The first -ever World Speed Poker Championships were held in Tallinn, Estonia, from September 23-27 at the Astoria Monte Carlo Casino. There were 60 participants, and the final results were:
Entry fee was €2200.
What distinguishes Speed Poker from regular Hold'em is that there is a count-down of 15 seconds for each player to act. In reality, players have rather longer than that as the clock does not start ticking until called by the dealer and, anyway, at least five of the six players at the table have had the time to think about their hands while other players are acting.
With only six players to a table and an extra dealer to shuffle a second deck of cards, the action was very much faster than normal, and the final reached 120 hands an hour, at least three times faster than regular dealt games and even 50% faster than the Internet.
Players' reaction to the innovation was uniformly favourable.
"It makes the game much more exciting," one of them told POKERNEWS.COM. "It stops all those moody players taking half-an-hour to decide whether to play with their 2-7 offsuit. The internet players are fast, anyway - and it's perfect for live TV."
Speed Poker's Australian promoters, Keith Sloan and Tim Heath, introduced a showbiz element into the tournament by having the countdown clocks operated by a bevy of Estonian blondes in revealing costumes. As it turned out, they were less distracting than expected, only proving that for poker-players poker comes first, with sex a long way behind.
The next venue on their Speed list is Australia's Crown Casino in Melbourne for an 180 player event with a first prize of AUD$100,000.
Then comes the USA Speed Poker Championships with a field of 1,000 players @ US$2,700 - 1st prize US$1million, in Las Vegas.
They are also masterminding conventional tournaments in the Russian Poker Championships, October 9-19; European Teams Challenge in St. Petersburg, October 22-30; and the Aussie Millions, January 6 - 20.
The promoters are now developing a time-machine on the lines of championship chess timers. The dealer will simply hit the start-button, and there will be a visual countdown, probably with lights.
With the extra income that speed poker will command for casinos, it may well be that this is no short-term gimmick, but a significant contribution to the future of poker.