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Online Poker News Archives - April 13, 2005

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Copyright 2005 The Scotsman Publications Ltd.
Evening News (Edinburgh)

April 13, 2005, Wednesday


BYLINE: Adrian Mather

THERE'S probably two images that spring to mind when someone mentions playing poker. One is of a set of grizzled cowboys in a seedy Wild West saloon, reaching for their guns as the fifth ace in the pack turns up. The second is of a group of high-rolling businessmen, laying down gigantic bets in the back room of high-class casino.

But the craze for poker is spreading beyond the mega-rich, business-suited elite, thanks in part to the proliferation of online sites, such as Ladbrokes and, allowing ordinary punters to place modest bets from the comfort of their own homes.

Albert Tapper, general manager of, the biggest online poker site in Europe, says: "There's been such a growth in poker being shown on television, and we've seen that rise echoed online. More than 25,000 people play online poker with Ladbrokes every day, and at peak times we have between 6000 and 7000 people playing on over 400 tables.

"In January 2003, the total global daily cash game turnover for online poker was just dollars 10 million (GBP 5.3m) and by 2004 it had risen to dollars 60m (GBP 32m). Now, dollars 180m (GBP 95m) is wagered in cash game pots in online poker every day."

But the craze is not just for online games. Fuelled by reports of glamorous names such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Nigella Lawson and husband Charles Saatchi, and Ben Affleck - who won the Californian State Poker Championship last June - spending their evenings bluffing and betting, groups of friends are setting up their own poker circles.

Even Coronation Street has got in to the act when at the end of last year viewers saw butcher Fred Elliott lose his shop to Mike Baldwin in a high -stakes game of poker, just weeks after they had started playing in the OAPs' club for mere pennies. But for many the appeal is a sociable and intimate night's entertainment - with no more cost than that of an average night out in town.

As Joe Tree, of Leith, who plays with around six friends on a monthly basis, says: "We play a tournament style game where everyone buys into the game with an equal amount, which is usually around GBP 20 or GBP 30. Then we play to the death and the last one standing takes home whatever cash is left. We usually buy some beers and pizza with the pot, but there's still quite a bit left over. And no one ever loses out too much because GBP 30 is less than you would spend on a good night out."

Joe, who runs his own interactive media company in the Capital, has been playing poker regularly with friends for the past two years. He also runs his own poker website, which contains brief updates about his games.

"We weren't particularly clued up on the rules when we started," Joe admits. "We'd just seen some poker games on TV and thought that it would be a good laugh to do." He says that the group plays standard Texas Hold 'Em rules when they meet - where each player is dealt two cards and a further five "communal" cards are placed face up on the table, allowing everyone to make a five-card poker hand combination. But he admits that they don't always stick to the rules.

He adds: "There was probably three of us who started our poker group up, but it's grown since then and there's now a core group of six. Sometimes one of us will bring along someone new as well, so it's a good way of socialising and meeting new people and we try to play every month."

And he says the games aren't just about the money.

"Sure, if you win it's a nice wee bonus, but it's not the real reason that we play. I won our last game and took GBP 108 away with me, which isn't bad for an evening's work, but it's more the social side to it that is the fun part. It's all about meeting up with a few mates and having a laugh and a few beers with them for a whole night.

"It's probably far cheaper than going out clubbing and drinking in the city centre."

JOE'S thoughts are echoed by Forth One presenter and Evening News columnist Grant Stott, who has recently set up a regular poker night with some of his close friends.

"There's a group of us who will all be hitting 40 in two years' time," he says. "And we've planned to go over to Las Vegas to do a spot of gambling. We used to play cards when we were at school, but none of us has really had the chance to play poker recently, so we thought we'd better get some practice in before we go, otherwise we'll lose all of our money straight away.

"I looked on the internet for some poker gear and found out that Texas Hold 'Em was the popular poker version nowadays - as opposed to Seven Card Stud, which is what we used to play when we were kids. Since then, we've been trying to teach ourselves how to become proficient at it, and we had our first real poker night a few weeks ago."

He adds: "We're all very much in the novice band, but it's still a particularly pleasant and sociable way to spend an evening. About five of us played at our first night, and it was just nice to be able to have a few beers and relax with some friends whilst playing cards.

"We're getting the hang of it slowly but we haven't played for money yet, which is lucky because within three hands of our first night I'd lost all of my chips.

"But then again, the only way that we'll get better is to practice properly in front of other players rather than trying to master it on the internet. We've got two years to get better, so our poker nights should hopefully become something of a regular thing."

Many players, of course, have taken up the game purely because of the online offerings. One is Matt Milne, 21, an IT worker from Murrayfield.

He says: "I started playing in May last year when I heard a couple of guys from my old work talking about a tournament on a site called Totalbet.

"I was intrigued and decided I wanted to try this whole money for nothing thing, and the fact that you didn't have to pay an entry charge made it more appealing."

He found the Texas Hold 'Em rules on the internet, read up about them - and started playing.

"At first I didn't put any money in, but about three months ago I started to play for real cash and began to put aside GBP 100 each month to play. I've entered online tournaments and won a few now, so it can be a nice side income to have and I won dollars 1000 (GBP 530) on one last month.

"I also try to play a few tournaments at casinos as well, although they are more for practice than anything else. It's usually only the online poker that I make any money on."

And, according to Ladbrokes' Albert, being in Edinburgh gives punters a head start in the good fortune stakes.

He says: "Out of the highest-winning cities that we saw in the UK last year, Glasgow came fourth and Edinburgh was placed second on the list."

But, of course, the biggest winners are the firms themselves. As Albert admits: "This year, online poker will provide more business for us than all of our other online sports betting put together."

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