99 and a signup fee of $39.99 offers access to all videos up to 3/6 cash and all low-to mid buy in single and multi-table tournaments, and guide videos. Silver with a monthly fee of $13.99 and signup fee of $23.99 gives access to all videos up to .50/1 cash and all low buy in tournaments.

Irish Open 2009 Qualifiers

Online qualification for the much anticipated Irish Open 2009 is underway at PaddyPowerPoker.com. Anyone qualifying for the tournament through the sponsor's site is eligible to take part in the €100,000 Sole Survivor promotion which will see the qualifier who lasts longest in the main event at the Irish Open 2009 win a €100,000 package which will enable them to play professionally for a year.

There are two weekly grand finals. The first is a $200 + $15 freezeout every Sunday at 8:05 p.m. The second, a $40 + $4 buy in, takes place each Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. with a rebuy and add on.

Players can qualify for the weekly finals from as little as $2 daily.

The buy in for the Irish Open 2009 main event next year is €3,200 + €300 and the festival takes place from April 9 to 13 in Citywest Hotel, Dublin.

Brendan Murray is the European bureau chief for Card Player.



Holland

Male Vs. Female

Holland Casino - AmsterdamThe Dutch are, hopefully, still known as a tolerant people. While the position of women as poker players is under discussion around the world, Holland Casino in Breda organised an event that would once and for all settle the question which one of the two sexes is more naturally talented at Texas hold'em: The battle of the sexes.

The tournament was played with women and men separated up to the final table. The original idea was that in the end five men and five women would duke it out for the first prize and the glory of their respective genders. Due to uneven numbers in enrolment into the tournament - the women's part was not sold out - the organisation decided to let six men play against four women at the final table.

This ruling was made not to limit the chances of the women who would obviously have fewer chips after beating their smaller field. It seemed the men played a smarter game than the women though, as they made sure that when they hit the rail, their chips would go to one of the other males at the table. With five players left, the two men left at the table both held dominating chip leads over the three women and it wasn't long before the heads-up final was an all-male occasion. Needless to say the women were reluctant to come to any conclusions about poker skill levels. But the event was an entertaining success and will undoubtedly be followed by a few rematches. Whether or not those events will be held at the same location, the wonderful poker room of the Holland Casino Breda, remains to be seen, but more about that later.

The Drinking Dutch Champion

The unofficial Dutch Championship of Poker has once again been played. Leave it to Holland Casino to devise a tournament schedule that allows for a man who drank two bottles of port wine during play to take first prize and the title of "Dutch Champion."

Giele ReitzThe winner, Giele Reitz from Maastricht, was not in any way a bad player, but let's just say that the blinds structure accommodated his kamikaze style of play. In true turbo fashion he pushed his chips in at any occasion and was lucky enough during showdowns to eliminate a large part of the final table. The friendly man from the far south of the Netherlands came to the final table as one of the short stacks, but several all-ins and several accompanying glasses of port later he emerged as the winner, the fourth Dutch Champion after more illustrious names as Rolf Slotboom and Peter Dalhuijsen.

The structure for the event was much discussed in the Dutch poker scene: Holland Casino had been forced to abandon the traditional set-up with local preliminary tournaments that used to lead to the final. Instead, the limited interest in the qualifying rounds made Holland Casino decide to completely skip qualifications and organise the Dutch Championship as a €500 buy-in freezeout, limited to 150 contestants. The reason for the general lack of interest can be found, not in diminishing interest in poker in general, but in the players realising Holland Casino is just not doing a very good job in organizing this particular event.

Holland Casino Critique

Players hope that HC will re-establish itself as a party with at least some tournament knowledge during the upcoming Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam. The flag ship of Dutch tournaments has once again grown and is now featuring four events with buy-ins equal to or larger than €1,000. The fact that seats for the main event can be won also in other Holland Casinos is a sign that HC clearly sees the MCOP as the event that all the other tournaments in all the other casinos build up to.

That is fine by itself, but one can't help but get the impression that the smaller events such as the Dutch Championship are not getting the attention they deserve. As a matter of fact, the attention HC is giving to poker seems to be diminishing to the point where they might close the most beautiful poker room in the Netherlands, the aforementioned room in Breda. Casino management has decided poker is not one of their priorities and the brand new poker pit might soon be used for yet another "Return in Investment" factory of rows of slot machines.

