Bluff Magazine

Bluff Magazine

The magazine for poker players

Joe Hachem and Shane Warne

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World Speed Poker Championship: Blink and You'll Miss It
(Bluff Magazine)

How a tiny, former Soviet-bloc country became the unlikely birthplace of the maddest, baddest new poker tournament on the planet: the World Speed Poker Championships.

On September 23, a mixture of poker pros, online qualifiers, and the downright inquisitive gathered in Tallin, the medieval capital of the tiny European republic of Estonia, to witness the first ever World Speed Poker Championship.

The Championship is the brainchild of Australian Keith 'Bendigo' Sloan of World Poker Promotions – a company devoted to bridging the gap between online and 'bricks and mortar' poker. It's fitting, then, that his latest project should be a crazed, adrenalinfuelled mix of these two strains of our beautiful game. Speed poker takes the hectic pace of internet poker, triples it, and transports it to the land-based casino. The result is a breakneck battle of wits, sweat and stamina, in which your poker instinct must be razor sharp, or you're dead meat.

Why Estonia? We have absolutely no idea! Competitors were lured to the Astoria Palace Casino, in the beautiful but rather chilly city of Tallin, with the promise of paintball fights, skydiving and Eastern European beauties timing every hand played. As the organisers explain, this is poker designed firmly for the 'max' generation. If you're a measured tactician, who likes to stew over your cards, this probably isn't the game for you; but if you're the kind of fearless thrillseeker who's blessed with intuitive split-second poker sense, then you were born for it.

The rules are simple: six players per table have fifteen seconds in which to play their hands (and think on their feet) until their hand is declared void. With two dealers per table – shuffling and dealing, alternately - the action reaches an electrifying pace that is mesmerising to watch.

Of the sixty players that took to the felt for the No-limit Hold'em main event, sixty percent were online qualifiers, their minds primed for the game by the rapid dealing of the internet card rooms, where prevarication is rarely tolerated and hands seldom last longer than a couple of minutes. The majority came from tournament sponsors, and the rest from Betfair, Ladbrokes and Nordicbet. But the pros came too, drumming up a 2,000 Euro buyin and an entrance fee of 200 Euro. Among them were Kirill Gerasimov from Russia, Marcel 'The Flying Dutchman' Luske, Dave 'El Blondie' Colclough from the UK, and Tony G from Lithuania, all playing for a 40,000 Euro pot (51,000 USD) and taking it all very seriously indeed.

Dealing, of course, had to be super-fast and quick on the draw, so World Poker Promotions drafted in some of the best dealers in the world, presumably to prevent cards flying into people's eyes or disappearing into the ceiling rafters as play reached the furious pace of one game per minute. Among them was Rob 'The Hux' Huxley, who is considered one of the fastest and most accurate dealers in the game, and was also selected to deal the final table at this year's WSOP.

And when the dust finally settled on the inaugural World Speed Poker Championship, piles of hardened poker players, collapsed through exhaustion, lay strewn around the casino floor. It was like a post-shootout scene in a spaghetti Western. But there had to be a winner, and this year's speed - poker crown and 40,000 Euro pot went to wily Norwegian , Hennig Granstad, who went head-tohead on the final table against German pro and PartyPoker consultant, Lothar Landauer.

In a spectacular final hand, both players saw the flop of K-T-2, with Landauer holding a K-3, and Grandstad K-2. The German went allin, and the Norwegian, with his superior two-pair, immediately called. Landauer hit a lucky Three on Fourth Street, dramatically taking the lead, but, amazingly, on the river the Hux flipped over a Two, giving Granstad a fully-furnished full house. Or at least, we think that's what happened – it was all so quick!

Bluff predicts that Speed Poker is going to catch on in a big way; when the TV networks get wind of what a spectacle the game is, they'll be climbing over one another for a piece of the action. And Keith Sloan has big plans for the future. He has already patented an in-table clock device (he admits the Estonian lovelies with the stop watches were merely a publicity stunt), which would give casinos a tailor-made speed poker set-up. Something tells me they might be rather interested in the 'quicker hands = more rakes' formula.

He's also planning to take the World Speed Poker Champion on the road, WPT style. The next event confirmed will be at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, during the Australian Poker Championship from January 6 through 20 (see p. 58). It will be a 204-player, A $1600 (1200 USD) event, with a first prize of A$100,000 ($75,000 USD) held over three days prior to the Crown's famous Aussie Millions. Play promises to be even more wildly animated in Melbourne, with only ten seconds permitted per hand in the heats, before reverting to the fifteen- second rule in the final.

With a USA Speed Poker Championship event in Vegas on the cards for mid-2005, and with World Poker Promotions hoping for a thousand players at $2700 each (first prize: $1 million), we reckon you haven't heard the last of this crazy speed poker thing.


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