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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Tuesday, 16 January 2007
Sad day for poker.
Topic: Poker

I'm sad to see that Derek Kelly has been found guilty in the case against him regarding the Gutshot Club. I think it sets poker in Britain several years back, unless overturned on appeal. I haven't read the Gaming Act of 68 but I sense it's intended to protect people who play games of chance against the house. I'm told it has nothing to say about poker. The fact that it talks about games of both skill and chance being games of chance suggests to me that it's concerned with games like Blackjack and Casino Stud Poker where some decisions made by a player can reduce his expected loss, but not give him a positive expectation. But I'm not a lawyer.

In any case, the current situation is absurd. This morning I read in Metro that a late night ITV phone-in show was found to have held a game where players were invited to suggest items that a woman might have in her handbag. Two of the 'correct' answers were a balaklava and a rawl plug.

I. Am. Not. Making. This. Up.

Nearly every television channel is running these ridiculous phone-in games with there being no transparency whatsoever. And what have the authorities decided to prosecute? - A member's club where the game is dealt fairly and transparently. Incredible.

Who is the victim in Kelly's crime? By my personal moral code, a thing is illegal because it's wrong, not wrong because it's illegal. In every other crime I can think of, the 'victim' wishes that the crime had not occured. Yet Gutshot's players, the people who have paid the disputed 'service charge' are the people most keen to keep the place open! The only losers have been the established casinos who cannot stand the thought of losing customers. Actually this isn't really the case. If a private members club were to take away 100 potential players from a casino on a given night, the casino would only care about the loss of the five who also punt heavily on the dice and roulette. The other 95 are of next to no concern.

I really don't want to go back to where we were in this country a few years ago, where with the exception of the Vic, poker was treated as a 9pm loss-leader to drag in a few punters to keep the pit games busy. The game could be so much more than that. Condemning Gutshot isn't going to protect anyone. The people who play in it can easily play online (where a rake is charged) or go to casinos (where they must be subjected to the temptation to play negative EV games).

Who wins today? Nobody except perhaps the established casinos operators. And in my opinion, most of them don't really care about poker enough to invest in doing it properly and have no idea how much more profitable it could be if they cared.

_ DY at 4:55 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007 4:58 PM GMT
Post Comment | View Comments (5) | Permalink

Wednesday, 17 January 2007 - 1:51 PM GMT

Name: "roGER"
Home Page:

Well said, David.

Poker has had a terrible double blow recently - this judgement, and good ole' US congress defending it's own hopeless on-line operators from the well-run established on-line poker sites, many of whom happened to be foreign.

It's such a shame as the game was achieving mainstream status as recently as last year. 

I also agree with you 100% that those late night games on TV such as "The Mint" are vile scams that have no equivalent in the world of poker, or indeed the world of casino gambling.



Wednesday, 17 January 2007 - 9:06 PM GMT

Name: "anonymous"

Just wondering what your views are on Rank/Grosvenor. It seems they pushed hard for this when the plod, local council and GC had all allowed Gutshot to trade as they were.


It does rather stink of protectionism and even corruption when you delve in Rank's links with the GC. Not good for Jonny Poker player at all.

Also your thoughts on the Nottingham place.

Thursday, 18 January 2007 - 1:32 AM GMT

Name: "David Young"

I've no idea what to make of the Nottingham place. I like the sound of it and will take the trouble to go up there some time. However I recall that on the one occasion I went to the city to play poker before, it took about two and a half hours to get there and the same back, so it's not likely to be an impulse trip in the same way that I can suddenly decide to go to Luton when the mood takes me. Nottingham isn't a big place in terms of population, compared to London or the West Midlands, so I don't know whether the player base is enough for it to survive as a commerical venture. But I wish them well whatever.

As far as Rank are concerned, I'm pretty depressed by their actions. I know from conversation with them that it annoys them that Gutshot was able to operate without a licence. They feel that it's wrong for a double standard to apply. I guess if you've gone to the trouble and expense to get licenced, it's understandable. But you never really get the feeling that that's what it's about. Instead you just feel that they can't stand others being in the same market, even though they couldn't cope with the demand if all the players at the rival clubs and casinos turned up on their door wanting to play. If the Vic for instance were to get all the hundred or so players who play the Saturday night Gutshot comp turning up every Saturday in addition to the regular cash action both clubs have, there would be nowhere for most of them to sit! They don't have the space (as yet) and they seldom have more than five or six dealers around. So what's the point? Furthermore, it wasn't until they saw Gutshot offering micro limit games that they became interested in the smaller action. There were no 'pony' games at the Vic until Gutshot spread them. I can't help thinking that if Gutshot stopped their pony games, then the Vic would do too. It's not that they want the custom, it's that they don't want anyone else to have it.

It's not just about Gutshot either. Exactly a year ago they tried to wreck the Sportsman. Having noticed that it was getting a lot of punters in on Monday nights for a £250 comp and keeping some of them for cash action, they decided as a spoiler to run some added money comps on the same night, with a freeroll at the end of the month for those who did best. In total this cost them £18,000. A friend of mine and I were livid. We felt like it was 'our' money being given away, as we reckoned we were paying about £9,000 per year in collections and it irritated us as regular cash players to see the red carpet being rolled out for people like Jac Arama who only set foot in the place about ten days a year and never go near it when there isn't a festival or a special event. My friend (whom many readers know) hasn't been back since. Before that he went almost every day. 

But I understand that things are about to change, and that the Vic will move its operations upstairs where there is more space. Whether there will be more dealers is another matter. When there's a fight for staff between the pit and the card room, the former will always win in any casino. Russell Square was terrible for that.

If tipping were to be allowed that might change though.

Thursday, 18 January 2007 - 3:30 AM GMT

Name: "James Feeny"

Terrific article David. I sat through court for the whole of the final day. I thought that the defence put up good points and was very supprised when the jury all found Derek guilty. For a country like England I am shocked. Why do I feel like I am living under some sort of communist dictatorship?

It was always going to be fairly difficult convincing the jury that the skill in poker outweighs the luck factor. I was sure that anyone with a brain would be able to see that skill plays a much larger part. There were quite a few people in the jury who were, shall we say 'old school'. I guess when people get older and become set in their ways it takes more convincing.

When the verdict was read I felt sick and quite depressed. I still do. Gutshot is like a second home to me. Derek is a man with true guts and determination and who stands by his belief. 

I am not sure if I will ever play at the Vic again.

Thursday, 18 January 2007 - 11:41 AM GMT

Name: "David Young"


it was never enough to prove that skill outweighed luck. From what I've heard, it was enough to prove that there was luck in the game. The law is the problem.


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