Tony Bromham discovered a new meaning to a tight game in a recent tournament in the UK. This is his experience of the evening.
Last week, I toddled up north with compatriots Paul Sandells and Andrew Praill to play a £100 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament with 90 minute rebuys and add-on. It was held at the Napoleons Owlerton casino in Sheffield, Yorkshire, and was a “European Ranking Event”. So far so good.
The casino stands proud and neon-lit in an industrial landscape. Inside, it is gloomy and smoke-filled. On this night, the TV screens were loud for the European Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan. The locals were noisy and supportive of Liverpool despite being from the other side of the Pennines. Normally, there would be animosity towards a Liverpool football team from proud Yorkshire folk.
We wandered into the poker playing area and drew our table and seat positions from a bag. We split off to our destinations to find we were seated at plain-felted rickety tables with ten others. That is a first for us – 11 players at a table! At the beginning of the tournament, we were, how shall I put it – cosy? 11 people sat around tables made for about 8. The tables looked like they would collapse if we all leant on them simultaneously.
This was poker, local casino style. Lots of bodies squashed in and half the field dragging from a cigarette. We were not even given playing breaks! At the end of the evening I was tempted to ring my doctor to enquire about the waiting list for a double lung transplant. I felt like a smoked sardine.
The dealers were all local and generally very young. The three dealers at my table at different stages of the night were all on “friendly banter and abuse” terms with the local players.
All told, this was a bit of fun but the poker was haphazard with some players knowing what to do in a tournament while others were reckless but lucky and yet more others happy to blow their stacks as recklessly as they built them. Several had high opinions about themselves and everything else besides. There were plenty of local bragging rights at stake here.
As the poker scene expands and becomes more professional, the likes of this night will disappear from ranking events. The demands by players travelling distances to play in well-paid events will include a minimum level of comfort such as arm and leg room, a smoke-free environment, polite and knowledgeable dealers and, most of all, regular breaks. Much of that was missing at Sheffield.