Bringing the glamour back to poker

Timothy Barber
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MOST of the headlines in the City over the past few months have tended to focus on redundancies and doom, with an added dash of gloom. It&rsquo;s all too easy to assume that the Square Mile&rsquo;s top earners have handed over the keys to their Ferraris and are searching hopelessly through the jobs pages. But that&rsquo;s not the case for everybody, and there are still opportunities for those who do have money to flash it with bit of style. For example, this weekend sees the second Buffalo Club poker tournament in London. With an &pound;11,000 buy-in (&pound;1,000 fee and the rest to the prize pool) the game is not for those who have recently been anywhere near a P45.<br /><br />The tournament has a maximum of 20 players, meaning that even irregular players have the chance of cashing &ndash; the top four places pay out &ndash; and even at the outside, you have a 19-1 chance of waltzing off with the &pound;84,000 first prize. And in a further kick in the teeth to the recession, it all takes place in the distinctly swish surroundings of Aspinall&rsquo;s Casino in Mayfair, with a champagne reception to kick things off.<br /><br />The Buffalo Club has been set up by futures trader Lawrie Inman and marketing executive Pete Church, and they are unashamed to be running such a big game at a time when such fun and indulgence is at risk of going out of fashion.<br /><br />&ldquo;This is the re-emergence of poker in an elite setting,&rdquo; says Church. &ldquo;Tournaments these days, and even casino games, are pretty casual and unglamorous. That&rsquo;s fine, but this is about doing something a bit more special, in really sumptuous surroundings.&rdquo;<br /><br />And it&rsquo;s their fellow City poker fans the pair are attracting to the game.<br /><br />&ldquo;These guys make their livings through understanding calculated risk and making bets accordingly, and this is a way of having some serious fun with that,&rdquo; Church says. &ldquo;You can either hit the casino house games, where you&rsquo;re most likely to loose, or you can play poker, which is all about controlling the risk &ndash; it&rsquo;s the only game you can win with the losing hand.<br /><br /><strong>SIZEABLE PROFITS</strong><br />As with many things in poker, the idea of the Buffalo Club all started with a home game. The two had played regular poker with a small coterie of friends for years, until Inman, used to racking up sizeable profits and bonuses in his day job, decided he wanted to play for juicier pots than most of their friends could afford.<br /><br />&ldquo;Lawrie wanted to play at a monetary value that was interesting to him,&rdquo; says Church. &ldquo;You have major tournaments with this kind of buy-in, but they require a lot of time, travel and effort to take part in. We thought, why not hold something in London that people didn&rsquo;t have to give up days to play in?&rdquo;<br /><br />You can see his point. At the moment, poker&rsquo;s flagship event, the World Series of Poker, is taking place in Las Vegas. Its Main Event has a $10,000 buy-in, and takes over two weeks to complete &ndash; that&rsquo;s assuming you make it through a field of thousands of the world&rsquo;s best players, the chances of which are infinitesimally small, no matter how good a player you are. Similar tournaments take place around Europe, including London, but they also require marathon grinds through fields of heavyweight pros. The Buffalo Club offers the same sort of buzz, but in a far more civilised setting.<br /><br />For Church and Inman, there&rsquo;s only one major drawback to running the Buffalo Club. Having created their own version of poker nirvana, they&rsquo;ve realised that it would be something of a conflict of interest to take part themselves. Never mind though &ndash; that&rsquo;s just two extra places for others to take in London&rsquo;s most exclusive poker event.<br /><br /><strong>THE BUFFALO CLUB </strong>HOW TO PLAY<br />The Buffalo Club tournament takes place this Saturday at Aspinall&rsquo;s Casino in Mayfair, and those interested in playing should register at The tournament buy-in is &pound;10,000 with a &pound;1,000 administration fee. After a champagne reception at 7pm, the poker begins at 8pm. The game is No Limit Texas Hold&rsquo;em, with starting stacks of 10,000 in chips.<br /><br />The club is also running master classes with professional players, with classes suitable for beginners and more experienced players, details of which are on the website.