February 2, 2017


Time may change me, but you can’t trace time.(Bowie, Dec 1971)

Casinos were not as common as they are now when I was starting out, they were hard to find. I remember writing a letter to the gambling commission to ask exactly how many Casinos were in the UK, and where they were, pretending to be a pupil working on a school project (yes, pre-internet)! In reality I was using winning strategies and simply wanted to find out where they all were.

As a youngster I played a lot of Blackjack with my late father, David. We played, quite successfully, in a blackjack team, and had a great time along the way. Funnily enough the Victoria Casino was one I would frequent regularly. It’s a good thing really. Where London’s biggest and best cardroom now stands used to be the casino high stakes area, £25 minimum blackjack tables were my home then rather than the £2/£5 PLO or round of each now.

Things have changed so much since then. I had a discussion with some younger players when I last played the GUKPT at the Vic and they thought that I was winding them up when I told them about the old days. Poker at the Vic (and everywhere) has changed an awful lot.

Our success was an issue back in those days, casinos did not want big winners. As our options became more limited we saw a casino in Luton just up the M1 from Hendon, Sergeant Yorke’s, now the Grosvenor.

We played there for a while and did well for a number of reasons (that’s a complete other blog in the making). It was at Yorke’s that I played my first poker tournament, a £10 seven card stud rebuy thingy, I was 23. (That’s an even longer other blog to be written).

When I played my first event at Yorke’s there wasn’t any rake or charges in tournaments, the casinos did them from the kindness of their hearts (well, they did them for free because they weren’t allowed to charge under the Gaming Act that existed at that time). There were lots of player dealt tournaments as a result, but we usually got a dealer for the finals (and the festivals).

Never Leave The Stream…

You had to be sat in your seat for the first hand of the tournament or you couldn’t play! No late reg, no regging on time and leaving chips on the table and skipping the first two levels, and no buying in friends. I have seen players running, fast up the stairs, and flying across the card room to make it but miss the first hand by 30 seconds and not be allowed in – they were the rules.

No alcohol at the tables! I imagine Ludo and Warbs wouldn’t be the players they are today because they would never have made it out of the bar to the poker table!

The regular tournaments were £10 unlimited rebuys. You started with 500 in points and blinds of 25/25 with a 15 or 20 minute clock. The good news was they started at 730pm and finished about 3am. Casinos then had to close at 4am – those were the rules!

Then there was the 48 hour rule – try and explain that to an American. In order to get into the casino you had to be a member, or guest of a member. To be a member you had to sign up with ID and then wait 48 hours before you were allowed in, yes really! A cooling off period.

Shuffle Up And Deal!

The 2017 GUKPT Tour is about to start and Jeff Kimber are I are both very happy to on board as sponsored Grosvenor pros playing the best tour in the UK. Andy Hills will also be joining us as winner of the Passport promotion where he gets entry to all the GUKPT 2017 main events.

Ian Bryan, GUKPT maestro and leader, has come up with a few ch…ch…changes to the Tour. I do feel that they are improvements too.

All the live RFID tables, hosted by Andy Booth of Cardroom Direct, are now streamed in HD (and there isn’t any additional premium to pay as with Sky HD, it’s still free to watch). The mini-main is now a firm two day event (instead of 2 or 3 as it happened last year) and it has a 2pm start time.

Side events are back in town! There is a £300 two day event, during the £1000 main event festivals, £150 in the £500s and a £500 two day event at the grand final festival at the Vic. There is also a new £150 Win The Button comp (£75 in the £500s).

Qualify Now For The GUKPT

All positive changes from my point of view. It sounds like Grosvenor are listening to their players, and focusing on players in the UK. With masses of new online satellites and a soft “steps” system in place to let players qualify for major events from as little as £0.25, we should see many more new faces on the block this year.

Fundamentally, this means new players enjoying the great game, hopefully having good experiences and telling their friends, keeping poker fresh and fun for everyone.

Full GUKPT schedules can be found here.

Information on satellites can be found here.

Trivia: Did you know that Changes was the last song Bowie ever performed live? Yep, it’s true.