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Travels With the Camel


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The Master Classics of Poker at Holland Casino in Amsterdam has been my favourite event on the poker circuit since I first visited Amsterdam about six years ago. It is the one tournament where you can’t be that disappointed to have been knocked out of an event, because plenty of laughs are to be found at the bar, and Amsterdam has many other attractions to entice the poker player at a loose end. Whatever I am doing in life, I guarantee that I will be at the Master Classics, unless I am 6 feet under.


Having said all that, there were some complaints about this year’s event. Holland Casino chose not to follow the now general conventions of giving a maximum of one chip to each player in a chip race and mucking a player’s hand if he is not in his seat when the last card is dealt. While the first is only a minor annoyance, the non-mucking of hands is a terrible mistake. After a break in the big event, a guy moved in his short stack from middle position, thinking he had only me and one other player to beat, as none of the other players had taken their seats. I passed, but the button dwelt up. After the blinds retook their seats, the button passed and the big blind found K-K and called. The raiser had only 9-8 and was busted out. But he had raised while thinking he had only two players to beat. Also, in rushing back to their seats, the blinds easily could have caught a glimpse of another player’s cards as they walked behind them.


Here is another problem with Amsterdam. At one stage, I reraised a player. A friend happened to be standing behind me. After my opponent passed, my friend asked, “How can you reraise with only K-Q?” And there’s the fault. The judi poker online pkv symbols are so big on the corners of the cards that you physically have to lift the cards off the table to see them, and if you’re not careful, someone standing behind you can see them.


But the biggest disappointment of this year’s Amsterdam festival was that so many characters who usually grace the event were missing. Mad Marty Wilson wasn’t there to take the microphone and serenade the bewildered Dutch masses with a rendition of Sweet Caroline. There was no Devilfish tickling the ivories. The Hendon Mob and John Duthie were nowhere to be seen. There was a dearth of Americans (the winner of the big event not withstanding), and Irishmen Padraig Parkinson and Scott Gray were elsewhere. Why was this? The answer is simple: There were three — yes, three — big events in other corners of the world going on at the same time. Massive tournaments at Monte Carlo, Foxwoods, and Blackpool decimated the fields. Why can’t event organisers liaise so this doesn’t occur? There are virtually no major events in Europe during January, but tons of them during November and December.


But, of course, there were plenty of highlights and good times during my week at the ’Dam.


I got a chance to play poker with one of my sporting heroes, Yevgeny Kafelnikov. I can report that he plays poker just like he used to play tennis. He would go for winners with virtually every shot on the court, and he now never enters a pot without raising. When his talents are refined a bit, he will be an awesome presence at the poker table.


This exchange was overheard at the bar one evening:

Player A: “How come that Jac Arama has a sponsorship deal? He’s a dreadful player!”

Player B: “No, he isn’t! He has deteriorated since then!”


One of my bugbears of recent years has been the scalping of tickets at exorbitant rates for the smaller events at Amsterdam. This problem was alleviated somewhat this year by the extra seats available and the admittance of alternates. But a new scalping problem might be on their hands, as a player known only as “Latebet” tried to sell me his free buffet ticket for 1. Outrageous! I would have gotten my money’s worth, however …


A few poker players tried to fly over from Monte Carlo after being knocked out of that main event to make it for the Amsterdam big one. After taking off in their Dutch-made aircraft, the plane was struck by lightning. There was a huge bang and the lights went out temporarily, but the machine was turned back to Nice, where it landed safely. After safety checks lasting about two hours, the aircraft was passed as fit to fly. Despite their fears, most of the passengers consented to reboard. But one big-name European pro didn’t, and said, “I’m certainly not getting back in that Fokker!”


But the biggest story of the week was undoubtedly that of poker raconteur and all-round good guy Paul Parker. Rumours of his carefulness with money are obviously unfounded, as he bought the biggest round of drinks you ever set your eyes upon (and used only two of his free drink vouchers to contribute). Surely, with this gesture of largesse, he has banished forever claims that he is the most careful man in poker. An antipodean at Amsterdam might have strong claims for this title, however.


All in all, it was a great week. I hope to see you at the bar at 9 p.m. sharp on the first evening of the 2005 Master Classics. Mine’s a large beer.

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