Costa Maya, Mexico – I love playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker, but sadly neither this week or last week’s guests seem to share the same view, as we’ve struggled to get a game started most nights, rendering me useless and sat starring aimlessly into space for what seems like days. After nearly 2 hours of trying, I eventually assembled an assortment of guests ready to play the first cash game of the cruise, only to be sent on a break after dealing one hand!
We do have three tournaments during the week also, which are popular, including the big satellite event, where the winner gets a seat in the main event tournament held in December on the Norwegian Epic, including a 7 day cruise for two. Sweet!
For the last 12 years, I’ve played in an annual poker competition, held exclusively for casino dealers, with each year, a different European city hosting the event. I missed only two, ironically the year it was in England and the second Barcelona, in 2015. It’s a very well attended four day party fest, with up to 700 croupiers vying for the cheque and more importantly the bragging rights to being king or queen of the dealers!
My great friend Sam Beebee, who’s a casino cashier in Mayfair, got me into it when we were working together in the Victoria casino in London. The first year was in the beautiful city of Vienna. We were blown away by the event, experiencing the most wonderful time, culminating in a fabulous final table party in a beautiful Austrian palace, surrounded by gorgeous gardens. That year, I even won a substantial amount of money playing dice, which was lucky as it was enough to pay all my fees and costs for completing on the purchase of my first apartment the day I returned!
Barcelona was our second foray. The city has everything, culture, climate, beaches and nightlife! We had a royal few days, and the final night party was held in an old castle in the Pyrenees mountains, on the French border, that had been converted inside into the most amazing casino. Having nearly missed our flights the first year, we hadn’t learnt from our mistake and once again got back to the hotel in the morning in just enough time to bung our belongings into our bags and race to the airport, making the flight by the skin of our drunken teeth.
Salzburg was next, (where the highlights including swimming in a lake in the mountains), followed by Madrid (a live performance my Crystal Waters, you know the one, la la dee la la da), plus Berlin (shopping, plus the surreal final table party being hosted in an abandoned subway station) Slovenia (everything!), Estoril (beaches), Malaga (weather), Malta (the casino) and the tenth anniversary event which was a 7 day cruise, sailing it of Barcelona, calling at Tunisia, Rome and Monte Carlo amongst other places.
Slovenia was the first year I went alone without Sam, but upon arrival at the hotel/casino where the event was being hosted, I knew every other person that I bumped into from previous years. After the welcome party, somehow I ended up in a strip club, right on the Italian border, at 5 o’clock in the morning, in the company of a dozen Dutch dealers, who were all male. In fact the only other females in the place were the totally naked ones gyrating up and down poles.
As far as the actual poker goes, I’ve only made the top 20 once, in 2014 in Malta. Most years I never even make the final day, but I’ve been lucky (or maybe skilled?!) enough to place in the bounty competition, finishing fourth in Estoril (ironically Sam finished third in the same event) and third in Malaga.
Every year, it’s a guaranteed four days of splendid fun and partying. The last few times I’ve attended, I’ve not even booked a hotel room for the last night, as I never end up using it, leaving my packed suitcase in the casino reception and heading straight to the airport at daybreak to catch my flight home.
The organisers Reini and Abu from Austria so a tremendous job organising such a professional event and Mattie (Finland), Mataeus (Sweden), plus Patrick and the huge Dutch contingency, make sure it’s always a blast. I’m hoping to make the 2016 renewal, being hosted by a casino in Estonia.