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A poker honour fraught with potential embarrassment
That Cyprus has been chosen to host the prestigious 2013 Nations Cup poker tournament this March would ordinarily be considered an honour.
So why is Antonis Theophanides, vice president of the Cyprus Poker Association (CPA), viewing the event with more than a little trepidation?
To put it simply, he’s scared of the police. In July last year, police raided two venues in Larnaca and Limassol and arrested 31 CPA members on various charges relating to illegal gambling. Players insisted they were taking part in initial tryouts for the national team and that they weren’t playing for money which is illegal in Cyprus.
In a desperate attempt to ensure over zealous police don’t try and net some of the world’s top poker players at the upcoming tournament, the CPA has already spoken with the ministries of interior and finance and is preparing the necessary paperwork for a licence to hold the competition.
“This opportunity needs to be recognised for what it is; a major sporting event. There can be no misunderstandings or embarrassment for Cyprus,” Theophanides said.
“This is a great opportunity for Cyprus, as teams from all over the world will be taking part.”
In the arrests last year police also seized equipment and cash, which the CPA said had been collected for membership fees. The arrests shocked CPA members because they had previously been allowed to hold similar tryouts in Nicosia.
“We are still waiting for the outcome of these arrests. The attorney general asked for more information from the police, following our meeting with them at his request, but as yet we haven’t heard anything,” said Theophanides.
Although the CPA is government recognised and certified and in December represented Cyprus internationally for the first time ever in the European championships - finishing ninth - members of the CPA were forced underground to carry out later selection games because they feared arrest.
The CPA vice chairman said that the team has already made history as the first ever national poker team to represent the island.
Twelve teams of six players will take part in the 2013 Nations Cup. These include the top six teams, Estonia, Lithuania, Serbia, Poland, Hungary and Bosnia from a recent qualifying event held in Vienna.
In addition, six seeded teams potentially from the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark or Spain and Cyprus as the host nation, will also participate. If the budget permits, this may be increased to sixteen participating teams.
The game played will be match poker in which skill is paramount as players at each table are simultaneously dealt the same hands.
“No money whatsoever is involved in these games. There is no buy in and no prize money,” said Theophanides. “The winning team will be given a trophy and gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to the top three teams.”
The vice chairman said details for the competition are being finalised now, adding that it would probably be held at one of the coastal towns.
“The mentality we have faced from officials so far in Cyprus is not helping at all, but we won’t give up,” he added.