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Copyright 2004 EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS
December 30, 2004
HEADLINE: I CAN PLAY POKER FOR EIGHT HOURS A
DAY, BUT I'M NOT ADDICTED; EXPRESSYOURSELF - REAL LIFE
Melanie Lofthouse, 33, plays live and online
poker for about 25 hours a week and claims it is just a hobby
that she could stop at any time. Here, Melanie, who lives in Slough
with her fiance Eugene and their four-month-old son Declan, describes
how she got the gambling bug POKER is my hobby and I've become
a real convert to the world of online poker. It all started four
years ago when Eugene and I decided to visit Las Vegas and wanted
to play something more exciting than the usual roulette or blackjack
once we got over there.
I had never gambled before but if you're going
to Vegas there's not much else to do.
We had seen the Late Night Poker programmes
on Channel 4 so we decided to try that. We already knew the basics
so we read up a bit more on the subject and really went for it
once we got over there. Eugene and I did lose about $ 200 (
£106) between us on that holiday but had a fantastic time
playing and ever since then we've been hooked on poker.
I love the buzz of playing - you get a real
adrenaline rush - plus there's the chance of winning money and
the excitement of beating maybe 800 other people in a tournament.
I also like the fact that it's a game of skill.
Poker is about 60 per cent skill and 40 per cent luck - so you're
always learning something and improving your game. It's a bit
like playing a skilful game like chess, only with the chance to
win some money thrown in.
I got into online poker because there aren't
any casinos near where I live and it was a real trek travelling
into London to play. It's very easy to play online and I use a
site called Pokerstars. You set up an account, choose a user-ID
and if you want, you can pick an image to display at the poker
table. It could be a photograph of you or anything you like really.
I use a picture of Jessica Rabbit because I love that image and
some people say I do bear a certain resemblance to her.
IT'S just like playing a live poker game except
the computer is the dealer and you play your hand by clicking
the mouse. A virtual card table comes up on the screen and you
can see the other players sitting around the table - they're identified
through their user name and a picture if they have one. It also
says where they're from. A lot of the players are American.
People probably imagine you lose lots of money
but it doesn't have to be expensive because you pay a set amount
- anything from $ 5 to $ 50 or more (you play in dollars online)
depending on the game - and play until all your chips are gone
and you're out.
Alternatively, you make it to the final table
and win all the money from the chips lost by everyone else, although
a percentage is taken by the site.
Depending on the cost of the game and the amount of people playing
you could win anything from a few hundred dollars to $ 10,000
The most I've won in an online tournament
is about $ 3,800 (£2,000) which was brilliant. Generally,
I'll play cash games - where you buy a certain amount of chips
and play till they're gone - online for a couple of hours maybe
three nights during the week. Then I could be online for up to
eight hours a day competing in a big tournament on a Saturday
and a Sunday.
I usually play after I come in from work around
tea-time or, once Declan has gone to bed at around 10pm, I might
play for a couple of hours. Then at the weekends, we'll go out
in the day-time then play for up to eight hours straight in the
afternoon or evening.
Eugene and I will take it in turns to play
if one of us is looking after Declan or we'll both be playing
at the same time but on separate computers. We have a computer
each because two people from the same address aren't allowed to
play in the same competition so we'll often be in the same room
taking part in two different tournaments.
Sometimes I'll play with Declan sitting on
my knee and if he needs changing or I need to fetch a bottle for
him I'll just sit out a round.
You also get a five-minute break every hour
so you can go and stretch your legs, get a drink or nip to the
As well as playing poker for around 20 hours
a week online, we might go out to a casino at the weekend if we
can get a baby-sitter.
Eugene and I also host a regular live poker
tournament for about 20 people at our home on a Friday.
I wouldn't described myself as being addicted
to poker. I'm hooked on it but only in a good way and although
I love it I could stop playing if I wanted to.
I see it as a fun hobby and whereas some women
will spend a couple of hours a night watching soaps like Coronation
Street, that's not for me and I'd rather play poker instead.
Eugene and I aren't permanently on our computers
- although we might like to be - and we do have a life outside
We do normal things like walking in the park
or going out for a meal as well and having a young baby we take
him out and play with him a lot.
AT THE moment we can go online a lot because
Declan is quite happy to sit on our knees and have a cuddle while
we play but I know we'll have less time once he starts crawling.
I don't really see poker as gambling because
you're not betting against a casino but against other players
and because I always play with a fixed amount of money there's
no chance I'm going to blow a fortune.
I'm actually fairly good at poker now, having
played for the past four years, and I've won a lot more than I've
I've made about £15,000 over the past
three years taking into account losses of around £1,000.
There are times when I've lost £50 or £100 and I'll
get really annoyed with myself but even if I lose money, I'll
have had a good night's entertainment out of it. You can easily
spend £50 on a night out for dinner.
Instead we'll spend it on a night in playing poker.
At the moment I'm making about £5,000
a year from poker and I've thought about giving up my sales job
with Yellow Pages to play full-time but I enjoy going in to work
so I doubt I'll ever actually do it.
I've been quite sensible with the money I've
won. Sometimes I've used it to buy in to bigger, more expensive
tournaments where you pay $ 400 (£212) to enter rather than
the more average $ 20 (£10.50) I usually spend. But I've
also used it to buy new windows for our home, clothes and toys
for Declan, holidays and most recently I've been saving towards
our wedding which will be in Las Vegas in March. Given our love
of poker, it's quite fitting that we'll be getting married in
the poker capital of the world.
I'm not sure if I'll play any poker games
on my wedding day but you never know and I dare say we'll be playing
a game or two on our honeymoon.
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