It's becoming slightly predictable, but I will have to repeat once again: Holland Casino is in no way able to offer the right poker products that are needed in the Netherlands and a licensing system needs to be installed.

According to a recent study conducted by PokerStars, approximately 50,000 Dutch people play online poker at least once a week, for money. Another 100,000 play for play money or only free rolls. A quick count will learn that the number of poker players accommodated at all the Holland Casinos together at any given night - apart from the MCOP nights - will hardly ever exceed 1,000. Let's assume that those players will come only once a week and the total number of poker players is 7,000 per week, leaving at least 43,000 punters unaccommodated and looking for their entertainment online.

How is that part of the restriction and protection policies? A system with licenses such as in Italy might do a whole lot of good here in the Netherlands, but it seems our government is too slow to catch up with the times. The Dutch pokerbond (poker union) is trying to get this point across. If you haven't yet checked out their renewed website - www.pokerbond.nl - I suggest you do so now.

Anthon-Pieter Wink is a professional poker player and freelance writer, from the www.pokerinfo.nl forum.



Scandinavia

This month's Scandinavian column is, out of necessity, going to cover mostly tournament results. Only one major Nordic tour has been held, but a great Dane and a somewhat less great Dane have challenged each other to a glorious game of … boxing.

Swedish Open 2008

The by far biggest legal Swedish live tournament was held recently in Stockholm. It is an annual event, with several side-events and a SEK 40,000 (€4,200) buy-in, arranged by the state-owned Casino Cosmopol.

This tournament, which has a very generous structure for a three-day event, usually attracts a comparatively low number of entrants, mostly due to the high buy-in. 2008 was no different; only 90 men opened up their wallets to participate. There was also one woman, Brynja Sassoon, who deserves special mention as the frequently only female player to compete in the Cosmopol tournaments.

Christopher StahleA major part of the Swedish poker elite joined to play, and eventually, Christopher Ståhle from Gothenburg won the title and well over a million Swedish Crowns after a very entertaining final table and a rocky heads-up game.

Various Tournament Results

The Budapest stop of the European Poker Tour saw a return of Norwegians at the final table, their first since last year in Warsaw, with Albert Iversen finishing fourth and Johnny "bad_ip" Lodden in fifth place. Martin Jacobson of Sweden did even better, though, taking down the third place prize and winning the battle of the Scandinavians. Lodden, it might be noted, also recently switched allegiances and now represents PokerStars in a move from former sponsor Betsson.

EPT WarsawAnother success for the blue and yellow flag of Sweden came in sunny Barcelona, where the World Heads Up Poker Championships were recently concluded. Granted, eventual winner Mauro Stivoli is Italian, but runner-up Jonas Danielsson, whose K-2 didn't fair too well against Stivoli's K-J, most certainly isn't. Danielsson, or "Nebuchad", as he is known online, is otherwise mostly famous for being awarded Scandinavian Online Player of the Year, and for accidentally endorsing a not-so nice part of ancient Babylonian history when accepting the award.

Dance Like a Theo, Sting Like a Gus

Gus HansenJeppe Hougaard and Peter Jepsen recently duelled on the racing tracks to decide, apparently, which one of them was the best poker player. Not to be outdone by these antics, Gus Hansen and Theo Jørgensen decided to take it up a notch and fight it out in the boxing ring, in a move which would be way too easy to describe in Shakespearian terms.

Whether this fight will abide by the Queensberry rules or take the K-1 approach is not yet known, but we'll return with more info once the match has been completed (in February, according to rumours).

It's not the first time that Hansen is involved in something similar: he once challenged Patrick Antonius from Finland to a $200,000 tennis match, as both of them belonged to their respective country's best players in their youth. Antonius recently withdrew, however, citing chronic back pains.

You Better Watch Out - Poker Cruises Are Coming to Town

PAF, the Ålandian gambling monopoly, is arranging a cruise from Stockholm in Sweden, to Turku in Finland on December 13, the day of Lucia in Sweden. The Åland Islands are an archipelago between the two countries, which formally belonged to Finland but whose inhabitants speak Swedish. It's not the first poker cruise arranged by PAF, and it certainly won't be the last. We'll be returning with results once the tournament, which is being co-sponsored by famous poker club Sviten in Stockholm, has been held.

Obviously, though, the most anticipated event which we will be covering next month is the conclusion of the World Series of Poker. After all, there is a Danish player at the final table!

Joel Hinz is a freelance poker journalist.