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23/04/2007 No. 23
he Guardian G2 Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Monday April 23, 2007

It occurred to me, as I warned Clare Balding to fold, that charity tournaments play by different rules. You have to be nice. You have to let people string-bet and act out of turn. You can't turn up, all smiles, to demonstrate your kind munificence, then savagely penalise poker novices for making a mistake.

It is an important area of etiquette, because charity tournaments are very popular now. They have spread outside the immediate poker community, which has always been generous. Acquiring their money in lucky windfalls, poker players have always used portions of it to help struggling colleagues or worthy causes - in stark contrast to, say, City traders, who seem to use their own windfalls purely to drive up property prices and ensure that nobody but themselves can afford to live in London.

Last week, I went to the Fifty Spring Festival, in aid of Cancer Research and the Irish Youth Foundation. It was a great evening. Generous provisions were made by the venue (Fifty St James), the sponsors (online betting firm Betfair), and the brilliant Irish chef Richard Corrigan, who cooked dinner. It would simply not be in the spirit of this or any other charity tournament to play with the usual keen eye for advantage: mistakes should not be penalised as they are in ordinary competitions.

I also found myself cheering out loud when Sam Torrance (who'd moved all in with A7 and got called by AQ) hit a flop of A-K-4-6-4 to split the pot. There were only seven of us left; at that stage, standard form is to look sympathetic while secretly delighting in anybody's exit. In a tournament for Cancer Research, it feels more natural to delight in survival.

The other big etiquette question involves donations and tips. I'll deal with those next week, as well as explaining how to organise your own charity poker event.


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