Thursday, November 16, 2006


Thought that would get your attention, but I’m afraid there are no such piccies here, this is a family site don’t you know… Instead, I’m afraid you’re left with my account of the Master Classics in Amsterdam, which will undoubtedly captivate you to an extent that no naked lady could ever realistically reach.

At first, I wasn’t too thrilled about my trip to Amsterdam as (1) I’d only just returned from Dublin and (2) I had been forewarned by tikay that the Holland Casino didn’t welcome or cater for the press. However, and to my absolute delight, tikay was more than slightly off in his prediction as the Holland Casino were more accommodating than some of our local casinos – a press room, free wifi connection, chip counts, live feed of the feature table and, most crucially, full access to the tables. To say they’d done a 180 from the previous year would be an understatement, it was more like a 540 and I for one was immensely appreciative of their hospitality.

But of course, the biggest joy was left to come, as Jen received a ‘too good to turn down’ opportunity to play in the Main Event. With Irishman Peter Roche taken sick, he offered Jen his saddle and naturally she happily obliged for a more than reasonable 20% cut. Shaking from the adrenalin, Jen pulled herself together to play out a cracking little tournament, making very few errors and even going deep into Day 2. Although her biggest fear arrived in the form of the feature table and its accompanying cameras, she held her nerve admirably, holding her own against the likes of Tony G and Marcel Luske before finally being three-outed in a battle of the blinds affair. Afterwards, I wondered whom I could befriend and poison prior to the next big event, before finally concluding that with some players, I’d rather just go straight for the poison.

Although it was great to see Jen having the time of her life at the table, I must confess that covering 350 people on my tod was a nigh on impossible task - an endless list of famous names, a segmented cardroom separated onto multiple floors, and a staircase that seemed to be the wrong size for my legs – slightly too big for double steps, but too time-consuming to take individually. Crikey, before long my calves were as big as my guns… well, almost.

But of course, it was all worth it, not only to enable Jen to partake in what she loves so dearly, but also to be constantly on the move, amongst the hustle and bustle and feeling as though I was alive. Sounds stupid, but I like it to be hectic – it enables the time go quicker and makes updating so much more exciting, if you can ever call it that. But that’s enough about poker, I waffle on about it every minute of the day, this was Amsterdam for Christ’s sake, the city of clogs, weed and prostitutes – to not mention those characteristics would surely be a crime.

Understandably, I won’t be going into the ins and outs of which players indulged in sexy time and smokey time, but what I can say is that if they didn’t experience one or the other, at least in terms of looky looky, then they were missing out on some of the more unique cultural aspects Amsterdam has to offer.

First, the whacky backy. At first, there don’t seem to be too many around, but as you venture deeper into the city’s centre, you begin to see them popping up everywhere. Don’t be fooled, these places aren’t dives, they’re just like normal cafés accept they sell a slightly more taboo drug, and one that is often presented on a carefully arranged menu, quite a sight believe you me.

What for some may be a somewhat more exciting prospect, however, are the ladies of the night. Free of the usual stigma of a police charge and a night in the cells, exchanging money with one of these bad beat therapists was an offer that appears to good to refuse. Of course, as a taken man, I wouldn’t dream of partaking in such activities, but perhaps because of the legality and regulation of prostitution in Amsterdam, many were fearless in leaving there morals behind and quite happily stepped into one of the ‘little red boxes’, whether there were witnesses or not. This must therefore lead me to believe that people over here in England aren’t necessarily worried about the immorality of prostitution, but more the fact that it is a criminal act that is frowned heavily upon by society, and as soon as they are experiencing a different culture in which those pressures are lifted, folk seem to have no problems in leaving their inhibitions behind.

At the risk of talking too much about prostitution in Amsterdam, I can’t help but be exceedingly intrigued by the whole affair. It truly is fascinating. Rows and rows of tiny rooms, lit erotically by a red light that exudes a certain air of Lynchianism, admittedly very attractive women dancing, posing and beckoning you towards their door – it’s genuinely bizarre. Add to that the families (yes, that includes kids) treating the district as nothing more than a tourist spot that has to be seen and you can’t help but feel you have stepped into some sort of film, into a scene dealing with the surreal fantasies of the modern man and the unavoidable voyeuristic urges of the average human being.

But whether you’re into weed and hookers or not, Amsterdam is a wonderful city to visit, even if it’s only for a day or two. With it’s picturesque setting, beautiful architecture and sparkling rivers, the city differs from anywhere I have seen before, and that alone makes it a place worth visiting. Of course there are the usual dangers (Amsterdam has an overriding number of pick-pockets and street thieves), but if you ever fancy spending some of your hard earned cash on a trip abroad, then Amsterdam would come high up in my list of recommendations. I’m already looking forward to the next festival to hit Holland and am even considering a return trip before then. I’m sure it will be money well spent.


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