Dublin gives Norway’s poker players a hand

More than 2,000 Norwegians have travelled to Dublin for their country’s national poker championships, which, to avoid Norway’s strict gambling laws, are being held in Ireland.

The Norwegian Championships of Poker are running at the Citywest Convention Centre in Saggart, Co Dublin, this week, with millions of euro in bets expected to be placed.

Several hundred people were already playing at Citywest Hotel yesterday, some wearing T-shirts from their home poker clubs or lucky charms that they bring to the competition every year.

This is the fifth year that the tournament has been held in Ireland in order to circumvent Norway’s tough rules on gambling.

John Paul McCann, the organiser, said that it was the largest crowd yet for the ten-day event.

“There has been a huge boom in young players around the world in the last ten years and we are really seeing the effect now,” he said.

The Norwegian culture ministry introduced a new national championship in Oslo last autumn in an attempt to lure players back from Dublin.

However, Sigurd Eskeland, leader of the Norwegian Poker Federation, said that the state-approved tournament could not compete with the Dublin competition’s prize money and prestige.

Geir Kjos, a farmer from Trondheim in western Norway, said that there were far more games and a bigger cash prize in Dublin.

Like several people at the event, he said that he had grown tired of online gambling, preferring the challenge and camaraderie of face-to-face competition.

The secret to good poker is to play “tight and aggressive”, he said.

Torunn Smedstad, a computer consultant from Oslo, said that it was her fifth year in Dublin. “The new competition in Oslo is only the beginning of a legalisation process. There are no cash tables allowed, for example, whereas cash games go on in Dublin at all times of the day and night,” she said.

Yesterday, a masseuse walked around the convention space offering shoulder rubs to the players, many of whom had spent all day at the table.

Several players said that they would enjoy the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin, while Norwegian gambling companies have organised trips to see greyhound and horse racing.

Otto Holm, an electronics development manager from Tonsberg in southern Norway, said that every player had to expect to lose money in Dublin.

“The gambling companies make the money. You lose some money but you also meet people.

“I can’t see the competition leaving Dublin any time soon,” he said.