POLAND

Poland – Poker players want to be sportsmen, not one-armed bandits

Poker players would like to play at higher rates and pay reasonable taxes for the game. Now in casinos the tax is 25 percent – that’s why you don’t play poker there.

Polish poker players have the status of stars of this sport discipline. They are the world’s top leaders. But to play the Polish poker championship, their participants must “run away” from the country – in Poland they could be severely punished for playing.

Cinematic image of poker players is not helping. Elders probably associate it with the blockbuster of the Polish People’s Republic – “Wielki Szu”. Slightly younger with the movie “Rounders,” in which Matt Damon was leading the poker battles with a KGB mafioso, played by John Malkovich. The action of both films takes place in suspicious dark rooms, and players often turned out to be the shady-looking type.

Staying with the film analogy, the only thing current poker in the most popular Texas Holdem variant (this is what James Bond is playing in a duel in “Casino Royale”) combines with a five-card poker game from the “Wielki Szu” is the “underground”. But this time they have pushed poker, not the mafias, but the politicians. Poker games were killed because of the infamous gambling act of 2009, which equated this game with roulette and “one-armed bandits”. A ray of hope for normality was provided by the amendment to the act, which made it possible to organize poker tournaments outside casinos. Such tournaments take place regularly at the club hotel “Brda” at Dworcowa street.

The history of Legal Poker began in Gdańsk. There, the project of legal poker games was invented in Poland, 10 years ago. But the 2009 Act killed the opportunity to put the idea into practice. Three years ago, an amendment came into force that allowed entities to organize a poker tournament outside the casino (up to this point only they could do so). And we started – it started from Gdańsk, Wrocław, Kraków, Warszawa. A poker wave flooded Poland, reached Bydgoszcz and Toruń. Now the games are taking place in 25 cities – says Cezary Kiełpinski, the organizer of Legal Poker in Bydgoszcz and Toruń.

We had the opportunity to look at these games. On Wednesday evening, fewer players come to the tournament than on the weekend (tournaments take place three times a week), but there is no shortage of excitement. The beginning, however, resembles shopping in a store. The player comes in, leaves PLN 50, gets gambling chips and printout from the cash register. The tournament boss indicates the table at which the player sits. On the way to the table, he can still hook a bar – a bartender waits there who pours beer or prepares … a sandwich. You have to save your strength in such a tournament – the final of the competition is taking place after midnight. The average age is about 35 years old, there are ladies, but the crushing majority of players are men.

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