Interview with Marcel Luske about the board game PokerChamp

Marcel luske was on the shortlist, last year, to become a member of the poker Hall of Fame. The name of Holland’s famous poker player didn’t just appeared for his magnificent accomplishments that made him captain of Holland’s Hendon Mob Alltime Moneylist. No, the almost 4 million dollars in cashes are fun, but it was probably the whole picture that made Luske nominated. Because besides playing poker, Marcel is from the beginning busy with something more important; making people enthusiastic for the game.

Dressed in a nice suit as usual, he caught the eye of the gentlemen of the ESPN who gave him worldwide knowledge within the poker business. Holland came later, because the popularity of poker didn’t grow that fast there. But together with his protégé Noah Boeken Marcel made sure that the popularity of poker did grow. Suddenly the two of them appeared in every single thing that has to do with poker. They were teaching a class of famous Dutch people to teach them how to play the game, they appeared in magazines and gave interviews at all possible radio stations. You can swear that the colleague that didn’t remember a single thing of poker, sure remembered the name Marcel Luske.

Not just with giving interviews and fotoshoots, Marcel stood for the popularity of the game, he also explored different markets. He set up FIDPA who still supports a package of international poker rules who many follows, including The Bellagio Casino Hotel (Las Vegas) and Casino Namur (Belgium).

Games popped up at toy stores with his image, neat boxes, including sunglasses which you can were upside down. Although the games were “Luske-Poker” successful, Marcel missed something, he wasn’t satisfied. He wasn’t a board game expert though and let the idea sink in a while, but did think the game had to be easier and better.

But when Pierre Neuville showed his face in the poker world, Marcel took his chance. Because Neuville didn’t just play poker very well, he also had years of experience as CEO of the biggest board game manufacture at Europe Hasbro, manufacture of Monopoly, Risk and Scrabble (among others). There was only one problem; Pierre was retired years ago. But one plus one makes two and when they we conversating it soon led to serious plans to make the poker game for beginners bigger and better.

Neuville and Luske came together for the first time at the EPT of San Remo at 2010. Now, two years later, you can find PokerChamp at toy stores all over Holland, France and Belgium and it’s to order online on When you open the box you find a classic board game. A dropdown board, many cards, a simple but full manual, seven so called awards and many play coins. It looks cheerful and it’s obvious you don’t have to be a poker expert to play the game.

During the Hold ‘em challenge at Casino Namur you couldn’t get pass the game. Pierre Neuville had a box beside him who he was giving away to that person who got him busted, just like we always see Barry Greenstein with his book “ace on the river” while he’s playing tournaments. Further along there was a part of the casino decorated for exploring the board game and play with it. We talked to Marcel about the game which he stood by from the beginning.

Why did you develop this game?

This game is developed to get the starting player on board. The doubters, people who exualy watching from a distance and judge, but have got no clue about poker- you know them for sure. When they play this game, one hand with family and friends, they instantly see that poker is a fascinating game. They see that the poker element, the basis, requires a certain skill. To sharpen yourself by combining, to estimate, read people and calculate- it’s all important. To think along with others about what they are doing en to assess about making investments or not.

We have made it all a whole lot easier than the traditional poker. The fact that on the backside of the cards is information about that card, was already invented, because I was working on that for a couple of years then. But something was missing and when Pierre came up with a board to go with it, he made it in to a board game.

I contacted Pierre because I knew there was something missing. We need something like that in the stores, a poker game that you can actually play with family and friends. A light bulb moment appeared, for me and Pierre, and he started this along side with me although he was already retired several years ago. Pierre knew what he had to do and could be done, he knew it needed a board and so we developed that. We have spent months developing that, we made the rules,shaped the board and developed the awards.

We have had our first meeting at San Remo and two months later we signed, at Las Vegas. In Italy, San Remo I showed him what already was developed, and gave him the idea , what I produced with Jumbo years ago and what I had in mind. Pierre started to laugh, it looked ridicules to him as it was done. He saw I brought a different play of poker, but it didn’t meet up with the demands of the game industry. He instantly saw that with a many minor chances it would be more acceptable and it had great potentionall, but it would have to meet up to the board-game standards And so eventually he became my partner soon after that..

Since several months we have another partner. Because you can have some great ideas, with only ideas you won’t make it. We needed somebody to lead the business part of it as Editor and that’s Yves Kupfermunz.

How did you came up with the name PokerChamp?

