with success, by Sheryl-Lee Kerr - 9th January 2005
The Sunday Times)
(Media placement by Greg Tingle - Mediaman
- publicist for Keith "Bendigo" Sloan)
Mediaman Poker Tourney
Poker is rapidly becoming the hottest
new trend and this month 250 top players from
around the world compete for $1 million at the
Aussie Millions poker tournament.
Poker, the game which for decades conjured up
Kenny Rogers songs and images of grizzled, cigar-chomping
men with pockermarked cheeks, in officially hot.
Trendy, Sexy, even. And it's thanks to televised
games, a hit new variation and a rise in women
players. And then there's the Hollywood megastar
factor - watching the flawless skin and perfect
smiles of A-list celebrities sliding their chips
across a seas of green velvet has gone a long
way towards sexing up the game's image.
from George Clooney to Whoopi Goldberg have become
regular poker players, while, like Ben Affleck
and Tobey Maguire are even making a small fortune
out of it in tournaments. There's even a movie
about the poker world, Lucky You, which is coming
out this year starring Eric Bana.
Australian-based poker promoter Keith "Bendigo"
Sloan what the game's appeal is for big stars
and he suggests poker is the great equaliser.
certainly not the money for these guys,"
Keith says. "They're not stars during a game.
They're like anyone else."
But it's not just the US which is seeing a boom
in poker. Europe and Australia are in its grip
as well. Young and old, women and men alike, are
switching on to the game.
Australia the boom is so pronounced that Keith
won't call it that. "It's more like a phenomenon,"
he says. "Now it's cool to play poker."
is hardly new. Its origins are open to debate
but some experts suggest it dates back as early
as 900AD when Chinese emperor Mu tsung played
"domino cards" with his wife. Persia
and France also have claims to the game's origins
but, either way, by the mid 1800s it was a standard
involving a fistful of four or five cards and
players competing for the best hand.
days one of the most popular methods of gameplay
is internet poker, which has about 100,000 players
online who can compete with each other over cyberspace,
with bets starting from as little as 50c.
was how full time Perth poker player Han, 28,
got his start. Originally a casino dealer/croupier,
he started playing the game on the net. Then,
as he got better, so did the stakes. Now he's
cruising the big leagues.
win $20,000 in one hand and I've lost $20,000
in another," he says. "On average though,
it's a few thousand."
the sort of vocation to turn one's parents' hair
grey. Han, who doesn't want his surname published,
admits his parents did have their misgivings at
first. "They were very worried at the start
but now they have confidence in me," he says.
will be part of the Australian contingent competing
for the $1 million winner's prize at the Aussie
Millions tournament at Crown Casino, part of the
Crown Australian Poker Championships which kicked
off this week. He made the final tables last year.
local in Melbourne has a better chance,"
says Han. "There's a few private games in
Perth. Burswood Casino has only two poker games
going. The Crown has 40 50 games."
Perth's small poker scene, it is growing.
I first started playing online I was one of the
only players," Han says. "Now there
are hundreds just from around Perth."
Han has been playing poker for five years, the
past year full time, and coyly says he makes "good
money". By that he means somewhere between
$100,000 and $200,000 a year.
if he does well at the Aussie Millions this month,
he could substantially add to that income.
the tournament, each player puts up $10,300, with
$1 million of the pool going to the winner and
26 runners up sharing the balance. Each player
keeps going until their chips are all gone or
they have won.
first Aussie Millions event came about thanks
to Keith. He convinced the Crown Casino a high
stakes poker tournament had merit and helped it
set up a poker room and train staff. In 2003 the
Aussie Millions entry stake hit $10,000 and prizes
were scraping a stratosphere high enough to lure
in some of the top players from around the world.
just figured Australia needed a tournament,"
Keith says. "In 2003 we had 122 starters,
2004 we had 133 starters, this year 250 starters."
favourite to win is Marcel Luske The Flying Dutchman,
a 190cm "real cool dude", says Keith.
many eyes will also be on other possibilities
Spider Man star Tobey Maguire is rumoured to be
a potential starter; and Rosa Bennett, from Melbourne,
whose killer instinct makes her a player to watch.
rates her abilities highly. "She's sponsored
by one of the online poker sites," he says.
don't get the idea Rosa is a soft touch across
the table from all the boys. Any player who dismisses
her abilities learns to regret it.
"I tend to be super aggressive at times so
that the men don't push me around," Rosa
says. "I've been known to streamroll tables
at times. I also think, at times, it's very hard
for men to take a beating from a woman.
first I think it is difficult for women. We almost
have to prove ourselves and show that we can play
the game. After we punish a few men, then they
get the idea that we do know how to play the game."
poker player Irene Holzmann says she and another
women are the only regular female players she
knows of in Perth. Dubbed Queen Irene, she hopes
to head to Melbourne this month to play in one
of the smaller Crown Casino poker tournaments.
But it is not a game for the faint of heart, she
lot of women are not game enough," Irene
says. "You have to have guts. Know your game,
have the capital, have a bankroll."
Irene grew up with poker in Singapore her family
played it and, after moving to Australia in 1978,
some years later took it up again, playing in
private games and online.
a very challenging game and exciting. Quite a
skilful game, too. If you don't understand it,
you shouldn't play," she advises beginners.
"You just end up wasting your money."
Rosa and Irene buck the stereotype in poker, given
famous female poker players are few and far between
aside from Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Anniston,
the number of women taking up the game is steadily
on the rise, especially in the US.
"Women have got the ability to think of more
than one thing at a time," Keith says.
he says there is an added appeal for young, single
women. "Where else do you go where you can
socialise in a secure environment with a ratio
of 10:1 men," he laughs.
socialising aspect of poker is one which is often
overlooked, especially as it is sometimes accused
of being the catalyst for financially crippling
absolute bullshit," Keith believes. "I
can't see what's wrong with people sitting down
having a game of poker. Those wowsers would do
themselves a huge favour to go along and see people
playing, encouraging each other, being social.
nice is you can sit down and on your left is a
doctor, a young student, a uni professor, a guy
who swings a pick all week, and a taxi driver.
Where else are you going to meet that spectrum?"
once a competitive player himself, directs his
energies to getting the game out around the globe.
And on that score, poker is on the move, particularly
soon is speed poker, a phenomenon sweeping the
US which, as its name suggests, involves a 15
second timer on the players to set a cracking
pace. Keith is selling the rights to speed poker
games to TV networks internationally and is in
negotiations in Australia to air it here.
on the cards, literally, is Texas Hold 'em, a
variation of poker that is wildly popular internationally.
Like speed poker, Keith predicts it will be at
Perth's Burswood Casino later this year.
for now, the most exciting news is that rich Crown
Casino tournament in Melbourne, which runs until
January 20, and whether the 80 odd Aussie players
can topple the greats from overseas.
has his hopes but knows poker is a fickle game.
the surface it seems so basic and simple,"
he says. "Anyone can win playing poker you
can get a lucky hand. But to win consistently,
80 per cent of the time, that's skill.
can play your absolute best, do everything right,
you can play a perfect game of poker and still
lose. That's poker."
Keith Sloan offers his tips for winning at poker:
o Know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.
o Bet, don't sweat don't sit there and work out
what the other person might or might not have.
Get out there and put your chips down.
o Be patient you have to throw a lot of hands
away in a game. Be selective.
o Be aggressive when you do bet, go for it.
o Don't be predictable don't always bet the same
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