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Barny Boatman
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Can you launch an attack in fourty-five minutes?

Poker Classics 2004, London
£3,000 No Limit Holdem Championship EPT
Report by Barny on Sunday, 10 October 2004 at 5:16 pm

This weekend is something special: Arguably the most important day ever in British poker and the biggest UK event since the one-off Poker Million in the Isle of Mann, won as we all know by a certain Mr Duthie. The Victoria Cup at the Vic is the second stop on John Duthie’s European Poker Tour which looks set to rival, and in some ways surpass the American ‘World’ Poker tour.

Everyone was in their best TV gear; there were more new whistles than a referee’s Christmas party, and a fair peppering of logos. Vicky Coren had a had a mini crisis when she discovered that when she pulled on her sponsor’s shirt the logo stretched beyond the regulation size hence giving her backers a doubly unfair competitive advantage. So, she had spent the morning cutting up an old T-shirt and sewing on the logo in what can only be described as a prime advertising position. How many male players would have been so resourceful?

There was a real buzz as the 3.00pm kick off approached. Yes, you heard me right: Three o’clock in the afternoon. For years I have had the same conversation with the Vic card room staff. ‘Why have a main event kicking off at eight pm on a Saturday and drag fifty poor sods back on Sunday when only eighteen get paid? Why not start earlier? ’ Well, it wasn’t really a conversation because I never got an answer, but now I know I was asking the wrong question. I should have said: ‘Why don’t you make sure you get down to the final table nice and early on Sunday so that the film crew don’t have to work too late?’ It seems, once the TV is involved anything is possible, early starts to main events; an end to the ‘Moody’ rule; Philip Marmostein in Leiderhosen and Marty Wilson in a suit! But not all the innovations are so positive…

Before I go on I want to get this into perspective. John Duthie is a good friend whose tournament poker I have long admired. In a short time he has done something perhaps only he could have done by putting together the EPT. I know how hard it has been and how he has stood up for the interests of players, particularly on the key issue of sponsorship.

I do not know who devised the structure of the Victoria Cup but I do think that it was a mistake that should not be repeated. A fourty-five minute clock is simply too fast for a prestigious £3,000 no-limit event. However many chips you start with, it is essential that you get time to settle into the rhythm of each level. It is the sense of pressure engendered by a quick clock as much as the ratio of chips to blinds that helps turn an event into a ‘crap shoot’. I’m not saying the Victoria Cup was a crap shoot exactly but by the six o’clock dinner break there were a lot a shell-shocked players wandering around shaking their heads. You may say I would not be saying this if I had done better in the event and you may be right, but my experience was typical and I would not have expected after four hours play that there would be so little play in a ten grand stack.(Incidentally, it was the Camel who got me. He has AQ suited and I had AK. It was in no way a bad beat for the simple reason that we were both obliged to put our chips in before the flop, and would have done the same thing if we’d had each other’s cards.)

In the end, you can’t squeeze a quart into a pint pot and you can only have a slow structure if you have enough time for the event. So, how should it be done in future?
You could start the event on Friday night and play through to Sunday; you could start at noon on Saturday and play later on Sunday; you could hold the final on Monday evening. You could hold qualifying events and restrict the number of runners in the main event. Personally I think it just has to be a three day event. The main event at the Four Queens had thirty-nine runners and that ran over three days. It was a similar buy-in to the Victoria Cup and players expected a slow clock.

John Duthie has done a brilliant job in setting the EPT. It is great for the game and it provides a lot of new opportunities for European players. Let’s give him the support he deserves and where we see room for improvement let’s make constructive suggestions. He is a poker player, and he is listening.

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