The 2005 VC Poker Cup, filmed at Teddington studios from 1st - 6th August , wasn't short of competition for its £5,000 buy-in, but as the runners gathered for the three days of preliminary heats it became clear that all the action taking place in London (also including the World Poker Exchange and the European Championships) had improved the quality of the field, rather than taken away from it.
The $10,000 World Poker Exchange London Open was held at the Old Billingsgate Market on the banks of the River Thames early in August, and the red carpet that paved the way to the opening party proved a keynote for a week of high quality poker and entertainment for all involved.
The 2005 World Cup of Poker
The PokerStars World Cup of Poker, a free to qualify competition among national teams of poker players was completed recently with 40 different countries putting forward five strong teams selected through two Tournament Leader Board picks, two heads-up qualifiers, and one player nominated by PokerStars after consulting with the team's captain.
It was a mixed year for Europeans at the 2005 WSOP, and one which promised much in the early stages, peaked in the middle and almost delivered a dream ending. Devilfish made an excellent showing in the opening $1,500 No Limit Hold'em, finishing third for £232,205 from 2305 runners, Martin Green of Ireland was only one spot worse in the $1,500 Pot Limit Hold'em the next day, getting $88,680 for fourth from 1071 runners.
A new event, the World Poker Masters 2005, will be staged at the Casino Castell Peralada in Northern Spain later this year, with a few novel twists, leading the organizers to bill it "the first poker TV show for the players themselves". For one it will be limited by invitation to the top fifty players in the world (like golf masters tournaments) as ranked by aggregate tournament wins and earnings as of January 1st 2005.
There may be a $25,000 heads up challenge in Vegas for the elite, or the lure of another rematch between Andy Beal and "The Firm". But the World Heads Up Championship, a €2,000 no limit hold'em affair sponsored this year by PartyPoker. com, takes place in Barcelona (and formerly Vienna) as all European circuit players know, and over the years has played host to many of the biggest American names as well as all of the European ones.
Anglo-American relations have hit an all time low in poker terms if Max Shapiro's recent Card Player columns are anything to go by. These 'humour' columns under the title 'Big Denny Goes to Oxford' unfold the story of how "the students at Great Britain's Oxford University, scholastically brilliant but a touch behind the times, were finally discovering poker. Their representative, Chauncey Crumblecake, had contacted me, requesting that I secure the services of Big Denny, whom they had heard about from my columns, to teach them the game and set up a poker tournament.
The worldwide poker boom has had very particular consequences in Europe where there are at least a dozen poker hotspots on the tournament schedule (see www.pokerineurope.com), and last month brought things to a head when two behemoths faced off -- the Concord Card Casino in Vienna with the Austrian Masters from the 7th -- 15th May, and the Aviation Club de France with the Paris Open of Poker from the 9th -15th May. A straw pole revealed that most players were confused about which to attend, and Dave Colclough even told me he was planning to get the train back and forth! I kid you not...
A wealth of poker festivals and televised events around the London area in April and May confirmed the UK's capital and its surrounding areas as at the forefront of the European poker explosion - besides concurrent festivals at the Rendezvous Casino, Brighton, the Gutshot Cardroom and the Vic in central London, and the Grosvenor Casino Luton, the opening heats of Poker Million - The Masters III was filmed at the studios of Sky TV close to Heathrow and the British Poker Open, shown live on the newly launched Poker Channel, was filmed at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.
The European Poker Tour, created by Poker Million winner John Duthie and sponsored by Pokerstars.com, has been a breakthrough for the European poker circuit, with TV coverage on digital channel Eurosport and the arrival in droves of satellite winners, Swedes and students all seeking glory, as well as the dozens of high profile sponsored European players, like The Hendon Mob, Marcel Luske and Devilfish.