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    The International Federation of Poker (IFP)

    On 29 April, at a grand ceremony in Lausanne, Switzerland, I enjoyed the distinct honour of being elected the first President of the International Federation of Poker (IFP).

    It’s an abrupt change of career course for me, but a challenge I already find both energising and rewarding. The chance to lead poker’s first governing body, and to work towards poker’s international recognition as a skilled ‘mind-sport’ rather than just another form of gambling, was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

    Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Joe Ely, and the Cotton Club

    Elvis Presley was leaning a against his pink 1954 Cadillac in front of Lubbock, Texas’ historic Cotton Club. The small crowd were mesmerized by his great looks, cockiness, and charisma. He put on quite a show, doing nearly all the talking. Elvis bragged about his sexual conquests, using language you didn’t hear around women. He [...]

    The ‘Poker God’ Delusion

    I consider it symptomatic of a serious character flaw on my part that when someone mentions the ‘Poker Gods’, I tend to contradict them with ramblings about standard deviation. Evidently, this is not what people want to hear when their aces get cracked by the monkey playing ‘in the dark’ with his miracle fours full of eights

    TNG – Tues 18th Nov

    This month we celebrate our New York correspondent, Peter Alson, in the password for our Tuesday Night Game. If he has finally recovered from celebrating the election of poker-playing Barack Obama – see my piece for Tina Brown’s TheDailyBeast.com – Pete will be joining in himself from the Big Apple. Nephew of the late, great [...]

    Hold Me, Darling (Part 5)

    If the first version of poker arrived in the United States in the 1820s, imported by French sailors landing in Louisiana, it took another hundred and fifty years for ‘community card’ variants to catch on. Then, just as the poker revolution was catching fire in the early 21st Century, a Texan dealt a lethal blow to the game invented in his home state.

    Hold Me, Darling (Part 4)

    Texas Hold’em was introduced to Europe in the 1980s by the Irish bookmaker and poker entrepreneur Terry Rogers. Nicknamed the ‘Red Menace’ because of his ginger hair and bursts of belligerence, Rogers was one of the first Europeans to travel to Vegas each May for poker’s world series. At the 1980 event, he was the only bookmaker not to write off Stu ‘The Kid’ Ungar too soon, quoting him at 20-1 while all else were offering 100-1; Ungar went on to win the first of his three world crowns, beating Doyle Bruson in the heads-up.

    Hold Me, Darling (Part 3)

    Bill Boyd, Sid Wyman, Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, ‘Sailor’ Roberts, Amarillo Slim, Jack Straus, Crandell Addington – nearly all the legendary players we have already met, with the notable exception of Major Riddle, were sooner or later accorded places in the Poker Hall of Fame established in 1979. As indeed was the toughest entrepreneur of them all, if not himself much of a player, Benny Binion – none too surprising, since Binion himself founded the Hall of Fame on a suggestion from his then poker manager, Eric Drache, as a marketing ploy for an annual tournament he started in 1970 called the World Series of Poker (WSOP). In 2005 Binion’s son and successor Jack was also enrolled in the Hall of Fame, for his role in maintaining and building the World Series through the latter decades of the twentieth century.

    Hold Me, Darling (Part 2)

    Where once stood the Dunes now stands the Bellagio, opened in 1998 by the one-man force behind contemporary Las Vegas, Steve Wynn, who himself fired the cannon from his latest Strip resort, Treasure Island, that appeared to trigger the implosion of the Dunes – watched by millions on live television and since immortalised in the closing credits of Wayne Kramer’s 2003 movie The Cooler. So the spot where No Limit Hold’em was first played on the Strip is now the home of Vegas’ leading card-room – rivalled only by the sleek poker room Wynn opened in 2005 in the 215-acre, $2.7 billion Wynn, the eponymous hotel-casino he built after selling his Mirage chain to Kirk Kerkorian’s MGM Grand group in 2000 for $4.4 billion.

    Hold Me, Darling (Part 1)

    ‘This is poker?’ asked an incredulous Life magazine on 16 August 1968. Inside an issue leading on the Nixons and the Agnews, a partnership that would last all of five years, there lay buried an article introducing mainstream America to something rather more enduring: a ‘wild’ new variant of its national game of poker, called ‘Hold Me’. Above a colour photograph of no fewer than twelve men crowded around a green-baize table, most of them wearing suits and ties amid a profusion of splashed chips, exposed cards and overflowing ashtrays, the magazine sniffed that ‘the decorous mob scene below looks more like a group therapy séance down at the poker-chip factory.’

    Very Clever, Mr. Bond… (Part Three : DUTHIE INNOCENT)

    All of which means that one table in particular must have quaked into its Martinis as they took their seats in the Casino Copenhagen, as the 2006 EPT tour reached Denmark. Forget former world champion Tom McEvoy and poker legend T.J. Cloutier (more than $9 million in lifetime winnings between them), who had crossed the Atlantic for the occasion. Also taking his seat on Day One was none other Bond villain Le Chiffre himself!