Gamblers head north this weekend for poker challenge

Kyrenia centre of attention for world poker community

AS MANY as 20 Greek Cypriots are expected to take part in a major Texas Hold ’em Poker tournament at the Merit Casino in Kyrenia this weekend, a source at the casino said yesterday.

The event will be the centre of attention within the world poker community this weekend. It is the fourth time the Merit Casino will host the tournament since last summer.

According to a source at the casino, the 200 person limit for the tournament is expected to be full, with most participants coming from mainland Turkey.

Based on the last round of the tournament, the source said there will probably be around ten to 20 Greek Cypriot participants, as well as others from Israel, Romania, Egypt, Syria, Morocco and some other European countries. “Last year there was a participant from Denmark,” the source said.

Turkish Cypriots are prohibited from entering casinos, unless they have documents demonstrating citizenship of another country but many Greek Cypriots are regular gamblers in the north, spending millions each year since the crossings opened in 2003.

The amount being spent has prompted increasing calls for casinos to be opened in the government-controlled areas.

This weekend’s tournament requires a $250 entry fee, and the prize pool will be $100,000.

According to the Texas Hold ’em Merit Hotel website, the tournaments have been attracting poker players from a wide range of backgrounds, including business executives, university students and even full-time mums!

“Merit Hotel in Girne (Kyrenia) Cyprus will be hosting this event regularly with a continuously increasing prize pool to compete with the world’s major international poker events,” the website said.

Aydogan Turay is the CEO of the Grand Casino Club, the organisation behind the event, and owner of three major casinos in the occupied areas.

The Texas Hold ’em Merit Hotel website quotes him as saying: “Northern Cyprus has proven that it is perfectly capable of hosting international events such as this at a world-class quality” and goes on to say “there will be more international tournaments hosted in Northern Cyprus following the huge success of the recent Texas Hold’em poker events.”

The organisation has applied to the World Poker Tour (WPT) – the predominantly American series that is gaining international popularity – to enter the WPT programme and become one of the legs of the Texas Hold ’em series. The source at the Merit Casino said they were hopeful this permission would be granted to them soon.