Second year Napier University Journalism Student Lindsay Muir on the changing face of poker in Britain…………..
It’s a bleak autumnal night and I’m making my way towards an unusually busy small pub in the heart of a nondescript Lanarkshire town. With one last drag on my cigarette and an obligatory nod to the smokers huddled outside as I pass. This has become a weekly ritual for myself as I am a regular to weekly pub poker, and for a few hours this pub will become a battleground of wits and ego.
Taking their places at the tables are people from all walks of life. Electricians rub shoulders with office workers; students mix it up alongside policemen, even the odd pensioner can be found around the tables. It’s a far cry from the old cliché of the illicit poker game in the smoky pub backroom, an air of mistrust intertwined with the cigarette fug.
The relatively new phenomenon of pub league poker is enjoying a healthy following. The Nuts Poker League, the organising body of tonight’s game boasts 26,000 registered players across 560 venues from Inverness to Cornwall. Its small wonder that the Nuts Poker League boasts itself as “the biggest name in pub poker” enjoying an annual turnover of £150,000 which promises to keep growing as poker gains an ever increasing popularity. This popularity is reflected not only by attendance at league games such as this one but through television and media exposure. High profile tournaments and games are now broadcast around the globe. Programming such as NBC’s “Poker After Dark”, in which a selection of well-known players, connected by a common theme, from around the globe are invited to play a $20,000 buy-in winner takes all ring game; has gained an almost religious following on satellite channel Challenge. A plethora of magazines and publications have also enjoyed increased circulation as more and more people try turning their hand to poker games.
However, I was curious to find out about the sustainability of pub poker in an economic climate that’s gone sour. “Pub poker is very much a sustainable asset” says Steve Bellis, founder of the Nuts Poker League, “the only obstacle to our success is the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Gambling Commission who need to review their attitudes towards responsible, supervised poker games.” Steve doesn’t just accredit the success of the league to the prizes on offer he notes that “poker is much more than a game. It’s a social event in a friendly atmosphere and a great situation to meet new people”. This is a sentiment echoed by a regular player Andy “I really enjoy the weekly poker nights, it’s a great crowd and you’re always guaranteed a good laugh and some banter around the tables. It gives me something to look forward to on a Monday night”.
By 11 o’clock I find myself out of chips and out of luck as the tables shrink and the chip stacks mount up and although I’ve had a disappointing night at the tables I am flush with a poker fever.
Budding players can find out more about the Nuts Poker League here.