At first we came up with some other names, but they weren’t just right or were already taken. We wanted a name with “poker” inside it, because it’s a game about that game we all know so well. The 6,5 billion people who know nothing about poker will for sure recognize the name and the 500 million people who do know how to play poker need to know directly what the game is about. We wanted that the 500 million people would pass it on to their family and friends who don’t know the exact details of poker.

“Someone at a basement with Scotts, women with short skirts, and loads of money at the table” . That’s the image of poker to those ones who don’t know nothing about it. That is obsolete, we both know. But for people who are against gambling, that’s their reality; that’s how they see poker, while we know it’s a challenge, a skill game. And this game has to be the stepping stone for people to realize. The name of the game has that a bit in itself, everyone can be a champ at his own house. So maybe in small first and for real during the WSOP at Las Vegas later.

This game is a better first acquaintance than any book, that I dare to say. Because every book lacks practical experience but with this game that’s in it of course and they will teach it in a playful way.

How does the game work exactly?

It’s extremely simple, and that’s the beauty of it. You open the box, take the board out and give everyone a ranking card. At the back is a description were you sit, everyone has their own seating picture. One is a very Yong Pierre Neuville, very clear with “Serial Qualifier” written at his chest. Across I sit as the “Gentleman of Poker” with the reversed sunglasses. You get 12 chips which you directly put one of them one place one, that’s your ante. Everyone gets two cards, who looks just a bit different than your ordinary deck of cards. The dealer will place the 3 first cards open on the board aswell., so all players do have a 5 card starting hand to play with.

Because on the topside of the cards it has got the symbols / Marks that we know like Aces of spades and 1 , 2 or 3 stars ,but the back also gives some information of the suits etc. At the back of the cards you see namely the size and the strength of the cards, which your opponent also determine. We have reduced it to hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs which you can see on it, unless it is an ace. The back not only gives information about the suit but also about the power. In three series you’ll see what kind of card it is; small (2,3,4 and 5), medium (6,7,8 and 9) or large (ten to king) The ace is a bit of a odd card, you can see at the back it’s an ace but not which suit it is. The calculation is always one on four, which is much simpler than a deck with 52 cards which you have no idea what your opponent has. The game is much simpler and so it is suitable as a family game. You quickly know what your possibilities are after the flop, and you can also asses the chances of opponent easier. Moreover, you can never lose more than six chips a round, while playing the base variant. The bets are namely one chip preflop and two on the turn and river. You can’t re-raise and you can win with one chip, all chips in the pot when it’s your last chip. Essentially different from poker that you and me know, but more fun for novice players. And you can bet when you want to, you don’t have to wait for your turn.

Normally you can bust at the first hand and you’ll be watching at the side for an hour. Not very nice when you’re playing a board game at the kitchen table with family. With this game that can’t happen, because when you bust, you get new chips from the player with the most chips. Because he gives you chips he can get an award and the first with two awards wins the game at the base variant. Or you decide that the player which gets the most awards in an hour, wins. Or the first who gets three awards- you decide yourself. Anyone can get started immediately. Even a child can play it, it’s made to play so easily, but it’s still so much fun to play!

And they don’t need to be afraid to go off!

I’ll give you an example. I never actually played golf because you never play golf as an Amsterdam market merchant. When my popularity growed by playing poker, I was invited to certain events where people were also playing golf. I stood there…..with Michael Jordan under the eye of 150 journalists and then had to play golf. I always thought the driver was the one sitting on the golf cart. If someone talked about the driver, I automatically looked at the cart, which to me seemed logical. I didn’t realize that it was the club which you first hit with. I was embarrassed to ask, really. Perhaps you have the same with poker. Maybe people find it fun but they are ashamed to ask certain thing, because the poker world is filled with specialized terms that people can scare of. With PokerChamp that’s completely gone. When I went golfing, and after 300 hits I hit the ball well, I found it so much fun! I saw the ball fly, I finally hit him once and was totally tasty idolatrous of golf from that moment on. An unprecedented feeling!

I can imagine that there are quite a few things that can stop you from playing golf, just because you don’t understand you might be anxious to begin. The same with poker, although you and I can no longer imagine that because we are in it for so long. This game is developed to eliminate that fear, a stripped-down variant which everyone can start with and where you can do nothing wrong with.

Can you imagine that About 50/75 percent of the base of poker is captured with PokerChamp directly within playing the first game! Playing this 1 time will make understanding those TV pokershows a peace of cake,,And then you look at it in a very different way. Then you understand how much finesse is in it, how much attention the player has to have for everything that happens. And you will understand also the poker world so much better.

Then you can play as a well prepared player ready to judge and chalance others, But first now you will gain knowledge while you having Fun!

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