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Online Poker News Archives - November 22, 2005

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Copyright 2005 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

November 22, 2005

Stars' poker game hits town

The gambling game of the stars has arrived in New Zealand, amid warnings that young people could be seduced by the glamour of Texas Holdem poker.

The global phenomenon has taken the US and Britain by storm. Ben Affleck is among Hollywood stars known to love the game.

SkyCity Auckland last night launched its Poker Zone, and plans to open similar rooms at its Queenstown and Hamilton casinos.

"Demand for poker is huge – our customers want it here," said gaming general manager Greg Hawkins.

The popularity of the game has been boosted by online versions, televised tournaments, and its glamour image. SkyCity is buying into that image, allowing players to wear sunglasses and visors, but only in the Poker Zone.

However, Gambling Helpline chief executive Krista Ferguson said it was exactly that image that could attract young people.

Card-playing was one of the less-harmful forms of gambling, but "it's an entry point to gambling as a whole", she said.

AdvertisementAdvertisementThe potential winnings are also a big draw. This year, Australian Joe Hecham collected $US7.5 million ($10.9 million) by winning the World Series of Poker in the United States.

In January, Jamil Dia of Wellington won $1 million at the Australian Poker Championship in Melbourne.

The stakes weren't quite so high last night at SkyCity, where about 20 people turned up.

Among them was Brad Edley, whose interest in the game was sparked by television coverage.

"It's a lot more social than other variations and we've been playing it with mates. I find casinos a bit depressing generally, but wanted to come and see what it was like in this setting."

Another player was Brandon Clarke. He said Texas Holdem was more accessible than other poker games.

"With so many people around the table, and so many options with the community cards, you can almost always guarantee at least one good hand each round, which makes it more exciting."

Players are dealt two cards each from a full deck and must make, and bet on, their best combination of those two and five community cards on the table.

SkyCity has four tables, taking a maximum of 10 players on each.

Stakes start at $2 and players are pitted against one another, with the casino claiming a commission set by the Department of Internal Affairs.

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